Q&A with Hope Shiverick
In this Q&A, the second-generation leader of Shiverick Wine Imports goes deep with us on what makes the Loire a terroir-lover’s paradise and shares her favorite wines from the celebrated region.
Vice-President of Shiverick Imports Hope Shiverick grew up in the wine industry, following her father as he built one of the United States’ most well-regarded wine import businesses. Established in 1986, Shiverick Imports has seen the wine industry evolve dramatically and Hope brings a curious, terroir-focused lens to her role today.
Read on for our full interview with Hope to discover how she keeps people coming back to Loire Valley classics, and why she thinks the Loire Valley presents a masterclass on terroir.
Loire Valley (LV): How did you first discover the Loire Valley and its wines?
Hope Shiverick (HS): I owe a lot of that to my boss, my father, the founder of our company, David Shiverick. I've grown up in the wine industry surrounded by many key old-world regions, and the Loire has been a region of focus for my father for almost 40 years. And, obviously, when he was first getting started, there was a lot to learn. Especially in the US, it took a lot of passionate importers, my father included, to educate the US consumer on the region as a whole and to highlight why the Loire was so special.
But what I love most about the Loire Valley is the diversity of the appellations that make up the region as a whole. The diversity of the Loire offers so much opportunity to understand different soil types and how the same grape variety can be expressed by different soils and microclimates. There is so much to explore within each appellation.
LV: The Shiverick philosophy is that good wine should tell of its origins. How do you feel Loire Valley wines show their roots or terroir in the glass? Does it usually look like a certain characteristic in your opinion?
HS: The ways to explore in the Loire are almost endless, but our philosophy at Shiverick Imports allows a consumer to discover the region in a way that focuses on single appellations and why that area differs from the one next door. It answers the question, what makes these wines different? The Loire is a vast region, and each appellation has a unique soil type and microclimate. Plus, of course, you must take into account the subjective decisions made by the winemaker.
For me, it’s just fascinating that there are so many appellations with so many unique wines that result from one varietal. For example, you take a Bourgueil (made with mostly Cabernet Franc) from our producer, Bertrand Galbrun, and his wines can be really structured, tightly wound, and almost gritty. And then across the river you find Chinon, also Cabernet Franc but from an entirely separate appellation, and the wines’ expressions are completely different.
Our Chinon producer, Pascal Lambert, can make a softer style grown on the sandy loam soils of the river banks. Yet, if we delve into the differences within a single appellation, I’d also like to point out that Lambert produces two cuvées: One is Cabernet Franc planted to limestone soil while the other is planted to clay soil. The resulting expression in the wine is completely different. So even within appellations, our producers pride themselves on making wines that are a pure expression of each specific terroir. That's what I love about our producers in the Loire—they truly respect each appellation and strive to produce a wine that correctly reflects the respective soil type and microclimate.
LV: That’s amazing. How would you explain this almost dizzying diversity to new wine professionals? How can we start to understand this type of magic first-hand?
HS: I always say, start with something you love and explore that or start with something that you think you don't love.
For example, I occasionally hear people say, ‘I don't like Cabernet Franc.’ But if you go to a place like the Loire Valley, you can find appellations that allow the fruit to become optimally ripe. And so I love hearing someone say that they tried a wine from a variety they don’t normally like, and show them how that variety can be made from optimally ripe fruit, in a place that has an ideal microclimate and soil type for that varietal to properly express itself. When nothing is forced and we can start to explore, that’s when those great surprises happen.
LV: How do you think perceptions of the Loire Valley have changed since you’ve been in the business, or since Shiverick began importing Loire Valley wines decades ago?
HS: I love that you can find wines from the Loire at accessible price points here in the US. This is great for regions where professionals or consumers are looking to explore because it allows people to try something new and take some risks.
But I also think that the perception of the Loire as a solely value-driven region has evolved. A great example is Muscadet. There’s a lot of Muscadet that comes in at a low price point. It can be really competitive, but the new crus have now been approved so you can also find a high-end,elevated expression of Melon de Bourgogne in Muscadet. Our producer Henri Poiron makes wine from one of the crus, so we took a chance and decided to bring in the wine and offer it to our customers at this higher price-point. The feedback has been really positive; people loved it. We sold out almost immediately, and, thankfully, we could order more wine!
More and more you can find and share Loire Valley wines at different price points, allowing for some diversity in price in addition to the diversity in style we already know and love.
LV: Consumers today have access to more wines and more wine regions than ever before. How do you try and bring them back to historic appellations like the Loire Valley?
HS: The natural wine movement is extremely popular in the US and all over the world. Making wines in this way is something I really believe in, as do our producers from the Loire. I’m hoping people can make the connection between natural wines and this region, allowing more consumers to discover (or rediscover) the region. This can definitely pull folks back toward the Loire Valley.
The fact that natural wine can be made in these historic regions but in a way that still allows the wine to reflect a given appellation and terroir is really cool to see. We can encourage people who love natural wine to explore this region because they’ll find wines at accessible price points that they can drink with confidence knowing they are made naturally. It is also important to note that many producers have always made their wines in a natural way, long before the current natural wine movement began.
The Loire Valley again is such a vast and diverse region and has created this emphasis on farming. And so many of these producers are committed to organic and biodynamic farming, that it’s almost a base level of expectation from the region. I think it’s something that is really cool to see.
LV: Do you have a favorite food pairing when you’re drinking Loire Valley wines?
HS: I will say one pairing that I hold very near and dear is one inspired by our visits to Savennieres. When we go to visit our producer in Savennieres, Pascale Laffourcade, he and his wife prepare this dish, fresh scallops in a cream sauce, and it pairs extremely well with Chenin Blanc from Savennieres. It is wonderful because you have that really nice high acidity that kind of cuts through the cream and a mouthfeel that plays into that texture of the scallop. I love it, and it's also nostalgic because it's a memory of spending time with the people behind these wines, the people who make it possible for us to share their wines with our customers and friends here in the US.