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Ep 23: TNWG Wine Times: Loire in Focus


So I have decided to be slightly more educational for the foreseeable future - and in truth there is a secondary reason too - as it will help me pass (hopefully) my D3 exams!


This week will be all about the Loire region and hopefully there are some things you were not aware or didn't know PLUS some useful tips that I have found along the way from the region in question.


🌍The Loire Valley

The Loire Valley's winemaking history actually dates way back as it was the home of French Kings back until Louis XIV, given its proximity to Paris. The Loire River is in fact France's longest river and stretches from the well known appellation of Sancerre (think Sauvignon Blanc) which is 250 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, downstream across Touraine and Anjou Saumur and into the Ocean at the Pays Nantais.


🍇 Key Grape Varietals

There is a diverse nature of grape varietals across the Loire, but the key varietals are:


  • Melon in Pays Nantais

  • Chenin Blanc and Cabernet France in Anjou-Saumur and Touraine

  • Sauvignon Blanc in the Central Vineyards region (which encompasses Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume).


Pays Nantais 💥

Close to Nantes city, Melon is the principal grape varietal as outlined but also sees a decent sized volume of Folle Blanche - makes very acidic wines. It is a cool maritime climate (Atlantic), spring frosts are a serious problem and as a result wine machines, heaters and burning straw bales have been recent requirements to combat it.

Melon the grape, is a hardy, budding early varietal. Ripens early too and can produce high yields. Good resistance to powdery mildrew, but is susceptible to downy mildew and botrytis bunch rot. High acidity, light body, low alcohol, think of green apples, and often sur lie (aged on lees). Chaptalisation is allowed upto 12% ABV and is done so in cooler years.

Within the Pays Nantais, there are two large appellations - Muscadet Sevre et Maine AOC (max yld 55 hl/ha) and Muscadet AOC (max yld 70 hl/ha).


Anjou-Saumur and Touraine 💥

Principal grape varietals of Chenin Blanc (created from dry to sweet styles) as well as Cabernet Franc for reds and some rose wines. Sauvignon Blanc is also key in Touraine. Touraine has a continental climate and both Anjou-Saumur and Touraine have around 700mm of rainfall per year. 


Spring rains can affect fruit set and flowering plus rain throughout can cause disease. In Anjou, the River Layon help create misty conditions ideal for creating noble rot and thus the production of sweet wines (think Coteaux du Layon).


Chenin Blanc buds early making it prone to spring frosts and also is quite vigorous, it ripes late too which can cause issues with autumn rains. It is prone to powdery mildrew, botrytis bunch rot and trunk diseases. Uneven ripening is also an issue and may require a number of passes at hand harvesting. The dry and off dry wines create green apple and lemon aromas with some steely, smoky characteristics not uncommon, medium alcohol and high acidity often balanced with some residual sugar especially in off dry styles. 


Cabernet Franc is an early budding variety, again making it prone to spring frosts. Also prone to coulure so reducing yields. Mid ripening is a bonus. Good canopy management is required to ensure the wines are not overly herbaceous. Typically medium to pronounced aromas of red fruits especially redcurrant, raspberry, violet floral notes and some bramble esque type notes, light to medium body and medium tannins but with high acidity.


Other grape varietals of note in this region are Cot (Malbec - used mostly for blending of rose), Grolleau Noir (early budding, mid ripen), Gamay Noir (think carbonic maceration like Beaujolais) and Cabernet Sauvignon (late ripening so needs the warmest of sites to ripen).


The key appellations within the Anjou-Saumur are:


  • Anjou AOC (max yield 60 hl/ha, Anjou Blanc min 80% Chenin Blanc, Anjou Rouge min 70% Cab Franc/Cab Sauvignon).

  • Anjou Villages AOC (max yield 55 hl/ha, red wine only)

  • Coteaux du Layon AOC (max yield 35 hl/ha min alc 14% ABV)

  • Savennieres AOC (max yield 50 hl/ha, white wine only)

  • Rose de Loire AOC (max yield 60 hl/ha, dry wines only)

  • Rose d'Anjou AOC (max yield 65 hl/ha, mainly Grolleau) - medium pink/orange, red berry fruit, medium acidity, medium alcohol, medium dry.

