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WSET Diploma – Unit 3 – Week 2: Loire Valley

After having had a break from Thanksgiving, the first regional class we had was on the Loire Valley, one of the areas which our instructor for the week is most passionate about. The Loire is one of the northernmost regions for winemaking in France – and despite what amazing wines come out of the region, it remains the awkward child of France, with Bordeaux and Burgundy persisting as the king and queen, despite the fact that the Loire is the 3rd largest producer of AOC wines in France. It’s interesting that I read about how the Loire is still finding its identity like a young adult, to the point where many of its appellations allow small but substantial maximums of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon into their whites and reds, respectively. My hope is that people will continue to discover its charms since an approximate 20 percent increase in both sales by volume and by value show that BC is sort of paying attention.

loireweek

The region has four distinct areas: the Nantais, Anjou-Saumur, Touraine, and the less French-sounding Central Vineyards. The region is often described as being a band with crisp whites at either end, and fuller whites and rustic reds in the middle. It’s essentially the hipster of France, with Muscadet from the Nantais having had suffered from sales since the early 90s; appellations featuring Cabernet Franc being only popular in the homeland of France; and Vouvray being a mere whisper of something vaguely off-dry, from what people have heard. Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé from the Central Vineyards are essentially the only currently fashionable wines from the Loire which makes sense given the voguish status of Sauvignon Blanc.

I was definitely stoked for this class because the Loire is on par with Alsace as my favourite French wine region. Elegance and nervy acid generally characterize their wines, and most call for food. It’s tough when class is smack dab in the middle of dinner time.

In our first flight, we had two very different wines from Sauvignon Blanc. The first was from a lesser-known appellation called Coteaux du Giennois from the Central Vineyards while Sancerre remains a famous name for the grape. The third was a rosé made from Pinot Gris, from the appellation Reuilly which is also in the Central Vineyards: it had a gentle onion skin colour very reminiscent in colour and style to some BC rosés that are rising to local fame. We ended the flight with a Chinon, which seemed darker and more brooding than I remember for the style.

Henri Bourgeois 2011 “Terre de Fumée” Coteaux du Giennois
Pascal Cotat 2012 “Les Monts Damnés” Sancerre
Domaine de Reuilly 2013 Rosé
Charles Joguet 2009 “Les Petites Roches” Chinon

The second flight was much more textured: we visited a Muscadet with its creamy mouthfeel from lees contact, and then we tried three different wines made from the Loire’s star white grape, Chenin Blanc (despite the popularity of Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé). We tasted the grape from dry to sweet, but always with high acidity and velvety. Proo0o0o0obably my favourite grape.

Château de la Gravelle 2010 “Gorges” Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie
Domaine des Baumard “Clos Saint Yves” Savennières
Domaine Huet 2011 “Le Mont” Vouvray Semi-Sec
Château de la Roulerie 2005  Coteaux du Layon Chaume

 

Josh

DipWSET, Certified Sommelier, garbage person.

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