Being poor has its own advantages (at least that's what I tell myself to sleep every night), first of which is the need to spend smart. In this way, I find myself increasingly drawn to other regions that still provide excellent value for money drinking. Burgundy being what Burgundy is today, one region has captivated my attention: Loire.
Loire has been a region that I have enjoyed since my days in WSET classes – their aromatic Chenin Blancs and expressive Sauvignon Blancs are very easy to love even on the more entry level side. Recently I have made more effort to learn and try more wines from the region from two tastings: 1) a general overview of Loire Whites from different producers and 2) the latest 2015s from two top domaines Eric Morgat and Guiberteau.
The first broad overview tasting was composed of four flights focusing on the different AOCs in Loire: Pouilly Fumé, Sancerre, Saumur and Savennieres. The producers and price points varied, including of course Dagueneau, Alphonse Mellot, Edmond Vatan, Michel Chevre, Guiberteau, Clos Rougeard and Nicolas Joly. Rarely do you get to try so much from different producers and learning where your palate lies. Dageneau though famous for good reason, however his Fume Silex 2014 and Pur Sang 2014 was too intense this young. It will need a good bit of time before it mellows out and become more approachable. Same goes for Edmond Vatan, which offered the most expensive Sauvignon Blanc of the evening of their Clos La Neore Blanc 2015. I found my sweet spot in the classic and simple Alphonse Mellot, which in my view had a bit of everything – minerality, fruit, freshness – but so easy to drink this young. Probably not age-worthy but at $360-$420 HKD a bottle you cannot ask for much. In the Saumur side, Clos Rougeard was king. Its Saumur Blanc Breze 2010 on par if not better than a few grand cru Burgs except it won't make you cry into your wallet. Michel Chevre was forgettable but Guiberteau was really pretty. To finish off, there was two vintages of 2001 and 2014 Nicolas Joly Clos de La Coulee de Serrant Savennieres, which is a cool way to see how Chenins can age however personally am not a fan of oxidative, Sherry-style wines.
Speaking of Guiberteau, the 2015s were fantastic wines at the simple tasting comparing their Chenins with Eric Morgat. It is classic in the sense that they give you a bit of everything you want from Chenin Blanc and are simply well made. The wines are not terribly far off from Clos Rougeard at just a fraction of their price. Eric Morgat on the other hand presents a wholly different style of Chenin Blancs – fuller, richer, toastier and rounder but wonderfully gorgeous.
Loire Whites have a lot to give with its various grape varieties. Together coupled with terroir as varied from the Atlantic Coast of Pays Nantais to the continental Centre, the region has fantastic underrated wines across the board. Most interestingly, perhaps due to relatively cheaper cost of land, Loire Valley has become a hot bed of the latest organic wine making trends – as if you need another reason to keep your eyes and tastebuds peeled for wines in this area.
Didier Dagueneau Pouilly Fume Silex 2014: Intensely gunflint, mineral and racy with a similar palate, lemon and saline finish. Layered and complex, it needs a lot of time before it mellows out and drinks better.
Didier Dagueneau Pur Sang 2014: Compared to Silex, this is much more classic yet still have the same minerality. Noticeably more Sauvignon with its herbaceous-ness but equally refined and elegant. Okay to drink now but I am sure it can age as well.
Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Les Romains 2014: Expressive reminiscent of the Pur Sang however toned down and not as extreme. Very pretty in the nose and mouth however it gives you pretty much everything you want in a great Sauvignon Blanc.
Alphose Mellot Sancerre Cuvee Edmond 2014: This is a step up on the Les Romains in its racier and more mineral nose (like the Silex) however completely rounded and easy going. Easily my fave on the evening along with the Clos Rougeard.
Edmond Vatan Sancerre Clos La Neore Blanc 2015: This is obvious a wine drunk way too young. There is a certain oiliness that I find off-putting and is a personal no no. I can tell its qualitatively a good wine that is complex, floral and elegant but not my cup of wine.
Michel Chevre Saumur Blanc Clos de Ecotard 2014: Simple but boring. Reflective of price (cheap). However you might as well spend roughly $100HKD more for the Alphonse Mellot or the Guiberteau and get more out of it.
Guiberteau Saumur Blanc Breze 2012: Wonderfully toasty, generous, caramel on the nose. It is a lot younger and fresher on the palate. Well integrated oak notes that balances the generous fruit. Absolutely smashing.
Clos Rougeard Saumur Blanc Breze 2010: Going in I knew Clos Rougeard would be great but having only tasted their Cabernet Franc, I had no idea just how fantastic their whites would be. The wines went way beyond my expectation and I found it equal to the greatest whites Burgundy has to offer. Okay it won't be Chevalier Montrachet by Auvenay but it could definitely battle with say, Bouchard Pere et Fils's Montrachet. The wines were unique in their nose, which was an interesting combo of toastiness and minerality but balanced. Same with the palate which was just beautiful from beginning to the long long finish. Simply EPIC.
Nicolas Joly Clos de La Coulee de Serrant Savenierres 2014: Quite nutty already at this age but delightfully saline and savoury on the palate. This I like.
Nicolas Joly Clos de La Coulee de Serrant Savenierres 2001: Extremely oxidative and full blown Sherry like at this point – again nothing at all wrong with the wine but it's my thing.
Guiberteau Saumur Blanc 2015: Noticeably more racy and sleek than the fuller Morgats yet incredibly complex and mineral.
Guiberteau Saumur Blanc Les Moulins 2015: Just as mineral and sleek as the Saumur Blanc, however kicked up a notch in intensity, complexity and toastiness from more oak. This will need some time before it shows its full potential.
Eric Morgat Anjou Blanc "Litus" 2015: Rounded and toasty yet with a clear mineral undertone. Invitingly luscious on the palate, it is balanced with fantastic acidity and elegant finish. Super expressive even when young and straight from the bottle.
Eric Morgat Savennieres "Fides" 2015: This is from his best parcel of his holdings and made with more new oak. This is evident on the increased smoky toastiness on the nose and palate though there is beautiful density of the fruit and acidity to balance out the wines and a long steady finish to match. Complex and ambitious, this will do even better with just a few years of cellaring.