The Loire Valley is known for its enchanting chateaux, its delectable goat cheeses, and its lovely wines. From the steely Sauvignon Blancs of Pouilly Fumé and Sancerre to the briney, refreshing Muscadets of the Western Loire, the Loire Valley is a fantastic source of delicious bottles.
Vinotas Selections is proud to offer our customers the best that the region can offer.
Jean Pascal Aubron
Since 1843, Jean Pascal Aubron’s family has been tending their vineyards around the town of Vallet, outside of Nantes, near the Atlantic Coast. They own 11 hectares (about 27.19 acres) of the acclaimed Grand Fief de l’Audigère, a lieux-dit which sits on gabbro (volcanic rock) deposits, allowing the full expression of the Melon de Bourgogne grape while maintaining its legendary acidity. This results in a beautiful, almost ethereal and very refreshing Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine sur Lie.
The Grand Fief de l’Audigère is a classified vineyard, its wines recognized for their quality for centuries. Jean Aubron uses traditional vinification methods, transferring the wines midway through the fermentation process to underground glass-lined tanks, where they finish and sit on their lees for between 6 to 10 months, depending on the year’s quality.
WINESJean-Pascal’s Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine sur Lie Cuvée Elegance is a lovely, flowery and briney wine, a true showcase of its terroir. Lemon, lime, white flowers and salty notes of the sea vie for your attention, with an intense minerally mouthfeel and striking acidity that balances everything on the palate.
- Grand Fief de l’Audigère
- Older Vintages available (yes, Muscadet does age)
You know you’re doing something right when you meet a winemaker at a trade show and the guy says, “Hey, I’ve heard good things about you.” Really? I’m flattered and humbled; apparently our winemakers are talking to their friends. In this case, Pascal Pibaleau, who works sometimes with Laurent Herlin, had told him nice things about his US importer (us!). Well, let’s see how his wines are, shall we? I proceeded to taste through Laurent’s production, and I have to say, he’s doing some interesting things in Bourgueil.
Laurent himself is a monster of a man, standing well over 6’, with huge hands and a larger smile. In fact, if you remember the old show “Night Court”, he resembles the tall bailiff Bull. When he handed me a bottle, I thought he was giving me a half bottle until it landed in my hand and I realized it was a normal 750. Uh, OK. That said, his wines are really pretty and ethereal, a wonderful contrast.
First, some background: in 2008, after toiling for 12 years as a computer engineer, Laurent dropped everything to follow his passion: wine. He took classes in Beaune and worked at various domaines. Finally, he bought himself 5 hectares (12.35 acres) in Bourgueil, where he farms his sandy, gravelly clay/limestone soils biodynamically.
Harvest is of course manual, with a first selection in the vines, and a 2nd one at the sorting table to ensure quality. Next, only indigenous yeasts are used to ferment the wines, some in steel and some in cask. Lastly, and in keeping with his environmental philosophy, only recycled glass is used as vessels for his production.
His wines exude happiness, and Laurent doesn’t take himself too seriously. He does take quality seriously, however, as his Tsoin Tsoin and other wines show. He is one to follow, and we’re proud to import his wines.
The Laurent Herlin Tsoin Tsoin is a carbonically macerated Cabernet Franc from Bourgueil which exudes happiness and lightness of being, with bright cherry fruit backed by a lovely mineral backbone and a startlingly long finish. Unlike other wines like this, the Tsoin Tsoin was a delight to drink over several days, a sure sign of quality.
- Cintré (pet’nat!)
- Terre d’Adoption
I was at an Organic wine show in France one day and starving, so I sat down with my lunch at a table where two gentlemen were discussing business. After a while, in between bites of a lovely open-faced toast of luscious rillettes, we began to talk, and I discovered that one of them was a winemaker in Chinon. Very quiet and unassuming, he reluctantly invited me to come taste his wine. Wait, “wine”, singular? Yes, he had only brought one, and if I didn’t want to come over, that was OK too. Intrigued, I wandered over to his table, where he almost reluctantly poured me some of his decanted wine. Wow, absolutely gorgeous. Right then and there, I knew I’d found a new Chinon producer…
Thierry Landry has worked his family’s vines since his father’s retirement in 1995. Originally only 3 hectares, the domaine has grown to a whopping 6.84 hectares (insert sarcasm- 16.9 acres). He farms the land organically, testing the soils every 5 years to ensure their continued health. His vineyards, aged between 8 and 43 years, are planted to 4500 vines per hectare, with tight spacing to make the plants work extra hard. Yields are kept relatively low, varying depending on the age of the vines.
Once everything is manually harvested, the grapes make their way to his ancient chai. His press dates from the 17th century, a real artifact of winemaking history, and he only uses indigenous yeasts to ferment the wines. Only the high-end cuvee sees any oak, his other two wines are fermented in cement and fiberglass temperature-controlled vats where they sit for 4-6 months before being fined and lightly filtered.
