It's been a while since we honed in on one of our favourite wine regions in France, but with a raft of new arrivals from Complemen'Terre, Benoît Courault and L'Aumonier, we figured now is the perfect time to shine a spotlight on the stunning Loire Valley.
As the longest river in France, the Loire provides the setting for some of the great wines of the world. Starting in the Massif Central, it runs for over 1,000 kilometres, first heading north through the Auvergne (Gamay country) before reaching the Central Loire and the famous Sauvignon Blanc appellations of Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, Reuilly and Menetou-Salon. Here it turns west, flowing into Anjou and the Middle Loire where Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc reign supreme, before finally reaching the Atlantic coast in the Pays Nantais, the home of seafood loving Melon de Bourgogne (Muscadet) and Folle Blanche.
Today we focus on three producers from three different sections of the Loire, who together exemplify the stunning breadth and depth of winemaking along this mighty river.
🌊 Domaine Complemen'Terre (Muscadet) 🌊
Based at the western extremity of the Loire where it spills out into the Atlantic, both Marion and Manuel of Complemen'Terre were born in Muscadet and have been around vineyards their whole lives. After a long time away working for winemakers in New Zealand and Chile, they settled in 2013 in the village of Le Pallet and work now with three grape varieties: Melon de Bourgogne, Folle Blanche and Gamay which are all vinified by parcel with the aim of showing off the varied volcanic terroir of the region. Manuel's father is Jo Landron, a legendary producer here, who pioneered a Burgundian approach to terroir, and is renowned for crafting Muscadets of great depth and longevity, and Marion and Manu continue this tradition with wines of finesse, structure and minerality.
68 Ares: Made from hand-picked Folle Blanche grapes grown organically, direct pressed and aged on lees for 6 months, this is the perfect accompaniment for seafood. Fresh and citrusy with pronounced sea spray salinity and aromas of toast, preserved lemons and pears. No added sulphur.
Tribute: from one of Marion and Manuel's south-facing plots where the grapes receive the most sunlight and thus this is a much fuller, riper expression of Melon de Bourgogne with rich, spiced apple fruit and plenty of creamy lees character while still retaining intense acidity.
Le Breil: A beautiful parcel surrounded by trees, Le Breil is one of the most prestigious sites in the Muscadet AOC. Here the low-yielding 60 year old Melon vines are hand-harvested and fermented with indigenous yeasts, one-third in old barrels and 2-thirds in stainless steel. A tense and concentrated Muscadet with aromas of briny green apples, lemon, ginger and bread dough.
🐴 Domaine Benoît Courault (Anjou) 🐴
Moving upstream and into the middle section of the Loire, Benoît Courault makes his wine in Faye d’Anjou where since 2006 he has converted centuries old vineyards to biodynamic farming. Here Chenin Blanc rules, and while historically the area was famed for sweet wines, today it is heralded for textured, powerful and razor sharp dry wines. Benoît has 7 hectares of low-yielding vines that are worked with the help of his horse Norway, and in the cellar with he takes a low intervention approach with long élevages, wild fermentations, and no fining or filtration. These are some of the finest wines in Anjou, and it's easy to see why when you learn that Benoît's CV includes stints with such winemaking royalty as Yvon Métras, Eric Pfifferling, Dominique Derain and Olivier Cousin.
Empreinte: 100% Chenin from clay and schist soils vinified entirely without sulphur. An expressive nose of ripe citrus fruits, apples, white flowers and wet stones with a well-balanced, slightly creamy palate, fresh acidity and a salty finish.
Gilbourg: Benoît’s top cuvée made from several plots in Faye d’Anjou. A riper, powerful expression of this wonderful variety with orchard fruit, quince, exotic spice and chalk aromas. Unctuous and full on the palate with searing acidity cutting through.
La Coulée: 70% Grolleau and 30% Pineau d'Aunis grown in a unique local schist called schistes gréseux de Saint Georges that is rich in silica and quartz. Fermented and aged in fibreglass before bottling without sulphur, this is velvet soft with a beautiful bouquet of rose petals, blueberries, white pepper and blood oranges.
Au Gré Du Vent: A blend of Chenin, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc, this is technically a pét-nat though with 12 months ageing on the lees, rich toasty brioche aromas and beautifully fine bubbles, it drinks more like a top quality crémant.
Fines Bulles: Sophie and Thierry's gorgeous traditional method fizz made from 100% Chenin Blanc aged for 12 months on the lees before disgorgement. Rich with fine, persistent bubbles and aromas of nougat, green apples and lime.
Touraine Rouge: Juicy, crunchy Gamay made using semi-carbonic maceration. Bright ruby red with lifted aromas of cherries, fresh herbs and stoney minerality.
Cuvée Louis: A deep and concentrated blend of Côt (Malbec) and Cabernet Franc. Spicy blackberry and plum fruit with exotic spice and hints of smoke.
Cuvée Henri: A delightful Loire Chenin, lively and rich with honeyed aromas of lime zest, pear and quince. Silkily textured on the palate with racy acidity and chalky minerals.
Thanks very much for reading, check out the full collection of Loire Valley wines available in store and online here.