Keith's Loire Travelogue, Part I

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Recently, our French Regional Buyer Keith Mabry was given the enviable task of traveling through France, meeting winemakers, tasting their wares, and eating cheese—all in order to bring back the very best for us in our Direct Import program. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it! In honor of this Saturday’s Loire Valley tasting in all three stores, Keith and I put together a travelogue of sorts to introduce you to some of our amazing producers.

First up on Keith’s itinerary was Muscadet with Domaine Bedouet, an estate that dates back to the 1890s, farmed organically for the last 10 years. Keith met with owner Michel and his daughter Fleurie. As with many of the vintners Keith met, they were recovering from the frost that had recently hit the region.

Michel showed Keith some of his amphorae, and they tasted from a new cru in Muscadet called Pallet, on the right bank of the river Sèvre. This will become a designated appellation with the 2017 vintage, and Keith got to taste the 2014.

He then visited Christophe Hallereau of Domaine Chaboissiere in Vallet, the highest point in Muscadet. Hallereau was originally an agriculturalist who inherited his parents’ vineyards and then converted to minimal-intervention winemaking. Here (below) he’s holding soil samples: mica (white stone) and schist (dark stone). All his wines are aged underground in glass-lined concrete tanks, where all the sur-lie aging is done, and which you can see in the photo below. His 2017s are coming into the store soon—he holds his wines to build an extra layer of complexity. By the fall of this year, we’ll have the 2018 on our shelves.

Next onto Saumur-Champigny to visit winemaker Jean Noël Millon of La Source du Ruault. This is a small family operation that has been heavily affected by frost this year. In fact, they’d been hit the night before Keith’s visit and were worried about another one coming. Despite this anxiety, they were incredibly hospitable with a delicious lunch at the house. Keith tasted through the new vintages and said they are spectacular. We’ll be featuring one of his reds as an upcoming French Club selection.

From Saumur, he drove to Savennieres to meet with Loïc Mahé, a new producer to us—a first generation winemaker who farms organically and practices low intervention in the cellar. His soils are sand and fractured schist. As you can see in the pictures below, the schist he works with is much different than the solid mass of schist in Muscadet. Keith mentioned how interesting it was to see the differences in the soil structures so up close. We’ll be bringing in Mahé’s Les Fougeraies white Savennières, so be on the lookout!

Stay tuned for Part II of Keith’s journey, where he’ll visit Anjou, Chinon, Bourgeuil, and Sancerre. So much deliciousness in one region!

- Kate Soto