Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Loving the Loire

So many people tell me that they don't drink French wines because they have no idea of what's in the bottle. While actually exciting to me to buy and try 'mystery wine', I can understand the frustration of some people that make their wine buying decisions by actually knowing what they're buying. I thought about this as I attended a trade tasting for Loire Valley today. The Loire region definitely falls into the category of 'Consumer Confusion'. You kinda have to just know what grapes are grown in what region if you really want to consider Loire. Like if I asked you what melts in your mouth and not in your hand? You know what I'm talking about...right?! I even tried to think up a pneumonic device to make it easier...but what device can you come up with for 5 styles, 7 grapes and 11 sub-regions? If you know, please let me in on the secret!

The Loire Valley is said to be the heart of France and its wine region runs along a 300 mile stretch of the Loire river. It includes 65 appellations, several of which are AOC, and their styles run the whole gamut...still, sparkling, dry, sweet, white, rose, and red. See how this could be confusing? But Loire Valley wines are the most popular wines ordered in France due to their diversity or grapes, flavor profiles and price points.

The main white grapes of Loire are: Melon de Bourgogne (Muscadet), Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. Main red grapes are: Cabernet Franc, Grolleau, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, and Pinot Noir. I tasted all of these today and then some!

Some faves of the day are as follows:

Chateau de Sancerre, 2008
Sauvignon Blanc
Nice citrus and floral, smooth with a nice bite on the finish

Langloirs Chateau Brut Cremant de Loire
Sparkling Rose
Cabernet Franc, Grolleau
Tart strawberry with a juicy red fruit finish

Remy Pannier Vouvray, 2008
Chenin Blanc
Fresh flavors of white grapes with a hint of sweetness. Very pleasing to the palate and the acidity would be perfect with spicy or fried foods.

Cave de Saumur Saumur Lieu-Dit Les Pouches, 2009
Chenin Blanc
Fermented in stainless steel and aged on the lees, this creamy wine tasted of a freshly picked pear. The distributor mentioned that this would be great with goat cheese and salmon. I made a beeline for the food table.

Domain De Bel Air La Croix Boissee Chinon, 2008
Cabernet Franc
Dark fruit and olives sitting in a cigar lounge.

Les Poyeaux Saumur Champigny, 2006
Cabernet Franc
No oak, fermented and aged in stainless steel. This wine was very earthy with flavors of dark berries and an interesting spicy finish.

I will say that this tasting would have made it easy for the wine consumer as most of the wines here were Vouvray (Chenin Blanc) Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc) and Chinon (Cabernet Franc). You can definitely remember 3 grapes and 3 regions long enough to get to your wine shop!

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