On October 30th, 2013 I was invited to participate in Loire Valley Wine tasting seminar to learn about the region, its history and the wines. To this valley carved out by the Loire river, Vitis vinifera arrived as early as 1 century AD  alongside Roman legions and today the region has 7,000 mainly family owned wineries that lie within its 69 appellations . The region, stretches roughly 470 Km from east of Bourges to the west of Nantes, covers 185,000 acres  and produces around 400 million bottles a year. That is a staggering number if we compare it to the ~80 wineries situated within the Niagara Peninsula Appellation that have 13,600 acres planted  and produce 28.8 Million bottles annually  (which we think is a lot) – numbers that represent 7.4% and 7.2% of that grown and produced in Loire, respectively. The valley is planted mainly with grapes of the white variety – Sauvignon blanc, Chenin Blanc and Melon de Bourgogne, as well as Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Pinot Noir – the red varieties, so it may not be surprising that the region claims to its prestige the fact that it was the 1st producer of AOC white wines and 2nd of sparking (after Champagne) and rose wines.
click image to view larger format (image compliments of Vins de Loire)
This seminar was organized by Vins de Loire, and was hosted at the Midfield Wine Bar by the co-owner Christopher Sealy. Only about 10 seasoned wine professionals + myself (novice) attended this tasting that was presented by Master Sommelier John Szabo. The venue and number of attendees allowed for a setting reminiscent of a small, intimate, graduate class, where everyone was able to participate in a laid back, yet educational atmosphere. As the instructor, John displayed the ability to captivate one’s attention and to present the material in an interesting, memorable way – qualities that only the most popular University professors posses (surely the topic had nothing to do with it).
While focusing on tasting/charting notes, my deep concentration was
captured by a professional photographer Alixandra Gould.
John structured the tasting into three flights of four wines that we were to taste blindly, while attempting to figure out the varietal and which sub-appellation they came from based on the information and hints that he provided. After having 5-10 minutes to assess the wines of each flight, John would tell us about the soil composition and how the wines differed from one region to the next.
We started with a flight of Sauvignon Blanc from the Touraine, Quincy, Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre sub-appellations, moving in the eastward direction and finishing at the two most eastern sub-appellations.
The 2011 Domaine De La Gitonniere Touraine, composed of 100% Sauvignon Blanc, has intense aromas of leechie, pineapple, faint lees and linden flowers that are more intense on the nose than on the palate. It is a medium bodied, extra-dry, fruity wine; with forward acidity and medium finish. It is food friendly as well as a sipper; drink now – 2017+. My impression: NICE, 89 pts – recommended for its quality and value.
Awards:Gold Medal winner at Concours des Vins du Val de Loire, 2012.
RECOMMENDED Score 89 pts. $13.95 Vintages 168914
The 2011 Domaine Philippe Portier, composed of 100% Sauvignon Blanc, has intense aromas of pear, zest, minerality and light woody-steminess. It is a medium bodied, extra-dry, fruity wine; with good acidity and a medium finish. Drink with food or as a sipper; drink now – 2018. My impression: NICE, 90 pts.
Score 90 pts. $17.95 Vintages 326876
The 2011 Château Favray Pouilly Fume, composed of 100% Sauvignon Blanc, has intense aromas of pear, vanilla and oak. It is a light to medium bodied, extra-dry, integrated wine, with good acidity and a medium to long, oaky finish. Enjoy this wine on its own; drink now-2018+. My impression: NICE, 88 pts.
Score 88 pts. $21.95 Vintages 323642
The 2011 Paul Prieur & Fils Sancerre, composed of 100% Sauvignon Blanc aged for 7 months on lees, has intense aromas of yellow apple, citrus and limestone minerality that is even more so evident on the palate. It is a light to medium-bodied, extra-dry, fruity wine; with forward acidity and a short to medium finish. Enjoy with food; drink now – 2016+. My impression: quite NICE, 89 pts – recommended for its quality.
RECOMMENDED Score 89 pts. $25.95 Vintages 350421
Next we tasted Chennin Blanc from the Saumur, Coteaux du Loir, Vouvray and Savennières sub-appellations; moving from lime rich soils in the first three to volcanic pebbles in the last.
The 2011 Saumur, Secrets De Chai Par Eric Laurent, composed of 100% Chenin Blanc aged for 8 months on lees, has intense aromas of pear, gooseberry, subdued minerality and floral notes. It is a medium bodied,dry, fruity wine; with checked acidity and a medium, fruit forward finish. Drink on its own; drink now – 2018+. My impression: NICE, 89 pts.
Score 89 pts. $13.95 Vintages 322677
The 2011 Domaine de Bellivière L’Effraie, composed of 100% Chenin Blanc aged for a minimum of 1 year in oak barrels (¼ new), has intense aromas of vanilla, wood, light toast, gooseberry and subtle lemon and stems. It is a medium bodied, dry, fruity to integrated wine; with checked acidity and a long, vanilla dominated finish. Enjoy this wine on-its-own; drink now – 2020+. My impression: BEAUTIFUL, 91 pts – recommended for its quality, unfortunately only available at the SAQ.
RECOMMENDED Score 91 pts. $27.60 SAQ 11495467
The 2011 Château de Moncontour Vouvray Sec, composed of 100% Chenin Blanc that was aged for four months on lees, has intense aromas of lees, light honey/field flowers and white fruit. It is a medium bodied, dry, integrated wine, with good acidity and medium to long finish. It is young, drink 2014-2016+. My impression: NOTHING SPECIAL, 87 pts.
