Wine Class Notes: The Loire Valley

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Wine Class Notes: The Loire Valley

The Loire Valley is the land of Sèvre et Maine, Saumur, Chinon, Vouvray and Sancerre--many of the great place names of French winemaking.  In France, wines are traditionally labeled according to place, not varietal as in the US, and the wines are valued for their ability to express in aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel the individuality of their soil type, climate, and the regional food specialties with which they are to be served.  French wine is thought of and intentionally vinified as a function of  terroir. In the US, wines tend to be drunk as aperitifs or simply by themselves.  More often than not they are cultivated and vinified for their fruit-producing qualities. 

 

In the US, varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, which originated in Bordeaux and Burgundy, are the mainstays of the great California, Washington, and Oregon wine regions.  For many Americans, these are the most recognizable varietals.  The Loire Valley is home to much lesser known varietals in the US.  

The Loire Valley has a long history of winemaking dating back to the 1st Century.  In the High Middle Ages, the wines from the Loire Valley were the most esteemed wines in England and France, even more prized than those from Bordeaux.

If it wasn’t for the Loire River adding the necessary few degrees of temperature that allows grapes to grow and ripen when the areas to the north and south of the Loire Valley have been shown to be unfavorable to viticulture, wine production would be impossible.  Deciding to harvest early or anxiously waiting for the vines to ripen in late fall and risk early frosts by harvesting later--this is the winemaker’s dilemma.  A true appreciation of these wines comes from knowing the growing, harvesting, and winemaking difficulties of producing truly great wines this far north in such difficult climatic conditions.

The Loire Valley wine region extends west to east from the Muscadet region near the city of Nantes 250 miles to the Sancerre region in central France then runs due south for another 120 miles to the uplands of the Massif Central and the wine region known as the the Côte Roannaise.

The majority of wine production in the Loire Valley is white wine from the Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Melon de Bourgogne grapes.  Some Chardonnay is also produced.  Red wines are made from Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Malbec.

 

Wines of the Loire Valley at HGS

 

“La Louvetrie 2014”, a Muscadet made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape grown in Sèvre et Maine and aged “sur lie”, is a lively and zesty white wine characterized by a soft acidity, with restrained notes of lemon and ripe grapefruit.  You may find a little residual carbon dioxide in the bottle which gives the wine a refreshing effervescence. This is an ideal apéritif or partner to oysters on the half shell, a fish course or light summer fare. The Domaine de la Louvetrie, owned by the second generation vigneron Jo Landron, is exclusively planted in Melon de Bourgogne.  $14.95 (Organic and Biodynamic

 

“Bernier Chardonnay 2014”, the second wine we have in the store from Muscadet, is un-oaked and made by the Couillard Brotherswho produce Muscadet as well. These grapes are grown in the Sèvre et Maine area. The wine exhibits a light and lively acidity.  This Chardonnay has a balanced blend of delicious melon, pear and citrus aromas unmasked by oak aging. $11.95.

 

“Lieu-dit Cocagne 2014” is a very dry rosé that comes from the appellation Coteaux du Vendômois located on a tributary of the Loire known as the Loir that runs parallel and north of the Loire proper.  The individual vineyards in this appellation belong to a cooperative that vinifies the wine.  This wine is made from the grape little known outside the Loire Valley called Pineau d’Aunis. The wine is pale coral with glints of copper. The nose is pink grapefruit and red currants. The wine is easy to drink and made for leisurely quaffing or matching with early spring and summer salads, grilled shrimp or chicken.  $12.95

 

“Les Clos Maurice 2014” is from a small red wine appellation known as Saumur-Champigny whose boundaries lie just south of the city of Saumur on the south bank of the Loire. This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc and has recently been certified Organic. Rich and full bodied, the wine pairs well with rich cheeses, steaks, game and roasted chicken. $19.95

 

