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tasting notes


This large region in Northern France is a source of diverse and fascinating wines, and because it is overlooked by most wine lovers, prices are very reasonable. Reds, mainly from Cabernet Franc, can be an acquired taste, but the varied styles of white wines from Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc are often stunning. Arranged along the course of the Loire river, starting from the West the region encompasses the appellations Muscadet (bone dry, acidic whites), Anjou, Coteaux du Layon (sweet Chenin blanc-based whites, often with botrytis), Samur, Bourgueil (lean, herbaceous reds) and Chinon (leafy, raspberry-laced reds). 
An old Chenin Blanc vine in Vouvray

Then we continue with Vouvray (Chenin Blanc-based whites, ranging from bone dry to sweet and botrytised), Touraine (racy, inexpensive Sauvignon blanc), Sancerre (classic bone dry whites from Sauvignon Blanc) and Pouilly-Fumé (bone dry, aromatic Sauvignon Blanc). There are also a host of smaller subregions, each making their own styles of wine.

(Prices and stockists in the UK are listed in brackets; as a rough guide £1 = US$1.60. Date of tasting is indicated by month/year at the end of the note.)

See also producer profiles:

Domaine de Chevalerie 'Galichets' 2006 Bourgeuil
Just lovely. Pure, sweet blackcurrant and dark cherry fruit with some grippy, savoury gravelly notes sitting in there beautifully with the sweet fruit. Rich, with good concentration, but also lovely freshness and definition. Good tannic structure. 91/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene, £16.99 Handford) 08/09

Domaine de Chevalerie 'Chevalerie' 2006 Bourgeuil
From southwest facing 70 year old vines on sandy clay over limestone. Beautiful wine. Lovely full aromatic nose of dark cherries, blackcurrants and smooth chalky gravelly notes which add definition. The palate is midweight with elegant fruit and silky-yet-firm tannins. Supple and quite complex, this is a delicious wine with a sense of place. 91/100 (£14.60 Berry Bros & Rudd) 08/09  

Jean Paul Mollet Pouilly Fumé ‘L’Antique’ 2007 Loire, France
Aromatic grassy, herby nose with some melony richness. There are some pronounced green herbal notes here. The palate is concentrated and richly textured with a hint of fruit sweetness and green pepper/herby notes, as well as a touch of minerality on the finish. Quite a serious Sauvignon. 89/100 (Sainsburys, this is due to be offered at a promotional price in April) 03/09

Julien Courtois L'Originel Vin de Table Francois NV
This is actually from the 2006 vintage (indicated by 'L6' at the bottom of the front label. Importer Doug Wregg describes it as Chenin on acid - cheese and cider in one glass. It has a complex herby, appley, waxy nose. The palate is open, appley and wonderfully complex with a long minerally, acid finish. Weird but lovely. 93/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene - retail is around £16) 04/08

Sébastien Riffault Akméniné Sancerre 2007 Loire, France
I thought Sancerre was mostly boring, but this is brilliant. It’s a challenging, complex, life-enhancing expression of Sauvignon Blanc. Full yellow in colour, it has a complex, rather wild nose of nuts, minerals, herbs, diesel oil, lemons and apples, with hints of sweet dried fruits. The palate is savoury and full, with lovely minerally acidity and nutty, grassy fruit. It’s just so complex, but if you’re looking for typical Sancerre, then this isn’t for you. I really like it, and rate it as the best Sancerre I’ve ever tasted. 92/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene) 03/09  

Frantz Saumon ‘Minérale +’ 2007 Montlouis, Loire
From a grower in conversion to organics, working with indigenous yeasts in large and small oak. Intriguing nose shows classic Chenin notes of herbs, apples, lemon and a faint hint of soft cheese. It’s really pure and focused. The palate is pure and minerally with broad, textured herby, appley fruit kept fresh with high acidity. It’s more-or-less dry, fresh, pure and linear, but with a rounded character that presumably is contributed by a bit of residual sugar. A lovely, precise wine with a long future ahead of it. 92/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene in the UK) 10/08  

Le Clos de Tu-Boeuf La Guerrerie Vin de Table Français
This is actually from the 2006 vintage, and it’s a wine made by Thierry Puzelat in the Loire, from a blend of Cot (aka Malbec, 70%) and Gamay (30%), with the grapes grown in the Cheverny appellation. Following Doug Wregg’s advice (he’s the dude from Les Caves de Pyrene who import this into the UK), I chilled it down and decanted it before drinking. It’s fantastic, life-affirmining, ‘alive’ wine. It’s aromatic with some earthy, spicy depth to the dark fruits. In the mouth it’s refreshing and bright with a lovely dense, grippy, spicy earthy quality under the focused bright fruit. It finishes quite grippy, but the defining feature is the brightness. It’s a natural tasting sort of wine that’s just so easy to drink. It’s kind of like Pinot Noir, but with some edges. 91/100 (£11.75 Les Caves de Pyrene) 06/08

