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To the Salon!

Tomorrow (Saturday) morning I will be heading out to Angers, principally for the Salon which starts on Monday although I will be keeping myself busy over the weekend with a small programme of visits, including Domaine de la Bergerie (Anjou, Chaume, Quarts de Chaume, etc.) and Domaine Luneau-Papin (Muscadet). I’m looking forward to the first of these visits as Yves Guégniard is a very talented guy who turns out a range of really beautiful wines, his Savennières and sweet wines being the pick of the bunch I think. The trip to Luneau-Papin should also be rather special, as it is too many years since I was anywhere near Muscadet-land. I know Pierre-Marie (Pierre Luneau-Papin’s son) will be showing a range of older vintages of L d’Or at the Salon, back to the 1976 (no – not a typo!), and I doubt such wines will be open for our visit so I suspect I will have to visit him at his stand at the Salon as well, as this would beat my previous oldest Muscadet tasting experience by quite a few years (six, to be precise, having tasted the 1982 not that long ago).

Last year I spent a whole day at the Salon focused on Savennières, alongside all my other usual ‘visits’; this gave me a fine opportunity to really get to grips with this appellation, to understand the different styles of wine. I still need to embody these thoughts in a new guide to the appellation, something that I will endeavour to do this year. I also spent some time with some of the new blood in Montlouis, including Xavier Weisskopf and Lise et Bertrand Jousset. This year I’m not so sure what main focus should be, although I am leaning towards (a) Chaume/Quarts de Chaume/Bonnezeaux – which would help me update and expand my guide to Anjou along with my Savennières experiences from last year, or (b) Sancerre – to help me understand, as I did with Savennières, the different styles; although here it would reflect terroir more than winemaking, as I wrote in my The New Sancerre post from the end of last week. Maybe I’ll do both. I’m also open to suggestions – add them to the comments below.

In addition, it was my hope to try and add some new profiles to the site based on recently tasted wines I have enjoyed, such as Domaine du Mortier. Like a number of the smaller, more organic, biodynamic or ‘natural’ domaines, however, the Boisard brothers of Domaine du Mortier don’t seem to exhibit at the Salon. I could have caught them at the first ever Salon Professionnel Vignerons Bio de Loire…..but that was last week, an off-event cast adrift by the shift of the Salon back one week, about which I wrote in Hints to InterLoire on the 2012 Salon. If InterLoire see that as a victory (Mortier and the Bio Salon aren’t engaged with InterLoire, who seem to regard such domaines and off-events as competing rather than enhancing) then that is a peculiarly small, narrow-minded, insular and self-destructive approach to marketing.

And one last thing; this year the Salon’s blog trophy is limited to those who write about/for wine bars. Which, to me, seems typically narrow-minded. I’m beginning to have a lot of sympathy for the recently resigned François Chidaine.

Next week my usual updates will be replaced with blog posts as I report on my activities at the Salon (hence my homepage makeover this week, with my new links to ‘recent blog posts’). If all goes well, and none of the airports or train stations I will be passing through on my way to Angers have been closed by snow, then I’ll be able to report on my first visits maybe sometime tomorrow.

One Response to “To the Salon!”

  1. Hi Chris

    Hope to see you at the fair (not sure i can get the car out of the drive cos of the snow!!!!!) and apologies for my lousy typing.

    Just a quick thing tho – everyone’s ranting about Interloire, but actually, I reckon they’re doing as good a job as is possible in the circs – and I sure wouldn’t want that job!

    They have over 60 appellations to promote and the Loire’s about 50,000 hectares (OK, some is BIVC territory and there’s a handful of hold outs) with several thousand wine growers each wanting to see some results for their moàney.

    It’s not possible to promote each and every appellation individually all the time. Full stop. Yet Interloire work hard in france and export on promoting the whole caboudle as effectively as possible.

    That means avoiding the sort of generic advertising that makes growers and individual appellations feel good – but which doesn’t sell any wine. So they work with serious importers – supermarkets, chains, mail order and independents – to help fund promotions that increase the visibility of the Loire as a whole to Joe Public and actually increase sales… not just for the ‘lucky’ few who are already listed, but for all the region through the ‘simple’ act of encouraging the buyers by getting them the sort of results that allow them to justify and increase their range.

    Not easy – it’s a big, bad world out there. An example : sales of Loire reds are currently about 0.05% of all red wine sales in the UK.

    What to do? answer : make wines that Joe Public wants to (and can afford to) drink. That means admitting that we can’t survive as a region with just the ‘amateur éclairé’ beloved of the ‘stars’ beloved of the media. To help boost sales to the UK, Interloire funded Sam Harrop as consultant for cab francs. I’m not 100% in agreement with his methods (to me it’s wine growing first and making 2nd) but the effects are real.

    Sticking with the naive idealism that says ‘tradition’ and ‘terroir’ are essential is fine, but that really only works for a small handful of producers as ‘the market’ (that’s Joe Public in person and n,ot marketing-speak) will simply not buy more expensive, difficult-to-understand wines.

    I’ll give you a concrete example : one of my clients buys two wines from the same small, independent producer : a VdP at 1.65 €/bt and a smart, aged Muscadet at 3-something €. Joe Public buys 25000 bottles of the VdP and 360 bottles of the Muscadet. OK, so the VdP’s on sale in more shops – but the client’s using the same margin on both wines.

    The problem is simple : money. Joe Public spends on average under £5.00 a bottle, 95% under £7 and 99% under £10. That leaves 1% of all wine sales in the UK for EVERYTHING over 3.50 € a bottle – Bordeaux, Bugundy, Rhone, California, Australia,, Tuscany, New Zealand and the Loire included.

    Interloire has to work with that reality.

    Meanwhile, they also have to work with other realities – massive damage to the vineyards through esca and black dead arm as examples potentially as frightening as phylloxera – so they also fund research into these at the same time as helping regions like Muscadet that have real existential problems to simply survive.

    They also fund events for small growers such as the spring Vitiloire festival in Tours (100 plus growers in the streets and parks of the city) – and they help fund the Salon des Vins de Loire, which does not belong to them but, I believe, to Angers Parc Expo…

    It’s not perfect, but it’s not bad.

    For Interloire to work better, two things are needed :

    – for the growers to understand the realities of the market (and maybe to reduce the number of appellations to a manageable 25)

    – for the growers via their appellations’ syndicats to combine the promotional budgets – at least for export – of Interloire and the BIVC, giving retailers the possibility of organising Loire promotions that include Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé!

    Oh – they could also involve guys like you and me more than they do, but they are trying and they are making progress.

    Apologies for the rant, but it’s easy to listen to and to understand the frustrations of guys like Chidaine, but it’s a big bad world out there and for the Loire to survive and prosper, we need to stand together.