  • Cabernet d'Anjou AOC (Cab Franc or Sauvignon only, max yield 60 hl/ha).

  • Saumur AOC (max yield 60 hl/ha for whites, 57 hl/ha for reds/roses).

  • Coteaux de Saumur AOC (sweet Chenin wines, max yield 35 hl/ha)

  • Samur-Champigny AOC (red wines only, min 85% Cab Franc, max yield 57 hl/ha)

  • Touraine AOC 

  • Vouvray AOC (white wines in Touraine, min 95% Chenin Blanc, max yield 52 hl/ha)

  • Montlouis-sur-Loire AOC (100% Chenin Blanc, max yield 52 hl/ha)

  • Bourgueil AOC (red wine specialists, max yield 55 hl/ha)

  • Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil AOC 

  • Chinon AOC (red wines highly regarded, max yield 55 hl/ha)



Central Vineyards 💥

There are 8 AOCs that make up the furthest east grape growing region of the Loire. Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume will be the most well known of them all. The climate is continental, with spring frosts and summer hailstorms a concern. Rainfall at around 750mm per year.


Main two grape varietals are Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Sauvignon Blanc is a late budding and early ripening variety which makes it ideal for cool climate orientated vineyard locations. It can be a vigorous grower and canopy management is key. Prone to powdery mildew, botrytis bunch rot and trunk diseases. When you think of these wines you think of grassy notes, green pepper, asparagus, gooseberry, grapefruit, wet stone style flavours to passion fruit in warmer locations, with medium body, medium alcohol and high acidity. 80% of the Loire's Central Vineyard is planted with Sauvignon Blanc.


Pinot Noir is around 15% of plantings, medium ruby in colour, light to medium intensity and raspberry, strawberry fruit construct, high acidity and medium alcohol. 


Key Appellations:


  • Sancerre AOC (largest appellation in Central Vineyards, steep hillside slopes of 200-400m, max yields 65 hl/ha for whites, 63 hl/ha for roses and 59 hl/ha for reds). Also 3 types of soils : Caillottes (shallow soils over limestone), Terre Blanches (kimmeridgian limestone and marl), Silex (flinty soils).

  • Pouilly-Fume AOC (Sauvignon Blanc only, max yield 65 hl/ha on flatter land than Sancerre, broadly less aromatic).

  • Reuilly AOC (max yields for reds, whites and roses same as Sancerre).

  • Quincy AOC (white wines only from Sauvignon Blanc min 90% and Sauvignon Gris, 65 hl/ha)

  • Menetou-Salon AOC (reds, whites and rose wines same as Sancerre)



Exports make up 20% of Loire AOC wines, with the top markets being the UK, USA and Germany. Sancerre outperforms the other appellations by volume and value. 


Few TNWG Tips for Loire Wines:


  • If you are looking for a cheaper alternative than Champagne and are looking for France - try a Cremant de Loire - it holds great acidity and can age well too at a much cheaper price point.

  • Pinot Noir's are very expensive in other regions of France, most notably Burgundy, but there are some bargains to be had for those who look at the Loire - so again, try them out where you can and see some elegant and light to medium bodied examples.

  • Chinon - for me, this is the home of Cabernet Franc. A great food wine and one of my favourites for having at home, it can even be slightly lower than room temperature on a warm day and be a real treat. Try it!

  • Coteaux du Layon - produce wonderful sweet wines as do Coteaux de Saumur - take a look and you will see that they are a lot cheaper than your Sauternes but have wonderful flavour and aroma profiles - if you are looking for a cheaper alternative, these are superb!

  • Worried about the price of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume for your French Loire based Sauvignon Blanc? Then take a look at Menetou-Salon that is a lesser known appellation but produces some great wines and great prices.



