This advertising content was produced in collaboration with our partner, Loire Valley Wines.
For the second year in a row, esteemed wine buyers from the U.S. gathered together to taste a range of wines from one of France’s most diverse and exciting growing regions: the Loire Valley. They were tasked with the challenge of scoring each release on a 100-point scale.
The Loire Buyers’ Selection competition positioned nearly 100 bottles—all available in the U.S.—in front of nine judges in a blind tasting environment. The collection was curated by industry veteran David Talbot, with selections from Pays Nantais, Anjou-Saumur, and Touraine.
After the three judging panels expertly evaluated the wines, more than 50 came out on top, scoring 90 points or higher—a merit that buyers can use to better highlight the excellence of this special selection on retail shelves. But this is just a small sampling of the outstanding freshness and mineral-driven versatility to be found in the Loire Valley—and there’s no better time to explore further.
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Diverse and Versatile
“I am again reminded how diverse and versatile these incredible wines brim across the entire region,” says New York City-based sommelier and wine educator Bruno Almeida. “Fresh and vibrant, energetic with cool expression of fruit, less pretentious and more relatable to different palates.” This is Almeida’s second year serving as judge for the Loire Buyers’ Selection, and he notes that vintage plays an important role, particularly in these terroir-driven wines. “It was great to witness how certain wines from some regions evolved in quite different character from last year,” says Almeida.
Almeida says that “a great sense of place shines across the board,” reflected in the 51 bottles that received 90+ point scores. Producers and importers now have the option to add stickers to the bottles indicating they’ve been tasted and rated by Loire Buyers’ Selection, a stamp of approval from this group of the country’s best sommeliers and retailers, which represents a variety of backgrounds and well-known establishments. “Diversity of perspective is valuable, especially in rooms where points are getting handed out,” says James Sligh, a Brooklyn-based sommelier and the creator of Children’s Atlas of Wine.
The judges worked in panels of three, and Talbot averaged the scores for a final number. Loire Buyers’ Selection wines are sorted into five categories: white wines, red wines, sparkling wines, rosé, and a final division called fresh, fruity, and friendly, which highlights some of the many juicy, easy-drinking wines that this cool-climate region can produce.
Many of the judges came away from the competition impressed by the diversity and value of wines from the Loire Valley. “The Loire is a huge, incredibly diverse region close to my heart,” says Sligh. “It’s a place you could drink from and study for your entire career without ever running out of new things to taste and learn.”
Highlights of the Day
Wines such as the Domaine Jean Aubron Folle Blanche 2019, made from one of the lesser-known grapes in the region, showcase how much discovery the Loire Valley offers. Rated at 91 points, Sligh notes, “One of my own highest-rated wines ended up being this organically farmed wine from [Gros Plant du] Pays Nantais.” Other top-scoring options in the under-$20 price range include smooth and bright Biotteau Frères Poussière De Roche 2020 from PGI Val de Loire and saline- and citrus-driven Château De La Ragotière Les Vieilles Vignes Black Label 2020 from Muscadet Sèvre et Maine.
“I enjoy seeing the breadth and diversity of styles in the Loire and inside micro-categories of specific regions and grape varieties,” says wine director Jhonel Faelnar. He says that blind tasting alongside fellow colleagues in the industry with varying perspectives and opinions provided an interesting point of view.
Marquita Levy, a sommelier at Crown Club at the Barclays Center, returned to the competition this year. She has experience working with wines from the Loire Valley and found that the 2022 selection highlighted smaller and lesser known appellations. “I was particularly drawn to the wines of Haut Poitou which really stood out and showed spectacularly in the line ups,” she says.
Levy suggests that the new scores will contribute another point of consideration for buyers and consumers looking to explore the wide range of Loire wines. “This is helpful in learning about the lesser known appellations and new wine rules, and [also those who are] exploring the ever-popular category of rosé, which was one of the highlights of the day for me,” she says.
Almeida’s also got his eye on refreshing rosé as well as bubbly Crémant de Loire and sparkling Vouvray, which he says “will keep you salivating all year round.” Domaine Xavier and Agnes Amirault make an organic Crémant de Loire from Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc—this was one of the top bubbly wines of the day, noted for its fresh acidity and chalky mineral backbone.
Another sparkling star, and one of the most highly marked by the panel, was Monmousseau Cuvée JM Blanc Brut NV from Touraine. This fresh and complex wine delivers the value for quality that the judging panel so appreciated. “I will be more likely [now] to choose a sparkling wine from the Loire, rather than my usual suspects of Prosecco, Cava, and pét-nats!” says Levy.
In Levy’s eyes, “preparing for the judging felt like home schooling or a Loire Valley bootcamp.” No education of this region is complete, however, without a regional specialty: Chenin Blanc. The panel found many favorites, such as full-bodied Domaine Vincent Carême Le Clos 2019 and the off-dry and slightly spicy Pierre Chainier House Clos du Gaimont 2020, both from Vouvray. From Bonnezeaux, Domaine la Croix des Loges Les 3 Failles 2017 showed the diversity of the variety in this off-dry and golden release.
“I have a tendency to be harder on wine styles that I really love,” says Sligh. “If I’m tasting a flight of Chenin Blanc, I’m going to be grading knowing what that variety is capable of in the hands of some of the greatest growers on the planet.”
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