Loire Valley wines: Central Vineyards, Touraine, Anjou-Saumur, Nantais and the wine styles you can find there
Jane Clare of One Foot in the Grapes joined wine enthusiasts to metaphorically dip their toes into wines from the Loire Valley
It’s been a over a year since we learned how to mute, to share, to wave, to leave messages via our laptop screens as cube-shaped friends and family waved back and time Zoomed by.
Perhaps we thought it wouldn’t last. But it has and for the purposes of enjoying wine I’m very glad it did.
My sister is in a wine club. Her like-minded friends (from the University of the Third Age, truth be told) used to meet in real life, but adapted to being electronically cube-shaped.
I’m often invited to join the animated, wine-sipping, cubes.
They give me a theme in advance and last week it was the Loire Valley.
When my allotted Saturday night came (and Strictly was recording) I asked the cubes to strap themselves in.
Were they ready to take a boat trip from the centre of France out to the Atlantic coast? Yes indeed.
It wasn’t so much a voyage of discovery as opposed to a flying visit (poor mixed travel metaphor there. Sorry.)
I really enjoyed touching base again with this mix of wine styles and grape varieties along the length of France’s longest river.
So much so, I thought I’d take your hands, help you into my pretend boat. Like a pebble across a pond, we’ll also skim the facts.
The Loire is 625 miles long, weaving its way from the centre of France to the coast.
Wine making took off in the 4th century, and by the 11th century, wines were being exported to England.
Monks, followed by the nobility and kings of France (who built glorious chateaux) helped vineyards to prosper.
There is no one signature Loire wine style; reds, whites, rosé, sweet and sparkling wines all have their place.
The Loire Valley is France’s top producer of white wines, second for rosé, and third for designated appellation wines as a whole.
The main five grapes are cabernet franc, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc and melon de borgogne. There are others, such as gamay and cabernet sauvignon.
There is no generic appellation for the Loire (not like AOC Bourgogne for instance) though there’s a geographic stamp of approval on some wines – Val de Loire. These are fresh with simple fruit flavours.
The main regions going from the east towards the coast are:
Central Vineyards: This is the smallest of the four sub-regions but has two of the most prestigious appellations. Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are elegant sauvignon blanc wines (Loire is the grape’s homeland).
Downstream is Touraine. This region also has excellent examples of sauvignon blanc.
But one appellation more than any other stands out: Vouvray.
The grape variety chenin blanc creates Vouvray white wines, which can be still or sparkling.
Young, wines have flavours of acacia, rose, citrus and (sparkling) brioche. They can develop notes of candied fruit, apricot, quince and honey.
Cabernet franc is here too; look out for the red wine Chinon.
The next destination is Anjou-Saumur. The ancient Duchy of Anjou was once a political power that rivalled the Kingdom of France for wealth and importance.
Red wines from Anjou, crafted from cabernet franc can (said one Loire Valley winemaker) be reminiscent of the aromas of a forest after a rainstorm.
The sparkling wine Crémant de Loire, from Saumur, may also be produced in Anjou and Touraine. Saumur also produces Saumur-Champigny, one of the Loire’s great red wines.
Finally we reach the coast and a glorious refreshing white wine: Muscadet.
This is produced in The Nantais region from the grape Melon de Bourgogne.
Some styles are “sur lie”. The wine is bottled in the Spring after resting on the lees over winter. Muscadet Sevre et Maine is the largest sub-appellation which produces this style.
>>> Find out more about Loire Valley Wines here
A new gin has exclusively launched in Booths and its pear-fectly tasty.
June Royal Pear & Cardamom (£25, for 50cl) is created using botanicals such as juniper, ginger, cubeb berry, green cardamom, coriander, quassia amara, liquorice, lime and nutmeg.
A floral touch is from vine flowers.
If you know your gins, you’ll also know its unusual to distill one which began life as grape spirit – but here we have one.
The gin is a subtle green colour and all it needs is a chunk of ice to tease your palate with what I’d describe as pear lozenges.
Or perhaps a cocktail?
To make a June Collins cocktail, add 60ml of the gin to 10 ml lime juice, 30 ml dry white wine and 40 ml soda water. It’s very tasty!
Jane Clare of One Foot in the Grapes, is a programme provider for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. Discover how to gain a qualification in wine - go to www.onefootinthegrapes.co.uk