After several consistent months of Wine Wednesday, I feel it's time we attempt to conquer Le Mother Ship- France. It's a beast, I know, but, without sounding like too much of a wine snob, I don't think we can really call ourselves wine lovers without at least a basic knowledge of French wine. So please keep reading, if for no other reason than to be able to order a better bottle of wine and impress your friends (or date) the next time you go out to dinner. You'll thank me.
In the spirit of keeping things 'light,' let's start this French series by talking about white wines from the Loire Valley. With the exception of Sancerre, I feel as though the Loire Valley gets a bit neglected, especially on restaurant menus, simply because people are not as familiar with the region. Located just north of Bordeaux and southwest of Paris, Loire produces some of the most elegant, fresh and enjoyable white wines that France has to offer. Of course they produce delicious red wines as well, but today let's just keep it simple and focus on the whites.
The most important thing to remember about Loire whites are the three main grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Melon de Bourgogne. If you can remember this, you already know more than the average person about Loire Valley wine. I've found a few wines that are good representations of all three grapes. Let's talk.
1. Sauvignon Blanc- Sauvignon Blanc is the grape used to produce both Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé wines of the Loire Valley, amongst others. Although its origins are in Bordeaux, the Loire wines that Sauvignon Blanc produces are some of the best in France.
Gerard Boulay Sancerre 2013
This wine is produced using 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes from the hills of Chavignol. It is medium bodied and carries traditional Sancerre flavors of gooseberries, citrus, grass and minerality. I would pair this with a simple pasta or risotto with garlic, lemon and parsley. It would also go well with quiche, tomato salads and citrus salads. Additionally I would pair this with grilled white fish or chicken with an avocado salsa.
This wine can be purchased at Ellwood Thompsons for $25.99
2. Chenin Blanc- Chenin Blanc is a white grape variety originating in the Loire Valley. It is very high in acidity and therefore can be used to make a range of wines from a dry still wine, to a sparkling wine to a dessert wine. Most notably, it is the grape used to produce the wines of Vouvray, Anjou and Savenierres. Today we are going to talk about two Chenin Blancs from the same winemaker, Yves Guegniard, one being a dry Anjou and one being a sparkling Crémant.
Domain de la Bergerie Anjou Blanc 2013
This wine is 80% Chenin Blanc blended with 20% Chardonnay. It is medium bodied with hints of apple and pear on the palate with good minerality. When I first opened this wine I found to be almost too 'tight' and acidic, however, after leaving for about 30 minutes it opened up with some great fruit forward citrus flavors and a slightly creamy mouth feel. I would pair this wine with a tangy cheese such as goat cheese or feta. It would be a great accompaniment to a Greek or Mediterranean flavored meal such as whole roasted branzino or a fresh Greek salad with chicken. It even has enough body to stand up to crab cakes or salmon cakes. I also think this would pair well with seared tuna, ceviche or sushi.
This wine can be purchased at Barrel Thief for $14.99
Domain de la Bergerie Crémant de Loire
Remember a few weeks ago when we discussed 'non Champagne' sparkling wines? Here's another to add to the list. And just a little side note, whenever you see the word 'Crémant' in a wine it is referring to a certain type of French sparkling wine. This Crémant de Loire is also primarily Chenin Blanc blended with Chardonnay. It has hints of white peach and pear on the palate with the traditional yeasty brioche flavors you'd get from a Champagne. Although this is a dry sparkling wine, it has a very light, aromatic and fruit forward feel that makes it a bit more approachable than some other sparkling wines. I would definitely drink this on it's own but I also think it would be a great pairing with shellfish, oysters and really any raw seafood. I also think it would be delicious with some sort of berry or citrus themed dessert.
The wine can be purchased at Barrel Thief for $17.99
3. Melon de Bourgogne- this is the primary grape used in the production of Muscadet, the most largely produced of all Loire wines. I love Muscadet and while it pairs very well with food, it is one of my favorite wines to drink on its own because of its fruit forward nature and relatively low alcohol level.
Bruno Cormerais Vieilles Vignes 2011
This wine is 100% Melon de Bourgogne and aged in vats for 14 months on the lees giving it a very creamy and soft mouth feel. It has notes of apricot and peach on the palate with good minerality and length. Pair this wine with Thai food, spicy grilled sausages, roasted chicken and even Mexican cuisine.
This wine can be purchased at Barrel Thief for $16.99
That's a wrap for the first of our France series- wasn't so bad, right?! Time for everyone to get outside, enjoy the weather and start tasting! Cheers!