If you had to choose a favourite vintage from the 1990s in the Loire Valley, then 1997 would surely be in the running. This isn’t true of a number of other wine regions in France, in particular Bordeaux, where the 1997 vintage was characterised by lighter and greener red wines, the result of a very difficult growing season (to be fair, I should point out that the sweet wines from Sauternes and Barsac were superb). Here in the Loire Valley, however, the 1997 vintage was considerably more interesting. The Ligérian vignerons experienced some of the same very difficult weather, especially during the first half of the year, but this is a region that resists simple generalisations. It is broad, the vineyards strung out along hundreds of kilometres of river, and its wines originate from a diverse array of terroirs and varieties, coming in various colours and styles, with varying levels of sweetness. And in many parts of the Loire Valley, despite this difficult start, some exceptional wines were made.
Indeed, after two good vintages in 1995 and 1996, 1997 was the third happy vintage in a row for the Loire Valley. To have three successive vintages of real interest is uncommon in many wine regions, not least here in the land of Savennières and Sancerre. And although we have had good vintages since, those that spring to mind first being 2002, 2003 and 2005 I think it was not until the triumvirate of 2009, 2010 and 2011 came along that this was repeated. Even this is questionable, because although the first two of these vintages saw broad success, the super red wines and sweet wines of 2011 were overshadowed at the time by the awful rot in Muscadet and also parts of Anjou. Perhaps 2014, 2015 and 2016 will be the next true rivals to the 1995-1996-1997 triumvirate?