Montlouis-sur-Loire Pétillant Originel

The Loire Valley provides inquisitive wine drinkers with a bountiful hunting ground rich in high-quality and good-value sparkling wines. These should not, in my opinion, be seen solely as ‘value alternatives’ to Champagne, but as a broad array of distinctive styles which contribute to the fabulous diversity within sparkling wine. After all, not everything has to be made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, and it is not only the chalky hills around Reims and Épernay which produce suitable base wines for sparkling, crémant and pétillant wines. It just feels that way sometimes (and the wine writing world is as much to blame for that as the Champenois and their tumescent marketing budgets).

One of the Loire Valley’s major contribution to sparkling wine diversity in recent years has been in pétillant naturel, more colloquially known as pét nat, the region a major player in fostering the development of this style. And if there were any proof required of my earlier statement – that there is sparkling wine life beyond Champenois combo of Chardonnay and chalk – then here it is. In every corner of this long, stretched-out wine region, from the Atlantic vineyards of Muscadet to the volcanic slopes of the Massif Central, select vignerons have tried their hand at the pétillant naturel style, or some approximation of it. It has produced an exciting, diverse, anything-goes edge to the Loire Valley wine scene. Where once there was a handful of easily summarised sparkling wine styles from a mere handful of appellations, today you can find sparkling blends of Folle Blanche from the Muscadet region, sparkling Pineau d’Aunis from Bourgueil, sparkling Pinot Noir from Sancerre and even sweetly sparkling Gamay from the Côte Roannaise. And a lot more, besides.

Montlouis-sur-Loire Pétillant Originel

While this diversity is energising it does raise another question. This sudden tidal wave of new wines are almost exclusively made within the Vin de France category, which of course facilitates this ‘anything goes’ approach. But if anything goes, how does a consumer ever really know how the wine is made? How can the person popping the crown cap off the next bottle be reassured that this pétillant really is naturel, and it hasn’t made using the juice of unripe grapes, bolstered by the addition of sugar before and after the fermentation, perhaps with a healthy dose of Champagne yeast, and who knows what other additions? Who will provide the demanding wine drinker with some guarantee of authenticity and honesty in the pétillant naturel arena?

Step forward the vignerons of Montlouis, with Montlouis-sur-Loire Pétillant Originel.

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