The Loire, France's longest river, is home to many much celebrated and quintessential French grapes. From the once ubiquitous-in-the-UK Melon de Bourgogne by the Atlantic coast, to the home of Sauvignon Blanc in Sancerre, via some of the world's best Chenin and crunchy Cabernet Francs, Gamays and Pinots there is quality all around. Being at the northernly limit for winemaking, the wines are hallmarked by their crisp, fresh, crunchy fruit and high acidity, where reds may sometimes struggle to ripen and whites nearly overdeliver on acidity. The 69 appellations that make up the larger region are grouped into smaller sub-regions with predominantly single variety wines leading the way. As you move east the climate changes markedly from maritime to continental as the soils change from flint and limestone to the hard granite of central France.
On my Tour de France this January, upon leaving Bordeaux on my way to the Northern Rhone, I realised I had no winemakers to visit and break up the 500km trip. So, I found the number of Gilles Bonnefoy’s (Vins de la Madonne - a much respected winery in the Eastern Loire) and never having spoken, phone him up to ask him for any hot tips. It so happened that he had just started renting some of his old, organic Gamay vines to a young up-and-coming winemaker called Nadia Beaune who, he says, is making a very tasty wine. So come 7PM I arrive at the house/garage/winery and whilst Nadia wasn’t there, I tasted for hours with her incredibly kind boyfriend (and winemaker) Maxime. Together they have taken it upon themselves to treat the fruit of these exceptional, high quality old vines with the maximum respect and minimal intervention. They started in 2018 by making a single juicy, concentrated Gamay Pet Nat and with a number of other cuvées lined up, it won't be long before I have more.