21 Mar 2011

Wine(s) of the week, from the upper Loire

I realise that have lapsed in feeding this column over the past few weeks, but here we go with a whole range of wines from a small estate/winery in a tiny and little-known region of France. It goes without saying that I find these wines not just unusual, but good and of excellent value for money. Their retail prices (if you can find them) should vary between about 5 and 10 euros (in France), depending on the wine. Their range is bewilderingly large, which is one criticism that I would dare to make to this enterprising and sympathetic young couple whom I met for the second time at this year's Loire Wine Fair back in February. And the labels, as you can see, are refreshingly creative.

The Côtes Roannaise appellation vineyards lie at the southern extremity of the very long (for France) River Loire: in fact close to its source. Bordering on the Massif Central highlands they are far from extensive (just over 200 hectares, or almost 500 acres) and the estates are accordingly of a small scale. The altitude is clearly a significant climate factor here, as the vines lie at between 400 and 500 metres above sea-level. Thus the vine plots are only planted on southerly facing slopes, to maximise sunshine. As in nearby Beaujolais, the soil type is basically granite. Again as in the much larger and more famous neighbour, the red grape used is Gamay. White vines, mostly planted on plots with a higher clay content, use the Chardonnay grape.

Although essentially a wine producer from its 10 hectares of vines (25 acres), the Domaine des Pothiers also raises Limousin cows on their less well-exposed land.

I really like these wines for their crisp definition, clear-as-a-bell fruit flavours, and delicious lightness. And the least expensive products are often just as good as the higher-priced ones. The former are usually made in tanks, whilst the latter tend to undergo some maturing in oak barrels. All are keenly priced though.

My favourites, from my recent tasting, are these: Chardonnay, Vertige, Référence, Cuvée no:6, and Domaine. But I do hope they stop producing new cuvées, and even start reducing the number!

Take a look at their well made web site (unfortunately only in French) to get more of an idea...

You will notice that they also have a gite on site for rental. Good place to base yourself for a trip to this region.