New region, new wine from the Loire Valley
There is a part of France that produces beautifully crisp white wines and spicy, medium body reds that most people are not familiar with, the Loire Valley. Located in the northwest corner of France along the coast where the Loire River joins the Atlantic Ocean, the Loire Valley offers wide variations of climate, soil and tradition. The wines are usually light with palatable acidity and referred to as charming. Muscadet is the first wine from the region to gain international acclaim. Located closest to the ocean in a region called Pays Nantais, the wines are crisp, bone dry, slightly salty and firm. They are the perfect compliment to the lobster, oysters and mullet that are the regional cuisine.
Anjou, Saumur and Vouvray claim the Chenin Blanc grape as their master. You will find sweet dessert wines with beautiful acidity that will remind you of Germany in Anjou. Sparkling wines in Saumur are made from grapes grown in chalky soils reminiscent of Champagne. And in Vouvray the Chenin Blanc is often drier than Anjou, and at its best honey-like and sweet. Because of the great acidity of this region, some of the best white wines can age well for more than a quarter of a century.Chinon and Bourgueil are regions in the Loire Valley that make stunning red wines. Cabernet Franc is the grape and is usually drunk young and slightly cool. However, in very ripe vintages like 1996, 1997 and 2003, the wines take on a wild raspberry and lead pencil quality that has a medium body and pairs beautifully with wild fowl.
Pouilly and Sancerre in the Upper Loire produce perhaps some of the most distinguishable wines in France. The Sauvignon Blanc grown on these limestone hills have a distinctive mineral and flint note that sets Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume apart from all other Sauvignon Blancs produced in the world. There has been years of over cropping leading to some linier rather bland wines from some producers. However, searching out a quality wine from this area is worth the effort. There is a small portion of Pinot Noir planted in Sancerre as well. This light, flinty, earthy wine is lighter than the wines from Chinon and Bourgueil, but usually has a beautiful perfume nose with a touch of lavender.If you are experimenting with new regions and wines, try the wines from the Loire Valley, I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
Susanne Johnston is the owner of Frisco Wine Merchant. For more information, contact her at (970) 668-3153.
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