“Clos du Breuil 2014” by François Chidaine is from Montlouis-sur-Loire, a white wine appellation located along the south bank of the Loire River east of the city of Tours and situated on top of a plateau that overlooks the river. Vineyards are usually planted on the southern slope of the plateau facing away from the river in soils composed of gravel and clay on top of chunks of limestone.  Chenin Blanc is the exclusive grape of Montlouis, and the wines are characterized by the grape’s naturally high acidity and are often paired with rich, hearty dishes and flavorful sauces. This is an exceptional Chenin Blanc.  Open one half hour before drinking. $29.95 Biodynamic

 

“Marie De Beauregard 2014” by Saget La Perrière Estates, a family-owned 8th generation winery, is 100% Chenin Blanc and comes from the appellation Vouvray which lies across the river from Montlouis. This is a wine that exhibits lemon curd and almonds.  It is soft and sophisticated. Try alongside Clos du Breuil, above, and detect the difference. $22.95

 

“Sauvignon 2014”, another wine by François Chidaine, is from the Touraine appellation furthest to the east before the river takes an enormous bend to the north and the city of Orléans.  “Sauvignon” is soft and delicate with medium acidity exhibiting typical grapefruit flavors.  A delicious and value-driven wine at $16.95.

 

“Les Baronnes 2014” is a Sancerre Blanc, 100% Sauvignon Blanc, by 10-generation wine producer Henri Bourgeois. The “Les Baronnes” is typical of Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc, and Henri Bourgeois is attempting to achieve the benchmark Sauvignon Blanc for the region. Well balanced and sophisticated, the wine exhibits soft citrus flavors most notably led by white grapefruit. $24.95

 

“Les Baronnes 2012” is a Sancerre Rouge, 100% Pinot Noir, also by Henri Bourgeois. This Pinot Noir typifies the varietal as produced in the Loire Valley.  Moderate to high in acidity, it is well balanced and full of fresh red fruit flavors. This wine should be opened one half hour before drinking to bring out the best in aroma and flavor. $29.95

 

“Célestin Blondeau 2013”, is an excellent entry level Sauvignon Blanc also grown and produced in the Sancerre region.  It has classic white grapefruit aromas with a hint of zest and lots of acidity on the finish that keeps you coming back for more. This is a great “by-itself” wine. $11.95

 

“Éclat de Granite 2014” (the sparkle of granite) from Domaine Sérol is 100% Gamay Saint Romain. Dark intense color with black currant and raspberry notes. This is a delicious alternative to Beaujolais.  $18.95 Organic

 

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Authentic Sangria from the Harvard General Store

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Authentic Sangria from the Harvard General Store

Sangria is a cool, refreshing Iberian summer punch. Traditionally, Sangria is made by mixing inexpensive red wines with sugar. This concoction is then marinated with the juices of freshly sliced tart fruits, most commonly Valencia oranges, green apples, lemons, and limes.  Over the years, Sangria has been enhanced by adding brandy, vodka or gin, carbonated waters, or lemon-lime soft drinks. Sangria can even be made using white, rosé, and sparkling wines.

More than just a drink, for the Spanish the intensely red punch has come to symbolize “el sangre de toro” (the blood of the bull), evocative of the importance of the bullfight in their culture.

In the early seventies, I traveled throughout Spain and spent a whole week in Pamplona during the Festival of San Fermin. The Sangria I remember was very rich, not at all watered-down. It was made by bartenders in large buckets and allowed to marinate throughout the week-long festival. Bartenders would fill customers’ mugs from pitchers dipped into the bucket. When they became overwhelmed by the sheer number of revelers,  they would dip old galvanized pails into the buckets and place them outside on the doorstep of the bar for patrons who could not fit inside.

Here are some simple recipes for authentic Sangria, along with recommendations for wines sold at the Harvard General Store. Sangria is best made the day before serving, to allow the wine to properly meld with the fruit juices. One bottle of wine will yield approximately 5 glasses of wine so mix accordingly. If one figures 2-3 glasses of wine per person, each recipe will serve approximately 4-5 people. You will need a 2-3 quart pitcher.

