The Loire Valley has a long history as a wine growing region. The prestige of the area was greatly uplifted because for centuries, French royalty vacationed in their chateaux along the the river and took their favorite wine discoveries back to Paris to share with the social scene there. Fast forward to today, there are now a growing number of true vignerons who have thankfully emerged along the way. Winemakers who changed the game through the worldwide reverence which their wines have received. Here are four of them—featuring different grape varieties and masterful winemaking skills which will shed a whole different light on what Loire Valley wines can offer. How often do opportunities like this come along?
2018 Catherine & Pierre Breton Vin de Pays du Val de Loire Grolleau
Catherine and Pierre Breton have really made quite a name for themselves through their wines and reverence to organic and biodynamic practices. Many would say, after the Gang of Four in Beaujolais, this couple were among the second wave of naturalists helping to change the game in their country. This particular wine is produced from an eight hectare parcel of clay and limestone with 60+ year old vines of a not too often seen, indigenous Grolleau grape variety. The wine is made via a three week carbonic fermentation in open top wood vats with NO puchdowns or pumpovers and bottled in April, fresh as can be. It is truly something very unique–fresh, pretty, wonderfully transparent and jovial with a wildly rustic, prominent forest floor/earthy core. What a treat!
2016 Denis Jamain Reuilly Rouge
Denis Jamain is a real life character who seems to live life with gusto. He is at the same time committed to his vineyards, its resulting wines and approaches both with great respect. This wine is one of two Pinot Noir bottlings which he produces from his clay limestone soil parcels. Pure, mesmerizing and all about the mineral of his vineyards, rather than just another Pinot Noir. It is quite amazing how this is masterfully captured in the bottle. Please also know it was just a couple of decades ago, when this grape variety would ripen here only two vintages out of ten, at least enough to produce such a wine.
2014 Charles Joguet Chinon “Clos du Chêne Vert”
It wasn’t that long ago, when very few in the U.S. even heard or considered a red wine from the Loire Valley with any kind of seriousness. There are after all so many other options to consider, especially at the various price points. For me that changed with the 1976 vintage and a wine I had from a then small, unknown, artist turned artisan wine producer named Charles Joguet. His wines definitively showed another perspective on what Cabernet Franc could be and so differently than what Bordeaux had to offer. Today, this estate is one of the true icons of the region and deservedly so. When the historic, most revered Chêne Vert parcel came up for sale, Joguet somehow scraped together the monies to purchase it, gambling everything at the same time. This roughly two hectare vineyard is for me the center piece of Joguet’s portfolio AND one of the unique, standout red wines from all of France. Here is your chance to try the 2014.
2014 Brégeon Muscadet-Sèvre-et-Maine
Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine used to be a light, rather neutral, crisp white wine, which was favored for raw oysters on the half shell. The wine’s slight salinity would join in with the oysters innate brininess and the crisp edge would act as a squeezed lemon would. That all changed when Michel Brégeon came on the scene, a true vigneron.
“Michel Brégeon is part renegade, part crusader, and full-blown terroirist. Over the years, he has become an ardent defender of the Muscadet-Sèvre-et-Maine terroir, the most highly regarded of the four appellations in the Pays Nantais. Thanks to his deep understanding of the nuances of the land, he plays the game much differently than the region’s caves cooperatives and negociants, who produce en masse and lose the subtlety of the appellation. Tthe domaine comprises 10 hectares of vineyards in clay, silica, and gabbro soils. Gabbro is old, blue-green, volcanic rock, rarely found in vineyard land. Formed by magma eruptions under the ocean floor, it is said to impart intense complexity to the domaine’s wines. His corner of the Muscadet-Sèvre-et-Maine, Gorges, is particularly known for this rock, and all of Michel’s vines are planted in it. Though Muscadet (made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape) has been commonly known to produce young, fresh wines, (even those that spend a few months sur lie), Michel has broken the mold, keeping some of his wines on the lees for as much as seven years! He ages these wines in subterranean glass-lined cuves. In his mind, the longer they stay there, the better. The unexpected freshness and depth of these older wines has silenced many a skeptic”.
We poured this wine last, because of it profound minerality.