By Bruce Cochran
France’s Loire Valley
Sauvignon Blanc’s original home
It’s time to discover a new white from a place that will be like an old, familiar friend to many readers. As summer heats up, let’s look for one of the best “aperitif’s” around, also a fine match for lighter summer menus.
If you’re in Little Rock on Monday, I’ll be at Copper Grill and Grocery along with many of my fellow dog lovers for the Paws at the Grill Wine Dinner to benefit CARE. Copper Grill and Grocery is at Third and Cumberland Streets (501) 375-3333. Go to brucecochran.com to see the wine list and menu.
Try a new wine this week!
There are many reasons to like northwestern France’s Loire River Valley. For wine lovers, it’s one of the two original homes of the sauvignon blanc grape (the other is Bordeaux).
For travelers, it’s a beautiful place with lots of chateaux and gardens to visit. Chenenceaux, Blois and Amboise are three of the most famous. It helps that this area is closer to Paris than are most wine regions.
For wine lovers, the Loire is important not only for being sauvignon blanc’s native land, but also for being the birthplace of that wine’s popular modern style. New Zealand may have perfected it, even popularized it, but vineyards around the town of Sancerre have been yielding crisp, racy, “minerally” whites for generations. In fact, this has been a “go to” wine that I’ve recommended for more than 20 years.
Here’s a brief overview of the Loire Valley wine regions. This is France’s longest river, beginning far inland near the Burgundy region. This, the upper part of the river, is where you’ll find the famous sauvignon blanc whites from Sancerre and nearby Pouilly-Sur-Loire (the wine is called Pouilly-Fume, where the California name “Fume Blanc” came from).
The Middle Loire is known for off-dry whites (that means slightly sweet), like Vouvray (chenin blanc grapes). Saumur has a longtime reputation for excellent sparkling wine, also from chenin blanc. A couple of lighter reds, Chinon and Bourgeuil, both from cabernet franc grapes, deserve to be better known.
Downriver, near the city of Nantes where the Loire empties into the Atlantic Ocean, is a bargain white called Muscadet. That’s the name of the grape, the wine and the region, so it’s easy to remember. The best subregion is named for a couple of tributaries, “de Sevre et Maine”.
When New Zealand sauvignon blanc first became popular in this country, around a decade ago, people would ask, “What does it taste like?” The answer was “It’s like a Sancerre”. That made Sancerre better known, and more expensive. One of the best producers, Pascal Jolivet, also makes a Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc called “Attitude.” I like it a lot, and for $20 a bottle I’m a customer myself.
By Bruce Cochran