If you head out of Paris about an hour and a half south to Central France you will hit the Loire Valley, a 280 kilometer long region that follows the the Loire River from Sancerre west to the Atlantic, through historic towns like Orleans, Tours, Anjou through some of the most loved and prized wine regions of the world.
Last week I was able to share a little bit about this historic region on The Broadcast and why it is so special. Link to the segment below, tasting notes and regional information about this beautiful region below.
Though red varieties are grown, the whites really shine here, thriving in the limestone, kimmeridgian-marl, chalk, clay and Silex (or flint-stone) soils creating wines with intense minerality, freshness and great acidity, enhanced by the overall cool climate of the region. Vineyards range in age due to phyloxera hitting the area in the late 1800’s, and massive destruction during WWI and WWII. Individual Chateaus have been around for centuries, as this region was highly populated by the nobility of France traveling by Versailles as you head out of Paris to the region. Today many historic chateau still stand, but most of the wineries in the region are small, family owned and operated, with a focus on quality, sustainability and creating terroir filled wines.
Varieties change from Sauvignon Blanc to Chenin Blanc to Melon de Bourgoune, each very different but all carrying a universal note of minerality, citrus, white flower and stone fruit notes with bright acidity and freshness, staying true to the inherent flavors of the individual wines. Thanks to the Silex filled soils, many also carry an underlying note of smoke and earthiness in the wines, adding a distinct Loire Valley characteristic.
Known as the “garden on France” the region has always been the go to for the kings and queens of France, as you pass by Versailles by train out of Paris to Sancerre. Besides the thriving vineyards the countryside is dotted with orchards, cattle, sheep and goats, vegetable gardens and grains. With diets filled with locally grown produce, fresh river fish and ocean shellfish, and rich goats milk and sheep milk cheese the wines marry well with the freshness of the cuisine, and cut through the richness of the local cheeses that dot every table at every meal.
Thomas Clos Crele Sancerre 2009 ~ Sancerre is perhaps the best known region of Loire producing Sauvignon Blanc based wines filled with tree and stone fruit, lemon zest, white flowers and a touch of smoke. Produced from 18 year old vines grown in chalky, Kimmeridgian-marl soils, Thomas Clos Crele Sancere is a classic representation of Loire Valley Sauvingon Blanc with layers of white flowers, tropical and stone fruit balanced with fresh citrus, and enhanced with a touch of creaminess from aging on the lees for several months prior to bottling. $27.99 at Sigel’s.
Domaine Philippe Portier Quincy 2011 ~ The wines of Quincy, just a short jaunt down river from Sancerre have a high level of citrus and acidity to my plate, with an earthiness and steely minerality that sets these Sauvignon Blanc based wines apart from others. Domaine Philippe Portier vines are grown on the banks of the Cher River in clay, sand and gravel filled soils, adding in that inherent note of musk and minerality, with white flowers and citrus aromas. $19 at Sigel’s.
Domaine Huet Le Haut-Lieu Sec Vouvray 2011~ Moving further towards the Atlantic, east of the town of Tours, you travel into the area where Chenin Blanc thrives producing floral filled dry, off-dry and semi-sweet wines from the fresh and flavorful variety. This selection from Domaine Huet comes from their clay and limestone vineyard Le Haut-Lieu, with heavy soils producing rich, luscious wines. Add in the addition of farming completely bio-dynamically since 1990 you have a supple offering filled with white peach, pear and apricot with honeysuckle and rose notes, producing wine with a focus on Mother Earth as well as great taste. $29 at Sigel’s.
Domaine Des Hauts de Sniziers Saumur 2009 ~ Also from the Chenin-Blanc grape grown around the town of Saumur, this sustainably grown wine leaps from the glass with layers of white peach, lemon, tangerine and white flowers. Slightly smokey and earthy, influenced by the limestone filled soils, the wine is fresh, vibrant and lush, great with goat cheese, grilled fish and egg dishes. $14 at Pogo’s.
Domaine Du Montru Muscadet Sevre Maine Sur Lie 2011 ~ Melon de Bourgogne can be a bit of a confusion. With a name like “Melon,” as it is commonly referred to you may think this will be a sweet, fruity, juicy wine. However, these wines are actually quite crisp, vibrant and steely, with high acidity requiring aging sur lie, or on the lees or yeasts, for a period to soften the high levels of acidity, adding texture and richness to the dry white wine. Wines from Sevre de Maine are always sur lie aged, making this wine from Domaine Du Montru both an excellent option with traditional Muscadet pairings like oysters and shellfish, but also fish stews, crab cakes and goat cheese. $15 at Central Market.