The first edition of Loire Millesime, a wine fair organized by InterLoire, ended on Saturday, 22 April, after four days of master classes, and opportunities to meet winemakers and explore the Loire region. Held at the famous Royal Abbey of Fontevraud, the fair was an initiative of InterLoire, designed to market the region’s wines globally, and timed to coincide with the Concours du Vin de Loire.
Sylvain Naulin, the director general of InterLoire, said the event celebrated “the unity of the Loire” during an interview near Tours, the main city in the region.
Although the region exports to 157 countries, about 85% of the 380m bottles made in the Loire each year are sold domestically. InterLoire hopes to boost export levels and has had some notable success: Last year the Loire was the only region in France to increase exports both in value and volume, with value up 6% and volume 4%. Most exports go to North America, the UK and Europe.
Sales of Loire wines in the United States have been excellent, Naulin said. “Growth in value and volume reaching respectively 9% and 8% last year.”
The increases are remarkable achievements, given consumption in France has flat-lined or declined in recent years. Traditional consumers aged 50 or older were reducing their intake, Naulin said, and people aged 20 to 35 were finding alternatives to wine or were less involved in a wine culture.
InterLoire revamped its image in 2014, adopting a logo echoing the colours of the rainbow to reflect the diversity of the Loire’s production. The group also hired a social media consultant to encourage younger consumers to drink wine.
Loire at a glance
The Loire River is the longest in France and gives its name to one of the most diverse wine regions in the country. The Loire exports an average of 68m bottles a year and was the first AOC in the country, along with Burgundy, in 1936. The Loire River is also the largest French area on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
Because of the wide diversity of wines and regions, prices for wines sold domestically vary considerably. The average price of a 750ml bottle in the Saumur sub-region is about €5.00, while in nearby Savonierre bottles retail locally for between €7.00 and €45.00.
Viticulturalists typically harvest about 9,000 kg of grapes per hectare for rosés, about 7,000 kg for reds, and about 4,500 kg for sweet white wines. Almost half the wines made in the Loire are white, with a quarter rosé, about 20% red and the rest sparkling, known locally as ‘bulles’.
The number of hectares of vines in the Loire has remained relatively unchanged in recent years at 48,000 ha, of which about 38,000 ha are AOC vineyards.
Naulin said Loire Millesime would continue in the same format in future years, though with “a little bit of adjustments”.