In less than two weeks, I’ll be in the exquisite Loire Valley with my husband. Our trip will feature visits to royal châteaux, Troglodyte caves, one of the largest tank museums in the world (!), local restaurants featuring traditional fare, small towns and villages steeped in history, and, of course, wineries. My dear colleagues at Sopexa have arranged for us to explore a few vineyards and tasting rooms in Nantes, Anjou, Saumurois, and Chinon – we couldn’t be more excited to have preferred access to places only a few are fortunate enough to see. To make the week even more magnificent, we’re staying at the stunning Château de Jalesnes in Vernantes, a small village north of Saumur. You can imagine how thrilled we are to experience much of what the Loire Valley has to offer.
Before any trip, a fair share of “homework” must be involved. Besides purchasing several road maps, figuring out which châteaux are open on a particular day, closely researching the terroir and more of the wine regions, and checking the weather reports almost daily, I’ve been swirling, sipping, and savoring Loire Valley wines.
If the choices I’ve reviewed below (sent as samples) are any indication of what my husband and I will discover, our trip to the Loire Valley will be replete with revelations and contrasts, charm and authenticity.
Ackerman Crémant de Loire ($20) – As luck would have it, Château de Jalesnes was once owned by the Ackerman family, the pioneer and now leading producer of Loire Valley fine sparkling wines. Their tasting room and tuffeau cellars are located along the banks of the Thouet river, a tributary of the Loire, in Saumur, and, rest assured, we’ll visit. The Crémant de Loire I tasted was produced using la méthode traditionnelle, the method also used in Champagne. Its blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc presented rich aromas of toast, citrus, lemon, lime, and hint of herbs. On the refreshing palate, notes of apple and pear with lively acidity were prevalent and its persistent mousse lasted throughout the lengthy finish. Popping the cork of a bottle of Ackerman Crémant de Loire may be in order while we unpack our bags…
Sebastien Brunet Vouvray-La Rocherie
($18) – More bubbles! From the Vouvray-Touraine region of the Loire Valley, this sparkler is from Domaine de la Roche Fleurie, created in 1974 by Michel Brunet after he inherited over 7 acres of Vouvray vines from his grandfather. Now, Michel’s son, Sébastien, current owner of the domain, plows the soil, uses no chemicals in the vineyards, “removes the dust around the vines in order to aerate them”, and, with a team, hand harvests all grapes. This sparkling wine of Chenin Blanc (in my humble opinion, the signature white grape of the Loire Valley) had bubbles so persistent, they seemed to shimmer in the glass like a necklace of gold. Aromas of pear, apple, and dried yellow flowers led to tastes of citrus and juicy pear. With snappy acidity and a lasting finish, this is genuine Vouvray.
Pouilly-Fumé Francois Blanchet 2015
($15) – Pouilly-Fumé is located in the eastern Loire Valley, across the river from the hills of Sancerre. The Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown there display a noticeable smoky, flint-like aroma; the word “fumé” means “smoked” in French. Bursting from my glass of this wine from Francois Blanchet were aromas of apricots, white flowers, lemon, flint, and spice. The flavors…ahhhh! Creamy notes of tropical fruit, limes, and grapefruit were in harmony with brilliant acidity. Crisp and light, what’s there not to love about a delightful Pouilly-Fumé?
Vin Rouge – Vin de France (SARL Le Clos du Tue-Boeuf) 2015
($12) – Since 2003, Jean-Marie and Thierry Puzelat, owners of the Tue-Boeuf Estate, have been producing wines under the Vin de France (VDF) label. The grapes, purchased from organic winemakers in the Cher Valley, produce wines meant to be enjoyed young. The Vin Rouge, consisting of 100% Gamay, showed aromas of juicy strawberries, ripe raspberries, touch of wet forest floor, white pepper, and a hint of mint. Easy drinking and approachable, the table wine revealed flavors of lively red fruit, spice, and white pepper with just-right tannins and acidity, all of which led to a tart, lip-smacking finish.
Bernard Baudry Chinon Les Granges 2014
($15) – Chinon is the appellation around the town of Chinon, located on the Vienne river, a tributary of the Loire, in the central Loire Valley. Although red, white, and rosé
wines are produced, red wines are predominant, especially Cabernet Franc. This wine was bold and rich with deep red fruit, black cherries, tobacco, and white pepper on the nose. Bright acidity and velvet-like tannins were the foundation for luscious flavors of violets, spice, pepper, blackberries, currant, tobacco, leather and smoke. If you love Cabernet France and would like to explore a wine from the Loire Valley, this appealing example should be your choice.
Yves Gueniard Domaine de la Bergerie La Cerisaie 2014
($16) – The lovely wine of 80% Cabernet Franc and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon was produced in Anjou, located in the Maine-et-Loire. Mesmerizing aromas of freshly picked violets, rich plum, damp earth and vanilla led to zesty flavors of more florals, pepper, and juicy red fruit. The wine, with mouthwatering acidity, defined tannins, round mouthfeel, and satisfying finish, was the quintessential complement to our dinner of grilled burgers and roasted vegetables.
I’m excited to share our journey with you on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Please follow me on these social media channels, then circle back to Grape Experiences upon my return for posts about what promises to be an extraordinary week in the Loire Valley. Au revoir!
Cheers! ~ Cindy