Loire - Saumur

Discovery Course: Loire Sparkling Wine

Variety is a big part of the Loire story – and the members who attended our sessions in London and Edinburgh discovered big differences in the key sparkling wine styles.

Loire sparkling wines come in a wide variety of styles – as our tasters discovered. Pic: Creative Room

With nearly 500km from its coastal vineyards to those furthest inland, it’s no wonder that the Loire is one of the most varied wine growing regions in France. There are significant amounts of wine in pretty much every style, from light, early-drinking whites like Muscadet through its famous Sauvignon Blancs to richer, long-lived Chenin Blancs and Chardonnays.

And that’s just the still whites. Add in rosé (a quarter of all production), probably the world’s benchmark expression of Cabernet Franc and sweet and sparkling wines, and it’s clear that there’s an awful lot to get to know.

Most sommeliers are pretty familiar with Loire Sauvignon in general, as well as Muscadet. But how about some of the less well-known expressions? Probably not so much.

So in these two masterclasses, in association with the folk at InterLoire, we decided to take our members on a journey through the region’s sparkling wines and Cabernet Francs.

Our tasters in Edinburgh were fortified at lunchtime with a plateful of Scottish venison

The reds and sparkling wines are somewhat less ubiquitous than the still whites, though they’re not exactly niched. Between them, red and sparkling wines are over 1/3 of the region’s production.

Although they are slightly unusual, there’s still really good availability, which means these styles can be a great way to add some real layers of interest to your list.

You name it, the Loire can make it…
From white, rosé and red…
to sparkling, bone dry and sweet…

Loire Valley Wines

Our sparkling masterclass started with a quick introductory flight to prepare palates and show off some of the region’s still, non-red styles, from Muscadet to sweet Vouvray via a Rosé d’Anjou.

‘Many Loire regions can go in any direction, to make still wine, sparkling wine or sweet,’ explained host, Mathieu Longuere MS. ‘What they make on any given year usually depends on the vintage.

A journey along the Loire courtesy of white wine

‘If Chenin Blanc is not ripe enough one year to make still wine, they can make sparkling,’ he explained. ‘They are lucky with the varieties they have.’

A still Chenin Blanc, the Chateau de Villeneuve Saumur Blanc, was popular with Isobel Salomon who found it a ‘particularly elegant expression, and very balanced.’ Her suggested pairing was cod or Scottish halibut with a buttery emulsion.

Saumur Fines Bulles

As an ‘instant sell’ to your customers, it’s hard to beat the chalk cellars of Saumur – the kilometres of passageways and caverns carved out under the cream-coloured town are a UNESCO world heritage site.

Saumur’s limestone buildings (and cellars) are a sign of good terroir for sparkling wine. Pic Martin Falbisoner, Wikimedia Commons

That same thick ridge of limestone works well with white varieties, in particular. Most of the Saumur Fines Bulles are all or mostly Chenin Blanc, with Chardonnay and, to a lesser extent, Cabernet Franc commonly used as well. ‘Fines Bulles’ (fine bubbles) is used for sparkling wines from appellations that also make still wine (such as Saumur, Touraine and Vouvray).

Given that they all came from one area, just south of the town, the Saumur Fines Bulles wines showed a surprising variety of styles, from clean, classic ‘aperitif sparklers’ to more ‘vinous’ “Méthode Ancestrale” versions with lower fizz.

All the wines in Saumur are méthode traditionelle, with a second fermentation in the bottle.

‘But in “Méthode Ancestrale” wines they use a semi-dry base wine to start the second fermentation,’ explained Mathieu Longuere MS. ‘The more time the wine spends on lees, the more integrated the bubbles.’

Some of these differences are due to winemaking decisions, others are down to the various slopes, angles and microclimates, that give wines of very different ripenesses even within the same appellation.

‘You could see from the flight of five Saumur Fines Bulles wines that we had that there’s a huge variety of styles within the appellation,’ said Mathieu. ‘There’s a lot of freedom – space for everybody.’

While Condita’s Konstantinos Katridis picked the decidedly gastronomic Domaine du Vieux Pressoir as his favourite wine, he felt that, in general, these would be great as pre-dinner serves.

‘The Chateau de Montgueret Tête de Cuvée was my favourite sparkler. Mature and full-bodied with a creamy texture, intense and small bubbles, full-bodied with a long after-taste.’

