–submitted by Mike Wilson
We had 18 people at the Rotary Wine Fellowship tasting at the Wilson’s on Sunday, October 30th, 2016. We tried Loire wines as a result of an earlier BYO Rotary Fellowship tasting at Steve Mixtacki’s home when Erin Luken brought a Loire Chenin Blanc that tickled my fancy and made me look into the region. In several instances we tried the Loire wine against a New World version for contrast.
The region is very old wine-wise, having been established in the Roman era. It has a good proportion of all of the French AOC’s and is characterized by having famous red (Cabernet Franc, Beaujolais, Pinot Noir) and white (Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscadet) wines. The most famous is the Sauvignon Blanc, and a selection of good ones is a requirement of a good restaurant.
Photo 1: Jane & John Wegenke; Photos 2: Meryl Mixtacki & Ann Cardinale; Photo 3: Becky Steinhoff & Mike McKay
First we tried two Muscadets (unique to the Loire, and grown only in the Coastal Loire) and a Loire Sparkler made with Chenin Blanc. All were very well liked with no definite favorite. The sparkler (Methode Champenoise – Champagne wants us to call this MethodeTraditionale, so there is no mention of Champagne on the label at all) was very nice. Next we had two Sauvignon Blancs: a Sancerre – the great Sauvignon Blanc of the Upper Loire – and an example from the Touraine – the Mid Loire – which much like the Mid Loire Anjou Region – grows the 4 major Loire grapes: Chenin Blanc. Gamay Beaujolais, Cabernet franc, and Sauvignon Blanc. We contrasted this with a NZ Sauvignon Blanc as the New World comparison, where the fruit expression dominates the effect of the terroir. The fruit was best detected in the NZ version, but tasters were again equally divided in their preference for a particular style.
We then tried Chenin Blancs. We had one from the Anjou-Saumur, and one from Vouvray (the more famous Chenin Blanc region). Vouvray specializes in Chenin Blanc and is surrounded upstream by the Anjou-Suamar and downstream by the Touraine-Chinon. We contrasted this with a Washington State version. Again all were liked without a marked preference.
Next we tried Cabernet Francs – a Bordeaux varietal famous in the Loire, We tried one from Saumur and one from the more famous Cabernet Franc Chinon region that specializes in this red varietal. We contrasted these with a Paso Robles from Adelaida from Mike’s cellar that was older and rated well by Robert Parker. All were nice, but this sequence demonstrated the winner of the tasting, with the New World wine being the winner by a significant majority vote. This wine was significantly older and more expensive than the Loire counterparts, no doubt the explanation of it’s preference by most attendees.
At the end we had two Noble Chenin Blancs where the grape is desiccated by Botryitis fungus and we end up with a wine that is concentrated, sweet, and with a unique honeyed flavor. We tried a 2002 Coteaux du Layon (a special appellation within Anjou) and a Quarts de Chaume (a special region within the Coteaux du Layon). These wines are said to last forever! These were the most expensive wines in the Loire, and were my personal favorite with the latter being the best, and rated variously as 95-96/100. The latter was the most expensive wine ($43 for a 500 ml bottle).
The tasting was excellent. Most attendees said that it was really the best collection of wines they ever had at one of our tastings. The majority of these wines were suggested by the staff of Steve’s Liquor on University Avenue and were included in the tasting without Mike tasting them. This is confirmation of the role of the individual sales persons in good wine shops, who can provide specialized advice even to frequent wine shoppers where you can get to know a salesperson with similar taste and also have access to sales regional sub-specialists.