Is there a wine region in France with a more brilliant and committed ambassador than the Loire’s Pascaline Lepeltier? Her broad knowledge of the wines of the world has earned her a range of titles, including Master Sommelier, Meilleur Ouvrier de France and, for the second time, Meilleur Sommelier de France, which places her in the world competition set for February 2023. But it is, in fact, Lepeltier’s love—and her tireless and pro bono promotion—of the wines from her home region that she shares at Chambers, the new restaurant opening in NYC’s Tribeca. As Lepeltier prepared her list for Chambers, we caught up with her to ask about the “flood of newcomers” she has identified from the Loire—the producers that have caught her attention for sensitive farming and beautiful wines, all with fewer than five vintages released.
There’s a lot of continuing experimentation with new varieties, including hybrids, as well as local grapes, Lepeltier reports. “The prices are still incredibly affordable for the wines,” she says. “The styles are getting more complex, the terroir expression more refined, the aging potential rising—you can’t get bored.” —Joshua Greene
NEWCOMERS FROM PASCALINE
Les Vins Jardinière
“Muscadet is not a region where you have a lot of newcomers. This is a great expression of melon— vibrant, on the riper side, extraordinarily clean.”
Warren and Maïté Perrocheau are part of the wave of people influenced by Marc Angeli (Ferme de La Sansonnière) and Aymeric Hillaire (Domaine Mélaric), a chenin oenologist who has taken under his wing a lot of young people who have started with a few hectares. They are combining extreme precision with trying to make a laid-back wine. It’s a lighter expression of chenin.
Cédric Bourez has a beautiful estate in Pierre Bise. He’s crazy in the vineyard, makes chiseled chenin—very precise—chenin from schist. If you like Thibault Boudignon and Emanuel Ogereau—this is very muscular, serious, linear chenin without a lot of fat. If you are a Burgundy drinker and like the Roulot expression, you will love this wine.
Château de Plaisance
This is an historical bio estate in Chaume, just bought and taken over by Vanessa Cherruau. She has some Anjou chenin in Quarts de Chaume, [where] a dry chenin from an area which had been dedicated to sweet wine. It’s a more generous and opulent wine than Clos Galerne, revealing Chaume as very expressive.
1006 Vins de Loire
A super-talented négoce, Pauline Lair worked at Domaine de Closel before she started her own winery in the center of Angers. She partners with organic growers or growers who are transitioning, from Auverne to Muscadet, following their work all year long, her hand in hand relations with growers is a great dynamic. From gamay to sauvignon to chenin, melon, some cabernet, grolleau, folle blache, pinot gris…
For a long time, Puy-Notre-Dame was under the radar. The area has a powerful personality; there’s an extraordinary vibe there.
Pauline Mourrain and Laurent Troubat got their vineyard from Philippe Gourdon; he retired and split the estate among young talent he’s still helping. The wines are bursting with life: The chenins have a little bit more volume and giving-ness than in Saumur, but with some umami in the back. Their cabernet franc is dense and fresh—purity and power.
Domaine de la Renière
Thibault Masse inherited a large estate with diverse terroirs; he’s converting it to organics. Masse has an incredible touch with cabernet franc—the wines are so pretty—no austerity, just a fresh interpretation of the grape with power and depth, very floral. His amphora wines are top.
Haget came to Puy-Notre-Dame a little earlier than the others; he’s a little older—in a previous life, he was a geophysicist. His wines are cerebral and visceral, exploring the wild side, a little let go. He doesn’t mind aging the wine longer. There’s a maturity in his approach I like very much. Clos Messemé is a terrific site, one of the ripest areas for cabernet franc on limestone. His Clos Messemé has core concentration of mid-palate and you finish with that lift, a magnesium feeling, the floral and a nice element [that’s] vegetal, without any green in it.
La Folle Berthe
David Foubert is also somebody extra sensitive, working zero zero—nothing added, no sulfur. David was a journalist, helped by Aymeric Hillaire and Philippe Gourdon. His wines have more savory aspects from long fermentations and élévage, less fruit-forward. This area is interesting, the right balance between limestone and clay, and good drainage—if you have the right rootstock, it allows for a good assimilation of minerals. You can have ripe chenin with the ability to handle oxygen and to go through phases of reduction that are not problematic for the wine.
Domaine des Frères
Henri and Valentin Bruneau, two brothers, both engineers, released their first vintage two years ago, an expression of cabernet franc in absolute delicacy, not a glou-glou wine. They are trying to express the gentler side of the grape, and they do a crazy amount of work in the vineyard. It will be striking to taste their different terroirs.
Based to the east of Touraine, not far from Cour-Cheverny and Cheverny, Isabelle Pangault is a force of nature. A mom with a little girl, she started in 2018, converting her estate to organics, making a heartfelt, delicious expression of sauvignon. It’s distributed by Grain de Sail, a chocolate factory based in Brittany—they bring wines on their sailboat to America, then return with cocoa beans.
Domaine Les Poëte
A crazy story: Guillaume Sorbe got the best plot of Quincy—if you want to make money and be a famous winemaker, you don’t go there. He planted it from scratch. He has mutton; he has horses; he has a whole ecosystem; he has a vision and made it happen; he had the patience to wait and build it. This is a ripe expression of sauvignon, very focused. If you blind-taste his wine, you are among some of the best Sancerre.
Domaine du Bouchot
Antoine Gouffier bought an old estate and is redefining Pouilly. Before, you had Dagueneau, Pabiot, Alexandre Bain (a natural guy from Pouilly) and that was it. Antoine traveled the world, worked in the US, then in Asia, then came back to Pouilly and worked with Pascal Kerbiquet. He converted the domaine to biodynamics, working with amphora, doing sauvignon blanc that’s a little more open, more giving than Poëte, another expression of the Kimmeridgian of Pouilly.
This interview is published as part of our Regional Tasting Report on the Loire Valley.
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