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The Buzz on the Loire

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Apr 11, 2008 10:30am ET

I’ve been decompressing following my recent trip through Chile and Argentina, hence the quiet blog. Earlier this week, I stopped in at the Loire Valley Wine Bureau’s Road Show, a traveling tasting for those in the trade. I usually never attend trade tastings—they’re typically crowded and noisy and are more for schmoozing than seriously evaluating wines. Nonetheless, there were some new faces there I wanted to meet, so I stopped by for a quick "hello."

I was pleased with the overall buzz in the room. The Loire has definitely gained a small but loyal following in recent years—exports to this country hit a new high last year. However, the Loire remains, for the most part, woefully overlooked by American wine lovers, even though I’ve been singing the praises of this region for quite a few years now (you can also reference last year's tasting report here) ... so much for the supposed vaunted power of the press.

It will be interesting to see if that buzz can continue to grow. Both the upcoming 2006 and 2007 vintages in the Loire are variable. 2006 lacks zip and clarity, while 2007 is inconsistent.

And it turns out 2008 is off to a tough start in some parts of the region: A hard frost hit vineyards in Muscadet, and growers there are sifting through the damage, as budbreak was affected.

“There are significant damages but [uneven],” said Bernard Chéreau of Chéreau-Carré, who noted that his Château de Chasseloir property will probably be down 30 percent, but his Château de la Chesnaie, located up on a plateau, was spared.

The vintage to gobble up if you see any still on retail shelves is 2005—both reds and whites excelled. I’d like to see the buzz on the Loire get a little louder, but consumers will have to choose wisely in the upcoming vintages, and since the region is a sprawl of appellations and varieties that requires honest effort to work through, it’ll be a taller order than usual for U.S. consumers. For those who appreciate fresh, acidity-driven wines that rely on minimal or no oak however, the effort is worth it.

My next tasting report will be in the upcoming June 15 issue of Wine Spectator, so if you need some help choosing a few wines to try, you can check that out as well.

Alex Bernardo
Millbrae, CA —  April 11, 2008 12:30pm ET
James, when you say "2006 lacks zip and clarity, while 2007 is inconsistent" can you please clarify which Loire regions you refer to.
James Molesworth
April 11, 2008 12:35pm ET
Alex: I'll get into more detail in my tasting report, but basically the whites in '06 are rather diffuse - and that's throughout the valley, from Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, through the Chenins in Anjou and Vouvray and on out to Muscadet.

The 2007 growing season was very erratic, and early returns show inconsistent results, though the bulk of the wines have yet to be released.

You can also reference the harvest reports on the Loire by searching our site. Just type in "Loire 2006 harvest" etc. They'll show up under the heading of 'Vintage Report Card'...
Dan Jaworek
Chicago —  April 15, 2008 7:39pm ET
James, speaking of Loire wines, I've been waiting to see a review of Charles Joguet Chinons for '05. What happened there? There's nothing reviewed. I picked up a half case of the Clos du Chene Vert but wanted a drink window recomendation before I started opening them. Any suggestions?Dan J
Stellenbosch —  April 16, 2008 1:17am ET
James, Loire wines in general has been facing a uphill struggle in the US market, specifically the Vouvray's, with absolute knife edge acidity and freshness. I was fortunate enough to taste amazing Domaine Huet Moelleux, Clos de Burg 2005, 1971 and 1953 last night, and these wines are meant for the long haul.Francois Haasbroek, Waterford Wine Estate
James Molesworth
April 16, 2008 9:20am ET
Dan: It's a shame, but Joguet hasn't sent samples in a few years. I typically rated them among the best back when they did submit...

Chinon, like the Loire however, is teeming with young producers who are really upping their game. At Bernard Baudry, Mathieu Baudry has taken over and is making great stuff. There's also Rodolphe Raffault at Jean-Maurice Raffault...Arnaud Couly-Dutheil at Couly-Dutheil...Catherine & Pierre Br¿n...Domaine de Pallus and more...there is lots of good wine out there these days...

Francois: Glad to hear you got to experience the wines of Huet, both young and old...they are beautiful wines.
Alisha Gosline
Seattle, WA —  April 1, 2009 6:55pm ET
James, any thoughts on Didier Dagueneau's 2007 wines?
James Molesworth
April 1, 2009 7:00pm ET
Alisha: I haven't gotten samples yet - they're usually a late release. The '06s were tasted just a couple of months ago...

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