Hhmmmm…. (to the tune of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer) You know Champagne and Alsace and Bordeaux and Languedoc; Rhone Valley, Burgundy, Beaujolais and Provence; but do you recall the most under-rated French wine region of all? Loire Valley wine region is as beautiful as can be, and if you ever saw it, you would completely agree. Loire Valley is the home to, so many delicious wines; they’re unique characteristics will have you drinking them all year through.
It’s possible I have become Christmas delusional. Thanks for singing along! However, what I have not become is Loire Valley wine delusional because Loire Valley produces outstanding quality wines! I was recently invited to participate in Wine Enthusiast Magazines Loire Valley wine chat hosted by Michael Madrigale. It was a wonderful tasting featuring five Loire Valley wine regions and wines. I would like to give a quick break down of each region and the corresponding wine tasting notes, but first a quick overview of the Loire Valley.
The Loire Valley is located in central France just a short train ride or drive south from Paris. It is known as the “Garden of France” due to its abundance of vineyards and orchards as well as fields of artichokes and asparagus. Loire Valley is filled with story book villages and well known cities such as Chambord, Tours and Orleans as well as Chateauxs galore! The weather is favorable for travel throughout the year and the beautiful sites and scenery never ends. Furthermore, wine lovers hearts will be overjoyed by the delicious array of wines produced in Loire Valley and their favorable prices. As a testament to all the Loire Valley has to offer it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000.
The Loire Valley contains several distinct wine regions with unique characters and styles; within each of these regions are micro regions with further unique character and style. Here are some of the micro regions we explored:
Pouilly Fumé: located in the Centre-Loire region which is the original home of Sauvignon Blanc and Sancerre; wines produced in Pouilly Fumé contain a trademark “gun flint” aroma; 1200 hectares of vineyards predominately growing Sauvignon Blanc that pair beautifully with seafood, pork, poultry, and cheese; these are versatile wines with crisp acidity and fruity, floral aromas.
Francis Blanchet, Cuvée Silice, Pouilly Fumé, 2014: This 100% Sauvignon Blanc wine poured a yellow so soft it was almost clear into the glass; delicate notes of tropical fruit, stone fruit, citrus zest, honey, and savory herbs are blanketed by a flint driven depth of minerality that penetrates the palate; rich and round with persistent acidity that is beautifully balanced with a dry lingering finish that leaves the mouth-watering. A Sauvignon Blanc of great structure, a bit racy yet sophisticated.
Savennières: located in Anjou, a historical political power that once rivaled the Kingdom of France for wealth and importance, Savennières is home to fascinating dry Chenin Blanc, it is a small appellation that have the ability to age for decades, 145 hectares of vineyards that produce full body mineral driven Chenin Blanc with round acidity and soft fruit nots; pair these wines with eggs, chicken, curries, seafood, creamy pastas and vegetables.
Château D’Epiré, Cuvée Spéciale, Savennières, 2013: This 100% Chenin Blanc poured a soft yellow into the glass; soft fruit notes of citrus and orchard fruit and white flowers take a back seat to prominent notes of crushed stone, slate, honey and lengthy minerality that delivers a true earthiness on the palate, crisp and clean; rich and round on the palate with refined acidity that results in a long well-balanced finish.
Crémant de Loire: also located in Anjou, Crémant de Loire is one of seven regions in France approved to produce Crémant, dry sparkling wines made in the same méthode traditionelle as Champagne, Crémant de Loire sparkling wines are crafted predominately of Chenin Blanc, 1200 hectares of vineyards produce sparkling wines with fine perlage and crisp acidity at value prices; pair beautifully with charcuterie and hors d’oeuvres, seafood, salads, oysters, crab, fried chicken, Asian and Indian cuisine and French fries.
Brut La Gaudrelle (NV), Crémant de Loire: The question was asked when is the best time for Crémant de Loire? Overwhelming answer: anytime! This wine was crafted of 50% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Chenin Blanc and poured a soft golden yellow into the glass; and aromatic blend of crème brulee, citrus tart and apple crisp beckon for a sip; soft effervescence, crisp and clean on the palate with round acidity, tart and ripe with mouth-coating goodness and a lingering finish.
Rosé D’Anjou: our final exploration in the Anjou region, Rosé D’Anjou are slightly sweet wines, 2400 hectares of vineyards growing Grolleau, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pineau d’Aunis, Gamay, Malbec varieties; soft red fruit flavors with round acidity and a tickle of sweetness enable these wines to pair with a wide variety of foods year round, including, crab cakes, fritters, prosciutto with melon, spicy chicken enchiladas, and everything on your Thanksgiving and Christmas tables.
Barton & Guestier, Rosé D’Anjou, 2014: This wine was crafted of Cabernet Franc and Grolleau and poured a soft salmon into the glass; basket full of fresh picked red berries with watermelon, citrus peel and white pepper met the nose; soft on the palate this wine offered a flirtation of sweetness on the back of the palate that quickly dissipated into a fresh clean mouth-feel with good structure, round acidity and a clean finish. It was an elegant yet approachable Rosé with uncommon complexities.
Chinon: located in Touraine, which is known as “Garden of France,” kings and queens constructed many of the Chateaux in the Loire Valley in Touraine, making it one of France’s most popular tourist destinations; Chinon is home to one of the Loire Valley’s most celebrated Cabernet Franc; 2300 hectares almost exclusively Cabernet Franc that contain a pleasing earthy quality with savory herbal notes and sometimes a slight “funk,” a versatile wine that pairs beautifully with red meats prepared in a variety of ways, pork, poultry and pasta.
Marc Bredif, Chinon, 2014: This wine was crafted of Cabernet Franc and poured a dazzling ruby into the glass; vibrant notes of cherries, strawberries and red raspberries are met with candied violets, white pepper, savory herbal notes and a touch of dry dirt funk; it was fresh and clean on the palate with good structure, round acidity and integrated tannins in a medium body with a medium dry finish.
Each of these Loire Valley wines were unique with lots of character, flavor and versatility. If you enjoy Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Cabernet Franc but have never had them from Loire Valley I strongly suggest you seek out these wines immediately. Loire Valley is the home to these great varietals and offers the purist expression of these grapes in Loire Valley terroir. Furthermore, if you love Champagne and are seeking an equally delicious alternative at value prices I highly recommend Crémant de Loire, a great wine for week night enjoyment as well as special occasions.
I’d like to thank Wine Enthusiast Magazine for inviting me to participate in this outstanding tasting and sharing these delicious wines with me. Each of these wines are available online and throughout the US so please ask you favorite local wine retailer for these wines. Each is perfect for all your holiday pairing needs and to enjoy throughout the year!
My Song Selection: These Loire Valley wines were unique, with lots of style and character just like Sharon Jones and the Dap- Kings! Enjoy.
Get your own bottles of Loire Valley wines and let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers!