Loire Valley Trip Report (May 2024)

These trip reports have been very helpful to read from others, so I wanted to add some from a recent week-long trip based out of Tours. I also posted in a thread elsewhere on this board describing some tips on contacting domaines to set up visits. I would note that we only had a car on one day, so much of this describes places that are accessible by public transport, which is my personal preference for tasting as it avoids many complications.

We did a quick daytrip to Saumur first. There aren’t many wineries that are walkable from the town center, but we did find Caves Louis de Grenelle for a quick cave tour and tasting. In addition to their own sparkling wines (which were rather easy-drinking and light), they also sold and allowed us to taste some from other producers; we picked up a nice 2019 Domaine Des Giraudieres Bonnezeaux that was delicious and would likely age quite well for some time.

Second stop was Chinon (an easy train from Tours), where we visited Couly-Dutheil. It was slightly confusing since there are a couple of similarly-named locations on Google Maps; we went to the location at 12 Ave. Diderot that seemed to have their main offices and cave. We had a nice tour and tasting from Justine who was very knowledgeable about all the wines and the region. I had found some Couly Dutheil wines before at Bay Area Costcos, so I knew what to expect for the reds (good and high ABV due to picking them later), but the whites were a pleasant surprise. They had an interesting Blanc de Cab Franc and Les Couteaux was a good, full-bodied Chenin. We also bought a bottle of their sweet wine, L’Interdit, and found it pleasant, if a bit less acidic than other similar-style wines, though it did seem to get better after being open a few days (2021 vintage, so rather young).

The next day we took a train to Angers, then a bus (regional 407) out of Angers to Val-du-Layon (Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay) where we found surprisingly good Kenyan coffee and a well-priced bottle of a 2017 Quarts de Chaume at a local shop. After that positive start, we walked to Domaine Belargus, where we were welcomed by Franck. Franck was an excellent host who was passionate about the Domaine and the wines. His history and explanations were aided by the gorgeous map of the Belargus vineyards that sets the gold standard for what a winery can offer to visually display its terroirs. I was also intrigued by some of the tests they were doing with different sized and shaped tanks; that kind of experimentation was interesting and might be one of the advantages of being a fairly new Domaine.

The wines themselves that we tasted (from the barrels) were excellent. The Savennières was my favorite of the dry wines, with a bracing acidity and very long finish. I actually liked the entry-level Anjou Noir a good bit as well. It was interesting to try some of the complex single-vineyard dry wines from the Quarts du Chaume (thanks to AOC issues with producing dry wines from those vineyards, I believe those have the “Anjou” appellation), though to me those might have needed a bit more age to come together.

The sweet wines were stunning. One (I believe Rouères) was Tokaji-like with a molten blast of honey and intense weight in the mouth. The Quarts was remarkable: it changed flavors and direction multiple times in one sip and ended with a beautifully balanced finish that was remarkable for such a young wine.

We then headed back into town for Domaine Ogereau. After a bit of a search for the tasting room (it’s to the right on the side as you walk up the driveway), we tasted with Mme. Ogereau in an all-French tasting. While the entry-level wines here were a bit underwhelming after Belargus, things perked up once we hit the Bonne Blanches, Savennières, and (dry) Quarts du Chaume. All excellent wines at very good prices. They were low on sweet wines to taste, but did have a nice selection of older vintage bottles for purchase. We picked up a 2008 Savennières that drank beautifully with meats and cheeses from Les Halles de Tours later that night.

The next day was Montlouis sur Loire via a rental car (to access the various Chateaus in the area later). A quick roadside visit to the Cave des Producteurs de Montlouis-Sur-Loire (Maison Laudacius), was a nice start to the day and we bought a bottle of Sol In Vinum, their 2018 Liquoreux that was quite good when we opened it later and definitely age-worthy. We then headed into Montlouis proper to taste at Domaine Moyer.

I have not seen Moyer discussed much here, but it’s a very historic estate with an old hunting lodge that dates back several centuries. We had a fantastic tasting with Marie-Claire. They had soil samples from all their vineyards on display and maps of every single clos in the Montlouis appellation, which was great for learning. Their sparkling wines are very good, with the Extra Brut a personal favorite and the other wines solid as well. The jewel is the Clos de La Garenne, a moelleux that embodies all the good things in a moelleux while being restrained and perfectly balanced between acidity and sugar. Having had the 2008 vintage of this wine (thanks to @Igor_Ivanov for stocking it!), we picked up several bottles of the 2022.

The final day, we took the bus from Tours to Vouvray (bus 54, runs right from downtown to Vouvray). We got off at La Vallée Coquette and proceed to march up the Valley, tasting as we went. We had a quick tasting at Domaine Aubert to start that featured a very nicely aged-4-years-sparkler and picked up a bottle of their 2018 Grande Reserve moelleux that was quite tasty when opened and has a long life ahead of it if you hold. We then visited the Cave des Producteurs, a local co-op. The Cave was a pleasant surprise–yes, it’s probably the most “commercial” of the places we visited, but the staff member helping us was superbly knowledgable and we got to try their whole lineup for free. The most interesting part to me was the difference between their 2017 and 2018 Liquoreux wines; we liked the 2017 more, which I believe had less boytritis and was more of a standard late harvest.

Finally, we advanced up the valley to Domaine de La Fontenerie. The tasting room here is iconic–a rather ancient-looking cave carved from the hillside with the only light coming in through a window in the front. This was an excellent tasting. Even the younger, drier wines were complex and outstanding. We had several dry wines, a 2015 demi-sec, a 2003 moelleux, and a few others. All had fascinating flavors and from our (all-French) discussions with Mme. Dhoye-Déruet, the wines are designed to age. We left with several bottles and took a look at the vineyards above before a delicious lunch (reservations only by phone, absolutely worth booking in advance) at Les Gueules Noires in their troglodytic dining room.

Though we didn’t get to go everywhere we were hoping (e.g. we didn’t have time for Huet in the end), it was a great trip and cemented the Loire as an equal favorite of Alsace in my book, especially for value, ability to purchase older vintages, and sweet wines. That said, I was surprised at the quality of the sparkling wines as well and would not sleep on those in the future either.


Thank you for the shutout Chris.

Dom Moyer, Clos de la Garenne Moelleux Montlouis-sur-Loire 2008

Thank you for the trip notes!! They will be useful as I plan my trip to the Loire next summer

Nice. Thanks for the notes.
I’ve visited the region on 2 different occasions, last was 10 months ago, and had always been amazed at the breadth of cool wines that are not, or rarely, available at least in my market.

Great report. I am drinking a glass of the 2020 Anjou Blanc, Vent de Spilite as I write this. Fantastic stuff.

Did you get a sense of the 2022 or 2023 vintages?

They were out of Vent de Spilite when we tasted. Alas! Really wanted to try that.

The lineup was 2022s. Here’s a pic of some of what we had:

I liked all of those pictured, picked up a bottle of La Martinière Sec but would have picked up a Bonnes Blanches if we had more room. They also had a number of back vintage bottles of Clos le Grand Beaupreau and their Coteaux du Layon.

One more place to add: right outside the Chateau de Chambord entrance there’s a tasting room for the local appellations of Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny that has dozens of wines from around the area to taste. It was interesting to try those, especially the Romorantin (not my favorite varietal, but definitely unique), even if just as a contrast to the Chenin elsewhere throughout the Loire Valley.