After a great trip to the Loire valley to explore its wines, it’s time to point out 8 things to know about this beautiful region.
1- The overall quality of the wines is very high and many wineries are eco-friendly. We visited all organic or biodynamic producers that really believe in making quality before making quantity, as well strongly believe in making wines that have low impact on the environment.
2- Terroir is key in the Loire. In particular, I was impressed by Taille Au Loup Jacky Blot, which we visited on the third day. Their focus on terroir is so strong that you will find differences between chenin blancs made from a few plots away. Soil composition, sun exposure and age of the vines all play a role in the creation of a huge diversity in their portfolio. I was impressed by their Cabernet Franc Mid-Pente, which shows aromas of red fruits, spices and herbaceous notes. Very complex and with a long finish. We tried all of their 2015 range for the whites. All of the whites share a mouthwatering acidity. So fresh and zesty that made me feel like squeezing a lemon. Perfect examples of Chenin Blanc.
3. Hospitality is a virtue. All the producers that we visited welcomed us warmly to their wineries and we really felt like home. On the third day, Johan, the commercial manager of biodynamic producer Domaine Huet, made us feel like home though we were very late and he was quite sick. He made us try very old vintages and was really knowledgable about the export management. I would never thought that even an importer based in Rome, my hometown, would feature their wines. It was great to go through some great examples of terroir-driven wines with such a knowledgeable and friendly person as Johan.
4. Less winery visits is better than many. I realised that in order to fully appreciate the philosophy and quality of the wines it is best to visit no more than 4 wineries per day. Though we managed to do 5, I think it is best to spend several time at each winery and engage in conversations with the producers.
5. Tasting wine is more fun with friends. Sharing opinions about the wines and visiting the towns around the Loire was a lot of fun. Though professional tastings are more accurate, tastings made at the wineries with friends can lead to interesting conversations and exchanges on the styles of the wines and discussions, for example on whether organic and biodynamic are the future of wine of wine making. In this regard, I totally agree with Eddy Oosterlinck-Bracke, owner of Domaine de Juchepie, who believes that making high-quality wine is the number one priority, and making it sustainably is a great and important added value!
6- The landscape is stunning. Though it rained for the whole 3 days, I really enjoyed the landscape and also the city of Saumur, where we stayed. While going for a run in the late afternoon in the area of the castle, I had the chance to admire the traditional landscape. A stunning view and one to remember, just like a postcard.
7- You can find very good food. In particular, on the first day I was surprised to know that there were restaurants under caves that make great food and bread using a wood-fired oven. A must-try experience! Check out the review of my report on day 1 for details.
8- There were unexpected discoveries. On the third day it was great to see the connection with nature established by Thierry Germain, who is using horses at the vineyards at the Domaine Des Roches Neuves. The Franc De Pied 2015 made from ungrafted vines has high minerality and presents aromas of red cherries. A must try if you visit the winery, which also features an amazing underground cellar with very old vintages!