Connoisseur B2B Diary-of-Axel-Ritenis Wine Courses and Events


Written by Aksel Ritenis

 I was reaqainted with the amazing wines of the Loire Valley last week at a fabulous Wine Dinner  held at Bentley Restaurant (located in the Raddisson in the Sydney CBD)  whichfeatured five courses, each with matching wines from the Loire Valley.

Our two hosts, Franck Moreau, Master Sommelier and Group Sommelier of Merivale, and Benoît Roumet, Director of the Central Loire Valley Wines Committee, made this experience quite mesmerizing thanks to their incredible knowledge and passion.

My last visit to the Loire Valley was more then 20 years ago and whilst in the European trade I often encountered  good Mucadet  which I love with the French huitres (more saline then their creamy Australian cousins the Sydney Rock oyster) Sancerre my favourite,.. was often  the  Henri Bourgeois,…I have also  tasted many  Chinon Anjou Cabernet Francs such as Chateau de Fesles,..but also the one from  Gerard Depardieu (the great French actor) and some good Chenin Blancs in the intervening years ,…but the flavour profiles textures and sophistication and finesse of the current wines really impressed me.

After the dinner I really started reading up on these wines and discovered the following facts ,..many of which Ishall incorporate in my forthcoming Wine Book.

The Loire Valley vineyards are unrivalled for diversity and variety: its 85 appellations make up a completely unique range of wines including red, white or rosé, still or sparkling, dry, tender, sweet or semi-sweet, the Loire Valley has a wine for the most discerning wine lover as well as something to entice the casual drinker. In this astonishingly wide range, you are sure to find a wine to delight you.

It is not commonly appreciated that the Loire is the 3rd largest winemaking AOC in france and is the top producer of AOC white wines and second in sparkling wines only to Champagne.It incorporates 63,000 hectares of wine growing area.

“In the Loire vineyards, the type and richness of the wine, whatever its colour or style, does nothing to detract from the luscious fruity flavours, the maturity and freshness, the balance and the overall drinking experience”. Olivier Poussier, Best Sommelier 2000

On the Tourism and geographic front the Loire River, stretching 630 miles from Mont Gerbier de Jonc in
Ardeche to its final destination, the Atlantic Ocean,is the longest river in France and is widely considered the last wild river in Europe.
It is also often called the garden of France; the scenery is gorgeous, the climate is mild and so are the people. And the diversity of wines here is as astounding as the landscape—from racy Sancerres to salty Muscadets, succulent Chinons  to ancient Pineau d’Aunis.
But, for all of its diversity there is a common stylistic thread that runs throughout: artisanal, handcrafted wines that are full of character, presence of place and vivid clarity.
The Loire Valley is the 3rd largest appellation region in France, comprising a total of 85 appellations and denominations.  The area between Chalonnes-sur-Loire (Maine et Loire) and Sully-sur-Loire (Loiret) has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status – one of only ten European winegrowing regions distinguished in this way.

It is also recognised as France’s leading wine tourism region thanks to the quality of its hospitality services – an achievement it shares with Alsace – making it a prime tourist destination. With a wine route of over 800 km it gives visitors the opportunity to discover or re-visit a wealth of different landscapes and heritage sites.

50 appellations making red, white, rosé and sparkling wines come under the InterLoire umbrella.

All are produced within the 70, 000 ha area between Blois and Nantes. The Loire vineyards are planted in a mosaic of terroirs growing 12 varietals and comprising a wealth of different soils and climates. These are the unique raw materials with which the 2,900 local residents, winemakers, négociants and cooperative cellars making up the Loire Valley wine industry work their magic.

Every year, 250 million bottles of wine produced in this area are sold in 140 countries – a rate of 8 bottles per second!

Loire Valley wines are rather unusual in that they are, for the most part, produced from a single varietal: Melon de Bourgogne from the  Nantes area; Chenin, Cabernet and Gamay in Anjou, Saumur and Touraine; Sauvignon in Touraine and the Centre; and also Grolleau, Pinot Meunier, Pineau d’Aunis, Romorantin etc.,

This breadth of variety is completely unique, and gives a very diverse, highly expressive range of wines.


