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