Domaine des Aubuisieres Les Giradieres 1er Trie 1996 Vouvray, Loire, France
A delicious, mature sweet Vouvray that's just beginning to hit its stride. Deep yellow colour, it has a lovely waxy, herby, lanolin nose with some crystalline fruits. The palate is sweet, concentrated and multidimensional, with high acidity offsetting the intense herby, tangy fruit. Although it is sweet, it's not really a dessert wine. Would be great with strongly flavoured cheeses. 93/100 (10/08)

Domaine Huet 'Le Clos' Premiere Trie 1989 Vouvray, France
Deep yellow colour. Complex, sweet spicy-edged nose showing lemon, herbs and crystalline fruits. The palate is pure and fresh with lovely bright tangy apple and citrus fruit with some apricotty richness. Lovely purity and length. This wine has evolved much less than you might expect and still seems like a baby, with a long life ahead of it. 72 g/litre residual sugar, so it's sweet but not too sweet. 93/100 (£85 Waitrose) 10/08

Domaine Huet 'Le Mont' Demi-Sec 2002 Vouray, France
Lovely intense appeal and herb nose with just a hint of savoury Chenin funk. Concentrated linear herb and apple palate with some lemony freshness. Richly textured and off-dry. Delicious, and still very youthful. 91/100 (£22 Waitrose) 10/08

Frederic Mabileau Racines 2005 Bourgueil, Loire, France
13% alcohol. Cabernet Franc from 40 year old vines. This is a really delicious, ripe Loire red with beautifully focused sweet blackcurrant and raspberry fruit with a slightly sappy edge and some gravelly, chalky notes adding contrast. Impressive stuff. I really like the savouriness combined with the pure dark fruit: it's what Loire reds do so well. 90/100 (£8.99 Waitrose) 12/08

Thierry Germain Domaine des Roches Neuves 'Insolite' 2006 Saumur, Loire
Fantastic stuff from old vine Chenin Blanc. Notes of honey, spice, apples, vanilla and dry straw on the nose. The palate is savoury and vivid with fresh green apple and lemon acidity and concentrated herb and straw savouriness. Extremely fresh with real cut and bite: this needs food, really. A complex savoury wine with a bit of bite. 91/100 (around £13, Les Caves de Pyrene, artisanwines.co.uk, Wimbledon Wine Cellar, RSJ) 09/08

Waitrose Joseph Mellot Sancerre La Franchotte 2007 Loire, France
Really fresh, slightly smoky mineralic green herby nose. Tight and a little reductive. The palate is fresh, piercing and focused, with high acidity and slightly herbal fruit. Lovely focus of taut, lemony, grapefruit fruit on the palate. A great food wine, and the antithesis of some flowery, exuberant New Zealand Sauvignons. 88/100 (Waitrose) 07/08

Catherine and Pierre Breton Bourgeuil ‘Trinch!’ 2007 Loire, France
Beautifully perfumed bright fruit on the nose, with cherries and berries. Very fresh and pure. The palate is elegantly fruity with a nice grippy edge. A beautiful bright wine. 90/100 05/08

Catherine and Pierre Breton Bourgeuil ‘Clos Sénéchal’ 2006 Loire, France
Vibrant red with a purple fringe. Bright cherryish fruit here on the nose with some spicy notes. The palate is bright and vibrant with beautiful berry fruit and some grippy tannic structure. Pure, structured and intense. 91/100 05/08

Catherine and Pierre Breton Bourgeuil ‘Les Perrières’ 2005 Loire, France
Earthy, spicy cherry and berry fruit nose. Perfumed, fresh and quite complex. The palate has a nice earthy depth to it. Quite savoury and structured with a firm finish. Serious effort. 91/100 05/08

Nathalie et Christian Chaussard Les Longues Vignes 2005 Coteaux du Loir
Slightly chilled, this is a beautifully aromatic red wine with a peppery, spicy edge to the pure, sweet cherry fruit on the nose. The palate is smooth and pure but with a distinctly savoury, earthy, spicy finish. Complex and alive, with lovely freshness. A hauntingly beautiful light red wine. 92/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene) 08/08

Domaine de la Chevalerie 'Chevalerie' 2005 Bourgeuil, Loire, France
Deep coloured, this has a lovely focused, tight nose with rich, spicy, dark fruits, and just a subtle hint of reductive funk. The palate is concentrated with lush, sweet fruit backed up by rich spicy elements. A generous ripe style with lovely focus, this is a gorgeous expression of Cabernet Franc. 92/100 04/08

Domaine Vincent Carênne Vouvray ‘Le Peu Morier’ 2005 Loire, France
A fantastic Vouvray that is just off-dry. Lovely mineralic nose with some fruit richness. The palate is richly textured with lovely herb and citrus fruit notes, and just a bit of Chenin funk. Finishes really mineralic. 92/100 04/08