“Whether it be a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre, a textural Chenin from Vouvray or a juicy Cabernet Franc from Anjou, this regions wines  will have all your needs covered.”

We all know that wine is very subjective.

“Our impressions depend to a large extent on our own experiences and culture, and not always directly on the intrinsic qualities of the wine itself. Our memories colour our perceptions: a Cabernet-d’Anjou enjoyed with friends in a chic Parisian bar; a Crémant-de-Loire ceremoniously opened to celebrate the New Year; a glass of Touraine one evening while watching the Rugby World Cup; a Muscadet teamed with a platter of seafood that evening in La Rochelle… and even though our own culture gives us a benchmark for assessing quality, we are all free to like, or to dislike, any particular wine.”

So whilst I am perhaps waxing lyrical,…let me present you with this fabulous quotation that might inspire you to reaquaint yourself with theis fabulous region!

“Taste a glass of Loire Valley wine and let your imagination soar – imagine the sunlight playing on the waters of the Loire, the mysterious caves carved into snowy white limestone, the ethereal châteaux, the vast gardens, the vine-covered hillsides, and so many places still filled with the memories of kings, queens and princes; of artists such as Rabelais, Ronsard, Balzac, Léonard de Vinci, Joachim du Bellay…”




Alliance Loire – De Chanceny – AOC Crémant de Loire NV produced by Alliance Loire

This seemed a classic but modern Loire Chenin Blanc, “with aromas of apple, honey, lanolin and lemon coming through on the palate. It had a balance of fresh lively acidity with a creamy texture and lingering green apple, hint of citrus  and toasty flavours.”Medium bodied, lemony and spicy with a lingering finish.



Pierre Luneau-Papin AOC Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Melon de Bourgogne 2014 

*”100% Melon de Bourgogne from 35 year old vines. This wine oozes of minerality such as wet rocks and salinity. The fruit is quite subdued as is often the case with these wines, and it’s through the lees work and salinity that it really shows its character.”

*Tasting notes of Jesper Kjaersgaard Princes Wine Store Melbourne

Michel Redde AOC Pouilly Fumé « Moynerie » Sauvignon Blanc 2015 

 “This wine is made from 100% Sauvignon vines aged around 25 years old grown on Calcaires and Kimméridgiennes Terroir with the fruit manually harvested.The wine expresses itself with aromatic purity and intense minerality and the winemaker recommends it be served with fish.”

Domaine Baumard AOC Savonnières « Clos de Saint Yves » Chenin Blanc 2013

Rather then inflict my own tasting notes on you I found this fantastic bit of handiwork by some real professionals who have painstakingly analyzed the wine!

Clos de Saint Yves and wow, what a wine.  If you don’t know Domaine des Baumards, the winery is located near Rochefort in the Savennieres AOC, a sub-appellation of the Anjou AOC.  Working with Chenin Blanc as well as small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon they produce some of France’s greatest dessert wines as well as age-worthy dry whites.  Robert Parker has a high regard for Jean Baumard and his son Florent and featured them in his book The World’s Greatest Wine Estates.  

“For decades Jean Baumard’s wines have been benchmarks for Savennières, Côteaux du Layon, and Quarts de Chaume – his wines have every component in place, so technically perfect and so polished they seem to be the product of a scientist. Florent, who is taking over from his recently retired father, has added some soul. There is no doubt in my mind that Florent Baumard is one of the shining lights in France’s winemaking present and future.”

The Clos de Saint-Yves is a dry Savennieres, once a single-vineyard selection, now it represents the “entry point” Savennieres, and what a way to introduce the winery.

To the eye the wine is clear, brilliant and lightly straw coloured.  On the nose I get yellow pear, lavendar soap, kiwi and citrus. In the mouth this wine shows a full body, medium+ acidity, it’s very harmonious, almost slippery and oily (typical of the varietal), and quite reduced.  This wine needs decanting or time to really show its stuff.  .  Overall I find this wine complex, well balanced and well made.  I give it 91 points.