Natasha Senina, Chewton Glen

Crémant de Loire

The big swings in style seen in the Fines Bulles appellations of Saumur and (later) Vouvray, is less of a factor for Crémant de Loire. Grapes can be taken from across the region so it’s a lot more consistent. Here, the biggest flavour influencer is the varieties used.

Chenin (naturally high in acidity) is usually the preferred base variety, but Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc can figure prominently, too.

The wines must have at least 12 months bottle ageing, though many producers give them more than this. Yeasty autolytic characters start to appear after 18 months.

The InterContinental’s Fernando Cubas was a fan of the Langlois Crémant de Loire brut for its freshness and acidity, and felt it would be a good (and well-priced) by-the-glass addition.

Certainly, our tasters felt that reliability and value were a big selling point of this flight.

‘It’s not a Marmite wine, love it or hate it,’ mused Mathieu. ‘It’s a style that people will never turn down. And though there are times when you want to surprise a customer there are also times when you don’t.’

The Edinburgh venue, Good Bros wine bar, had a festive air to it for our day’s tasting.

Vouvray Fines Bulles

From rocky hillsides, and with a minimum of 12 months ageing, Vouvray Fines Bulles must be 100% Chenin and, with its taut acidity, has the potential for good mid- to long-term ageing.

Although these wines were all from one single appellation, it’s perhaps no surprise that there were big variations in the wines here. Vouvray runs more or less along the Loire river from just east of Saumur through a further eight municipalities.

The Vouvrays were very popular with our tasters in London and Edinburgh

Not only were winemakers making wines from quite different microclimates, but it was obvious, too, that they were also making the wines in quite different ways. Perhaps because of this, it was the star sparkling flight for several of our attendees.

‘The Vouvray Fines Bulles wines surprised and impressed me in terms of delivering the quality that I look for when encouraging guests to step out of their bubbly comfort zone and trying something new,’ said Douneside House’s James Payne MS. ‘Either by the bottle to accompany food or as part of a tasting menu wine flight.’

Mathieu agreed. ‘They all have a varietal character – you really know you’re in Chenin Blanc territory,’ he said. ‘But within that, they will all be different.’

Several attendees picked out the Domaine Vigneau Chevreau nv as their favourite sparkling overall.

‘It had brilliant flinty notes alongside that hazelnut, quince jam sweetness,’ said Eden Locke’s Isobel Salomon. ‘It’s a great champagne alternative.’

Damien Trinckquel from Number One at the Balmoral also loved its medium body.

‘Elegant mousse and very precise with chalky mineral and a saline finish. It will keep everyone happy around a table.’

Damien Trinckquel, Number One at The Balmoral
The Loire at sunset. Pic: Fotolia Matlanimal

Discovery Course: Loire EDINBURGH

17 November, 2021 @ 10:00 am 3:30 pm GMT

The Sommelier Collective, in conjunction with InterLoire and Sopexa, is delighted to announce its first LIVE, educational course in November 2021.

This exclusive tasting opportunity gives our members the chance to learn about the wines of the Loire Valley in-depth with Matthieu Longuère MS who will be joined on live video link by winemakers from the region.

You might think you know about the Loire but this tasting educational course will give you the inside track on what is happening in the region today, the wines you don’t know, the intricacies and subtleties of the different sub-zone…in fact, all you need to know about aspects of the Loire that you need to discover so that your list offers the very best wines from one of France’s renowned wine producing areas.

Hosted by a Master Sommelier and Master of Wine the sessions will be made even more engaging by top winemakers joining live from the region, so you can find out direct from source what really happening in the Loire today. Never before have we have such great input, streamed-live, into a tasting so that you can enrich your knowledge about the new and exciting aspects of the Loire.

Session one

Venue: Good Brothers Wine Bar, 4-6 Dean St, Stockbridge, Edinburgh EH4 1LW
Time: 10am – 12.30pm

During the first session you will discover all there is to know about Loire Valley. Tasting some of its benchmark wines Matthieu Longuère MS will guide you through the must-stock Loire wines. He will focus on the region’s Sparkling Wines, from Crémant-de-Loire to Vouvray and Saumur Brut, this seminar will open up a whole new world to you.

Session two

Venue: Good Brothers Wine Bar4-6 Dean St, Stockbridge, Edinburgh EH4 1LW
Time: 1.30pm – 3.30pm

In the second session, you will take a deep-dive into the principle red grape variety of the region – Cabernet Franc. You will discover its history and expression in the Loire Valley through major appellations such as Chinon, Anjou and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil. Looking at the soils, the climates and why this is a must list.