Enjoy! Scott

Sangria Tinta

Made from Red Wine. 

Pour into pitcher:
2 bottles of red Iberian wine such as:

  •     Pata Negra TORO  ($10.95)
  •     Orlegi, Rioja, Tempranillo   ($14.95)
  •     Anciano, Tempranillo   ($12.95)
  •     Pata Negra Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon  ($12.95)
  •     Casa De Saima, Colheita Tinto, Portugal  ($12.95)

Add and stir thoroughly until dissolved:
3 tablespoons white sugar per bottle, or to taste
Add slices of:
1 orange
1 lemon
1 lime
1 green apple
1 ripe peach
Chill overnight; serve over ice or straight up with slices of fruit and orange rind.

Sangria Blanca or Rosada

Made from White or Rosé Wines.

Pour into pitcher:
2 bottles of white Iberian wine such as:

  •     Pata Negra, Verdejo, Rueda  ($10.95)
  •     Valtea, Albariño   ($15.95)

or Rosés from Roussillon,       Provence,  or Languedoc such as:

  •     Bila-Haut ($14.95)
  •     Père et Fils, Laurent Miquel($12.95)

Add and stir thoroughly:
3 tablespoons white sugar per bottle, or to taste
Add slices of:
1 orange
1 lemon
1 lime
6 strawberries
1 green apple
1 ripe peach
6 Maraschino cherries
Chill overnight; serve over ice with slices of fruit. And if desired, add 500 mL of San Pellegrino sparkling water for a refreshing twist.

Sangria Cava

Made from Sparkling Wine.

It’s very important to preserve the effervescence of the wine, prepare before hand:
6-8 tablespoons of white sugar dissolved in a small amount of hot water; chill.
Right before serving, pour into pitcher:
2 chilled bottles of Spanish Cava such as:

  •     Dibon, Cava  ($12.95)

Squeeze the juice from and add the slices of fruit as listed in Sangria Blanca.
Quickly add:
Chilled sugar water to taste
Pour over ice; serve immediately with slices of fruit.

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Oktoberfest Beers

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Oktoberfest Beers

Paulaner

Leinenkugel's

Hackerpschorr

Magic Hat

Sam Adams

Harpoon

Sierra Nevada

...along with Pumpkin Beers and Ciders

For more information on OKTOBERFEST, click here.

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Wine Tasting

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Wine Tasting

Wine Tasting with Carolina Wines’ Sue Nordberg

4 - 7 pm Saturday September 12, 2015

This will primarily be a terrific Italian tasting with a little Rose from Napa Valley thrown in.  Italian wines tend to be a little lighter than many classic American and French styles.  These are great wines for the warmer days of September before the weather changes to Fall.

Special this week 10% off on all sales and case orders at the tasting.

Whites north to south

From the Veneto, Tomassi, Soave

From Friuli, Di Lenardo, Pinot Grigio

From the Marches, TELLUS, Verdicchio

and from Napa Valley, St. Supery Rose

Reds from north to south

From the northwest, Cantine Valpane, Euli, Grignolino

From the Veneto, Tommasi, Valpolicella

and From Sicily, ZABU, Nero D’Avola

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New In The Store

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New In The Store

20% off on cases of select summer wines

Russiz Superiore, Cabernet Franc, Italy, 2012 – Reg $30/bottle

M.A.N., Pinotage, South Africa, 2012 – Reg $12.95/bottle

Amoras, Vinho Verde, Spain, 2014 – Reg $12.95/bottle

10% off on three great varietals

Laboure Roi, Merlot, France, 2012  Reg $14.95/bottle

“A bargain for all the Merlot lovers.”

Vigilance, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, 2013  Reg $19.95/bottle

“Lake County Quality at a great price.”

Babich, Marlborough, Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand, 2013  Reg $17.95/bottle

“Tropical fruit in a soft style.”

