I had to pop across to the Loire recently to sample a set of new vintages on offer. The flight was inordinately early on a Tuesday and flying back late on the Wednesday, which meant spending more time on motorways, lounges and planes than in vineyards and French restaurants. I had precious little time other than to talk to the three winemakers with whom I had made appointments and look at a batch of some sixty wines.

My destination was Nantes airport, capital of the Muscadet region on the cool Atlantic coast. The wines to be tasted were principally from Vin du Pays Jardin de France. As with our county of Kent, these wines emanate from the ‘garden of France.’ This fairly Northern location means that white wines are generally light-bodied, save only dessert wines, with a smattering of reds here and there. The Loire Valley apart from being France’s longest river at approximately 600 miles, is now home to some of the most concentrated areas of British ex-pats in France and with the climate I flew into that day, Norwich looked positively tropical so I can see their stoic attraction to the place.

But, like the Loire, I am meandering.

The subject that made this article worth filing was not the rather rushed tasting of light local wines but the telephone call I received a couple of days before departure. One of the winemakers I was to meet called to say that there was another winemaker who wished to coincide whilst I was in town. Not strictly his town, but one two hours drive from where I was staying. “Impossible” I replied “no time!” “You must,” he insisted, “he makes the best wines down here, he’s not cheap, the wines are very different and few wine merchants in England ever list them. Most of the white wines do not start to work until they have been in the bottle for five years, and” he repeated “very few people know of them!”

I have heard such tiresome descriptions from shippers and winemakers alike over the years usually from South Africa, California or Australia.

“Only a limited supply, boutique winery” they anounce, “hand picked by local virgins, limited stock and a pop star owns the vineyard”, of course they are not cheap! They are in the main right, the wines are often frighteningly expensive and many, like some Champagnes, are priced on hype rather than quality or value.

I was in a state of despair, how could I say all this to my French colleague and politely avoid his offer. Well, with all the diplomacy and courage I could muster, I didn’t, “Yes, OK, I’ll hire a car and go and see him what’s his name?” “Florent Baumard, you know, son of Jean Baumard.” “Right” I said reaching for a web-site. I found a description written some years earlier by that doyen of wine writers Robert Parker, of the Wine Spectator in America. Parker invented the concept of developing a numbered scoring system for wines and his declarations are slavishly followed by investors and collectors the world over. He had met the Baumards and penned the following – ‘Florent Baumard is one of the world’s best wine makers, and you probably don’t know him’.

Immediately my journey changed course, how could I resist? The region I had to reach stretched up stream to Anjou; home of those Rosé’s we like to hate. The wines to be tasted with Florent were principally Savennières, known locally as the Montrachet of the Loire Valley.

I drove East to the winery situated at Rochefort-sur-Loire, 20 miles south west of Angers.

Florent was there to greet me, younger than I expected given Robert Parker’s description. Open, honest and he cut straight to the chase and started pulling corks and twisting Stelvins. The wines, Saveninères, Coteaux du Layon and Quarts de Chaume were breathtaking. All of them made of the dry Chenin grape, more recently associated with South Africa than Europe. Here they can age 15-20 years without blinking. They were sensationally rich intense wines that had developed a complexity that one has to taste to believe. They shared a floral bouquet reminiscent of honey and Spring flowers with a rich dry finish that had clearly out-aged most Chardonnays. The Coteaux du Layons had additional tastes of baked quince, almond and pear flavours with a rounded almost oily finish often associated with wines of Alsace.

After a heady heaven-sent tasting, I was shown the small parcels of land that in total amounted to a small field of sugar beet in North Norfolk. But it got better, the vineyards were all the organic disciples would want. Here Florent uses only natural pesticides and the land between each vine is alternately ploughed and left to grass to preserve the natural environment. In the winery, modern technology is used to ensure even the most draconian E.U. hygiene conditions are met to prevent oxidation and preserve the natural grape quality. This is carried through the elevage, in which no oak is ever used.

All in all I was over-awed. Here was a modest winemaker, unknown to many, going about his task. His wines offered perfect partnership to fish, especially Salmon as well as Thai, Chinese or Sushi cuisine. I do urge you to try.