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Loire Valley Wines Make Strides In The U.S.

December 21, 2018

While the Loire Valley often flies under the radar in comparison to other French regions like Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône, and Provence, its wines have been growing steadily in the U.S. Shipments of Loire still wines to the U.S. market jumped 31.5% between 2014 and 2017, crossing the million-case mark in 2016. Last year, 1.3 million 9-liter cases of still wine from the region were exported to the U.S., marking a 9.4% increase over 2016. Through the first 10 months of 2018, shipments grew 5.3% to $82 million. White wines dominate, with rosés and reds comprising less than 20% of the total. The U.S. is the Loire Valley’s top export market.

“The U.S. market is more receptive to the Loire these days, and there’s been a significant uptick the last five years,” says Harmon Skurnik, president of Skurnik Wines & Spirits. Skurnik imported more than 15,000 cases of Loire still wine in 2017, a 28% increase over 2016. The company imports wines from dozens of producers, including top-selling Domaine Pastou, Domaine de la Taille aux Loups from Jacky Blot, and Le Rocher des Violettes from Xavier Weisskopf. In Skurnik’s Loire range, Sancerre leads by a wide margin.

“The Loire is one of our top-selling regions, and it’s trending in the stores and online,” says Dustin Wilson, owner of Verve Wine, which has two upscale storefronts in New York and San Francisco that offer more than 40 Loire still wines. The 2016 Domaine Bailly-Reverdy Sancerre Chavignol ($25 a 750-ml.) and the 2015 Bernard Baudry Chinon Le Clos Guillot ($37) are strong sellers, while the 2015 Brendan Stater-West Saumur Chapaudaises ($41) is also gaining traction.

Liz Mathews, senior vice president of Craft & Estate at Winebow, also sees progress for the Loire. “Loire wines are suited to smaller restaurants, yet they work in a higher-volume setting if the buyer is flexible and open to working with different growers within the same appellation,” she says. Craft & Estate imports three Loire brands: Château de Valmer, Château des Templier, and Hubert Brochard. Overall, the company’s Loire shipments increased 60% in 2017 to 6,300 9-liter cases, with the Hubert Brochard Sancerre volume rising by 80%.

“Sancerre is booming,” says Anthony Cohen, senior brand manager of French and European estates at Frederick Wildman & Sons. “The sky would be the limit, except that there’s limited availability. Just look at Sancerre on the map.” The company imported 30,000 9-liter cases of its two Loire brands in 2017, a substantial gain from 20,000 cases in 2013. In response to growing demand, one of those brands, Sancerre-based Pascal Jolivet, launched Attitude by Pascal Jolivet, a Sauvignon Blanc from Touraine. Pascal Jolivet Sancerre now represents 70% of Wildman’s Loire volume.

“We predict continued substantial growth and expansion in our Loire business,” notes Susan-Anne Cosgrove, vice president of marketing at Esprit du Vin. Marcy Whitman, senior vice president of marketing and brand development at sister company Palm Bay, likewise sees major potential. “The Loire offers huge diversity, authenticity that speaks to the millennial demographic, and dynamic personalities behind the wines,” she says.—Angel Antin

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