Matthieu Longuère MS

Taking place on the 17th of November in central Edinburgh you will find out about what producers are working on, the latest winemaking trends emerging from the region and how Loire wines fit on a wine list today – what the offer and how to sell them.

This Edinburgh session will be a day long, intensive workshop comprising all the elements of the London sessions, giving our members north of the border the chance to enjoy Loire wines under the expert guidance of Matthieu Longuère MS.

Sign up now to make sure you secure a place to find out about the Loire and meet your fellow Sommelier Collective members in person!

Event registration EDINBURGH

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In association with Loire Valley Wines

Gosset Matchmakers Shortlist 2021

Food and wine matching is the heart of the sommelier’s job; a combination of passion and flair, but also knowledge and experience. This is why the Gosset Matchmakers competition has established itself so quickly in the heart of the profession – because it taps straight into what makes the job both interesting and challenging.

To remind you how it works: a chef/sommelier team select an expression from the Gosset range of champagnes, and work together to create a dish that they think matches it perfectly.

It’s a chance for young chefs and sommeliers – entrants must have less than five years’ experience – to show what they can do. To ally teamwork and vision with creativity and delivering under pressure.

Sifting through the entries was a particular treat this year, since we’d asked the candidates to create short Instagram videos showing what they had done and why. We felt as though we’d got to know the entrants even before we’d tasted their amazing creations!

There was so much skill and talent on show that creating a shortlist was a tough task indeed.

But here are the entrants to make our first ‘cut’, with the finalists due to be announced next week.

Having seen so many wonderful looking food-pairings on screen, we can’t wait to taste them in real life – and we hope you enjoy watching their videos as much as we did!


Gosset Matchmakers Shortlist 2021

(entrants listed in alphabetical order)

67 Pall Mall, London

Lucy Meza-Ortega and Sammy Benouhoud

Chosen Wine: Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs Brut

The team at 67 Pall Mall elected to match the Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs with a dessert containing many of the champagne’s key flavours of citrus and stone-fruit.

‘When we first tasted this champagne we were delighted by its elegance and refinement,’ said sommelier Lucy. ‘We wanted to mirror this through a simple yet effective dish, where balance is key.’

At the base of the dish was a champagne-infused jelly with lime zest and a touch of lavender flower, on top of that a crème patissiere infused with fresh apricot, apricot tartare, robed with honey, apricot and smoked thyme coulis. Finally there was a sprinkling of crumble, also infused with lime zest and smoked thyme.

‘We put together all this to bring out the beautiful flavours of the champagne without hiding them,’ explained Lucy. ‘They really come together to create something that elevates both the dish and the champagne without hiding each other’s components.’

Lucy Meza-Ortega and Sammy Benouhoud from 67 Pall Mall, London

City Social, London

Ljudmila Bobik and Adam Cowie

Chosen Wine: Gosset Grande Reserve Brut

The starting point for this team’s pairing was a simple one: ‘It was inspired by the idea of ‘it goes where it grows’,’ said sommelier Ljudmila. Champagne, as she pointed out, is famous for its rabbit dishes, so that’s what they majored on.

In this case, the rabbit was wrapped in parma ham with new Jersey potatoes, morels, broad beans and peas, finished with a truffle black mushroom puree with pea shoots. An accompanying sauce was made from rabbit bone stock.

‘The rabbit is cooked sous vide so it’s very delicate, and the champagne pairs with it very nicely and brings some more savouriness,’ explained Ljudmila. ‘Also it cuts the richness and toastiness of the parma ham while cleaning the palate. The elegance, freshness and complexity of the champagne is a perfect match.’

Ljudmila Bobik and Adam Cowie, City Social, London

The Creameries, Manchester

Emily-Rose Lucas and Vic Watkins

Chosen wine: Gosset Grande Reserve Brut

Both Emily-Rose and her chef, Vic, were of one mind with their choice of matching the Gosset Grande Reserve with a dessert.

‘The sweetness that comes through on it, followed by that very beautiful nutty profile… We found it incredibly appealing to work with,’ said Emily-Rose.

‘As soon as we tried it, we thought it would pair really well with a quite salty or savoury dessert,’ added Vic.

