The Loire Valley is truly the garden of France when it comes to wine. From France’s western coast with the subtle and understated wines of Muscadet to the balanced sweetness of Vouvray through to the sauvignon blanc heartland of the Central Loire, there is no more varied and fascinating region in the country.
The quality of the Loire has always been well known but recent years have seen a renaissance in interest. While sauvignon blanc has traditionally been its best known variety, the movement toward alternate varieties, as well as sustainable viticulture, has played into the region’s hands. '
With highly regarded grape varieties, such as melon de Bourgogne, chenin blanc, cabernet franc and even pockets of gamay, it is a home to many great food styles. And now, an influx of new winemakers in previously considered lesser appellations – many of whom are pursuing organic and biodynamic viticulture – is attracting a new audience to one of France’s finest wine regions.
2015 Domaine des Baumard Quarts de Chaume, A$163 (750ml), A$93 (375ml)
A stunning chenin blanc made from a very special appellation that was given Grand Cru status in 2014, this wine radiates with an array of orchard fruits from gently aromatic red apple to pear and white peach. That is followed in the mouth with honeyed lanolin fruits showing superb concentration plus the perfect balance of sweetness of acidity, leading to an extraordinarily long finish. A great wine now and for the next 30 years.
2016 Arnaud Lambert Coulée de St-Cyr Saumur, A$90
This is a beautiful example of the fantastic wines coming out of the undervalued appellation of Saumur. Chenin blanc from 70-year-old vines grown organically with natural ferment and long ageing, partly in oak, has crafted a mouthfilling and concentrated wine with waves of haunting fruit complexity. Oak and fruit are in perfect unison with its savoury chalky underbelly, subtle oak and acid hit providing the perfect contrast. So good.
2017 Pierre Luneau-Papin Terre de Pierre Muscadet-Sevré et Maine, A$49
A distinctive and highly individual muscadet from local star Domaine Luneau-Papin, this wine showcases the potential of melon de Bourgogne grown on a high-quality site with detailed winemaking. This example is exotic and savoury, showing powerful blossom, citrus and guava fruits lifted by nutty oak and barrel ferment. It is dry and mouthfilling yet retains a delicacy of fruit supported by clean lines of acidity. A brilliant food wine.
2018 De Ladoucette Comte Lafond Sancerre, A$62
A beautiful expression of Sancerre with poised and powerful fruit lifted by old oak ferment and maturation. It shows focused aromas reminiscent of guava, nettles and gooseberry accented by flinty complexity, which continues onto the palate where there is crisp acidity and textural richness. Combined with a long and powerful finish with layers of complex fruit, this wine’s youthful vitality and balance suggest good ageing potential.
2018 Domaine Pichot Clos Berger Vouvray Demi-sec, A$37
Pichot is a star of Vouvray and this wine shows why with its superb complexity and balance. But it’s the sheer power of fruit that stands out: red apple, citrus and chalk with some delicately lifted lambswool complexity. The palate is then off-dry, which is just enough sweetness to give balance to the remarkably pure acidity that drives an exceptionally long finish. Still a little closed, it needs a couple of years to settle and start showing its best.
2018 Vincent Gaudry Constellation du Scorpion Sancerre, A$85
A very modern style of Sancerre that brings with it both powerful varietal fruits and overt but balanced oak. Pale gold in colour, it is a very ripe expression of Loire sauvignon blanc with honey, acacia, gooseberry and subtly herbal fruits. The wine is then powerful and mouth-illing with its ripe fruit well matched by spicy oak and praline oak ferment. It’s also long and strong, and a wine that is easy to love.
2015 Arnaud Lambert Clos de L’ Etoile Saumur, A$114
This is a serious and ageworthy wine from Saumur that is a big style for the region and without doubt has been built for the cellar. Made from 100% cabernet franc aged for 24 months in oak, it ripples with ripe blackcurrant fruit supported by graphite, cedar and cigar-box aromas, with oak also playing a lead role. It’s dense, compact and ripe, too, on the palate with fruit well balanced by moderate tannins that all support a long finish.
2013 Baumard Clos du Papillon Savennières, A$99
A standout wine that perfectly shows the character and style of dry chenin blanc. It is bright, mid-straw in colour and still very youthful, with beautifully bright and pure fruits of peach skin, lanolin and green apple. The palate is then super savoury and drying with beeswax and manuka honey flavours
giving impact; a lightning bolt of acidity finishing long, strong and in perfect balance all provide good cellaring potential.
2017 Château Pierre-Bise Les Rouannières, A$58
An exotic and richly scented sweet chenin blanc showing the significant impact of botrytis. Golden in colour, exploding with apricot, marmalade and honeyed fruits, and varietal bruised apple. This is followed by a rich and unctuous palate with highly concentrated fruits beautifully balanced by laser-like acidity making it not only superbly matched to rich desserts but also the stinkiest of blue cheeses. Delicious now but will live for decades.
NV Domaine Pichot Vouvray Brut, A$38
This is a very serious sparkling wine showcasing not only its cool Loire and Old World origins but also the distinctive characters of chenin blanc. Recently disgorged and having had two years on its yeast lees, it begins with exotic gently aromatic fruits – peach skin and florals before lanolin and beeswax come to the fore. The palate is surprisingly bold and powerful, no doubt driven by strong acidity, leading to a long and chalky finish. Highly vinous, it is made with the table in mind.
2018 De Ladoucette Pouilly-Fumé, A$68
This wine showcases the more savoury and often ageworthy style of Pouilly-Fumé. On first opening, the wine is still quite closed and youthful, with stony, smoky and citrus fruits. Over a couple of days it opened up to reveal a superb array of aromas, from pear and citrus to guava with smoky elements and old oak. This leads to a fuller palate, where smoky and earthy elements dominate, heading to a lingering and balanced finish. Put this wine down for five years to see its best.
