Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Love the Loire

I had the great honor of spending the afternoon at yet another trade tasting. This one was for Loire Valley Wines at the Westin Grand Hotel. The Loire Valley is geographically in the middle of France and gets its name because it sits along the Loire River. Loire Valley wines are several different grape varieties with the most well-known being Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne and Cabernet Franc. But you wouldn't know that by looking at the bottles, most of them just specify the Loire Valley appellation.

Quick sidebar: Herein lies the problem most people have with French wine. If you aren't familiar with the appellations of this region, seeing Sancerre of the bottle will tell you nothing. Now through Google, or my blog :-), you would know that white wines from Sancerre are Sauvignon Blanc, reds are Pinot Noir. The French are getting a little better with that and some are starting to list the appellation and the grape on the labels. Merci!

Ok, back to the Loire Valley. It's the 3rd largest wine region in France and the largest white wine region. There are 65 appellations which display every style of wine from white to red, still to sparkling, dry to sweet. I think the most diverse styles and flavors of French wine come from the Loire Valley. This could be the case because vineyards in the Loire Valley grow alongside the river and covers about 630 miles which provides several varieties of soil and climates for the grapes to develop. The 65 appellations are divided in 5 regions: Nantes, Anjou, Saumur, Touraine, and Centre.

Now that we've gotten some basics and geography out of the way, we can get down to business...the wines! I must say that I haven't tasted my way through the Loire Valley because of the vast differences in the appellations and with some of the smaller ones, I didn't know exactly what was in my bottle. I love Vouvray and Savennieres which are 100% Chenin Blanc and I know that Sancerre, Pouilly Fume, and Touraine are Sauvignon Blanc. But with the reds, which I'm drinking more of now because of the chill in the air, I was a bit lost. So I did what I always say is the best way to learn about wine...I tasted them!

Appellation - Primary Varietal

Chinon - Cabernet Franc
earthy, dry, dark fruit flavors, may be aged in oak

Rose d'Anjou - Cabernet Franc/Grolleau
ripe red fruit, raspberry notes

Anjou Rouge - Cabernet Franc

earthy, fresh red fruits

Muscadet - Melon de Bourgogne
dry, crisp, apple, citrus, yeasty notes if aged on lees

Quarts de Chaume - Chenin Blanc (botrytised)
sweet, baked peaches, honey notes

With all the appellations of the Loire Valley, this tasting mainly just covered the 10 I listed above. Maybe this is because those are the ones that Americans already have a familiarity with and can appreciate their flavors. The French always say that their wines don't always do well with American palates, so maybe this tasting was a display of the French wines that Americans enjoy. Either way, I got a great map of the Loire Valley, an understanding of the primary varietals, and a tasting of some fantastic wines!

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