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The Loire – A Kaleidoscope of Styles and Flavours

The Val de Loire Interprofession hosted wine professionals, influencers and advocates from around the world to tour and discover France’s third largest appellation and explore its diverse wines.

Although the Loire has in the past settled for its role as the poor cousin to the illustrious appellations of Burgundy and Bordeaux, the tide is shifting. Call it climate change or sheer grit and determination to raise the stakes; there is no denying the Loire Valley produces authentic wine of superior quality, diversity and unique expression. And it wants the world to discover them. 

Currently, the Loire exports 20% of its production, and by 2030 the region has pledged to increase that to 30%. Australia is at the top of that target list and given our appetite for discovery of anything exciting and unique, why not?

The Loire Valley wine region is known primarily for excellent expressions of Cabernet Franc, France’s oldest variety, Chenin Blanc, think Vouvray and Savennières, Sauvignon Blanc and Melon de Bourgogne through the Nantes region’s deliciously unique Muscadet sur Lies.

Guests discovered some of the real gems of the Loire Valley including its number one red variety Cabernet Franc. Through a comprehensive masterclass we tasted our way through all nine Cabernet Franc appellations. 

The central regions for Cabernet Franc production in the Loire are Touraine and Anjou-Saumur, with a small percentage in Pays Nantais. We discovered nine Loire Cabernet Francs from different AOCs, including the biggest AOCs Saumur-Champigny, Chinon, Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil and Bourgueil, as well as Saumur Puy-Notre-Dame, Saumur, Anjou, Anjou Brissac and Anjou-Villages. All express their terroirs through various soils and microclimates, and styles and flavours range from elegant and earthy to fruity, floral and vibrant. Some exhibit minerality while others have richer, more developed plum and red fruit flavours. 

The Loire Valley has cultivated Cabernet Franc for 2000 years and Loire Valley vignerons are keen to clarify the variety does not come from Bordeaux. Originally Greek, the grape, then known as Biturica, found its way to the Basque region of Spain before it started it established itself in the Loire. Interesting fact is the Loire has as many hectares of Cabernet Franc under vine as Bordeaux. The truth is, it was the people of the Loire who introduced it to Bordeaux.  

Cabernet Franc thrives in the Loire, evolving over the centuries to find its unique expression. Always produced as a single varietal wine, it is through the Loire Valley Cabernet Franc expression the variety can be truly tasted and discovered in its purity. 

To explore Chenin Blanc in the Loire is to die and go to heaven, particularly in Vouvray. Here we experienced enchanting expressions of dry, demi-sec and sweet still wines and sparkling Vouvray presented at a tasting held at Bidaudières Estate in the heart of Vouvray. There were too many wines of standout quality to discuss here, but favourites included everything from the remarkable 2018 vintage to the outstanding aged moelleux sweet wines, including the delicious dried apricot and honey of the Domaine de la Croix des Vainqueurs Le Bouchet Moelleux 2018 and the exquisite Domaine de la Fontainerie Le C Moelleux 2009. Tasting these aged moelleux Vouvray wines was akin to having an out-of-body experience.

Another highlight was the final evening at Château de Chenonceau. Alongside Versailles, Chenonceau is the most visited and visually spectacular château in France. The Loire Valley is recognised for its majestic châteaux and this one is a feast for the senses.  At dinner staged in the heart of the château grounds, guests tasted three vintages 2018 – 2020 of Touraine Chenonceaux AOC Sauvignon Blancs and Cabernet Francs. A relatively recent appellation, Touraine Chenonceaux, was established in 2011, covering the best terroirs on the banks of the Cher river, where the famous château stands. Thirty growers produce wines under the appellation, all of which champion sustainable wine production producing wines of fresh elegance and complexity. 

Too many more delicious wines to discuss here. We tasted our way through so many wines over the four- day event it was hard to keep track. One thing is certain, they are well worth discovering and I doubt I am alone in wanting to see more of them available here to enjoy when I want to be transported back to this fairytale part of the world.

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