After a tasting of the 2008 Bordeaux vintage with Bordeaux Index on Thursday, and dinner in London on Thursday evening, I spent Friday ambling down to Angers. It was my second super-early rise in two days, for my second early flight in two days, this time to Paris. This was followed by a couple of hours hanging around Paris CDG airport, after which I boarded the train to Angers. My hotel is a short walk from the railway station in Angers. By 6 pm I was falling asleep on my bed and rather than fight it I just gave in to sleep.
Who says wine writers can’t have a rock-star lifestyle?
So I am in Angers, principally for the 2018 Salon des Vins de Loire, although as most readers will know the Salon comes with various ‘off’ events, the most useful of which I find to be the Renaissance tasting (Nicolas Joly, Richard Leroy, Mark Angeli, Eric Nicolas and many more), so this is where I will be spending the best part of the weekend. Then on Monday and Tuesday I will be at the Salon-proper, which also incorporates a tasting of wines from La Levée de la Loire, a great group focusing on organic and biodynamic methods.
The city of Angers is naturally already thronging with British wine journalists*, the UK being an important export market for the Loire Valley for this region. They are attracted here not only by an eagerness to get away from the tedious treadmill of all-expenses-paid free press trips, but also by the stunning scenery, the sweeping vistas, the dramatic clifftop vineyards, the lakes and the waterfalls. You only have to look at the view from my hotel bedroom window, taken at 6am this morning, to get a taste of the atmosphere. Just a few seconds before I took the photograph a herd of elephants had gone by, but I just missed them, sorry.
When I manage to drag myself away from my window I will head out to start four days of concentrated tasting. The difficulty this year will be knowing where to focus my energies, as although I have all weekend in the ‘off’ salons (hurrah!), the Salon-proper has been cut down to two days this year (boo!). It has been on the decline for a few years now, having lost the support of many previous exhibitors, partly because it is very expensive to exhibit at, partly because some vignerons don’t agree with the direction taken by the organising body, InterLoire, all compounded by the considerable financial pressures experienced in the region recently. Both 2016 and 2017 saw extensive frosts, and many parts of the region had difficult times before that, for example 2008 and 2012 also saw frost visit Muscadet, Montlouis has been hit in multiple vintages, and there have been destructive hailstorms in some regions, especially Vouvray in 2013. If you have little wine to sell, and little cash to spare, taking a huge stand at a fair is an expensive folly.
As a consequence I will probably focus on the big names during those two days, domaines I simply don’t want to miss, such as Domaine de la Pépière, Château Pierre-Bise, François Chidaine and so on. Those I know I can meet up with at Vinovision next week, the likes of Luneau-Papin and Domaine de la Taille aux Loups, I will leave until then. Those I can visit when out at my house near Chinon in May or October, especially in Chinon, Bourgueil or Vouvray, will have to wait. Last year I used my time at Vinovision to taste with a lot of less familiar domaines, such as Adèle Rouzé, Jean-Marc Biet and Domaine des Ouches, among others, and I expect this year that will again be a good opportunity to make some new discoveries.
Time to taste now. After all, that’s why I am here.
*This is obviously not true.