The Loire Valley is one of France’s great wine regions. It’s large, running for almost 350 miles, from east of Paris all the way to the Atlantic. It’s diverse, yet stays true to the grapes it produces. And it produces some of the finest chenin blanc, muscadet, sauvignon blanc, and cabernet franc in the world. As with most French wine, Loire Valley bottlings are referenced by the town or district they come from, not the name of the grape.
This month's selections are available at The Wine Market by Kowalski's, 720 Main St., Mendota Heights, 651-452-9463
Champalou Vouvray 2004 (Vouvray), $15.99
Vouvray is a town and is always 100 percent chenin blanc. This one is fresh, with a hint of agreeable sweetness from ripe summer fruit, and has a touch of vanilla. It’s clean, balanced, and an excellent introduction to how chenin blanc should taste. Drink on its own or with light appetizers.
Foreau Vouvray Moelleux Domaine du Clos Naudin 2003 (Vouvray), $51
This is an extreme of what chenin blanc can be—rich, lush, and complex. I picked up fig, raisins, and sweet nutmeg notes. It also has a long finish and nice acidity. It’s almost too much to describe, because every time I tasted it I got something new. But it was all good! Drink this one with someone special.
Patient Cottat Sancerre 2003 (Sancerre), $22.99
Sancerre is always sauvignon blanc: Fresh, crisp, and lemony on the nose, delicious on the tongue. The taste is citrusy, balanced with mineral and chalk. This wine has clean acids and a surprisingly long, elegant finish. Try it with grilled halibut or monkfish, or sip it with raw oysters.
Regis Minét Pouilly Fumé 2003 (Pouilly-Sur-Loire), $19.99
Pouilly Fumé is also sauvignon blanc. The nose is fragrant, with a beautiful peach and flower scent. The taste is clean with great fruit, but has more minerality to go with the lemony acids. Pair with fresh seafood or citrus-cream pasta.
Domaine de Noiré Chinon Élégance 2003 (Chinon), $16.99
Red chinon means cabernet franc, with violets and spice on the nose and tons of berry fruit on the tongue. The taste is bold, but silky. This wine is approachable much younger than most California cabs, so try a chinon next time you’re looking for a big red. It will go perfectly with grilled New York strip.