• The sweet wines of the Loire valley

Some of the best sweet wines in France come from the Loire valley.  How sweet is sweet? Well, anything from 10g per litre of residual sugar to over 200g per litre of residual sugar. Naturally produced sweet wines require lots of hard work in the vineyard.  Individual clusters of super ripe grapes are picked by hand and everything depends upon the weather.  In some years yields of the finest sweet wines are minuscule (3hl/ha) and in others they are able to make more (around 35hl/ha).  Some years growers make no sweet wine at all as the weather turns against them and all their hard work amounts to nothing (as happened to many growers in 2012).  We spent Easter Saturday concentrating on these lovely wines from the Chenin Blanc grape variety.

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Discussing grape growing with Antoine Leduc in Anjou.

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Provignage – the old system whereby a cane is buried under the ground and then weighed down until it forms its own root system.

We started the day with a visit to Leduc Frouin in Anjou.  This small family run estate is led by Antoine and Natalie (brother and sister) and we spent some time out in the vineyard discussing vine growing with Antoine before returning to the domaine for a tasting.  Our second visit was to see Wendy Paillé at Pithon-Paillée.  Always a pleasure and so welcoming, Wendy gave us a tasting of both dry and sweet Chenins which illustrated the diversity of this changeable grape variety.

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Tasting a range of whites with Wendy Paillé of Pithon-Paillé in St Lambert du Lattay.

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Only 2 barrels of their top sweet wine in 2013! We were lucky enough to taste from barrel and could hear it gently fermenting.

A quick stop for lunch at Le Chenin in Savennières along with a bottle of Anjou Rouge made by famous Savennières producer Chateau d’Epiré and we made our final stop for the day to see Christophe Daviau at Domaine de Bablut.  Christophe makes fabulous sweet wines under the Coteaux de L’Aubance appellation and we tasted a range SGN wines (Selection Grain Noble) from different vintages.

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Taking a look at Christophe Daviau’s vineyards in Brissac.

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Domaine de Bablut

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The charming tasting room is the base of an old windmill.

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I’m a big fan of the sweet wines of the Loire.  Chenin Blanc is so suited to sweet wine with its naturally high acidity and lovely grapefruity bitterness that takes its inspiration from the slate and schistous soils of Anjou.