The Lower Loire is the last wine region the Loire River passes through on its way to the Atlantic ocean. Home to Muscadet -- one of the most perfect dry white wines for shellfish and more --- the Lower Loire could be the single greatest value region for white wines in the world.
The wines of the Loire Valley are some of the greatest wines in the world. And yet they don’t have the high profile of peer regions, like Burgundy and Bordeaux. And that’s a shame! Loire wines offer something for everyone, in every context.
Over the last several decades, the name Sancerre has become synonymous with premium dry white wine, making it the safe choice for consumers with no other requirements. As such, it's become one of wine's greatest hits, a wine region with nearly unparalleled brand recognition and customer devotion. This is fair, as virtually any Sancerre is taut, articulate, and often of reliably good quality.
Charles Joguet is the domaine that put Chinon on the map. Joguet liked Burgundy, especially how each itty bitty plot of land seemed to make distinct wine from its specific terroir. Joguet noticed that Chinon was a bit like that too: his great vineyards produced wines that were consistently distinct and delicious on their own, without any need of blending. He decided Cabernet Franc was a great grape variety, deserving of the full Burgundian treatment. Single vineyard Chinon was born, and the world became a better place.
It was a great appointment with Philippe Foreau – 90 minutes longer than he had slotted us in for – and so we were late to an embarrassing degree for our next appointment, with Pierre Breton.
After Huet we just had time to squeeze in lunch at la Geule Noire, a nice farm-to-table in a cave carved out of tuffeau stone where the chef attempts to “fuse” Basque and the local Tourainaise cuisines (razor clams, pig’s snout, pig’s feet, veal with Serrano and Manchego, washed down with the local beer Noirette and a bottle of Pinon’s Silex Noir 2010). One of the best meals of our trip and highly recommended.
Day 3 would turn out to be our longest day, and the five hours of sleep after numerous bottles of wine was not ideal preparation. Still, we managed to pile into the car early enough to arrive in Vouvray only 20 minutes late for our appointment at Domaine Huet.
We drove straight from Marc Deschamp’s domaine in Pouilly-sur-Loire to Domaine Thomas Labaille in Chavignol. Chavignol is in the Sancerre appellation, on a hill across the valley to the west of the actual town of Sancerre. The narrow country road connecting the two villages is extraordinarily beautiful, passing through hilly vineyards with great views of medieval Sancerre up on the hill. The Labaille winery is right on this road, just before entering the village.