Last September, on assignment for En Route, I attended a press trip to the Loire Valley where I took part in the Vignes Vins Randos event.
Note: Below is a condensed blog of the article that appeared in the spring 2018 issue of En Route. Many thanks to Sophie Grosman from Vins du Val de Loire and Femke Pruis from Pitch Communicatie & PR for making this experience and article possible.
With beautiful Renaissance castles, lush orchards and gardens, charming villages and a sea of vineyards, the Loire Valley is a feast for senses. Especially during the first weekend of September during the Vignes Vins Randos, an annual event for wine lovers who want to discover the region in a more active way. On Saturday, September 2nd, I got the chance to discover the vineyards of Savennières, and Sunday the 3rd saw us tasting our way through the vineyards of Vouvray.
Saturday started at Clos du Papillon, one of the vineyards of the famous Domaine des Baumard with the lovely vigneronne Liv Vincendeau (her own vineyard is located in Rochefort-sur-Loire, on the other side of the river). Savennières is one of the eighteen appellations in the Anjou-Saumur wine region and is best known for the production of refined white wines, made from only chenin blanc, a very versatile grape variety that is used in this appellation mainly for dry but sometimes also semi-dry and sweet white wines. Although the history of viticulture in Savennières began with the Romans around 276 AD, it was the monks and later the nobility who had the greatest influence. Savennières received the A.O.C (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) designation in 1952.
The region has 130 hectares and forty producers. Within the appellation there are two subappellations, each with their own specific terroirs: Roche aux Moines covers twenty-two hectares and has eight producers, and the most famous, Coulée de Serrant, is a monopoly of seven hectares which has been in the hands of the Joly family since 1961. Every form of mechanical harvest is forbidden in Savennières. All grapes are harvested by hand when they are perfectly ripe.
On Sunday, it was time to visit Vouvray with Myriam Fouasse, who organizes a lot of fun and educational wine activities through the Loire and is also married to a local vigneron. Like in Savennières, all wines in this appellation (2200 hectares and 160 producers) are made exclusively from chenin blanc, but here the grape becomes a real chameleon. Whether you are a fan of dry wines, sweet wine or something in between, Vouvray has it all. In addition, sparkling wines predominate here with approximately 65% of the total production.
Vouvray is located on a plateau on the right bank of the Loire and is one of the seven appellations in the Touraine wine region. One of the first bishops of Tours, Sint Martinus, planted the first vineyards around his abbey, Marmoutier, at the end of the 4th / beginning of the 5th century.
DREAMING OF NEXT YEAR
After two days of walking and wine tasting, our vineyard adventures ended on an animated square with live music, dancing, food trucks and even more wine. I followed Myriam’s advice and purchased a bottle of Vouvray Sec to savor at home a piece of Sainte-Maure de Touraine (the regional goat’s cheese)… and dream about next year.