Domaine Pichot* AOC Vouvray « Coteau de la Biche » Chenin Blanc 2015 

  “An expressive Loire Valley Varietal made in Vouvray from Chenin Blanc lovely aromas of pear, spice and hint of honey and chalkiness that is so typical of great Vouvray. Fine, brilliantly focused flavours with exceptional texture and length with 7 gms residual sugarwith a palate of elegant texture and purity.”

 *The Pichot family is one of the oldest in Vouvray with origins as viticulturists and restaurateurs going back to 1739. Their vineyard holdings are located mostly at the top of the village in the prime “premiere coteau” sites. Harvesting is mostly done by hand and yields are kept low and all vineyards are now farmed organically with grasses grown between the rows to reduce the uptake of moisture and vigour to the vines.


Domaine des Roches Neuves AOC Saumur-Champigny « Terres Chaudes » Cabernet Franc 2015 

AOC Chinon Les Picasses Cabernet Franc 2011

“This wine is made from 100% Cabernet Franc. Biodynamic. Previously a blend of two terroirs, Terres Chaudes now hails exclusively from of the Poyeux terroir, in Chiantres, near the heart of the appellation.

“This is a terroir made famous by the Clos Rougeard eponymous bottling. The vines for this cuvée average about 40 years of age, and come from the coteaux, or slope, where there is very shallow soil before the vine’s roots hit the limestone bedrock. All the fruit here is destemmed and fermented in cement, with some foot stomping, followed by maturation in 60-hecto, neutral, tronconic wooden vats (fût tronconique). A fascinating contrast to the Clos Rougeard bottling.”



*Gaston Huet AOC Vouvray « Clos Du Bourg » Moelleux Première Trie Chenin Blanc 2015 

The 2015 Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Moelleux displays open and elegant ripe fruit (pineapples, oranges) with some dusty flavors of crushed rocks. Powerful but full of finesse and elegance, this is a piquant and stimulating sweet wine with grip and tension. However, I find it rather less complex than the Sec and the Demi-Sec.” 92+ points, Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate #227

The balance here is extraordinary. It’s carrying 51g/l residual sugar but remains so fresh and light on the tongue. Amongst the kaleidoscope of flavours, there’s the freshness of green apple skin, while on the palate, papaya and yellow plum lend salivating sweet/sour character.

Below ,..for the enthusiastic Sommelier or wine aficionado in need of more comprehensive informationas this is such a  noteworthy wine  worthy of our attention I researched and,…

*We reproduce some of the notes from the Australian Importer, “Bibendum” ,below!

*”The wines of Domaine Huet are bottled and labelled according to their three vineyard sites which are described below. Each vineyard expresses unique characteristics and each can be made in 3 styles, subject to vintage conditions: Sec (bone dry), Demi-Sec (off dry, typically 10-20 g/lt residual) and Moelleux (slightly sweeter at approximately 30 g/lt). If the vintage allows, each vineyard may also produce a Moelleux 1er Trie (the first picking of botrytised berries) that produces a wine with residual sugar of about 60-100 g/lt and yet also with very high acidity. Like all great “sweet” wines of the world, the wines from demi sec onwards taste deceptively dry because of the terrific sugar/acid balance.
These are excellent food wines and should not be thought of as “dessert wines” to be served exclusively at the end of the meal. Rather they are far better served throughout the meal or with delicate cheeses.

There are also some exceptional sparkling, pétillant, wines produced here with the dosage often coming from older demi-sec wines. These wines have a lighter bubble than traditional sparkling wines and are a wonderful alternative to Champagne. All the grapes for the wines of Domaine Huet are hand harvested with multiple passes or tries through the vineyard. This enables the selection of only the best bunches of clean fruit, for dry and sparkling wines, and shrivelled and botrytised grapes for the sweet wines. No malolactic fermentation and no new oak are used in the maturation process, with the aim being to retain the freshness and purity of the grapes for all the wines styles.

All of the wines of Domaine Huet are remarkable. They are fantastically aromatic and dance across the palate with a zest and an intensity that seems other worldly. They are constantly evolving both in the glass and in the bottle and are seemingly immortal. Huet wines from the 40s and 50s are still drinking wonderfully!

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Aksel Ritenis

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