La Tour Saint-Martin
The Central Vineyards are home to the Loire Valley’s most famous appellations, and in view of the prices fetched for the best-known – these being Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé – we could also argue these are the Loire’s most successful appellations. With this in mind you might expect the region to have developed into a vine-based monoculture, a wall-to-wall carpet of vines eventually crowding out other forms of agriculture as the locals realise that there is a lot more profit to be made in wine than in wheat. This is, however, not the case. Sure, in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé the vine rules all, but beyond their borders the other appellations – Reuilly, Quincy, Menetou-Salon and the Coteaux du Giennois – are not so famous, and the planting is discontinuous.
Of the four appellations name-checked above, Menetou-Salon is the most significant, and certainly the one most relevant to this profile. The appellation is small and the vineyards abut those of Sancerre; this is different to Reuilly and Quincy, which are both little islands of viticulture located some way to the west. This proximity to Sancerre means the two appellations share a similar mix of terroirs, which is no doubt at least partly responsible for the rather familiar style of wine made here, one which bears more than a passing resemblance to that of its famous neighbour. As a consequence, Menetou-Salon enjoys a slightly elevated reputation compared to its more distant cousins. It is perhaps damning with faint praise to refer to any appellation as ‘a good alternative to…..‘, nevertheless in the case of Menetou-Salon it is undeniable that the wines offer wines which are very similar – whether white, rosé or red – to those from Sancerre, and often at a much lower price.
There are only a handful of domaines in the appellation worth knowing about, and without a doubt one of them is La Tour Saint-Martin. Here Bertrand Minchin (pictured below) works to produce a classically styled range of cuvées which do indeed fit the giant-killing mould, the wines easily capable of standing up to a bottle of Sancerre. Although I have found one or two of his wines – in particular those fermented and raised in oak – rather difficult when tasted in their youth (although they shine with age, I have found), the wines are on the whole bright and vibrant, with appealing perfume, which can be an uncommon finding in Sauvignon Blanc.
The domaine has enjoyed some success on the back of such quality, and in recent years Bertrand and his wife Albane have expanded westwards, although they have looked beyond the obvious candidates of Reuilly and Quincy to Valençay, across the border in Touraine. Before I explore the vineyards in any more detail though, a little more on Bertrand Minchin and how he established himself as a vigneron.