Score 87 pts. $18.95 Vintages 344929
The 2008 Domaine FL Savennières Roches-Aux-Moines, composed of 100% Chenin Blanc that was aged in oak barrels for 10 months and then in wooden vats for 8 months while on lees, has intense aromas of unripe black currant, solvent, pine, toast, vanilla and subtle tropical notes inclusive lemon. It is a medium bodied, extra-dry, integrated wine; with forward acidity and a long, vanilla dominated finish. Enjoy this beauty on-its-own; drink now – 2018+(?). My impression: BEAUTIFUL, 92 pts – recommended for the quality.
RECOMMENDED Score 92 pts. $69.25 SAQ 11800521
Lastly, we were presented with Cabernet Franc from the sub-appellations of Touraine, Chinon, Saumur Champigny and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil; again from two types of soil – lime-rich and volcanic.
The 2011 Domaine De La Garrelière Touraine, composed of 100% Cabernet Franc, has intense aromas of pepper, red currant, pomegranate and faint meatiness. It is a medium bodied, extra dry, fruity wine; with good acidity, notable tannins and a medium finish. Drink with non-spicy, salty/acidic foods; drink 2015-2018+. My impression: NOTHING SPECIAL, 88 points.
Score 88 pts. $19.95 Available on Consignment www.livingwines.com.au/
The 2010 Couly Dutheil La Baronnie Madeleine Chinon, composed of 100% Cabernet Franc, has intense aromas of milky black berry, plum and fig on the nose and plum and blackberry on the palate. It is a medium bodied, extra-dry, fruity wine; with good acidity, notable tannins and a medium to long, woody and smooth finish. It is food friendly or a sipper; drink 2014 – 2017+. My impression: NICE to BEAUTIFUL, 90 pts – good valued Franc for under $25.
RECOMMENDED Score 90 pts. $21.95 Vintages 57059
The 2010 Domaine Langlois Château Saumur Champigny – the bottle was unfortunately oxidized and hence could not be fully reviewed. This wine has aromas of prune, wood and faint vanilla. It is a medium bodied, extra-dry, integrated wine; with forward acidity and a medium finish. Not scored.
$15.25 Vintages 326801 The 2008 Vintage is currently available.
The 2009 Pascal et Alain Lorieux Agnès Sorel, composed of 100% Cabernet Franc, has intense aromas of oak, vanilla, blackberry, raspberry and sour cherry. It is a medium bodied, extra-dry, fruity wine; with good acidity, grippy tannins and a long, chalky finish. Enjoy with food or on-its-own; drink now – 2018+. My impression: quite NICE, 89 pts.
Score 89 pts. $25.35 SAQ 11665489
As a treat, we finished with a sample of 1989 Botrytis affected Sancerre that surprisingly didn’t taste like a 24-year-old wine.
The 1989 Domaine des Petits Quarts Bonnezeaux Cuvee Le Malabe, composed of botrytis affected Chenin Blanc, has intense aromas of ripe pear, minerality, light brettyness and nuttiness. It is a full bodied, sweet-lightly syrupy wine; with checked acidity and a medium to long nutty finish. Enjoy as a desert whether by itself or accompanied by food; still at least 5 years left. My impression: NICE to BEAUTIFUL, 89 pts – it is in excellent shape for being 24-year-old wine and worthwhile trying.
RECOMMENDED Score 89 pts. Brought in from France specifically for this event.
Time to eat!
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After the intense seminar, it was time to eat. Christopher Sealy introduced Chef Carlos Hernandes, who informed us of the day’s lunch menu (see the pictures). We had the option of pairing food with any of the tasted wines or chosing from a list of 7 other wines from Loire, I knew I can choose wines that for me will pair beautifully.
Starting with a Salmon, asparagus, potato and arugula topped with lemon/herb mayo + parsley as an appetizer – I chose the Domaine De La Gitonniere only reaffirming the high quality of this wine.
For mains we were served Quail with light ragu of sautéed mushrooms, thyme with crushed cherry and crisped green beans – I paired this with the Pascal et Alain Lorieux Agnès Sorel.
For desert, Chef Carlos spoiled us with goat’s cheese, pear brushed with butter, French style toasted baguette and roasted walnuts – this paired beautifully with the amazing Domaine FL Savennières Roches-Aux-Moines.
Images from the venue:
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My sincere appreciation is to Vins de Loire for the invitation to such a great event
To John Szabo for the enjoyable yet educational afternoon
– John Szabo holds a Master Somelier degree, he is a partner and principal critic at WineAlign. He transfers his skills via regular seminars at tasting events or by teaching at the School of Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers or the Court of Master Sommeliers.
To Christopher Sealy and his staff, namely Chef Carlos Hernandes at the Midfield Wine Bar for the great food and the hospitality
– Midfield Wine Bar is a place where the staff strives to act as: “1. hosts – curators of their environment, 2. purveyors – doing their utmost to introduce the public to the wines of the world and 3. restorers [as in restaurateur] – to provide sustenance to fuel spirit” (taken directly from the site and slightly modified).
I also want to extend my thank you to Alixandra Gould for her professional eye capturing me while learning.
2. Vins de Loire
3. K. MacNeil; The Wine Bible. Workman Publishing 2001.
4. VQA Ontario