Home Services Projects Blog Team

At the foothills of wine

If you have never lived it yourself, you have to go. This is one of the phrases that you hear time and again among the restless people in the world of wine. They have recommended this experience many times, and today, almost out of obligation, we do it with you.
At the foothills of wine

Traveling to the Loire in search of all the wine fairs that are condensed into a week is an experience almost at the level of a wine master's degree. It might seem like a vaudeville situation, but according to the order and concert of the French Republic, fairs, producers, wines, and the public were evenly distributed.

The pronoun "we" refers to the so-called Shock Team: Òscar, Borja, Raimon and Patrícia (the last two on the keyboard), a group of four friends, crazy about wine and who are sometimes considered good professionals in the sector.

Here is what you need to do: organize a maximum of 5 people to catch a plane to Nantes and, once at your destination, rent a car to Angers, the first stop on the trip. The second town of the whole experience will be Saumur, in the next chapters, we will get to it.

And so the journal begins:  Friday, February 3, 2023, it is important to remember the date, since it was the saint's day of one of the crew members. We'll let you find out who. We withheld it because it was the trending topic of the day and there was a bottle at stake.

We arrived at Savennières at 10:00 a.m., a ghost town that day but one of the most important wine-producing areas of the Loire. In fact, it is home to the producer Nicolás Joly (Coulée de Serrant), a pioneer of biodynamics in the world of wine. This town hosts the first fair we went to: Les Pénitents.

In previous editions, the fair was held in a beautiful fairytale castle, from which we even remember the creaking of the floor when stepping on it. Not without regret, we adapted to the new setting, a pavilion near the border of the town that, for practical purposes, has parking, and, for environmental purposes, a large garden, and a 400 year old tree. 

Finally, we are already inside. At each fair, we created a list of the wineries we wanted to taste. It's impossible to get to them all, so to avoid frustration or regret, we set priorities.

Our first approach without a doubt: a chardonnay from Chablis. We had to lift our spirits and awaken our palates. Domaine Pattes Loup with Thomas Pico at the helm, was one of the winning wineries of the morning. We tasted the 3 wines that he brought to the fair: Chablis Village 2019, Chablis 1er Cru Côte Jouan 2019, Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux 2019. Terroir Chablis wines that were are extremely expressive and pleasant.

From Thomas Picó we went to Domaine Labet del Jura. The other master of the chardonnay that was present in the room. A winery in the village of Rotalier, in the southern Jura, near Borgonya. They put forth a complete tasting of all of their 2020 parcel chardonnays, a warm and alcoholic vintage, but, nevertheless, with great acidity and aging potential. We didn't want to move on to the next winery without remembering its Fleur de Savagnin, a variety for which we have a special weakness.

At this point in the morning, we had to be loyal to the hosting region, and it was time to taste a Chenin. The exhibitor was Michel Autran, considered by many to be a possible king of Chenin. The wines set the bar very high. Vibrant, crystalline, with body and presence. They filled our mouths with flavors and textures. The two references we tasted were Ciel Rouge and Les enfers tranquilles.

The room was quickly filling up with more and more wine lovers, and the queues started to determine the course to follow. We found a place at the table at Domaine Derain from Burgundy, founded by Dominique Derain, and today run by Julien Altaber, his skillful student. We take this opportunity to confess that we thank the producers who are concise in references. This was not the case. However, it is worth mentioning that Dominique Derain was a pioneer of biodynamics in Burgundy and, today, neither he nor his wines take that credit. Among the wines from Altaber (Sextant) and Domaine Derain wines, we prefer the latter for their presence and precision, especially the Saint Aubin 1er Cru Les Murgers des Dents de Chien, a great aging white worthy of Burgundy prestige. 

At this point of the fair and before stopping for lunch, our tasting buds asked us for bubbles to refresh and catch the flight again, this is a lesson to start the rest of the fairs. The only possible option was Jacques Lassaigne himself, a well known reference in the world on sparkling wine and for us, a producer of wines that creates desire and illusion. The area where his vineyard is located, Montgueux, is known for its strong Burgundian character, and its champagnes are especially vinous. As always, he illuminated us with his famous Colline Inspirée, one of the benchmark parcel champagnes, and surprised us with the novelty Haut Revers du Chat Blanc de Blancs, a label we were unaware of, but which brought out a new artistic facet in a wine-producing area where the image is usually limited to the same typographic style.

Less is more. The gastronomic offer was brief, but typical and efficient: rillettes, cheeses, local sausages, and fries. In short, everything you could wish for to continue tasting.

On the way back, we met with Ramaz Nikoladze from the Imereti region of Georgia. He is a man of few words, but his wines speak for him and for his terroir, which produces the finest and most precise wines in the country. He was presented with wines from the main varieties of the area: Tsiska 2021, Tsolikouri 2021 without maceration, and Tsolikouri 2021 with a five-month maceration. The latter, the favorite of the four for its greater expression of the character of Georgian wines, maintaining the purity and quality of the wines of the fair. To give a greater context, Imereti, due to its terroir, climate, and characteristics of its varieties, is comparable to the Loire itself, at least as far as Chenin is concerned. It is worth adding that Ramaz was just as we knew him years ago at his house: with a short white beard, tight-fitting T-shirt and military pants.

The final bang was provided by Francesca Padovani. An Italian of Milanese origin, she settled in Montalcino (Tuscany), where, together with her sister, Margherita, and under the name of Fonterenza,  produces her wines. While this area is one of the most recognized in Italy, this winery is betting on natural wines. Le Ragazze, vermentino, trebbiano and malvasia, a very Mediterranean wine, made in the image of its producers. Two sisters with a strong personality and the will to work for what they want with a free spirit. Our favorite wine was Rosso Di Montalcino 2019, 100% Sangiovese, for its freshness, controlled tannins, and lightness on the palate. Unlike the Brunello di Montalcino 2016, which offered us great aromas of orchards (tomato), a box of cigars, concentration on the palate, and an important load of tannins. A classic in its early age that mirrors a wine of old age.

To close the day, we could not leave without saying hello to two unique personalities from the world of wine, such as Laureano Serres and John Wurdeman. One, in front of the other, created the more dantesque face of the fair. Wilder wines and with slight deviations.

The final pour was from Yoyo, a winery in Roussillon-Banyuls-sur-Mer that won the hearts of many professionals a few years ago, and which continues to maintain its quality vintage after vintage. It was time to say goodbye with Restaké, a fun blend of white and gray Garnacha and white and gray Cariñena that stands out from the rest for its rusticity and dryness.

If the fair is translated into our language as The Regretful, we come out graceful, without remorse, and with our spittoons full of the wines we tasted. Of course, with our journal full of the many lessons learned from the heritage that each of the producers represented.

For now, we prepare soberly for the next game: Salon St. Jean, with a hot cup of tea in the center of Angers.

Article written by: Patrícia de Golferichs i Raimon Salas.
Photography: Patrícia de Golferichs.