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Category Archives: wine exhibitions and shows

Organic is good; biodynamic is better?

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Call me old-fashioned, but when given the opportunity I always like to give organic wines a try. At Maisons des Vins, those wonderful establishments in the heart of French wine districts where a huge range of local wines can be freely tasted, I will invariably sample one or two organic wines to compare with the others on offer and I am rarely disappointed.

Greniers St Jean tasting of organic wines

Greniers St Jean tasting of organic wines

I was delighted to hear therefore, that on the weekend of the huge Loire Valley wine trade fair in Angers, there were also two or three side events featuring organic and biodynamic wines.

Biodynamics has much in common with other organic approaches in that it emphasizes the use of manures and composts rather than artificial chemicals and pesticides on soil and plants. Methods unique to the biodynamic approach include an emphasis on integrating farm animals, the cultivation of crops and the care of the land. It values local production and distribution systems, the use of local breeds and varieties and the astronomical calendar to guide cultivation timings. The philosophy of biodynamics extends from the field into the wine cellar and beyond.

At the tasting in the beautiful old building called the ‘Greniers St Jean’ we were lucky to bump into Nicolas Joly early in the proceedings. Joly is a leading proponent of biodynamic viticulture and he marked up our exhibitor list with a few “must-see” suggestions from the 125 winemakers at the show. The show featured a good forty Loire producers, including Jolys’ own Coulée de Serrant, now principally run by his daughter Virginie. We tasted a number of his truly splendid white wines: the sublime Coulée de Serrant, minerally Les Vieux Clos, old vine Clos de la Bergerie; these are astonishingly good Chenin Blancs.

Colin hard at work at the Greniers St Jean tasting

Colin hard at work at the Greniers St Jean tasting

We talked at length with organic and biodynamic growers about their principals and their wines and could not fail to be impressed by their passion. Joly felt that the consumer had the right to know what was in his wines and deplored the use of flavourings and artificial yeast, all used perfectly legally by many wine producers, both large and small.

Of the dozen winemakers from Burgundy we were directed to Pierre de Benoit of Domaine de Villaine in the village of Bouzeron. Here, they uniquely grow the local variety called Aligoté d’Or, quite a treat, especially if compared to thin and acid Aligoté Gris, which is most often served with a generous dash of blackcurrant liqueur as the popular aperitif called Kir.  This was a different beast altogether. Both the terroir and the cultivation conspire to reduce yields and highlight the qualities of this grape, producing delicious wines with floral, mineral and pastry flavours.

Around 12% of wines in the Alsace are organic and we very much enjoyed a tasting of Sylvana, Riesling and especially Riesling Grand Cru Pfingstberg at the stand of Domaine Zusslin. Alsace Grand Cru wines maycome from one of over 50 villages, but represent only 4% of the total production of the region. They are well worth seeking out.

From the Minervois in the Languedoc-Roussillon we tasted white wine from another rare grape, Terret bourret, while we were delighted to see Clos du Joncuas representing the Rhone, having bought several of their wines while in Gigondas last year.

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Wine humour

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A little light relief from the Humour & Vigne event this year reminds me of the joys of communication in a foreign language:

Humour & Vigne  JONZAC-Charente Maritime
Christine TRAXELER (TRAX) Prix de la Forme.

Loire shows off Sauvignon

Loire Sauvignon Blanc came under the spotlight at Vinexpo this week as Jamie Goode presented a masterclass to highlight the region’s growing expertise with this grape variety.

The event featured a 14-strong selection of wines chosen from this year’s medal winners at the Concours Mondial du Sauvignon, which saw the Loire awarded 45% of the total medals from a field of 16 Sauvignon Blanc-producing countries.

“Sauvignon Blanc is a variety that can deliver precise wines with very good concentration of flavour,” recalled Goode of the qualities that he and the rest of the international judging panel rewarded. “You’re looking for the usual things of balance and definition and also wines that are commercially relevant.”

As for the refined selection on show at this Vinexpo masterclass, Goode explained: “We put together a range of styles and wines with unique expressions that together told a story.”

These included examples from across the region, including Pouilly-Fumé, Sancerre, Quincy, Touraine and the IGP Val de Loire, all from the 2012 vintage, which Goode summed up as “a very good, precise vintage in the Loire.”

Having written his own book on the variety, The Science of Sauvignon Blanc, Goode described the grape as “fascinating”, noting: “of all the grape varieties in the world, more scientific work has been done on Sauvignon Blanc than any other.”

