And the Oscar goes to…..
Diversity has become one of the buzz words of the last 10 years, as we live in a world that increasingly recognizes and values points of difference. Gone are the days, thankfully, when a region focusing on one or two grape varieties and wine styles ruled the roost, and a region producing a range of wine styles from a myriad of grapes was seen as a jack of all trades and master of none. Now diversity is king. All around us in every walk of life, including food, culture, religion and of course wine we encounter difference. With this in mind it is not surprising that the 2018 press pack for Val de Loire uses the slogan, “The Loire Valley The world’s most diverse range of wines.” Certainly many wine producing countries and regions are catching on to this trend, but the Mother and Father of diverse wines style must be the Loire Valley.
The range of wine styles emulating from the Loire Valley are the product mainly of three factors. Firstly diversity comes from the vast range of soils, from granite and schist in the west to the limestone in the east; secondly the changing climate from maritime Muscadet to continental Central Vineyards. And finally the range of varied grape varieties that are grown in the region, from Chenin to Cot. Yet somehow this diversity does not always seem to have been fully valued.
The wines of the Loire Valley remind me of an extremely talented character actor that always puts in a stellar performance in whichever role they perform, yet never receiving the Academy award for best performance; that always seem to go to a more “showy” and obvious performance”. Similarly the wines of the Loire Valley puts in a stellar performance in a very diverse range of wine styles, indeed can any other wine region make that claim? Yet the wines have never seemed to grab the “Oscar” in the way that Burgundy does with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir or Bordeaux with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. And, while I would never underestimate the star quality of these grapes, to me they are rather type cast and rarely stretch their ability and range in the way Chenin Blanc does. This point was supremely illustrated at this years’ Val de Loire Millésime which ran from Sunday 22 to Wednesday 25 April 2018. The 4 day programme, based in Touraine at the stunning Château Royal De Blois, showed a multitude of appellations highlighting the full diversity of the region. The wines ranged from white wines, dry to sweet, through rosé to reds of differing body weights with many worthy Oscar nominees.
Château Royal De Blois
So I have decided to award my own wine Oscars!
The Oscar for the most promising new comer goes to …… Touraine Chenonceaux Reds
This appellation was a revelation to me. This small appellation, with only a production area of only 50HA, established in 2011 certainly punches above its weight. The appellation takes its name from the stunning and elegant Château De Chenonceaux, and certainly the red wines reflect the qualities of the Château. The wines are rich, elegant yet sensuous a perfect marriage of Cot and Cabernet Franc, with, I was told, no oak allowed! This style is epitomised by Jacky Marteau’s Tandem.
The Oscar for the most improved performance goes to …… Muscadet
The improvement in Muscadet over the last couple of years has been amazing. Muscadet, perhaps once seen as a mediocre actor, has suddenly blossomed into a star. There are several reasons behind this transformation. Firstly the foundations of a quality pyramid with the establishment of the Cru Communaux system, which has lower yields, (45Hl/Ha as opposed to 65Hl/Ha for basic Muscadet). Secondly the extension of lees aging, 24 months for Gorges Cru Communaux; and lastly the reduction in vineyard area from 11,600Ha in 2007 to 8,194 today. All this makes the Muscadet appellation an altogether leaner and more attractive proposition. Indeed many of the Cru Communaux, with their tension and minerality, (summed up by Monnieres – Saint Fiacre from Domaine de la Pépière) give white Burgundy a run for its money.
The Oscar for the best production goes to……Domaine Huet
I freely admit that this is a very personal Oscar. It was the wines of Domaine Huet that started my love affair with the wines of the Loire Valley. I have a bottle of Domaine Huet from my birth year, (which I am not going to disclose) which I lovingly looked at every time I open my wine fridge.
And now for the highest accolade, the Oscar for lifelong achievement.
In this age, which welcomes and applauds diversity, my top award goes to the region that consistently achieves the widest range of wine styles, so for that reason
My Oscar for lifelong achievement goes to …… The Wines of the LOIRE VALLEY!