What to drink… Mas­ter of Wine Richard Hem­ming ex­plores the wines of the Loire Val­ley

Living France - - À LA MAISON -

Grapevines have grown along­side the banks of the Loire for cen­turies. The river stretches for hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres be­fore reach­ing the At­lantic, pro­vid­ing a wide va­ri­ety of cli­mates and soil types for viti­cul­ture. As a re­sult, the styles of wine pro­duced in the Loire can be very dif­fer­ent in­deed.

Start­ing at the coast are the vine­yards of Mus­cadet. For decades, this crisp white has been a favourite for Bri­tish wine drinkers, but it started fall­ing out of fash­ion when New Zealand Sau­vi­gnon Blanc be­came all the rage. With its crisp cit­ric fruit, re­fresh­ing acid­ity and a salty tangi­ness, Mus­cadet is well over­due a come­back. The best wines are aged for at least six months in con­tact with the yeast left over from

Les Dix du Pal­let 2010 Mus­cadet £9.99 Ma­jes­tic fer­men­ta­tion – look for sur lie – on the la­bel.

Mov­ing in­land, the An­jou and Touraine dis­tricts are fa­mous as the home of Chenin Blanc. This va­ri­ety is of­ten made in a semi-sweet style, of which the best known is prob­a­bly Vou­vray demi-sec. Their ripe stone fruit and hon­eyed flavours are a re­ally great match for spicy food.

Fol­low­ing the river brings you to two of France’s most cel­e­brated wine ap­pel­la­tions: Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Th­ese wines are the orig­i­nal Sau­vi­gnon Blancs, and they have a dis­tinc­tive flinty flavour that is much prized among wine lovers.

As sum­mer comes closer, it’s worth stock­ing up on the Loire Val­ley’s quintessen­tially re­fresh­ing whites. Here are three rec­om­men­da­tions.

Château Mon­con­tour, Demi-Sec 2014 Vou­vray £9.99 Marks & Spencer Do­maine Cail­bour­din, Bo­is­fleury 2014 Pouilly-Fumé £11.95 The Wine So­ci­ety

Fa­mous names in wine never come cheap, but clas­sic ex­am­ples such as this are worth ev­ery penny. From the ex­cel­lent 2014 vin­tage, this is 100% Sau­vi­gnon Blanc with sub­tle but per­sis­tent cit­rus fruit – a wine to savour.

Mod­ern and re­fresh­ing, this de­li­cious Vou­vray is made by one of the re­gion’s most re­li­able pro­duc­ers. The sub­tle sweet­ness is ex­tremely well bal­anced with bright ap­ple fruit, spice and a hon­eyed fin­ish. Try this with lightly spiced cui­sine.

Good Mus­cadet can im­prove in bot­tle for years. This 2010 is a great ex­am­ple, made by 10 lo­cal grow­ers. With age, it has gained a fleshy tex­ture and a lovely flo­ral scent. Dis­counted from £15, this must be one of France’s best buys.

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