New generation boosts Loire’s fortunes

The Loire is ripe for a major generational shift, as young winemakers begin to prove the quality potential of neglected parts of the region.

Thibaud Boudignon: working to strengthen Anjou’s image

“There will be a big change in the next generation,” predicted Marine Dargery, whose partner Thibaud Boudignon is catching attention for his Anjou white wines.

Speaking to the drinks business as the couple showed his second vintage, 2010, at the Justerini & Brooks Loire tasting in London this week, Dargery observed that, in Anjou alone, “50% of vignerons are more than 55 years old”.

Pointing to the generation that is now beginning to take over, she confirmed that as well as being “absolutely interested” in winemaking as a career choice, “they have travelled and are really quality focused.”

As for the reputation of Anjou, where the couple met and now own two hectares of vineyard 10 kilometres south of the river Loire, Dargery admitted: “It has a very bad perception – the wines can be dry or sweet and they don’t have a very precise culture of winemaking.”

In contrast, she stressed, “We want to make very precise wines,” adding: “Our objective is to find and own very specific terroirs.”

In an effort to promote the quality reputation of Anjou, Boudignon distinguished himself as “one of the only winemakers in the region to put ‘Anjou Blanc’ on the label”, rather than the generic vin de table designation.

Having built up a customer base that includes a number of two and three Michelin starred restaurants in Paris, Dargery pointed to an ultimate goal of extending their vineyard holdings to “six or seven hectares”.

In particular, she outlined an ambition to work in the Anjou sub-appellation of Savennières, whose wines she praised as “more mineral”. Having managed to buy half a hectare there so far, Boudignon made his first Savennières wine in 2011.

Despite this generational shift, Dargery, who works in Loire vineyard and winery sales, expressed concern about the profitability of Muscadet and Touraine in particular, where she summed up the situation as “not good”.

Offering a UK merchant’s perspective of the region, J&B buying director Giles Burke-Gaffney described the Loire as “still quite niche”, although he remarked: “It offers the best value on our list”.

 

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