Our Report # 22 Grapes and Wines of the Western Loire has just been released at iwinereview.com. The Western Loire is home to many small, artisanal producers making truly unique, food-friendly wines from Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Melon (Muscadet) and other varietals. It’s a rather confusing wine region to understand with 53 different and sometimes overlapping appellations. We take a New World approach and organize the report by varietal and then look at the principal regions and winemakers of that varietal. We also present our lists, by varietal, of the best of the 175 wines we tasted. We were surprised and pleased to find that even the very best wines are reasonably priced, and some are exceptional values. They’re even better than we remember from our last trip to the Loire and St.-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil (see photo).
We’ve previously reported on some of these wines in our Newsletter (you can sign up to receive them free at iwinereview.com.) Here are examples of the kind of quality and value one finds in the Loire:
Domaine de l’Ecu 2008 Expression de Gneiss Muscadet Sevre et Maine ($20) 91
The Melon de Bourgogne grape often produces Muscadet wines that are delicious but relatively simple. Not true of those made by famed winemaker Guy Bossard, who creates some of the best and most complex Muscadets you can find. This one has a layered palate of citrus, lees, and toast with prominent mineral notes. A superb wine at an incredible price!
Importer: Kysela, Winchester, VA.
Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups 2008 Les Dix Arpents Sec Montlouis ($25) 91
This highly focused Chenin Blanc from winemaker Jacky Blot exhibits great purity of tropical fruit, excellent acidity, and minerals. Low yields (20hl/ha] from 50 year old vines and limestone-clay soils. Hand harvesting [the first pass of the tri, or triple pass through the vineyard at harvest time is used for this cuvee], fermentation in neutral barrels with native yeasts, and regular battonage combine to create this exceptional wine of superb value.
Importer: VOS Selections, New York, NY
Domaine des Hauts de Sauziers 2008 Saumur Blanc ($17) 91
This is a great Loire Valley Chenin Blanc at an incredible price. It’s yellow gold in color with an aroma of yellow peaches and honey that builds expectations of a traditional demi-sec. But it’s dry on the palate with chalky minerality and flavors of ripe stone fruit. It finishes long and clean with beautiful purity. Imported by Robert Kacher Selections, Washington, DC.
Château de Coulaine 2006 Chinon Rouge “Bonnaventure” ($23) 91
This is the estate’s finest wine and is aptly named after the family of owner and winemaker, Etienne de Bonnaventure. Modern in style, it exhibits ripe black cherry fruit, vanilla, and cedar aromas. These are followed by a soft lush attack of pure and ripe red fruit with excellent balance and concentration on the palate. A stand out wine that is truly delicious.
Importer: Michael Skurnik Wines, New York, NY