Home > Winedr Blog > Salon 2018: Nearly Done

Salon 2018: Nearly Done

It’s Tuesday morning and I have three days of tasting under my belt. I spent Saturday at the Renaissance tasting in the glorious venue of the Hôpital Saint-Jean, where I thought two Savennières domaines, in particular Damien Laureau (sporting handsome beard) and Tessa Laroche of Domaine aux Moines were some of the stars of the show, especially Tessa who has completely turned around the family domaine which always made interesting but rather old-school wines. Until Tessa took over that is, as today they are minerally, precise and profoundly better.

One other star of the show was Domaine de Bellivière, but then Eric’s wines are nearly always remarkable, so maybe this is not really news. Usually I might also mention Richard Leroy at this point, but of course Richard wasn’t there. As I described in my Anjou 2016 report last year, Richard suffered a total wipe-out in the 2016 frost and made no wine. And so there was little point in him coming to smile sweetly at people with no wine to pour. His absence is just one small example of how devastating the frosts of 2016 and 2017 have been for some people. All fingers crossed for 2018.

On Sunday I went to Les Pénitentes, a tasting group led by Thierry Puzelat, René Mosse and Hervé Villemade. This was a really funky way to spend a Sunday morning. And when I say funky, I mean funky. After a few hours I headed back to Renaissance, where I revelled in the pure and perfumed Roannaise Gamays of Domaine Sérol and Domaine de Pothiers, both domaines having enjoyed success in the 2017 vintage. Some of their superior cuvées are seriously delicious, and although I have drunk some of their lower- and mid-level wines at home, I really must track down some of the top single-vineyard wines some time soon.

Salon des Vins de Loire 2018

It was soon Monday, and I headed up to the Salon des Vins de Loire proper, and after a rather patchy weekend (yin and yang – the highlights described above were balanced out by any number of vinous lows) the quality of wines was overall very good indeed. With only two days of tasting at the Salon this year I drew up a list of a dozen domaines where I simply had to taste, and I visited eleven of them, exceeding my expectations, making for a successful day. But as my ‘hit list’ included Domaine de la Pépière, Château Pierre-Bise, François Pinon, Philippe Alliet, and Alphonse Mellot, is it surprising that quality was so high?

Indeed, the only thing about the Salon week in Angers that does surprise me, and it surprises me every year, is that many visitors to the region only go to the ‘off’ salons that focus on ‘natural’, organic and biodynamic domaines, thereby missing out on some of the region’s very best wines. There is dogma in wine-writing and wine-blogging as well as winemaking, it seems. I am content that I am sufficiently open-minded to visit a selection of salons, and taste with a number of groups of vignerons bound by a variety of different philosophies and aims, rather than just restrict myself to one ‘type’ of wine. To do so would certainly give a rather blinkered view of what the Loire Valley, a great wine region, is achieving.

Today (that’s Tuesday, in case you haven’t been following the scheme) I will cross off number twelve on that list, François Chidaine. After that I have now drawn up a reserve list for today. I don’t normally do this but I didn’t want to get to Tuesday evening and have that ‘oh crap’ moment when I realise I missed out an important visit. Any vignerons who I don’t see before the end of the Salon, if you are at Vinovision, I will hook up with you there. And I will be making some visits in May, in a combined Bordeaux-Loire trip, and October for the harvest.

6 Responses to “Salon 2018: Nearly Done”

  1. Hope you missed the snow!
    What were the 2016 Chinons like compared to 2015, especially Baudry?

  2. Sorry, stupid question – there are notes on the Baudry page! But if you tried them at the Salon, how were they coming on?

  3. Hi Julian. I didn’t taste with Matthieu at the Salon as I plan to visit him when I am next in the Loire, which will be May. Hopefully I will then be able to report on Le Clos Guillot and La Croix Boissée from bottle, as well as more notes on 2016 from bottle and barrel.

