The Loire isn’t a new region. But its wines are thoroughly modern. How come?
There’s a great swing back from the “new world” style taking place right now. Now the smart money is on accessible expression of grape and of place, a story that was begun in the old world and slipped from favour. It is back.
It is back for many reasons. But the main ones are that people crave diversity and really can no longer drink the wines that strive only for maximum ripeness (i.e. 15% alcohol). Alcoholic soup is off the menu, for all but the most hackneyed palates.
The Loire, with its huge diversity in style and the sheer number of wines that can be said to fit modern lifestyles, lifestyle wines if you like, provides a wonderful opportunity to discover exciting new wines. In the style that meets the modern palate.
A short roll call will reveal all. A region that sports Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc in its arsenal of grapes reeks scintillation. Rather usefully, most of the wines that are made from these grapes are varietal, that’s to say they were doing what the New World crew pioneered, hundreds of years ago: make wine from just one main grape.
However, this is a lot more exciting in the Loire than it might be say in Maipo, Stellenbosch or the Barossa. Why? Because the Loire has an abundance of well-understood terroir, hallowed ground that makes these grapes shine, transforms the styles from ordinary to magnificent.
You can find beautifully crafted Cremant de Loire sparkling wines that are a thorn in the side of many a Champenois. You’ll find wonderful expressions of the Cabernet Franc grapes that exude freshness, vitality and elegance. You can see just how wonderful Chenin Blanc can really be in its many guises: bone dry Savennieres rich, unctuous Vouvrays, beautifully aged Touraine varietal wines for seafood, insanely brilliant dessert wines like Quart de Chaume and the legendary wines of Coteux de Layon.
And this is before we even mention what can be done with Sauvignon Blanc. Does this splendid river share its name with the finest place on earth to make Sauvignon Blanc. Yes. Yes, it does. Flinty, mineral, zesty wines that are unashamedly built for elegance, not speed (read Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc’s crack-like ability to leave one wanting a little more). These Sauvignon are made by some of the most enlightened and passionate winemakers you find on the planet. Go seek them!
This region is very beautiful, and has a plethora of wines just waiting to be discovered. And the crazy thing is that none of it, absolutely none of it, is over-priced in the way of Bourgogne or Bordeaux.
Immortal wine, priced for mortals. There’s a shimmering new face to the Loire and you’d be mad not to find out just how seductive it really can be.