10% off on an already low price of these three great Iberian wines

Pata Negra, Valdepenas, 2011  Reg $12.95/bottle

“A Tempranillo and Cabernet blend grown in the heat of southern Spain.”

Pata Negra, TORO, 2013  Reg $10.95/bottle

“100% Tempranillo from the north of Spain near the Portuguese frontier.”

Pata Negra, Verdejo, 2013   Reg $10.95/bottle

“A light and lively wine from the same region as the TORO, Rueda.”

Casa De Saima, Tinto, 2013  Reg $12.95/bottle

“Our best selling wine from Portugal.”

(Inventory on-hand is limited but deliveries are made every week)

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New Rosés for Spring

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New Rosés for Spring

Rosés are back and they are better than ever. We have them in all price ranges and a great mix of varietals. Try them all,  mix a case OR choose your favorite.

Mulderbosch 100% Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé, Stellenbosch Hills, Cape Town

This wine is back from 2 years ago. This rosé was a huge seller then and we expect it will be again this year. The Cabernet gives it a little more body than the typical Rosé, and it has a little sprightliness that gives a refreshing bite on the tongue. Great with anything or by itself. A steal at $12.95.

Rodòn, Le Fraghe, Bardolino, Chiaretto, Affi, Italy

Le Fraghe winery and vineyards are located between Bardolino on the eastern shore of Lake Garda and Verona, the historic city of the Veneto. Like Bordeaux in France, the Bardolino region is home to a regulated wine that is composed of a traditional blend of grapes that take the name Bardolino. This wine is delicious and low in alcohol which makes it a great wine for summer afternoons on the porch.

Coteaux du Vendômois, Lieu-dit-Cocagne, Loire Valley

The Loire Valley, if you are not familiar with its wines, is home to a number of varietals that you may not know. This wine is made from 100% Pineau d’Aunis grapes. It is medium-bodied and exhibits flavors of pink grapefruit and strawberries with a clean minerally finish that makes you keep reaching for the glass. It is lighter than some of the others we are highlighting here and is a great summer drink.

Père et Fils, Cinsault Syrah, Laurent Miquel, Cessenon-sur-Orb, Languedoc

Wines grown in the Languedoc region are usually fruit-forward because of the hot and dry climate where grapes are allowed to mature completely and early. This wine is no exception. The blend of Cinsault and Syrah is traditional and is just a take-off on the lighter and more acidic wines of Provence to the north and east.

Bila-Haut, Pays d’Oc, Michel Chapoutier

From even further south come the grapes grown for Bila-Haut. Famous French winemaker Michel Chapoutier has expanded his holdings from his northern Rhône vineyards near L’Hermitage to these vineyards hard against the Spanish frontier. Bila-Haut is medium- to full-bodied, fruity, and delicious with a mineral finish that makes this a great food wine as well as an aperitif. I recommend it highly.

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New Champagnes for Spring

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New Champagnes for Spring

Champagnes are on sale now!  10% off each bottle for May and June only. Celebrate special events this spring with the right bubbly. We have the best at the lowest prices. All estate-grown vines and handcrafted wines.

Nicolas Feuillatte – Chouilly, Champagne, Brut Reserve from Grand Cru Vineyards

The largest selling Champagne in France. Aged three years in the bottle as opposed to the normal 18 months. Traditional blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Hints of white fruits and spices, with delicate bubbles.

Jean Vesselle, Brut Reserve Champagne, Bouzy

The Vesselles are a wine-making family in the Champagne region that go back 300 years. Their annual output is small, and all the vines are pruned and tended by hand. The Champagnes are an exceptional value made from 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay grapes. This is an intricate and complex wine that delivers a delicious combination of fruit and almond flavors.

Jean Vesselle, Oeil de Perdrix (Eye of the Pheasant), 100% Pinot Noir Rosé Champagne

Champagnes made from 100% Pinot Noir tend to be fuller bodied than the blends. This wine has a slightly amber tint (thus the reference to the color of a pheasant’s eye), baked apple aromas, creamy texture, and a tart apple finish that cleans the palate. Pair with lobster for a special evening this summer. Delicious!

