Presumably the Cotes du Forez is not the first appellation that comes to mind when you think of the Loire? I tried this question on my wife and her first response was “um, um, Muscadet?”. Nice. Most of us, I think, would respond with Sancerre, Vouvray, Chinon, or if we were being clever, Coteaux du Layon. The Cotes du Forez, depending on your approach, is either the start or the end of the Loire Valley wine region, situated on it’s western fringe.
These vineyards are amongst the highest in France at 600 metres above sea level. The area is tiny, with only 147 hectares under vine and Gamay the only permitted variety. The vineyards face south and east and are always on the slopes, ensuring maximum sun exposure. I can only imagine how cold it is in winter as the climate is continental. This far from the coast (about 540 kilometres) and at this altitude, rainfall is moderate. Frost is a challenge, as is the cold climate. The soils are granitic, becoming sandier the further down the slopes. Consequently, soil temperature fluctuations vary greatly between night and day.
Gamay is a vigorous, early ripening varietal. If you consider the cool climate, south and east facing vineyards, infertile free draining soils, low rainfall and soil temperature fluctuations, the Cotes du Forez is perfect for the growing of great Gamay. The wines develop a core of pure ripe sweet fruit, while retaining freshness, elegance and tension. The Loire Valley is the world’s most diverse and layered wine region and the Cotes du Forez offers yet another exquisite, delicious and incredible value wine.
Verdier Logel organically farms a variety of parcels totalling 17 hectares of vines on the slopes of the Monts du Forez. The soils are typical of the region and the two predominant types are represented here. Firstly, the sandier top soils over a base of granite produce wines of lighter colour. They are highly perfumed, light to medium bodied and display an array of red fruits. Although there is less obvious structure, the tannins are powdery and certainly present. These wines, as ‘fun’ and delicious as they are, still offer plenty of serious drinking.
The soils of granite and basalt, with a greater proportion of clay, produce deeper wines. The wines fruit profile is different to those grown on sandier soils, displaying greater complexity and darker brambly fruits; red, blue and black. The colour is darker, with a deeper core. Minerals, spices and dark chocolate play their part, but the fruit still really shines and drives these wines. Plenty of stuffing and texture, the tannins are ripe and richer, providing plenty of structure and driving a very, very long finish.
Made from old vines planted in the 1960’s, with a base of granite over a top soil of sand. Sumptuous aromas of red summer berries. So much fruit! Juicy, vibrant palate with a wonderful delineation of flavours. Very persistent and moreish. The perfect session wine, and although its very hard to resist now, it will be interesting to see this in another 5 years.
Darker in colour than the ‘Gourmets’ and with a deeper core. Again, intoxicating and sumptuous nose of summer berries, but also of cassis and kirsch. Fuller bodied, intense, ripe and pulpy with the added bonus of chocolate and morello cherries. Plenty of ripe slinky tannins with a lovely backbone of acid. This is gorgeous. The wine manages to be both playful and serious at once. Amazing Gamay, to shame all but the greatest of Beaujolais.