Among the benefits of this research has been a greater understanding of compounds including methoxypyrazines, which are responsible for the variety’s characteristic grassy aroma; monoterpenes, which contribute its floral expression; and polyfunctional thiols which create the passionfruit character that is particularly associated with Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

Summing up the effect of these combined influences in Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire, Goode remarked: “What the Loire seems to be able to do is wines that have ripeness while retaining some of that greenness as well.”

Goode also highlighted the important work carried out in the Loire by consultant Sam Harrop MW as he pointed to the steady “fine-tuning” of viticulture and vinification seen across the region, which is resulting in a consistent level of high quality wines.

In short, he concluded: “The Loire can produce wines that are the best expression of Sauvignon Blanc you can get. Even at the bottom end you get really characterful wines at prices no-one else can match.”

Goode is due to host a further masterclass on Loire Sauvignon Blanc in London later this year.

Loire Valley vineyard open days

Vineyard open day

American clients at the vineyard open day

When touring the Loire Valley region  we always keep an eye out for signs announcing an upcoming wine event.

Last week a group of our clients were lucky in their choice of days to visit and I was able to take them to an open day for the launch of the new seasons wine at a wine producer near the royal palace of Chenonceau at Francueil.

We were treated on this occasion to more than the usual tasting of a dozen or more wines; the hunting horn troop from  Château de Montpoupon were playing in the cellars, Miss Touraine and a fine selection of wine-related antiques and artifacts were on display. We were able to talk to many of the growers and production staff and the tasting took on a whole new aspect when we had the vignerons explaining their techniques to us.

The event through our schedule into chaos and we had to ditch a chateau visit, but we all agreed, over a delightful lunch in Montrichard later, that it had been a marvelous way to spend a morning.

I have a whole pile of notices for other events on my increasingly cluttered desk, and if bookings coincide with any of these, you can be sure we will be going!

In the meantime I am talking to winemakers who export to the Far East in anticipation of a tour we are hoping to arrange later in the year for a group of buyers from China and Tiawan. I surprising number are already doing so, it would seem.

Welcome to the world of Loire Valey Wine Tour!

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Welcome to the world of Loire Valley Wine Tour!

On these pages we will be discussing our tours, the wines and the vineyards of the Loire Valley. Grape varieties, wine shows and even the weather will be featured from time to time, together with wine news and events.

We hope you will drop in often to see what is happening in the Loire Valley wine growing region.

Salon des Vins de Loire 2014 – the awards

Exhausted but very happy, I spent the day at the Salons des Vins de Loire on Monday, meeting, greeting and tasting with the winemakers of the region and the crowds of trade buyers who had come to make contact and do deals.

Organic Loire Valley Wines stand

Organic Loire Valley Wines stand

This is a huge show and I have promised myself that one year I will do it properly, spending two or three days here and staying at a local hotel. It is the only way to do this exhibition justice.

The annual Concours des Ligers is an important part of the show, handing out awards to the best wines. This year 2283 wines were offered to the judges, who awarded 145 Gold medals, 239 Silver and 256 bronze. These medals will be very important in the sales and marketing of the award winning wines and the competition is hotly contested.

The show and the competition covers the whole of the Loire region but here is my selection of winners from the area I have chosen as home – the appellations of the Touraine and Valençay. If you click on a list it will come up in another window and be easier to read.

Gold

Gold medal winners – concours ed ligers 2014

Silver

Silver medal winners

Bronze

Bronze

I made some valuable contacts, chatting to winemakers who would be pleased to receive our wine tour clients and others who make superb wines which impressed me on a personal level. Everywhere there was pride and passion for the creation of an amazing product in conditions which are often challenging. Its an inspiring place to be.

Salon des Vins de Loire 2014

I have just received my invitation to the Salon des Vins de Loire, one of France’s largest trade wine fairs, to be held at the Parc des Expositions, Angers, between 3rd – 5th February 2014.

Salon des Vins de Loire

The Loire Valley is a vineyard 1000 km long and is the number one producer of AOP white wines and, next Champagne, the number one producer of sparkling wines.

Around 4oo million bottles of wine are produced each year on 70,000 ha of vineyards by 7,000 wine producers. 73 million bottles are exported and 9000 trade buyers from around the world regularly attend. The fair is the venue for one of the most prestigious wine competitions, the Palmarès Ligers, and a highlight of the show is the opportunity to taste many of the winning wines.

At the same time there are usually a number of smaller fairs promoting, for example, Loire Valley organic wines, so the first week of February is always a busy period for us. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!