Marie Hanze, Brut Elegance

60% Pinot Meunier gives this Champagne a dry and smoky elegance. Hints of lemon zest, toasted almonds, dried apples, and stony minerality. Beautifully balanced. 91 Points, the Wine Spectator.  

Cuvée Jean-Louis, Charles de Fère, Blanc de Blanc

A balanced blend of 40% Chenin Blanc and 20% Ugni Blanc. Crisp light white fruit flavors. This is an exceptional value at $12.95. 87 Points, the Wine Enthusiast.

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Holiday Champagnes & Sparklers

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Holiday Champagnes & Sparklers

The Holiday Season is the time for toasts and family gatherings. To make your event special, try a sparkling wine to start or a dessert wine to end the meal. I have listed below wines carried at the Harvard General Store.

Normally when we think of sparkling wine, we think of Champagne, but there are many delicious alternatives that are less expensive. Champagne is the name for wine grown, vinified and bottled in the Champagne Region (AOC) of France by the “Traditional Method,” fermented in the bottle. Crémants are wines grown, vinified and bottled by the “Traditional Method” elsewhere in France. Cavas are the Spanish equivalent of Crémants. Prosecco and Moscato d’Asti are Italian sparkling wines that are normally fermented in large steel tanks, not in the bottle as in the “Traditional Method”. For the price, some of these alternative wines can be a great value.

Champagne

Marie Hanze, Brut Elegance, by Nicolas Maillart –$44. 92 Points. Honeysuckle, green apples and biscuits.

Jean Vesselle, Brut Reserve — $39.95. 100% Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, delicate and soft, the aperitif Champagne.  Magnums for $99.95, three or more only.

Nicolas Feuillatte — $40. One of the largest selling Champagnes in France.  White fruits, pear and apple, well balanced; 20% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 40% Pinot Meunier.  The Meunier is a traditional Champagne varietal that adds a soft fruitiness.

Crémant (Traditional Method)

Lucien Albrecht, Crémant d’Alsace, Brut Rosé — $19.95 100% Pinot Noir.

La Rossée, 100% Malbec Rosé — $15.95.   Loire Valley.  Perfect as an aperitif or with dessert.  Flavors of crushed raspberries.

Cuvée Jean Louis, Charles de Fère, Loire Valley Blanc de Blancs — $11.95.  87 Points Wine Enthusiast . 40% Chenin Blanc and 20% Ugni Blanc, 40% other Loire Valley white grapes.  An incredible value!

Cava (Traditional Method)

Dibon, Brut Reserve — $12.95. ORGANIC. Delicious, pear and apple flavors.

Prosecco

Mionetto, Prosecco DOC Treviso, Brut –$14.95. 100% Prosecco. Golden apples, refreshing.

Adami, Garbel, Prosecco, Brut — $16.95. 90 Points from Wine and Spirits magazine.  Very dry between Brut and Extra Brut.  Versatile as an aperititf and for celebrations.

Dessert Wine (Not necessarily sparkling)

La Rossée, 100% Malbec Rosé — $15.95.   Loire Valley.  Perfect as an aperitif or with dessert, flavors of crushed raspberries.

Borgo Maragliano, La Caliera, Moscato d’Asti —  $13.95. Considered in the top three of Moscato wines from Asti.  Try with fruit salads, confectionary and nut cakes.

Casa Lola, Albana Passito, Tre Monti 2008 (500ml) — $30.  92 Points Wine Enthusiast.  A smooth sweet white Vin Santo styled wine with flavors of citrus zest and candied apricot.

Massa Vecchia Passito Rosso (350ml) — $30. 91Points Wine Enthusiast. Most commonly known as Vin Santo, this wine is a tradition in Tuscany and is sometimes compared to Spanish Sherries.  It is made by drying the grapes before pressing.

Apfel Eis Wine, Still River Winery — $25.  The sweet crisp flavor of apples.

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