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Home Winners > Winners 2013 > FRANCE: Loire

Winner Details


Few poor wines and decent value for money, but the 2011 vintage meant this section was better for Chenin Blancs than Sauvignons this year

Every year, the Loire contributes three or four wines to the Gold List of this competition – and yet often our tasters struggle to put together a fully balanced selection.

Ideally, of course, we’d have a cheap Loire Sauvignon, a Sancerre and a Pouilly Fumé, a Chenin or two and a winsomely aromatic Cabernet Franc. Maybe even (perhaps grudgingly) a Muscadet or a food-friendly rosé/Sancerre rouge – all of which this most varied of regions can deliver.

But with its northerly(ish) climate the Loire seems to find it difficult to do everything well at once. It’s a bit like asking a six-year-old to tie their shoelaces and whistle the Bob the Builder theme tune at the same time.

In 2010, the competition showcased the region’s versatility, but years like that are, sadly, a rarity. It’s far more common to have a Sauvignon year (like 2012) or a Chenin year like 2011’s Sommelier Wine Awards. And this year was firmly in the latter camp.

The winemakers had done their best with what they had, but three Silvers and a Bronze told its own story about the difficulties of the 2011 and 2012 harvest for the Loire’s Sauvignon Blanc growers. There were some good wines, but none that cried out for a place on our Gold List.

‘I’m a big Sauvignon Blanc fan,’ said The Orange’s Nicolas Vierne, ‘but these flights were lacking a little bit on the grassiness and expression. Though one or two really ticked the boxes and at a reasonable price.’

There were a few atypically oaky efforts with a bit more weight, but they were treated warily by our tasters. Such a wine would need to be explained very, very carefully to a customer who thinks they’re getting a Loire Sauvignon.

The advantage of the Chenins is their longevity, and certainly there was a broader mix of vintages sent in here. The two Gold-Listed wines were from 2009 and 2010, not 2011, for instance.

‘These were lovely. Food friendly, appealing, acidic, crisp, fresh, a nice bit of character, well made. Just really well rounded,’ said The Vineyard Group’s James Hocking.

‘They were consistently good,’ added Marco Feraldi, from the St James’s Hotel and Club. ‘Here we’re finding wines that you definitely want to put on your list.’

Not least because of the food-matching options. Suggestions abounded as our sommeliers tasted, with The Marylebone Hotel’s Mark Deamer suggesting they’re a far better match with Chinese food than Riesling. One to discuss over Bang Bang Chicken perhaps…

‘The two Gold-Medal winning Chenins were absolutely stunning,’ said Tim Wildman MW of Winetec. ‘This is the most criminally underrated and underplanted of the world’s great varieties. At this level it’s unbeatable.’

Without a stellar vintage like 2009 behind it, none of the region’s reds picked up a Gold this year, though again our tasters were broadly happy with what they were seeing.

‘These reds were very good, lighter wines for the beginning of meals – not too heavy,’ said STK’s Michael Harrison. ‘The prices were very realistic, too,’ added Jacques Savary de Beauregard of Home House.

‘If people want to experience a great French wine for less money, the Loire is definitely the best region to go to.’
Philippe Moranges, Hakkasan Hanway Place

‘The quality for the price of the top Chenins is amazing. The best have got complexity, length, depth… If you compare them to many Burgundian wines, they’re much cheaper for the quality.’
Olivier Marie, Le Coq d’Argent