Winemaking in Loire-express yourself and terroir

Tue Mar 1, 2011 5:04am EST
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By Leslie Gevirtz

ANGERS, France (Reuters Life!) - More than 600 Loire valley winemakers gathered in Angers earlier this month for three days of tasting and touting their terroirs.

But the vignerons, whose vineyards are spread along the banks of river's 630 miles, are as varied as the terroir or soils they till and the more than 740 million gallons (28 million hectoliters) of wines they produce each year.

Nearest the Atlantic coast are the Muscadet makers, who struggle to overcome a reputation for producing mediocre bulk wines from Melon de Bourgogne grapes planted in gravelly, sandy, soils that are rich in gneiss and granite. Some winemakers have even removed the word Muscadet from their labels.

Pierre Luneau-Papin's Marie Chartier explained as she poured several white wines that were crisp, fresh, and filled with peach and citrus flavors.

"If you go to a wine shop." she said, "and tell the man you want a good wine, but you do not want Muscadet and he says 'No problem Madame and hands you this bottle,' (which reads 'EXCELSIOR'). You take it. You taste it and you come back the next day and say 'Oh, it was very good. Muscadets are not as good as this wine.'

"But, in fact, it is a Muscadet," she laughed. "It is Melon de Bourgogne. It is just more easy for us to sell it this way."

East of Nantes and Anger is the hamlet of Savennieres where Evelyn de Pontbriand, owner and vigneronne of Domaine du Closel-Chateau des Vaults, practices organic methods to make still whites and reds and sparkling wines from different plots on her 15-hectare estate.

"My objective is to express this magnificent terroir. The soil is schist. The grape is Chenin Blanc (a white wine varietal without a distinct aroma profile, but is) a blank canvas on which the design of the terroir shines through," said de Pontbriand.   Continued...