 The Loire has a vast array of wines as we have discovered above and there is a lot in the shop window, so this can cause confusion and problems when selecting wines from the region but hopefully some of the tips above will help.


WINES OF THE LOIRE



Loire White Wines



🗞️ LATEST DRINKS INDUSTRY ARTICLES 🗞️


TOP ARTICLE OF THE WEEK:

Austria has some 44,728 hectares of vines and for me, some of the great 'new' wines that are coming out of the tastings seen over the last year or so. This is a great article outlining just how special and unique this area of the world is and how the concept of 'seeroir' rather than terroir has come to pass.


OTHER ARTICLES THAT CAUGHT MY EYE THIS WEEK:



📈 MARKETS IN BRIEF 📉


On the week (as at 9th May 15:00 LDN) changes:

EQUITIES: ⬆️ FTSE 100 up 2.7%; ⬆️ DAX up 4.1%; ⬆️S&P 500 up 3%; ⬇️ Nikkei 225 down 0.5%; ⬆️ Dow Jones up 3.2%;

COMMODITIES: ⬆️ Brent Oil up 0.7% ; ⬆️ Crude Oil up 1.1% ; ⬆️ Gold up 0.8%; ⬆️ Silver up 4.7%; ⬆️ Copper up 1.7%

BONDS (in yield terms): ⬇️ UK 2yrs lower 0.15%; ⬇️ UK 10yrs lower 0.164%; ⬇️ German 10yrs lower 0.036%, ⬇️ US 2yrs lower 0.101%; ⬇️ US 10yrs lower 0.143%;


It has been an interesting last couple of weeks for markets. FED speakers have been skewed towards keeping interest rates in the US higher for longer (not least Kashkari and Collins), whilst the BOE isn't quite as far on as some investors (me included) may have believed, with only 2 voting for a cut in interest rates earlier today at the May meeting. Concerns over inflation are still there, albeit some are countered from the 'Middle East shock' and whilst rates are increasingly likely to be moving south from here, the expectation of timing is being questioned once more. 


There is certainly a disconnect between the BOE and the FED and this is likely to be shown more so in the June meeting, where the messaging is likely to be quite different in tone, pending data releases over the next few weeks. Gold is still having a flyer and in total is up circa 12% on the year, pretty unparalleled versus any other asset and does not seem to be slowing down currently either so happy to remain long commodities for the near term. Equities got a nice push over the week and this has not diminished any returns from being long US tech/blue chip stocks which continue to perform. 


In the fine wine space, the Liv-Ex 100 fell 1.3% in the month of April, despite the efforts of the Italy 100 which rose 0.7% as an individual index. A lot of the focus clearly on the Bordeaux En Primeur 2023 scores and opening prices and a startling fall in release price from some of the top names year on year. Mouton Rothschild releasing at 324 Euros per bottle ex-negociant which was a whopping 37.7% decrease on 2022 release prices as a stand out fall.


📢📢 ANNOUNCEMENTS 📢📢


🥳📖 In case you missed it, check out my article for @The Buyer trade magazine - taking a Deep Dive into Fine Wine Investing take a read here to learn more!


🍷🧀 Join The Northern Wine Guy as he hosts a Wine and Cheese Night as part of the Cavendish Cancer Club Event - being held at Lykke in New Era Square in Sheffield on Wednesday 22nd May 2024 from 4pm till 7pm. Cavendish Cancer Care

Outside of the above two, we have been taking a moment away to catch some rays of sunshine (outside of the UK) but back now in full swing ahead of some big events in the diary, not least the London Wine Fair and The Old Vine Conference that are prominent in the diary of course.


🎙️On the podcast front, we are back in full swing this week, talking to PASO-PRIMERO UK LTD. - find out about how they produce wine in the UK from the Spanish vineyard. 

Looking further ahead, we also have a fabulous array of guests for both podcasts lined up to be revealed, alongside some collaborations in Sheffield around some of the new developments in the city to be announced, so stay tuned for more!


Best Regards

Andy a.k.a The Northern Wine Guy 🍷

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