Tasting Report: Vins de Loire, April 2010

France’s Loire Valley is rarely the first region that comes to mind when people talk about French wine. Located just west of Paris (and on to the coast), the Loire is a long stretch of land where many varieties of grapes and styles of wines are produced. The area, however, is best known for its whites, primarily melon de bourgogne (used mainly in Muscadet), sauvignon blanc (used mainly in Sancerre), chenin blanc (used everywhere else).

On the red side, Loire is more than half planted to cabernet franc, with gamay and other grapes also popular. Red Sancerre wines are typically pinot noir based.

But the Loire is so big that quality can be tricky, and in this tasting of wines mostly unavailable in the U.S. right now, it was all over the map. Of course the whites shined the brightest, with some really lovely, tropical-infused Sancerres from Domaine La Barbotaine, Eric Louis, and Jean-Max Roger. But I also found a soft spot for Laurent et Stephane Gouron’s Domaine Gouron wines, cab franc-based reds with good balance and body, better than you’ll find in many other major wine regions.

On the other hand there were some clear misses, with at least three wines I tasted smelling distinctly of various kinds of cheese.  I like to eat my cheese with the wine, not drink it all together. Ugh.

Notes and ratings follow. Remember however that most of these wines are not currently distributed in the U.S.

Tasting Report: Loire Valley Wines, 2010

2007 Domaine FL Le Chinin Anjou Blanc / B+ / crisp, bracing, grassy finish

2007 Domaine FL Le Parc Savennieres / A- / big mineral character, unique

2007 Domaine FL Roche aux Moines Savenniers / B- / green, off finish

2007 Domaine FL Quarts de Chaume / A- / huge dessert style with a dusty edge

2006 Domaine FL Cabernets Anjou / A- / rich, complex berry blend

2008 Domaine La Barbotaine Sancerre / B+

2009 Domaine La Barbotaine Sancerre / A / nice mango and peach tones

2008 Domaine La Barbotaine Sancerre (Red) / B- / simple

2008 Domaine du Clos de L’Epinay Vouvray, Still Medium Dry / B / brie aromas, slighly sweet

2008 Domaine du Clos de L’Epinay Vouvray, Still Moelleux / B- / very sweet

2008 Collegiale des Domaines de Loire Pascal Balland Sancerre / B

2009 Collegiale des Domaines de Loire Dominique Tessier Domaine des Hauts de Sanziers Saumur Blanc / C+ / funky blue cheese character

2009 Couillaud et Fils Domaine de la Potardiere Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie / B+ / aromatic with some bite

2010 Couillaud et Fils Domaine de la Potardiere Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie / B / cheesy notes, bigger body

2008 Couillaud et Fils Domaine de la Potardiere Vin de Pays de Val de Loire (red) / B+ / nice aperitif style

2008 Domaine de Cray Touraine / B+

2009 Eric Louis Robert Cantin, Cuvee les Pierblancs, Sancerre / A- / flinty

2008 Eric Louis Robert Cantin, Cuvee les Pierblancs, Sancerre (red) / B+

2008 Eric Louis Robert Cantin, Cuvee Fossiles, Menetou-Salon / B / bigger body, sharp

2009 Eric Louis Robert Cantin, Vin de France / A- / big minerals, flowery

2008 Laurent et Stephane Gouron Domaine Gouron, Cuvee Domaine, Chinon / B+ / far easiergoing than most cab franc

2007 Laurent et Stephane Gouron Domaine Gouron, Cuvee Terroir, Chinon / A- / big body, nice

2008 Guy Saget Le Domaine Saget, Pouilly-Fume / B+ / simplistic

2008 Guy Saget Domaine de la Perriere, Sancerre / B+ / rougher

2008 Guy Saget La Petite Perriere / A- / fresh tart notes, grapefruit

2008 Guy Saget Les Clissages d’Or, Muscadet Sevre et Maine / B / green

2009 Domaine Henri Poiron et Fils Domaine des Quatre Routes, Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie / C+ / a bit fizzy

2009 Domaine Henri Poiron et Fils Chateau des Grandes Noelles, Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie / C  / meaty, off

2009 Domaine des Herbauges Collection Plaisir, Muscadet Cotes de Grandlieu sur Lie / B- / cheesy

2009 Jean Aubron Grand Fief de l’Audigere, Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie / C- / tired, difficult

2008 Jean Aubron Grand Fief de l’Audigere, Cuvee Elegance, Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie / B

2003 Jean Aubron Grand Fief de l’Audigere, Cuvee Vieilles Vignes, Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie / B / better balance

2008 Jean-Max Roger Les Caillottes Sancerre / A- / simple, melon notes

2006 Jean-Max Roger Vieilles Vignes, Sancerre / B

2008 Jean-Max Roger Morogues Le Petit Clos, Menetou-Salon / A- / crisp apricot notes

2008 Jean-Max Roger Les Chantes Alouettes, Pouilly-Fume / B+ / thinner

2008 Domaine Laurent Mabileau St Nicolas de Bourgueil / C / tannic

2009 Domaine Laurent Mabileau Bourgueil / C / pruny

2008 Domaine Lecomte Quincy / A- / lush, big bodied

2008 Domaine Lecomte Vieilles Vignes Quincy / A- / similar to standard bottling

2009 Domaine Lecomte Quincy / B- / chewy, 2008 a much better year

2009 Domaine Lecomte Vieilles Vignes Quincy / B+

2009 Prieure la Chaume Prima Donna Vin de Pays Vendee / A- / a “champagne without bubbles” – chardonnay and pinot noir blend

2009 Domaine Raimbault-Pineau Sancerre / B+ / thinner but pleasant

2009 Domaine Raimbault-Pineau Pouilly-Fume / B / edgier

2008 Saumur Champigny Cuvee des 100 / B / hugely herbal

2005 Saumur Champigny Cuvee des 100 / A- / softer

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