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.
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.