A Visit to Charles Joguet, October 2020
Despite the Loire being France’s grandest river (well, that’s my opinion), and its valley and network of tributaries hosting one of the nation’s most extensive and important vineyards (see previous bracketed comment), it is actually quite rare for river and vine to come together. This is largely because for much of its course the soft limestone rock has allowed the Loire to carve out a broad and shallow valley, the floor of which is several kilometres wide, and as a consequence when you stand among the vines, on the slopes and plateau that rise above the valley floor, the river is nothing but a thin blue ribbon in the distance.
Although in truth, in my experience, there is no “thin blue ribbon”, as the river is almost always hidden from view by trees.
There are only a handful of exceptions to the rule, where the vines look down upon the Loire, most notably in Savennières, the river running alongside the Savennières Roche-aux-Moines and Coulée-de-Serrant appellations. Here the river has transitioned onto harder schist, and is more tightly hemmed in; as a consequence the valley is narrow, and the vineyards tumble down to (almost) the water’s edge. To be honest it isn’t quite as majestic as the vine-covered slopes along the Mosel or the Douro, but for Chenin lovers (that’s all of us, right?) it is still a quite magical place.
In 2020, entirely unexpectedly, I discovered another spot where the vines look down onto the river, only in this case it is not the Loire, but one of its major tributaries, the Vienne. This came as a complete surprise, as like the Loire the Vienne has carved out a broad and shallow valley, and standing in famed vineyards such as La Croix Boissée, the Clos du Chêne Vert or Le Clos Guillot, all of which sit on the valley slopes or edge of the plateau, affords no view of the river. These are all upstream of the town of Chinon; just downstream, however, the course of the river shifts position, moving north so that it runs right up against the valley slopes. And it is here that we find Clos Monplaisir (pictured above).