Le Clos de Tu-Boeuf La Guerrerie Vin de Table Français
This is actually from the 2006 vintage, and it’s a wine made by Thierry Puzelat in the Loire, from a blend of Cot (aka Malbec, 70%) and Gamay (30%), with the grapes grown in the Cheverny appellation. Following Doug Wregg’s advice (he’s the dude from Les Caves de Pyrene who import this into the UK), I chilled it down and decanted it before drinking. It’s fantastic, life-affirmining, ‘alive’ wine. It’s aromatic with some earthy, spicy depth to the dark fruits. In the mouth it’s refreshing and bright with a lovely dense, grippy, spicy earthy quality under the focused bright fruit. It finishes quite grippy, but the defining feature is the brightness. It’s a natural tasting sort of wine that’s just so easy to drink. It’s kind of like Pinot Noir, but with some edges. 91/100 (£11.75 Les Caves de Pyrene) 06/08

Pierre Luneau-Papin Semper Excelsior Clos des Noelles 2002 Muscadet Sevre et Maine, France
After a 30 month elevage, this attractively packaged Muscadet is just beautiful. It's a concentrated, full flavoured white with expressive, complex mineral and herb notes on the nose. The palate is rich with powerful mineralic fruit and hints of citrus pith, as well as an almost marine-like quality that's hard to describe. Almost profound. 90/100 (Available in UK from Les Caves de Pyrene) 06/08

Domaine Julien Courtois 'l'Originel' Vin de Table, France
This is a 100% Menu Pineau, an old Loire variety, grown biodynamically. It's a crazy, but lovely wine, reeking of cheese and cider. Herby, waxy, appley and pretty complex on the nose. The palate is appley and wonderfully complex with a long, minerally, acid finish. Fantastic stuff: weird but lovely. 93/100 (£15.99 Les Caves) 03/08

Joseph Mellot Sincérité Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Vin de Pays de Val de Loire, France
A bright, fresh, savoury-style Sauvignon showing grassy, green pepper-laced fruit. It’s almost austere, with rather green fruit and high acidity, but in the context of this wine it works well. A food friendly style. 84/100 (£5.99 Averys) 02/08

Domaine du Collier Saumur Blanc La Charpentrie 2004 Loire, France
A fantastic, complex, savoury dry white wine from the Chenin Blanc variety. A yellow gold colour, the nose is complex with notes of apples, pears, minerals, wax and dry straw. The mouth is savoury and minerally, and quite dry, with herb-tinged appley fruit and a flinty/matchstick reductive character that adds complexity. There's an acid tang on the finish, together with hints of apricots and pear-skin. I think this is quite profound - a really thrilling effort that should age gracefully for the next 20 years. With its distinctive character, though, I don't think this is a wine for everyone. 94/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene) 10/07

Huet Petillant Vouvray 1987 Loire, France
Crisp and precise with lovely refined straw and herb flavours. No rough edges. Quite sophisticated with a bit of fizziness and great acidity. 92/100 06/07

Papin Muscadet Le ‘L’ d’Or 1990 Loire, France
A bit funky with some cheesy, herbal notes. Still quite fresh with a distinctive mineral/rocks sort of structure and good acidity. Long, savoury finish. 88/100 06/07

Domaine de Bellivière Hommage à Louis Derré 2000 Coteaux du Loir, Loire, France
Wonderful stuff: sweetly fruited but with a spicy, slightly funky mineral edge. It’s gravelly and a bit minerally. Light, perfumed, complex and expressive, this is a lovely wine. 91/100 06/07

Prince Poniatowski Aigle d’Or Vouvray Petillant 1993 Loire, France
Yellow/gold colour. Fresh, striking cheesy, almost cidery savoury nose with some bready notes. The palate is tangy, fresh and a bit funky, with high acidity keeping it fresh and bright. 88/100 06/07

Clos de Gaimont Vouvray Sec 2005 Loire, France
There’s hope for the world of wine while there is still Vouvray. This has a herby nose with some of that damp straw/wet dog Chenin funk. The palate is fresh and dry but richly textured with broad, herb-tinged, slightly honeyed spicy fruit. A modern-styled Chenin with a bit of old-world complexity. 91/100 (£8.99 Virgin Wines) 06/07

Domaine du Closel La Jalousie Savennières 2005 Loire, France
A really fantastic, intense dry Chenin from the Loire, boasting aromas of herbs, honey, straw and lanolin. The palate is concentrated, mineralic and dry, with a strong savoury, almost cheesy character to it. Nice acidity keeps things very fresh. It’s quite a challenging drink now, but I reckon this will age very well and pick up complexity over the next decade. 90/100 (£9.95 The Wine Society, £11.95 Tanners) 01/08

