The town of Saumur, sited directly on the Loire, is the leading centre for the traditional method sparkling wines of the Loire region – some of it under the classic appellation of Saumur Mousseau, but increasingly under the more demanding appellation of Crémant de Loire (which requires lower yields, and more time for the secondary fermentation and ageing sur lattes).
On the north-west side of Saumur lies the village of St Hilaire St Florent (nowadays effectively a suburb of Saumur), the leading centre for Crémants. Both architecturally, and in terms of the wines produced, it has many parallels with Epernay.
In July 2017, on a scorching hot day (with temperatures reaching 38C – unusually hot for the Loire) a small AWE group led by Dr Helen Savage visited the property Langlois-Chateau (www.langlois-chateau.fr) under a programme arranged with Inter-Loire. Langlois-Chateau is sometimes described as “the Bollinger of the Loire” – as the property is owned by Groupe Bollinger and has benefited from much investment and technical expertise from Bollinger.
We were received by Isabelle Heritou who explained that the name of the estate is not a reversal of ‘Chateau Langlois’ (there is no obvious château here) – rather it is a combination of the surnames of the original partners Edouard Langlois and Jeanne Chateau whose marriage in 1885 led to the foundation of the estate.
Following a short visit to the famous Clos St Florent vineyard (with wonderful views) we were delighted to enter the cool of the cellars – Langlois-Chateau has an amazing 3km of passages carved out of the limestone providing perfect conditions for development of traditional method sparkling wines. Even the gyropalettes for the riddling process mounted in two tiers in a slightly larger cave. Their policy is to allow plenty of lees contact with double the minimum ageing time for most wines – so their main Crémant de Loire Brut has a minimum of 24 months sur lattes (as against a legal minimum of 12 months).
Langlois-Chateau has a total of 80ha of vineyards, and also buys in grapes for its sparkling wines from other producers under strict agreements (as in Champagne). The estate is now Terra-Vitis certified. Most of the vineyards are around Saumur, but they also own two properties in Sancerre.
Both still and sparkling wines are produced by Langlois-Chateau in Saumur. Amongst the still wines we tasted were a delicious 2016 Saumur Blanc and both oaked and un-oaked Saumur-Champignys which showed great expression of Cabernet Franc’s considerable potential for further ageing. However, the Crémants showed outstanding finesse, both the Brut (a blend of 60% Chenin Blanc, 20% Chardonnay, 20% Cabernet Franc) and the Rosé (70% Cabernet Franc, 30% Pinot Noir). A 2013 vintage Crémant and a special 2008 cuvée known as ‘Quadrille’ showed even greater depth.
The UK importer is Metzendorff, and two of the Crémants are available from Majestic wines.