  4. Ok thanks! I have another question on a different subject: Savennières.

    I notice you gave a thumbs up and I was curious. I used to love these – I discovered them in the mid-90s, along with chenins in general, but whilst enjoying Blots, Foreaus and Chidaines, I felt that Savennières offered a purity the others couldn’t match. As a result, I bought heavily from Baumard, especially, also Morgat and others. For a while all was well, but from the 99 to the 03 vintages, without exception, the wines were shot after 4 or 5 years in bottle.
    Much later, I understood this to be along the same lines as the premox problem that hit Burgundy. After similar problems with the 06 and 09 vintages, I gave up completely.
    In 2014, I went to the Salon at Angers: I was unimpressed with all the Savennières (especially Baumard and Laroche), which all showed the same signs, apart from one: Domaine FL. They explained to me that all the others had made the mistake of doing malolactic fermentation, to soften up their wines in their youth, but with the ageing problems I had encountered.
    Is this true?
    Have they become safe to buy again?
    Thanks in advance – but no hurry, take your time!!

  5. Hi Julian

    There are various winemaking processes that impact on style in Savennières and yes malolactic fermentation is one of them. If you pick at the right time (before significant or even any botrytis appears) which can impact on alcohol level and also flavour profile, if you use older barrels or inert vessels (steel/fibreglass/cement), if you avoid new wood, and if you block the malolactic the wine will tend more towards the FL style, which I can perceive is the style you like. Others at this end of the spectrum include the Ogereau wines, especially in the last few vintages since Emmanuel Ogereau took over, La Croix Picot from Domaine de la Bergerie, the last few vintages from Eric Morgat (where the style is much less impacted by oak than it used to be) and the modern-day Domaine aux Moines since Tessa Laroche took over from her mother (about 2013/4 onwards).

    At the other end of the spectrum you have wines with some or all of the following features which serve to dampen this focus; these include high alcohol, botrytis flavours, new wood, malolactic fermentation. Although you focused on malolactic in your question I *suspect* picking date and eradication of botrytised fruit is the most important determinant of the style of wine. I have tasted many Loire whites (Chenin and Sauvignon) with great focus and have been amazed to learn that they have undergone malolactic – sometimes it is really obvious, sometimes it isn’t, even when 100% of the cuvée has undergone malolactic (e.g. I tasted all of Pierre-Bise’s 2015s earlier this week and they were great, but almost every one had undergone malolactic). At this ‘unfocused’ end of the spectrum are the Nicolas Joly wines, Domaine des Forges, and maybe older vintages of Closel, older Domaine aux Moines and older Loic Mahé. Oxidation won’t help either – I have heard of problems with the Baumard wines although I have been fortunate with the 2002s in my cellar.

    With a fairly complex set of factors driving style there are many other wines which are somewhere in the middle, between the two extremes, but there are many I would put closer to the first group than the second group despite the fact many of them undergo malolactic. These include Claude Papin’s wines as already mentioned, Damien Laureau, Thibaud Boudignon, recent vintages of Domaine de Closel, Patrick Baudouin. I think some of these wines are superb, although some are certainly less focused than the FL style.

    In general the style in the appellation is shifting towards a more focused one and the changes at Ogereau, Eric Morgat, Domaine aux Moines and Closel, have all been in this direction. If you want wines akin to the pure FL style now go with recent vintages from this group of names, starting with recent Ogereau as the closest. Go for the 2014s and more recent. Richer but still incredibly focused are the wines of Damien Laureau and Thibaud Boudignon, some of the very best wines made there today, but perhaps veering away from the style you are looking for.

    Hope this helps.

  6. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed reply, so full of insight!
    I’m not sure I have a favourite style of Savennières – I don’t have a wide enough experience, for one thing, but my ideal wine would be something akin to the Clos de St.Yves 96 and the Clos Du Papillon 99.
    Anyway, I shall follow your advice and try your suggestions.
    Thanks again – have a great weekend!