The Loire in Vancouver
The YVR wine group I’m involved in just hosted its second members’ tasting focusing on the wines of the Loire. This was an awesome event – there are so many unique and fascinating wines being made in the Loire for ridiculously great prices. And, given the extremely cool climate, acidity reigns supreme in the Garden of France.
The tasting began with a structured look at several wines from across the Loire led by Matt Sherlock of Kitsilano Wine Cellars (who sell several very intriguing Loire wines). Matt did a great job extolling the virtues of hand picked wines with real ‘personality’ that you can buy for $20 from lesser known appellations versus machine harvested cuvées from famous regions for twice the price. That said, I do also think that sometimes consumers prefer the mainstream not only because it is easier to understand, but because sometimes the traditional flavours that wine geeks can find boring are more appealing to the average palate than the crazy and wacky. Luckily I enjoy being estranged from what I drink and wines that challenge my palate and my expecations. The Loire is, really, a wine geek’s paradise.
I can’t go through all the wines I tasted, but I can point out some of my favourites. I really enjoyed a Cour-Cheverney from Domaine Huard that Jon Ellison of Marquis gave to me with pride. Romorantin is a crazy grape but also amazingly palatable with a richness similar to chardonnay, but with extremely tight acidity.
We also had a Nicolas Joly (the 2005 Clos de la Bergerie), who tends to be one of the most divisive winemakers in the Loire, using not only biodynamic methods, but totally crazy techniques. Definitely oxydized and with rotted grape armoas, nonetheless it was an intriguing wine that challenged the palate like few others. It was so crazy that Matt actually compared it to a Manzanilla Sherry past its prime:
Other standouts for me were Graham’s entry of an excellent apricot/peach driven and very dry chenin blanc from Chinon from Domaine de la Noblaie, a Quarts de Chaume from Baumard (crazy richness but beautiful and driven acidity – one of the most balanced dessert wines I’ve had and again, along with a great Coteaux du Layon, proving to me that sweet Loire wines are some of the best stickys in the world), and a pretty great tasting Sancerre from Crochet with crazy persistence and length.
In the end, I learned, even more than I already knew, that the Loire is one of France’s great underappreciated regions with so many styles of acid driven, fresh, dry and sweet wines of all stripes and gradations that every wine lover owes it to him or herself to explore this region more carefully.
I recommend checking out Marquis Wine Cellars’ awesome Loire selection (ask for Jon), Kitsilano Wine Cellars, and Liberty Wine Merchants for the most interesting offerings. Oh, and forget the BCLDB, they can’t handle the Loire.