Here’s the first of three daily updates from this year’s Salon des Vins de Loire, starting with a quick run-down of the ‘off’ events – those that tag onto the Salon – that I have attended over the weekend.
Friday evening was fairly leisurely – I ate on the train on the way down to Angers, and as a consequence had an early night. Very rare for me! It did mean I was ready for Saturday though, which was a long day. First, a short trek across Angers from my hotel to the Renaissance tasting, at the Greniers St Jean. I missed this tasting last year, the result of the Salon dates having moved, and it has clearly evolved since I was last here two years ago. No more Thierry Puzelat, for instance, who now has his own tasting with friends (the Pénitentes tasting) elsewhere, so I will have to catch up with Thierry later in the year. And no Clos Roche Blanche either. And some new names here; Huet have joined the throng for the first time, a sign of a new self-image now that Noël Pinguet has left perhaps? And a few others of interest; Michel Autran, one of the new wave of Vouvray producers (who makes wine in his spare time – otherwise he is an ER/A&E doctor – something sounds familiar about that….), Toby Bainbridge, an Englishman in Anjou, and plenty of others.
Saturday evening I headed out to La Table de la Bergerie for a tasting and dinner with Vincent Ogereau, Claude Papin and Yves Guégniard, as I did last year. Once again this tasting proved that no matter how much clamour the ‘natural’ wine crowd can make, there’s no substitute for dedication, commitment and thoughtful winemaking, seeking the highest possible quality in the final product rather than obsessing over the methodology and philosophy. These three make some exceptionally fine wines, which also age well, as some older bottles – back to the 1989 vintage – served during dinner clearly demonstrated.
Saturday was therefore a very long day and I was feeling rather jaded yesterday morning but La Dive Bouteille, held at Chateau de Brézé near Saumur, soon perked me up. I last visited Brézé about 3 or 4 years ago, with my family, when my three children enjoyed exploring the tunnels, cellars and giant moat. I hadn’t ever envisaged the cellars crammed full of producers from all over Europe, but that was the scene yesterday. Here there were plenty of good tasting opportunities, including more from the new wave of producers in Vouvray, such as Sebastien Brunet and Matthieu Cosme, both next-generation growers who have recently taken over from their fathers. There were good wines from both.
Thereafter I headed back to Anjou. All weekend I have been skirting around swollen rivers and flooded fields; on Saturday I saw that the Layon had broken its banks, the Maine has been running very high through Angers (I walk more quickly over the bridges than I usually do – although they have been here for a few hundred years and so probably won’t be swept away any time soon) and on the way to Dive Bouteille I saw the Loire had also broken its banks, flooding nearby fields, an impressive feat for what is already a majestic river. On the way back from Dive Bouteille, however, we (Jim Budd, and Nigel and Tom of the RSJ restaurant) were confronted with the Thouet (pictured above) which had decided to forego its usual route under the bridge from which the photograph was taken and flow over the adjacent road instead. Needless to say we turned around and found a different route.
Yesterday afternoon I returned to the Renaissance tasting for a little more, with wines from Loïc Mahé, Christophe Daviau, and a brief detour into Pomerol (although my focus is the Loire, both Renaissance and Dive Bouteille feature domaines from far-distant regions) for a mini-vertical from Gombaude Guillot.
Today, the Salon proper, day 1. I will report back tomorrow.