Les Nivières 2005 Saumur, Loire
From Cave de Saumur. I love this wine. A varietal Cabernet Franc from a ripe vintage (13/5% alcohol), it has a nose of leafy, spicy, deep blackcurrant fruit with a distinctive minerality. The palate is quite dense, savoury and tannic with lovely fresh, sappy blackcurrant fruit and a mouth-drying finish. It’s a really intense, food friendly sort of wine that captures the essence of Loire Valley reds. So much character, it gets a surprisingly high rating from me. 90/100 (£4.99 Waitrose)

Michel Reddé et Fils Blanc Fumé de Pouilly ‘Les Cornets Marnes Kimmeridiennes’ 2005 Loire, France
Thierry Reddé, sixth generation winegrower, continues the work of his father Michel at this 40 hectare estate in the Loire Valley. The grape here is Sauvignon Blanc, but not as you know it: this is serious, high-end Sauvignon, with real sophistication and class, made from a single vineyard and matured in stainless steel tanks. The nose is savoury, taut and broad, and leads to a richly-textured palate that combines complex herby fruit with a minerally savouriness. This is a wine to serve to someone who thinks that Sauvignon Blanc is just about simple, bright, grassy, gooseberry fruit: there’s another dimension to this wine altogether. 90/100 (£17.95 winedirect.co.uk) 09/07

Domaine Mosse Anjou 2004 Loire, France
Very deep colour. Dark, savoury, gravelly, minerally nose with some cured meat and black fruits notes. The palate is very savoury and tannic - verging on the austere - with vibrant black fruits, gravelly, earthy undertones and a hint of black olives. This is extreme and wonderful: a real delight for fans of wines with personality. Very good/excellent 91/100 02/07

Frederic Mabileau Les Rouilleres 2005 St Nicolas de Bourgueil, Loire, France
This Cabernet Franc is deep coloured and has a lovely fresh, gravelly nose of dark fruits. It has that distinctive rain on dry pavement sort of 'rocky' aroma I often get in fresh Cabernet Franc, which gives a nice savouriness. On the palate it's brightly fruited and quite grippy, with earthy, spicy tannins and a pleasing herbal edge to the fruit. The dominant theme is bright summer pudding fruits, and it is lovely. Very good+ 89/100 (£8.99 Waitrose) 05/07

Domaine Aux Moines Savennieres Roche Aux Moines 1994 Loire, France
A deep gold colour it has a wonderful nose of tangerine, lemon, minerals and a faint hint of spice. The palate is tangy, deep and dry with good acidity, some apricot and a lovely cheesy, herby sort of Chenin complexity, together with citrussy freshness. It's dry, savoury and intense: quite a challenging cerebral sort of wine. A bit like a dry Sauternes in flavour profile. Very good/excellent 93/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene £10)

Pierre Luneau-Papin Clos des Allées Vendanges à la Main Muscadet Sèrvre et Maine Sur Lie Vieilles Vignes 2005 Loire, France
A pale colour, this has a fresh, crisp, mineralic nose with wet stones and not much else.
The palate is deliciously fresh, crisp, transparent and mineralic with a bit of carbon dioxide spritz. This is really pure and fresh, with no distinctive flavours, but it works really well. Very good/excellent 90/100 (Les Caves de Pyrene, c. £7) 10/06

Domaine de la Sansonnière (Mark Angeli) Anjou Blanc Les Fourchardes 2002 Loire
Quite a deep colour.
Full, complex savoury nose of cheese, herbs, nuts and apples. The palate is savoury and deep with complex notes of warm apple and herb together with some sweetness, although the overall impression is of a dry wine. Very thought-provoking. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£19.35 Jeroboams) 11/05

Yannick Amirault St Nicolas de Bourgeuil 2000 Loire, France
An elegant open nose: quite perfumed and cherryish fruit with a slightly green herbal edge (this is good green, though), and some wet rocks/pavement character. The palate is supple and smooth with a spicy, minerally edge to the fruit and good acidity. Still quite fresh, with a herbal finish, and drinking well now. Very good/excellent 91/100 05/05  

Domaine Girault Sancerre Le Chêne du Roy 2004 Loire, France
Nice ripe fruity noise with a distinctive grassiness and subtle gooseberry notes that are characteristic of Sauvignon. Quite perfumed and nicely balanced, somewhere in between the old-world and new-world styles. Very good+ 88/100 (£9.95 H&H Bancroft Wines) 11/05

Marks & Spencer Rosé d’Anjou 2004 Loire, France
I don’t know whether to love or hate this wine. A light reddish pink it has a very modern nose of boiled sweets and red fruits. It tastes a bit like a diluted fruit cordial. Medium sweet with flavours of redcurrants and strawberries. No rough edges and very easy to drink, which I guess is why it comes in a litre bottle. Modern, clean and inoffensive. Very good 78/100 (M&S) 03/05

Château de Fesles Rosé d’Anjou ‘Le Jardin' 2003 Loire, France
A blend of Gamay and Groslot, this is very clean, fresh and fruity, with a palate of soft summer fruits with a subtle herbiness. Very clean and smooth. Nicely balanced, this is very accessible with an off-dry character. Just a hint of seriousness – a brilliant summer wine. Very good+ 87/100 (£6.39 Oddbins) 03/05

