Loire Valley 2009s: an exceptional vintage

Just finished my first day of tastings here in France at the Salon des Vins de Loire in Angers, a big trade event where hundreds of Loire Valley producers are pouring their newly released or soon-to-be released wines. Headline: the 2009 vintage is excellent, with great fruit and balance in both the reds and whites. Some highlights:

Lucien Crochet’s 2009 white Sancerre reminded me why sauvignon blancs from the Loire Valley are the benchmark with which others are compared. It’s a model of elegance and balance. Sancerre’s reds are made from pinot noir, and  Crochet’s  2006 “La Croix du Roy” Pinot Noir speaks well for Sancerre’s ability, with certain producers and in certain vintages, to make distinctive pinots with both ample fruit and high acidity. It’s a style that I, for one, prefer.

Domaine du Closel 003

From Chinon, Bernard Baudry is making some of the most delicious cabernet francs in the Loire Valley – or the world (his son Matthieu is seen holding one of them on the right). Cab franc can be dominated by the variety’s “green” notes, but in Baudry’s wines they are in the background. One focuses, instead, on the concentrated red fruit and violet notes and the minerality of the wines, which show nuanced differences depending on whether the grapes are grown in soils with gravel, clay, limestone or chalk, all of which are found in Baudry’s vineyards. Four of his   Chinons – the basic Les Granges as well as Les Grezeaux, Le Clos Guillot and La Croix Boissee – are must buys in ‘09 when they are released beginning in a few months or so.

Other highlights included a sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and rosé of pinot gris from Domaine de Reuilly in the small Reuilly appellation in the southeast Loire; several Saviennieres, both dry and sweet (the grape is chenin blanc) from Domaine des Baumard; a dry chenin blanc (Les Chanteaux) and Chinon (Les Graviere) from Couly-Dutheil; and another sauvignon blanc, the 2008 Pouilly-Fumé from Chteau de Tracy.

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