What are some of the standout wines coming from the Loire Valley? What makes this region special, and what advice might you give to those looking to visit the region in terms of where to go and what to try? What foods pair best with Loire Valley wines?
Loire valley is vast – stretching from the center of France all the way to the English channel. There are some great values and fantastic wines found all along the Loire, one of Europe’s last wild rivers. The whites of the Loire have been long loved and treasured for their whites, but I have found some simply arresting reds from the region. Especially the Cabernet Franc wines of Chinon, Bourgueil, Saint-Nicolas-de- Bourgueil, and Samur.
Cabernet Franc is a beautiful grape that has been the blending partner to Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux since its inception. Cabernet Franc provides a wine not as full bodied as Bordeaux, but wonderfully floral and slightly herbal. For the quality, these wines are underappreciated in the market (cheap!) and provide a wine of acidity and backbone to pair with full flavored seafood dishes and one of the regions signatures, pork rillette.
Muscadet from the Loire
Sommeliers across the country are re-discovering Muscadet. At the mouth of the Loire river, a region with a grape ‘Melon de Bourogne’ produces a wine within a short ride to the sea: the Pay Nantes, or Neptune’s Land.
The grape has a colorful history. This white grape found two situations which made it rise in the Loire – the falling out of favor with Burgundian lords, and a frost in Muscadet in 1709, killing the current vineyards and requiring a new variety. Thus, the wine of Muscadet was born. The style is completely un-oaked – however, the region began using a technique which transformed a light bodied, quaffable wine into something with more weight, depth, and a heady lemon aroma. After fermentation, they left the wine on the lees or ‘sur-lie.’ These lees were responsible for fermentation, but when left in contact with the wine for more time they created something perfect for pairing with seafood.
Food Pairing Muscadet Wines
Mussels and white wine with fennel, grilled shrimp, grilled oysters (a favorite of Boston) all pair well with this wine. If you look closely, Muscadet is gaining momentum, so much so it has developed a plan of communes and feature vineyards – all with extended lees aging, adding to depth and complexity to each of the wines. Regions like Clisson and Palette will be showing their lovely wines throughout restaurants in the United States.