Bernard Germain Anjou Chenin Blanc 2002 Loire, France
Normally you’d expect an Anjou Blanc to be quite a light, zippy sort of wine, but this is Anjou Blanc on steroids. It’s a beast of a wine, but I like it a lot. It’s a distinctive, savoury, dry white with a nose of herbs, cheese and straw, together with some hints of vanilla from the barrels it was fermented in.  The palate is nutty and herby with lots of savoury flavour. Very good+ 89/100 (Sainsbury £5.99) 04/05

Domaine Jo Pithon Les Bergères 2001 Anjou Blanc Sec, Loire
Jo Pithon (a bloke btw) has 14 hectares of vines south of Angers. He takes a natural approach, using indigenous yeasts and old oak vats. This wine is unusual and brilliant. A deep yellow colour, it has a distinctive nose that is deep, herby and full; rounded with a hint of sweetness. If you were a purist, you might say it was verging on faulty. The palate is concentrated, dense and complex with notes of straw and cheese, hints of vanilla and high acidity on the finish. Fantastic. Very good/excellent 93/100 (£12.55 Berry Bros & Rudd) 10/04

Domaine Champalou Vouvray 2001, Loire
A 20ha estate in Vouvray. This Chenin Blanc is dry, showing intense, herby, waxy notes on the nose that are typical of this variety but which are quite hard to describe. The palate is quite fresh with good acidity and lots of savoury, straw-like fruit. An interesting and unusual savoury white that I suspect would make a lovely food match with cheesy or creamy dishes. It’s also a wine that could do with cellaring for a few years. Very good+ 88/100 (£12.95 in Café Rouge as their wine of the month for March 2004) 03/04  

Huet Le Haut Lieu Vouvray Sec 2002 Loire, France
Dry Chenin Blanc at its very best, from biodynamic producer Huet. Deep yellow gold. Lovely savoury, intense nose of straw, melon and honey with a slightly lifted acid edge. Brilliant. The palate is dense and savoury with great concentration and good acidity, together with challenging herbal flavours with a nutty, almost cheesy edge. A brilliant, extreme wine. Very good/excellent 93/100 (£11.99 Waitrose) 11/04  

Cloche Roche Blanche Touraine Rouge Côt 1999 Loire, France
Vivid, deep red/purple colour. The nose is brooding, intense and savoury with a pronounced minerality to the deep red and black fruits. The palate is intense and savoury with a lovely balance between the firm tannins, spicy minerally fruit and good acidity. Still youthful, tight and intense, this is a fantastic deep, pure, structured savoury red wine with lots of freshness but no hints of greenness. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£6.99 Les Caves Pyrene, www.lescaves.co.uk) 12/04

Domaine des Aubuisières Vouvray Les Girardières 1996 Loire, France
Quite light yellowish colour. Rounded nose with notes of wax, honey and wet hay. Very typical Chenin. A little nutty, too. The palate is soft and rounded with some residual sugar and sweet honeyed fruit. There’s a subtle, tangy cheesy edge. Rounded and very moreish, with lovely balance between the sweetness and acidity. Very good/excellent 92/100 (originally from Oddbins, c. £7 a couple of years ago) 01/04

Huet Vouvray Moelleux 1997 Loire, France
Hmm, yes – archetypal Vouvray here. Lovely intense straw-like fruit with some herbiness and also a hint of cheesiness. The palate is firm and savoury despite a whack of sugar that adds some considerable weight. Certainly semi-sweet, but with good acidity and savouriness too. A delicious wine. Very good/excellent 92/100 08/04

Bernard Germain Anjou 2001 Loire, France
A barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc, harvested by hand and aged in 400 litre oak barrels. Deep coloured, this has a striking smooth rich, herby nutty nose with toasty straw notes. The palate is rich and concentrated with striking herby character. Very distinctive. Intensely savoury, this is an interesting dry white. Very good/excellent 90/100 (Sainsbury £6.99) 05/04

Château de Fessardière Muscadet 2002 Loire, France
A nicely packaged organic Muscadet that offers a lot more flavour than you’d expect for the price. Fresh, sappy, slightly herby nose leads to a lemony, nutty palate with some complexity and lively acidity. A delicious savoury white. Very good+ 87/100 (£4.99 Sainsbury) 11/03

Huet Vouvray ‘Le Mont’ Sec 1998 Loire, France
Remarkable nose that has a hint of rotten vegetables and straw to it, together with some herbiness. This leads to an intensely dry, waxy palate with good acidity. There’s a cheesy, herby edge. Quite concentrated, this is really interesting and savoury. Odd but nice. Very good/excellent 90 (bought a while back from Justerini & Brooks; current release stocked by Waitrose at around £10 – a good buy) 04/03