The result was a take on a Gateau Breton: a brown butter biscuit base, on top of which are prunes gently cooked in manzanilla sherry, ice cream made out of a ‘tangy and creamy’ Irish sheep’s cheese with malt loaf biscotti and roasted almonds to give it some rich malty flavour.

Emily-Rose Lucas and Vic Watkins, The Creameries

Fischer’s Baslow Hall, Chesterfield

Matthew Davison and Adam Eyre

Chosen wine: Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs Brut

The entry from the Peak District designed an ambitious scallop dish that they were hoping would ‘encapsulate the five tastes that you would experience on your palate.’

Looking towards the autumn season, they started with a hand dived-Orkney scallop with nori salt, baked celeriac, fermented ceps from ‘last season’s forage’, XO sauce, umeboshi furikake with more sliced nori on top and a reduced celeriac stock.

‘We are looking more towards autumn with this dish,’ explained sommelier Matthew. ‘But we feel that the fact that Gosset don’t do any malolactic fermentation means the true expression of champagne will shine through and allow it to cut through the natural sweetness of the scallop. It offers toasted and nutty subtleties to complement our dish and create balance.’

Matthew Davison and Adam Eyre, Fischer’s Baslow HAll

The Game Bird at The Stafford, London

Davide Santeramo and Marco d’Andrea

Chosen wine: Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs Brut

Chef Marco created a vibrant green asparagus risotto with a carpaccio of Sicilian red prawns on top of it with crispy onion garnish and artfully positioned blobs of yuzu cream that captured the very essence of early summer.

And it was this joyous, breezy element that formed the basis for the wine matching.

‘I chose the Gosset Blanc de Blancs to go with this because of the elegance and finesse of the wine,’ said sommelier Davide. ‘It should match perfectly with the flavours in the dish. The risotto is made in a light, summery style so the acidity of the champagne will cut through the creaminess and fattiness without being overwhelmed.

‘I also think the citrus notes of the champagne will work well with the red prawn carpaccio placed on top.’

Sketch: Lecture Room & Library, London

Emeline Gigaud and Francesco Di Flumeri

Chosen wine: Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs Brut

Emeline and Francesco created a video that was something of a work of art, featuring the grand arrival of the bottle and ingredients into the venue, and a beautifully-shot preparation and serving of not one, but two dishes – a starter and a dessert – based on the same key ingredients.

‘We started with the concept that champagne and blanc de blancs is always suggested at the beginning of the meal, but never enjoyed with the dessert,’ said Emeline. The idea was to tap into Gosset’s sustainability message by using the same ingredients throughout.

The main course was a ‘trompe l’oeil’ of Granny Smith apple poached in oyster and champagne dressing, scallops coral foam with Gosset blanc de blancs jelly, Granny Smith and samphire salad with apple vinaigrette and breadcrumbs. ‘The dish extends the continuity of the champagne,’ explained Emeline. ‘It’s all about the balance between the delicacy of the creaminess and the twist of the freshness.’

The dessert – Lemon Amalfi confit with vanilla – used the same components but ‘worked in a different way’. ‘This is a contrast pairing,’ said Emeline. ‘Proof that minerality and sweetness are not opposed, but can be complementary.’

Emeline Gigaud and Francesco Di Flumeri, Sketch, London

Where The Light Gets In, Stockport

Emily Klomp and Seri Nam

Chosen wine: Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs Brut

‘Champagne is usually associated with quite luxurious ingredients,’ said sommelier Emily. ‘So I think what we’ve decided to pair with it is very interesting.’

Certainly, the innovation is to be applauded. This does not look like a dish that would be served in too many restaurants in and around Reims.

‘The delicate flowers on the nose and saline finish took us straight to the beach,’ explained Emily. ‘For the oldest champagne house we created something luxurious but patient and considered at the same time.’

The main ingredient is onion and scallop entrail sauce. ‘We cooked the onion wrapped in kombu and steamed after leaving it to marinate overnight,’ said chef Seri.  

The sauce was emulsified with butter, soy and plum wine, before over the top they added a little hawthorn oil, pickled samphire (foraged locally), sea purslane powder, and a touch of maromi ‘a by-product of our bread soy-making process’.

‘The sea herbs bring forward the chalky minerality, and a little plum wine in the sauce heightens those mirabelle plum notes on the nose,’ explained Emily. ‘Seri’s idea to marinate the onions gently in kombu brings out a really delicious savoury, umami note in the wine.’

Emily Klomp and Seri Nam, Where the light gets in, Stockport