Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Loire 2010 - Unmissable Value

Posted by Giles Burke-Gaffney, Buying Director

Arriving at Angers train station on Monday 13th to find that even rental car companies in France take off the obligatory "jour ferrier", despite having accepted my reservation, was an inauspicious start to the trip. Well, thankfully it was as bad as my week got, it was smooth roads and 5th gear from then on.

2010 in the Loire, like many of France's wine regions, was not always easy. Poor flowering, a gloomy summer and even some late summer rains tested the mettle of the region's best growers. And this is exactly the point. The days of turning but a glancing eye to all non Sauvignon Loire wines in only the hottest and "easiest" of vintages must be consigned to history. The quality of many 2010 Chenins, Pinots and Cab Francs is excellent. This was obviously helped by the late season drying wind and bright sunshine, together with a very small potential crop owing to coulure, but I feel it is just as much testament to the effort the growers are making in their vines - be it de-budding, de-leafing or overall excellent management of soils and vine canopy.

Chinon and Bourgueil were particular successful appellations, the 2010s from Joguet, Amirault and Domaine de la Butte were outstanding and for their poise and balance I prefer them to 2009. Pinot Noirs from Sancerre chez Pinard look remarkable, it could be their best red vintage yet, great ripeness and intensity without surrendering Pinot delicacy and Loire freshness. They really would not look out of place in a blind tasting of the Cote d'Or's finest.

In Coteaux de Layon it is an exceptional vintage, very concentrated and distinctly zesty. Sweet wines of that quality and price are virtually impossible to find anywhere else. In Vouvray and Montlouis vintage conditions were more challenging, but, again, the startling quality of Jacky Blot's Domaine de la Taille aux Loups wines really show how far the Loire has come in the last 10-15 years. Difficult conditions no longer means difficult wine.

Sancerres and Pouilly Fumes are much more classic than in 2009, no doubt some of the more commercial entities have made lean and aggressive wines but for top growers beautiful, ripe, intense and classically vibrant wines are very much the norm.

Overall its a very impressive but small vintage, with losses being up to 40% on the average. There may be quality in 2010 and a shortage of it, but so far there is no indication of heinous price increases, it should prove the value region of 2010.

photo - Valerie Dagueneau of Domaine Serge Dagueneau gets stuck into to some ploughing.