Pascal Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc 2002 Loire
Lovely rich, forward grassy nose – very modern with a herby edge. The palate is fruity and crisp with intense flavours of grassy gooseberry fruit. Tasty and full flavoured, this would put many Sancerres to shame. Very good+ 88/100 (£7.99 Soho Wine Supply, Booths/everywine.co.uk, Direct Wine Imports) 09/03

Domaine des Chesnaies Bourgeuil Cuvée Lucien Lamé 1999 Loire, France
Appealing leafy, minerally, chalky nose with some fairly light blackcurrant fruit. The palate is light with good acidity and more chalkiness, together with some herby, tea-like character. Not profound, but a lovely ‘occasion’ wine for when you want something light and fresh. Very good+ (£6.95 La Vigneronne) 1/03

Origins Touraine Sauvignon 2002 Loire, France
Fresh gooseberry and grassy nose. Palate is a tiny bit rough, with firm acidity, but there’s lots of flavour here. Very good 82 (£4.99 Thresher) 05/03

Domaine des Forges Coteaux du Layon Chaume 2001 Loire
Intense, waxy, straw-tinged spicy nose with some herby complexity. The palate is quite richly textured with limey, herby fruit, some spiciness and good acidity. Quite complex, this needs some time to evolve. Challenging and unusual, this is wonderful stuff. Very good/excellent 90 (£8.99 Waitrose) 04/03

Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups Montlouis Sec 1998 Loire, France
Quite remarkable. The nose is savoury and intense with slightly lifted straw, mineral and soft cheese notes. Very bold and intensely savoury. The high-acid palate has lots of minerally acidity and cheesy fruit flavours and a waxy, herby edge. Remarkable, and intellectual rather than sensual in its appeal. Very good/excellent (c. £10 Justerini & Brooks) 02/03

Château Tour Grise Samur Brut (red label) 1999 Loire, France
This biodynamic sparkling white is a deep gold colour. It has a remarkable rich, honeyed, apricotty nose with a toasty, yeasty edge. The palate is savoury and complex – almost Sauternes like – with honeyed complexity and good acidity. Finishes dry. Very appealing and complex. Very good/excellent (Devigne Wines, Welshpool) 02/03

Château de la Fessadière Muscadet 2001, Loire, France
Tired of taste-alike Chardonnays and one-dimensional Sauvignons?  Try this organic Loire white for something completely different. Supermarket Muscadet has a (mostly deserved) reputation for being thin and tart, but this example packs a good concentration of limey, herby, minerally flavour. With high acidity, this is a little challenging but ultimately very rewarding. Great value for money. Very good/excellent (Sainsbury £4.99) 01/03

Joseph Balland-Chapuis Coteaux du Giennois 1998 Loire, France
This Loire white is five years old but still pretty fresh. Pure fresh minerally nose with a touch of grassy fruit. The palate is lean with a hint of nuttiness, high acidity and lots of minerality. Very appealing. Very good+ 01/03

Patrick Coulbis Pouilly Fumé Les Cocques 2000 Loire
Patrick Coulbois has 8 hectares of vineyards from his late wife’s family (land to the north of St. Andelain) and from his father’s holdings (to the west of St. Andelain). He practises lutte raisonnée. Fresh, savoury, minerally nose showing bright fruit and a wet stones character. Good intensity on the acidic mineralic palate. Very dry and satisfying, this is a traditional style of Pouilly Fumé: it shows good concentration but it is not too fruit driven. Needs food. Very good/excellent (£9.50 Berry Bros) 03/02 

Joseph Mellot ‘Les Milets’ Reuilly 2000, Loire
This Loire Sauvignon is fresh, crisp and grassy with some elderflower notes. Tight and slightly herbaceous on the palate which is quite dry and acidic. Well made and clean but slightly austere. Very good (Majestic) 10/02

Domaine Sautereau Sancerre 2000, Loire, France
From an 18 ha estate fermented and aged in stainless steel vats. Lovely grassy character to the nose. Quite austere, with high acidity. Good minerality. A good food wine? Very good (£9.45 Berry Bros) 04/02

Domaine du Closel Savennières ‘Clos du Papillon’ 2000, Loire, France
Mme. de Jesset manages 12 ha planted with Chenin Blanc, and this wine is fermented and matured in oak barrels. The grapes for this cuvée were grown on schist and limestone soils. Very rich, savoury nutty nose is quite striking, with great depth and complexity and a waxy, herby, butterscotch edge. Good concentration on the extremely nutty, rich, old fashioned palate. Very herbal and savoury. Remarkable, unusual wine. Very good/excellent (£12.25 Berry Bros) 04/02

