One of the joys of the vineyards of the Loire Valley is that they provide a doorway into the world of wine for outsiders. Yes, it is possible to acquire prestigious parcels of vines in Pomerol or Pauillac, or in the grandest of all the grands crus of the Côte d’Or, but only at a significant price. You either have to sell that Van Gogh or Francis Bacon you have been hanging on to, or you need a very understanding bank manager.
In the Loire Valley, however, in Montlouis, Bourgueil, Anjou, Cheverny and countless other appellations, young and aspiring vignerons can rent a hectare or two without breaking the bank. It is thanks to this accessibility that today we can enjoy the wines of Ludovic Chanson, Lise and Bertrand Jousset, Tanguy Perrault, Laura Semeria and many others, and I believe my life would be just that little bit less bearable if I could never drink the wines of these (and other) newcomers.
Another name that is relatively new to the Loire Valley, having started out in 2009 with some purchased fruit, before buying his first vineyard just in time for the 2011 vintage, is Laurent Herlin (pictured above). He is based a little further downstream than most of those names already mentioned, in Chouzé-sur-Loire, near Bourgueil. Sadly, Laurent arrived in the Loire Valley just in time to endure a run of very difficult vintages, especially 2016 and 2017, when frost exacted a heavy toll upon the vines. It has not been an easy start for him.