A look at some Loire Valley white wines.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers August 17, 2005
Wine drinkers often end up in a rut. Claiming to like only a certain taste, they limit their purchases to a few select brands and rarely venture beyond their comfort zone. Problems develop when they serve the same wine with every meal; their favorite California Merlot will not work well with oysters.
The world is full of terrific wines that vary in taste, aroma, texture and price. This great variety of flavors facilitates matching food and wine for those willing to try something new. Good values are equally plentiful, allowing a wine-drinker to be adventurous without being extravagant.
For those who would like to try something different with their late summer meals, consider white wines from the Loire Valley. Stretching over 630 miles from France’s central mountain region to the Atlantic Ocean, the Loire is that country’s third largest wine producing area. Along the banks of the Loire River are numerous grand chateaux, picturesque villages and more than 50 distinct viticultural regions. The Loire’s cool northern climate assures that the grapes maintain a sparkling acidity and balance. Almost every style of wine is made in the Loire, from dry reds to sparkling whites including several excellent still white wines. While the labels can be confusing, Loire wines are worth the effort to find.
Produced at the western end of the Loire near the sea, Muscadet is made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape. Dry and light bodied, it has a touch of minerality and sea-salt that makes it a perfect accompaniment to oysters and other shellfish. Most are made “sur lie,” which means they remain in contact with the yeasts for an extended period of time. This increases the flavors and often causes the wine to become slightly fizzy.
An excellent value is Chereau-Carre Muscadet de Serve et Maine Sur Lie Chateaux de la Chesnaie 2003 ($10). Produced between the Serve and Maine rivers, it has tangy lemon and mineral flavors with a nice clean finish. Also very good is Marc Olliver Muscadet de Serve et Maine Sur Lie Domaine de la Pepiere Clos des Briords 2003 ($14) that has peach, pear and mineral notes. A bargain from another location within the region, Michel Morilleau Muscadet Cotes de Grand Lieu Sur Lie Prieure Royal St-Laurent 2003 ($8) has floral, citrus and mineral flavors.
The flint and limestone soil of the eastern Loire produces two outstanding Sauvignon Blanc-based wines: Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume. Both are very dry with enough acidity to match perfectly with grilled seafood, salads and mild chicken dishes. With melon and peach flavors, the Langlois Sancerre Chateaux de Fontaine-Audon 2003 ($21) has a great finish. The Domaine Laporte Sancerre du Rochoy 2003 ($22), with citrus and grapefruit flavors, is also very good, as is the Domaine Girard Sancerre La Garenne 2003 ($18) that has grass and citrus flavors with a touch of flint. The very floral and nicely balanced Domaine de Saint-Laurent-L’Abbaye Pouilly-Fume 2002 ($17) is made by a winemaking family that has been producing Pouilly-Fume since 1630.
In the central Loire, Chenin Blanc is used to produce Vouvray, which can range from very dry to exquisitely sweet. The drier versions (sec or demi-sec) are best paired with scallops, lobster and other shellfish. The Cave de Vouvray Les Fosses d’Hareng 2003 ($15) has floral aromas and quince and pear flavors with a great finish. Domaine des Aubuisieres Vouvray Cuvee de Silex 2003 ($15) is remarkably elegant for the price, with balanced fig, pear and mineral notes. The value-priced off-dry Jean-Claude Bougrier Vouvray 2003 ($9) has apple and almond notes and balanced acidity in the finish.