His wines are beautiful, sultry expressions of the Cabernet Franc grape, with only a hint of the green edges that sometimes mark these reds from the Loire. In fact, it’s that hint that adds complexity, balancing out the fruit with its lively notes and brilliant acidity. These wines will make you believe in Chinon again (in case you ever doubted).
Thierry’s Cuvée des Closeaux is what really caught my attention. Grown on a plateau of clay, limestone and siliceous soils, it is a beautiful, sultry expression of the Cabernet Franc grape, with only a hint of the green edges that sometimes mark these reds from the Loire. In fact, it’s that hint that adds complexity, balancing out the fruit with its lively notes and brilliant acidity. Thierry’s wines will make you believe in Chinon again (in case you ever doubted).
- Chenin des Puys
- Cuvée les Puys
- Cuvée le Clos Guillot
Olivier Bellanger Domaine la Piffaudière
I’m always a bit flattered when my winemakers refer me to their winemaking friends. I was at the Levée de la Loire Organic/Biodynamic/Natural show when one of our producers pointed out his friend, a bearded, loud, opinionated young man who was holding court at another table. His name was Olivier Bellanger and he was showing some crazy good stuff, juice that got me very excited. And best of all, he wanted to work with us!
Olivier apprenticed under some of the best names in the Loire, including Philippe Tessier, and in 2008 managed to pick up a small plot of land in his hometown of Monthou-sur-Cher. He immediately began converting the vineyards to Organic practices. As of this writing in 2015 he farms 10 hectares (24.71 acres) of densely planted vines where the average age is around 25 years old. Despite his small holdings, he manages to harvest many different and interesting varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Orbois (Menu Pineau), Gamay, Pineau d’Aunis, Côt and Cabernet Franc. The terroir here is somewhat varied as well, with chalky limestone and sandy, flinty soils. All the vineyards are on slopes facing South and Southwest for better exposure.
Winemaking here is pretty natural. Grapes are manually harvested to ensure healthy bunches, and only wild yeasts are used to ferment. In the cellar, he uses only fiberglass or big old wooden casks, no new oak here (yay!). Speaking of the cellar, it is underground, built into the side of a hill long before he came along. The whites are allowed to undergo malolactic fermentation if they want to, but he doesn’t encourage it if they don’t. Finally, while he doesn’t fine his wines, he does do a very very light filtering and adds a drop of SO2 for stability. The resulting wines are bright and vivacious, lively expressions of their terroir.
Olivier’s Pif Le Sauvignon is a beautiful, light but expressive Sauvignon Blanc. It’s grown on sandy, flinty soils and manually harvested. Olivier lets the wine sit on its fermentation lees and after 3 months in 500-liter casks and tanks bottles it without fining and just a light filtering. With very few tropical notes (unlike most Sancerre/Pouilly Fumés these days), it reminds one of what wines from those regions used to be. Bone dry, with bright fruit and lovely acidity to whet the palate for more, ending in a long finish.
His Pif Mon Tout Rouge is a blend of 2/3 Pineau d’Aunis and 1/3 Gamay. The vines for this wine grow on sandy, flinty soils and are manually harvested. Indigenous yeasts are used to ferment after the grapes are destemmed, and there’s a short 8 day maceration. Unfined, it is lightly filtered. The result is a lovely medium-bodied red-fruited wine with black pepper hints that is refreshing despite its weight. The fruit notes are balanced by striking acidity and minerals, making this a perfect year-round quaffer.
The Baudin family have lived in Pouilly-sur-Loire for generations. Their winery was established in 1685, and they now farm 11 hectares (27.18 acres) scattered amongst 15 parcels using natural methods to maintain the health and ecosystem of the soils. The vines are between 35-40 years in age, somewhat densely planted (6500 vines/ha) on clay and limestone soils with flinty veins, and interspersed with Kimmeridgian sediments. Everything here is done by hand, using traditional tools. Papa Guy now works with his son Lilian to ensure continuity.
All grapes are hand-harvested and sorted at the winery by hand. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel using wild yeasts, then the wine is transferred to cement tanks to sit on its lees. It is then unfined and lightly filtered at bottling. The results are wines that let their terroirs shine through, with bright fruit, hints of grassy notes, smoke and minerals, and without any fakery or New World notes. In fact, this is the most old-school Pouilly-Fumé I’d tried in ages and got me dizzy with excitement.
Guy’s Pouilly-Fumé les Charmes lives up to its name. This wine comes from vines that are 35 years old on average, grown on soils rich in clay, limestone and marl, and with practicing Organic methods. Hand-harvested, the wine is wild-yeast fermented in stainless, then transferred to cement tanks where it’s aged for a few months on its lees. Lightly fined and unfiltered, it offers a bright fruit profile and gorgeous mineral-driven mouthfeel.
This is old-school Pouilly Fumé.