It’s not far to the Loire
What makes Loire Valley wines such a good fit for independents? The sheer breadth of styles is one of the major attractions, and so is the fact that so much excellent wine exists almost on the doorstep of British merchants. Direct importing is feasible as well as cost effective.
This year, The Wine Merchant once again teamed up with Loire Valley Wines to send a group of indies to Wine Paris, where winemakers from the region were – as always – attending in numbers.
Three of the merchants who visited the show give their feedback on what they discovered.
‘Some of the best Chenins in the world’
Chapmans Wine Merchants, Eastbourne
“I’m really trying to build up a wine portfolio that is exclusive to me, so buying direct, as much as cash flow will allow, is what I’m trying to achieve.
“It’s very difficult to beat the Loire for well-balanced whites with minerality. Consistently there are a lot of good quality producers to choose from. The Chenin Blanc, the Muscadets, the Vouvrays and the Gamays were all showing really well. I genuinely think some of the best Chenin Blancs in the world come from that region – what the soils can offer up is hard to beat.
“There is still some value to be found in the region. I mean, it’s creeping up like everything else, but you have some bigger estates and bigger volumes, which seems to allow the prices to settle.”
‘Niche products as well as some classics’
“What stands out in the Loire is the diversity of grapes and wine appellations. I was pleased to see that most of the winemakers were making wines of high quality.
“I really enjoy what winemakers are doing with acidity, which keeps a great tension in the wine. The Loire is a more northerly appellation, and I like the fact that the wines are fresher and not as fat and full-bodied as many wines from the south.
“It is a perfect region in which to find a niche products that customers could not find in supermarkets. There is a lot for them to discover, but also classic appellations and varieties, which will always be an important feature in a wine selection, like a Muscadet for instance or Sauvignon Blanc. I made some valuable contacts.”
‘Fruity, lighter reds do well in summer’
“We’re going to the Loire to visit four of the 12 producers I had appointments with, the idea being that we can direct import from them.
“It’s always been an area we’ve been really into – my wife and I got married in Chinon. The fruity, lighter reds for summer particularly do really well for us and that’s where the central Loire Valley has been good.
“Whites perform pretty well across the board for us so it felt like a very natural move to start importing from some Loire producers. These will be the first wines we import ourselves so it’s quite handy to do so from an area that’s quite versatile.
“Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc, along with Sauvignon Blanc, are grapes that have wide appeal and certainly work well for us. We will often have open a lighter, fruitier red, which will most probably be a Cabernet Franc from the Loire. There is a trend for the lower abv lighter reds – serving them slightly chilled is popular.
“After our visit I wondered if I’ve given the Loire quite enough credit for its ageworthy wines. A number age incredibly well: just look at Savennières, Vouvray, Chinon, St Nicolas de Bourgueil, and certain Muscadets … we actually have some 2004 and 2007 Savennières, which are both tasting fantastic.”
Mixed pallet on way
Weald Wine Cellars, Hawkhurst
“I really enjoyed the show. I met a lot of Loire producers and ordered a mixed pallet of white, red and rosé wines.
“In the past I’ve bought bits and pieces of bin-ends from the Loire and the odd pallet here and there. We used to do a fair bit in the Loire and I know the area quite well.
“We’ll be taking delivery soon and it will be interesting to see the reaction from customers.”
Ageworthy Cab Franc
The Winemakers Club, London
“We work with organic and biodynamic wines and the Loire is a good region for those. We already work with a couple of Loire producers and the area performs well for us.
“The standard of wines from the Loire is very high and Chenin Blanc in particular is very popular with our customers. We have quite a knowledgeable customer base and Loire wines sell very well for us.
“Wine Paris was a great platform to meet new producers. I tasted some great Cabernet Franc that had been aged for quite a while. That was something a bit different for me, as usually it’s drunk young.”