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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