2018 Château de Coulaine Chinon, A$42
This is a beautiful expression of cabernet franc in an early drinking style. The wine is luminous ruby in colour and instantly appealing, with leafy, redcurrant fruits plus some earthy/spicy notes and distinctive oak. It is then light-weight, fleshy and silky; a pretty but also concentrated wine that carries with it superb freshness and drinkability, but also has the potential to improve in the bottle thanks to excellent balance.
2018 Daniel Crochet Sancerre, A$49
A classic Sancerre style with exceptional purity and focus. Pale in colour, it’s aromatic with crystal-clear green herb and citrus fruits without any oak influence. The palate then is chalky and fine with a beautiful core of youthful citrus fruits underscored by a tangy acid bite that only adds to its youthful impression. Lovely now but the balance of acid and fruit suggests it will also drink well over the next five years.
2018 Domaine de la Grenaudière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie, A$25
A textbook example of muscadet with the added generosity of fruit seen in the warm 2018 vintage. The wine is pale golden in colour with bright and pure aromas of citrus and melon, and a floral and peach skin accent. This is
followed by a mid-weight and more reserved palate with good acid cut and a touch of spritz, then finishing with savoury earthy complexity. Very well priced for the quality.
2018 Domaine Delaporte Chavignol Rosé Sancerre, A$46
If you’re looking for a serious French rosé this summer, this wine – with its beautiful fragrance and delicate fruits – is worth tracking down. Onion-skin pink, it exudes beautifully fine and detailed aromas including wild strawberry, earth, spice and mushroom with a subtle stony edge. The palate is only light-bodied but carries with it more of the concentrated red berry and rose petals fruits on a lingering finish supported by silky tannins. Delicious.
2018 Marc Bredif Vouvray, A$32
A perennial favourite and must-have for any Loire Valley fans, the Bredif Vouvray generally offers superb value drinking, both now and over the next 20 years. This vintage shows crystal pure lemon and lime fruits, and is also just starting to show touches of honey and lanolin. The palate is all about superb balance between youthful chalky fruits and chenin blanc’s trademark zesty acidity, which provides a long and focused finish. Put it down and enjoy the benefits for a decade and more.
2018 Thibaud Boudignon Anjou Blanc à François(e), A$135
A pretty and understated style of chenin blanc with great delicacy of fruit, it has reserved pear, honeydew melon, citrus and chalky aromas with a hint of leesy complexity. It is then dry, light-weight and zesty, with a line of savoury chalk and beeswax fruits supported by bright and refreshing acidity. There is also a gentle nutty edge from oak ageing that sits well. It still all feels a little closed, suggesting it will get even better over the next five years.
2018 Vincent Pinard Florès Sancerre, A$69
Vincent Pinard is a dependable name for refined and elegant Sancerre. This example has a pale colour, and it is a bright and inviting style with exceptional fruit purity. It shows youthful and gently aromatic chalky, citrus and flinty aromas, followed by a fine palate that is concentrated, long and silky, and punctuated by mouth-watering acidity. A classic modern Sancerre style done well.
NV Maréchal Brut Méthode Traditionelle, A$27
A beautifully pitched Loire Valley sparkling that shows exceptional balance between bright, youthful fruits and aged reserve wines. It opens with generous green apple, citrus and lanolin aromas plus significant French pastry autolytic complexity. The palate is then crisp but textural with admirable concentration that builds over a long finish. It is a bargain buy up against many quality Champagnes and a great pick for any festive celebrations.
2016 Serge Dageneau Pouilly-Fumé, A$52
Quality Pouilly-Fumé has good ageing potential as can be seen in this wine that has grown in bottle over time. It is a bold style for the Loire, with rich aromas of guava, blossom and custard apple, a faint herbal edge plus nutty aged complexity. The wine is then dry and full-bodied with balanced, but not high, acidity providing an almost creamy texture. The wine is at peak and will remain there for another couple of years.
2018 Vincent Gaudry Sancerre Rouge Vincengetorix, A$95
A good example of the understated style of Loire pinot noir. The wine is bright mid-ruby in colour, with dark cherry, white pepper and dried herb-scented fruits underscored by old oak. The palate is then distinctly savoury and brooding, dominated by generous earthy and meaty characters sitting over gentle tannins. Good fruit purity and length round out the package in a style that is best matched with gamey dishes to show its best.
2018 Les Athlètes du vin Pineau d’Aunis, A$40
Pineau d’Aunis is a little known grape variety grown near Angers and Tours that has similarities to both cabernet franc and pinot noir. This example is an early-drinking casual red that is pretty and gently fragrant. There are lifted graphite, leaf and blackcurrant aromas that are fresh and fruity. The palate is then supple and acid-driven with soft tannins underlying subtle fruits. It’s a picnic wine – and a good one at that.
NV Monmousseau Brut Etoile, A$26
The Brut Etoile from Monmousseau is a crowd-pleasing style for Loire Valley sparkling wines with layers of sweet fruit flavour. It is pale golden in colour, with rich fruit from pineapple and citrus, as well as lanolin and honey. Very crisp with a touch of balancing sweetness, the fruit is predominantly youthful and bright before leading to a chalky finish of medium length. It is a good aperitif style for casual drinking.
2019 Reserve de la Famille Drouet Sauvignon Blanc, A$9
This modern and fruit-forward sav blanc offers a pleasant introduction to the regional style for a remarkable price. Exotic and bright guava and citrus fruits emerge with touches of nettle and local chalky complexity. The light-weight palate is more savoury, with its citrus and chalky fruits well supported by a crisp acidity that drives a lingering finish. A crowd-pleasing wine that is well suited to entertaining over the festive season. Exclusive to Aldi.