Domaine des Aubuisières Vouvray Les Giradières 1er Trie Moelleux 1996, Loire
I popped the cork on this one out of curiosity, well before its allotted time. It was an orphan rescued from a non-airconditioned branch of Oddbins and had clearly experienced some dodgy storage conditions (there was a bit of leakage). But these wines are supposed to be fairly indestructible, and it was one quarter of the normal price (£4.99 as opposed to £19.99). The nose shows a touch of honey and butterscotch with some spicy, apricotty notes. The palate is rich textured with a lovely balance between the sweetness and the high acidity. Nicely poised, with lots of marmaladey botrytis character. This is a complex wine and it’s only showing a tiny bit of oxidation, despite its abuse. I look forward to opening the other three bottles I have of this (non-abused) in about a decade. Very good/excellent (Oddbins) 11/01

Fief du Chant Baron Vieilles Vignes 2000 Muscadet Côtes de Grand Lieu Sur Lie
Racy, floral nose with some creamy, spicy notes. Slight pettilance to the palate, which is full flavoured and mineralic, with zippy acidity. Pure, delicious and quite unlike any other Muscadet I've tried. Very good (10/01)

Landrat-Guyollot Pouilly-Fumé Cuvée Pierre Louis 2000, Loire
Textbook Sauvignon with a god concentration of grassy, herby, gooseberry-tinged fruit. Finishes bone dry. Quite tasty and a useful food wine. Very good 10/01

Claude Michot Pouilly Fumé Les Berthiers 2000, Loire
A top quality Loire Sauvignon. Attractive modern herby/grassy nose. Very fresh, attractive palate showing a good concentration of grassy fruit. (£8.71 Bibendum) 11/01

Domaine Dubois Samur Champigny 2000, Loire
(Tasted blind, note as written) The ripe, accessible nose of berry fruit has a smoky, savoury edge but is a tiny bit confected. The palate shows attractive ripe fruit with a nice savoury edge, but perhaps just a touch of bitterness. A good glugger. It’s difficult to place: a bit Beaujolais-like, but could be from Spain? Very good 11/01  

Pascal Jolivet Pouilly Fumé ‘Les Griottes’ 2000, Loire
(Tasted blind, note as written) The nose is fresh and lively but has an aggressive vegetal/gooseberry edge to it. The palate is lean and acidic, with a cut-grass, herbal character. Good concentration, but a bit ‘funky’: tastes like an over-ambitious new world Sauvignon Blanc. Disappointing considering the reputation this producer enjoys. Good/very good 07/01

Charles Joguet Chinon Les Petits Roches 2000, Loire
Nicely packaged, this is from a single vineyard with gravelly soils. A bright red/purple colour, the youthful aromatic nose is mineralic (wet tarmac?), slightly leafy and shows some raspberry fruit. The palate is young and fruity (bright, pure summer fruits), with good acidity and crunchy tannins on the finish. Good concentration, but yet to develop much in the way of complexity. A good example of Loire Cabernet Franc, though, and this may well improve over the next two to three years. Very good+ (£6.99 Waitrose) 09/01

Bourillon d'Orléans Vouvray Moelleux 1996 Loire Valley, France
This is supposed to be botrytised, if the back label is to be believed, but it isn't massively obvious, and this is certainly not a dessert wine. The smoky, slightly stinky nose gives way to a rich-textured high-acid palate which finishes relatively dry, despite the substantial residual sugar. There's a touch of spice and a nice minerally edge, but it has yet to develop any real complexity. Might be worth tucking away for a few years? Very good (£8.99 Majestic) 10/01

Sauvignon de St Bris 1999, Jean Marc Brocard
From Chablis modernist Jean Marc Brocard, this crisp, fruity Sauvignon has a nice broadness to the palate and shows flavours of gooseberry and grapefruit. Quite classy and good value. Very good (£4.99 Waitrose) 04/01

Domaine des Chesnaies Bourgeuil 1997, Cuvée Lucien Lamé
This is a good example of Loire Cabernet Franc from a decent vintage. The perfumed nose displays ripe leafy blackcurrant fruit, a touch of strawberry jam and a core of 'pencil shavings' that I often pick up with this variety. On the palate, the leafy, herbaceous cherry and raspberry fruit is underlain by some spicy tannins. Not massively complex, but a nice wine that is drinking well now. Very good+ (La Vigneronne £6.95) 02/01

Château de Fesles Anjou Vieilles Vignes 1997, Loire
A deep purple/red colour, this wine is an archetypal Cabernet Franc, displaying ripe, leafy blackcurrant fruit with a pronounced mineral core and chalky tannins. It is fresh, bright and gently herbaceous, without being too angular and stalky. Not terribly complex, but very enjoyable. Very good+ (Oddbins £5.99) 2/01

Couly-Dutheil Chinon 'Clos de l'Echo' 1986, Loire
The top cuvée from well regarded Chinon firm Couly-Dutheil, this is still quite youthful tasting despite its age. It has a lovely, chalky nose with a hint of smoke. On the palate the tannins are still firm and grippy, and there's high acidity, together with a herby, savoury character. It's delicious and quite complex, but the relative austerity of this style makes it quite a challenge without food. Very good. 12/00

