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Coined the “Garden of France,” the agricultural-rich Loire Valley is the number one producer of French PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) white wines that are food-friendly, fresh, fruity, and low in alcohol. On August 17, Loire Valley Wines hosted a webinar titled “Sauvignon Blancs from the Loire Valley: Rich Offerings Beyond Sancerre” to uncover the Loire Valley regions beyond the renowned PDO Sancerre that produce stellar Sauvignon Blancs at an approachable price point. Throughout the webinar, a panel of wine industry experts tasted through six Sauvignon Blancs from the 2018 vintage.
One major point the panelists noted about these wines was a willingness to experiment by the producers. “The Loire is an old, traditional region, but it doesn’t have the traditional demands as Bordeaux, Burgundy, or Champagne,” said moderator Arthur Hon, the beverage manager of New York City’s two Michelin-starred Momofuku Ko, adding that the region is also not as densely planted. “Because of that openness, there are a lot more experiments and free-thinking is very welcome. Younger generations are coming in and producers are super mindful of what they do and what they pass down to the next generation.”
IGP Val de Loire and PDO Touraine
Sommelier Mozel Watson, owner of Wines By Mozel, who tasted participants through wines from two of the Loire Valley’s largest sub-regions, IGP Val de Loire and PDO Touraine, pointed out that this flexibility seems to especially flourish outside of Sancerre. “Sancerre is sort of like Champagne, with a backing and expectations [Sancerres are] usually cut and dry, but these are more fresh and fun.”
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Vignerons de Valencay, Loire’s PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), comes from the largest appellation of the Loire Valley in terms of geographic size.
Regarding the Domaine des Corbillières, Touraine, Mozel said “it has everything Sancerre has at half the price,” and suggested an equally-fun pairing of potato chips.
PDO Quincy and PDO Reuilly
Moving East, sommelier Hillary Zio, wine consultant and educator, presented two very different bottlings from the lesser-known regions of Quincy and Reuilly. Zio remarked on the ripe aromas and flavors influenced by its warm and sunny mezzo climate of the fruit-forward Jean-Michel Sorbe, Quincy, while she found that The Matthieu & Renaud Mabillot, Reuilly was dominated by a brininess and minerality. Zio likened the latter to Chablis, but more “budget-friendly.”
As for how these wines compare to the renowned PDO Sancerre? “Both have a lighter body,” she said. “As you move towards Sancerre, you’ll have that weightiness on the palate, and these do not.”
PDO Menetou-Salon and PDO Pouilly-Fumé
The weightiness Zio refers to is more likely to be found in the regions of Menetou-Salon and Pouilly-Fumé, which are especially close to Sancerre — approximately 20 miles and five miles away, respectively — and hence produce wines with a similar profile.
As an example of Sauvignon Blancs similar to renowned PDO Sancerre, Rebecca Banks, corporate beverage director for the Keith McNally-owned restaurants in New York City, led the tasting through a classic example of Menetou-Salon, Domaine Pellé, Morogues Blanc.
“It’s sometimes splitting hairs between the two,” said Banks, regarding the Francis Blanchet, Pouilly-Fumé Cuvée Silice. “Sometimes these wines can be hard to tell apart if you were blind tasting them. Pouilly-Fumé can be richer, rounder and tends to be a little bit less expensive than Sancerre.” With its very approachable price, she labeled the Francis Blanchet “a steal.”
View Wines Curated by the Loire Valley Panelists
Those interested in exploring these regions of the Loire Valley can attend the annual Spring to Loire tasting event. Postponed earlier this year, it has been rescheduled for a fall edition on September 24 at The Foundry in New York. Taking all of the necessary health and safety precautions, the event will consist of an in-person “speed tasting” of portfolios from 11 importers and a Loire Valley Wines ordering incentive program will be held on SevenFifty during the month of September.
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