Thursday 20 February 2014

Champagne's Loss is the Loire's Gain

The Loire sparkling wines are getting better and better and are responding to a consumer demand. At under €10 a bottle the sparkling appellations in the Loire Valley are good value for money. The sales of champagne are down 7% over the last two years. Their customers are more and more moving to Loire sparkling wines, and sales overall are up 2%. The reduction in sales of champagne is due to the downturn in the French and European economy, and the Loire wines have been profiting.

A range of sparkling Touraine wines.
Supermarket orders of sparkling Loire wines are up 2%, with consumer recognition strong, especially for crémant, sales of which are up 13%, followed by sparkling AOC Saumur (up 5%) and Touraine (up 2%). These AOCs have overtaken the previous Loire sparkling leader, Vouvray, which is down 4% and a little more expensive. Sales of Vouvray remain good though, despite reduced stocks being available due to poor harvests following poor weather the last couple of years. Producers like the Vouvray co-operative have been careful to manage stocks over the years to enable them to meet orders no matter what the last harvest was like, and 90% of their production is in sparkling wines.

Montlouis has also experienced a boost to sales, up 7% year on year recently, a slow but sure increase which the winemakers are extremely happy with. They can see that their wine is now more highly regarded than in the past. Montlouis is a tiny appellation, producing 6 times less than Vouvray (which is by no means a huge appellation).

Sparkling Vouvray wines maturing in a cave.
95% of sparkling Vouvray is sold within France.  74% of supermarkets stock crémants de Loire, 35% stock AOC Touraine, 83% have Vouvray and you can buy sparkling Saumur in 90% of French supermarkets.

Source: La Nouvelle République 15 January 2014
Preparing for a New Tourist Season: Célestine has been to Garage Cosson for her pre-season service and yesterday we had a lovely time trying out a new restaurant. We first went to the market at Loches and bought a few things (the soft fresh cheese known as faisselle, cave grown grey oyster mushrooms, apples from our local orchardist, a hard salty alpine cheese that I didn't get the name of properly, some basil gnocchi and a piece of salami). We spoke to a few producers, just generally catching up with what they were selling, and I gave 'my' apiarist a jar of Tasmanian Leatherwood honey to try. He was chuffed. 

Then we went to lunch at Le Clos aux Roses in Chédigny. What a gem of a restaurant! It's in a very tastefully renovated pair of buildings either side of a wisteria covered courtyard in the very centre of this most attractive village, famed for its gardens, especially the roses. The menu de jour is €13 and yesterday we had a slice of quiche with a little salad, followed by rabbit cooked with smoky spicy saucisson and fine green beans and for dessert the richest creamiest chocolatiest mousse. Wine is €2 a glass and coffee €1.30 for an espresso, €1.50 for a noisette. The house wines come from La Closerie de Chanteloup (between the Lycée Viticole and the Pagoda at Amboise) and were excellent -- smoky cabernet franc and floral sauvignon blanc. The owner does all the front of house and he employs a chef, sous-chef and a plongeur (dishwasher). Everything is made in-house, from fresh ingredients.

After a mooch around town reading all the labels on the roses (it's like the whole village is curated as a rose exhibition) we went to Chenonceau for me to renew my pass for the chateau. All in all a lovely day, even if it did rain again.


Tim said...

Vive le vin de Vouvray! Prudent stock management kept them in business after last year#s destructive hailstorms. And I love Chédigny too - some of those roses are over 100 years old. We visited after the rose festival last year - plenty of roses, few people! The restaurant looked extremely tempting - thanks for the review! P.

GaynorB said...

Will try the restaurant. Love Chedigny, too.

Amanda said...

I bought 6 bottles of Cremant around Christmas to give as gifts and kept one for myself. You and Ken had mentioned Cremant on your blogs and I wanted to try it. Not bad at all!

Carolyn said...

When I die, I hope to spend eternity in Chedigny so I'm glad there's now a good restaurant.

And I hope to go many times before I die, in fact for the rose festival in June. Tim has given me an idea, though, to go a day or so later.

Susan said...

Carolyn: LOL, of course it would be perfect for you. I agree too, going to Chédigny just after the festival is much better.

Aussie in France said...

I do, of course, have a slight preference for good champagne, particularly vintage champagne, but we have been sampling the local sparkling wines more often in recent times and enjoying them. I agree with you, Susan, that they are getting much better. And considering the difference in price between a vouvray and a champagne, we'll continue to choose them, particularly when we eat out.

Susan said...

Fraussie: I think it has to be said that champagne has been trading too much on its name and not enough on the quality in the last decade or so. A mid price range sparkling Loire wine is always better value for money than a mid priced champagne these days -- better quality, more interesting, less industrial.

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