Chinon L’Ancestrale de Philippe Pichard 1998
An unfiltered, upmarket Chinon from a producer with a good reputation, although I must admit that I really didn’t ‘get’ this wine. It is certainly very oaky and has plenty of classy fruit, but tasted blind I’d never have identified this as a Chinon, as it almost totally lacked that herbaceous, leafy edge to the fruit normally associated with this appellation. A deep red/purple colour this wine shows a rounded, roasted, toasty nose. On the palate it is full flavoured and spicy, and is currently dominated by new oak which all but swamps the ripe, abundant fruit. It’s perhaps a little lacking in the mid-palate, too. Impossible to call as a Chinon, but still pretty tasty, I’d be interested to see how this evolves. 1/01

Sancerre Roger Neveu 1999
Striking grassy nose. Light, herbaceous and acidic on palate, with quite impressive intensity. Good + (Majestic £7.99) 10/00

Pouilly-Fumé Les Angelots 1999, Masson Blondelet
An impressive Loire white with a complex nose of gooseberry and grapefruit, followed up on the palate with some spicy richness. High acid and good concentration. Very good. (Majestic £8.99) 10/00

Coteaux du Layon Saint-Aubin 'Les Bruandières' Grains Nobiles 1997, Domaine Cady
Stunning stuff: a rich nose of apricots, honey and spice is followed up with a ripe, rich, spicy and sweet palate. There's a honey and marmalade edge to this thick-textured wine. Complex and botrytised, the moderate acidity would lead me to drink this soon while it still holds together nicely. Very good/excellent. (Sainsbury £8.99/50 cl) 9/00

Huet Clos du Bourg Moelleux 1989, Loire
Deep gold colour. Quite restrained honeyed nose, which opens out in time to reveal an enticing spicy character. Complex palate with spice, butterscotch and honey. Moderately sweet, but now fully mature with some botrytis character and a bit of oxidation. More evolved than you'd expect, but drinking very nicely now. Very good/excellent. 7/00

Kiwi Cuvée Sauvignon Blanc 1999, Vin de Pays du Jardin de la France
Nice idea: an inexpensive French Sauvignon made by a team of New Zealand wine makers. It’s also nicely packaged. Really pleasant fresh, zesty Sauvignon with some rich texture on the palate, which lies somewhere between the styles of New Zealand and France. Very good, and a bargain. (£3.99 Oddbins) 8/00

1999 Quincy Jean-Charles Borgrant, Loire, France
Clean, fresh apple/grapefruit and gooseberry-laced wine. Ripe flavours combine with a nice balance and pleasant texture. It's a light, summery wine with good varietal character and still-in-check acidity. Good/very good (Majestic £5.99) 8/00

Domaine des Aubuisières Vouvray 'Le Bouchet' 1997 (Bernard Fouquet)
Pale yellow colour, this has an odd nose at first, with a sulfur kick followed by spicy apple pie and honey notes. But the nose is not what this wine is about. On the palate it bursts into life with apples, honey, and spicy, mineralic undertones. There is good concentration and a nice balance of sweetness and acid. This is deliciously and unfashionably demi-sec. Very fairly priced. (£6.99, Oddbins) 2/00

Sauvignon Haut-Poitou VDQS 1997, Francois de Breault
Beautifully aromatic Sauvignon with gooseberry and herbaceous character. Some elderflower notes. Nice texture. This is a bargain (20 ff from France). 3/99

Couly Dutheil La Baronnie Madeleine Chinon 1997, Loire, France
Vibrant red/purple, this wine is packed with chalky raspberry and cherry fruit, and has moderately high acidity. Very chalky texture and smooth tannins. Drinking well now: a juicy, tasty wine with good concentration. This wine would serve as a good introduction to Loire reds for anyone unfamiliar with them. Good. (£5.49, Tesco)

Vouvray Demi-Sec 1999, Domaine Bourillon D'Orléans
Muted nose. On the palate this is soft and medium sweet with a smooth, soapy texture. Low acid. Too simple at present; will this improve? (Majestic £5.49) 10/00

Agrilo 1998, Domaine Bourillon D'Orléans
Rather odd chemical/soapy nose and palate. Weird stuff. (Majestic £6.99) 10/00

Touraine Sauvignon 2000 Le Chalutier
An aromatic, fresh, modern Sauvignon Blanc, but the tartness and short finish put this one firmly in the glugging category. Vibrant nose of gooseberries and lemon juice leads to a tart, full flavoured palate. A summer wine. Good/very good (£3.99 Sainsbury; this was on a 2 for 1 offer, so a bit of a bargain at less than £2) 03/01

Champalou Vouvray 1996 ‘Cuvée des Fondraux’
Nicely balanced, medium sweet wine with taut acidity and a slight smokiness on the nose. Good stuff with a bright future ahead of it. Very good+ 03/01