This is always an exciting sale, because so many wine grapes find their absolute best expression in the Loire Valley. South African Chenin Blanc is evaluated against the famed Vouvray and Savennières; Sauvignon Blanc the world over is inevitably compared to Sancerre; and New York Cabernet Franc must compete with the grape’s benchmark bottlings from Chinon.
Major Wine Regions of the Loire Valley
Muscadet: With the coolest climate in the Loire Valley, this region is famous for its bracingly dry, seafood-friendly whites. Made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape (which hardly exists at all in the rest of the world), these refreshing wines are ideal partners for oysters and mussels..
Anjou and Saumur: Here in the heart of the Loire Valley, most white wines are based on Chenin Blanc, while most reds and rosés are based on Cabernet Franc. Saumur is particularly famous for its delicious sparkling wines, both dry and off-dry. The rosés of Anjou also span the flavor spectrum, ranging from luscious and fully sweet to dry and earthy.
Chinon: Cabernet Franc is truly at home in Chinon. In Bordeaux, this red grape is usually assigned a minor role in blends (if it is used at all), but in the Loire it is allowed to shine in varietal wines made from 100% Cabernet Franc. At its best, Chinon perfectly embodies finesse in winemaking; typical flavor notes include mint and crystallized raspberry.
Touraine, Cheverny, Quincy, Pouilly, and Sancerre: Along the eastern stretch of the Loire River, the Sauvignon Blanc grape achieves its finest expressions. White wines from these appellations range from lean and overtly mineral to rich and subtly smoky. The Sancerre appellation makes some of the most sublime Sauvignon Blancs in the world. (Sancerre Rouge, made from Pinot Noir, is excellent as well.) Prices for these sought-after wines have, in some cases, risen along with their prestige, so look to the neighboring appellations of Quincy and Touraine for amazing values in Sauvignon Blanc.
Top Deals From Today’s Sale:
Muscadet Cuvée de Vieilles Vignes, Poiron-Dabin – 2009
A rounded style of Muscadet from 40-year-old vines that have been very well cared for. A clean white wine with winter citrus notes that are tamed by round, subtle drops of honey. This is an everyday Muscadet that drinks like it should be reserved for special occasions. The most appropriate pairing is garlicky stuffed snails, but clams on the half shell or scallops wrapped in bacon work as well.
Touraine Cabernet “La Gautrie”, Venier – 2009 (Staff Pick)
The night I first opened La Gautrie I put my foot in my mouth (the wine STILL tasted great). When asked what we were drinking, I responded quick and cool with, “a light Gamay from the Loire Valley”. “Oh yeah? Then why does the label say Cabernet?” My discerning dinner partner had a point. Don’t be fooled by your taste buds! La Gautrie is no ordinary Cab Franc, and indeed could pass for Gamay. Winemaker Christian Venier has achieved extraordinary elegance here. The wine appears pale red in the glass, almost like a rosé. But on the nose and palate wet earth, moss, minerals, and fresh crushed red berries transport you to the depths of red-wine bliss. Not to mention wonderful evergreen herbs and thyme to fill out the profile. With little to no tannin but plenty of spunk, this was the perfect pair to my vegetables and curried lentils. – AMM
Touraine “Le Grand St. Vincent,” Mureau – 2010
This energetic and lively Sauvignon Blanc evokes springtime honeysuckle and exotic tropical fruit. A pale yellow wine streaked with green, it is fleshy and fruit-forward. It’s ideal for outdoor parties, too: pair this wine with shrimp, crudités, and fish.
Vouvray “Tuffeau,” Thierry – 2009
A limpid gold Chenin evoking richly textured amborsia. The fruit-filled bouquet of quince and apricot is thinly veiled with almond and acacia flowers. Texturally balanced, this off-dry wine finishes with a juicy crispness, that demands you reach for another glass… or a piece of cheese. Pair with buttery pasta, rich chicken and fish, light fruit desserts.
Sancerre, Dom. Buissonnes – 2010
This white wine is from a family-run estate located in the village of Sury en Vaux. The wine rested on the lees until the April after the vintage. This vital process adds complexities that cannot be duplicated by other means. A great style of smoky Sancerre that’s mineral-driven, floral, and bone dry on the finish, making it a marvelous match to fresh oysters.