Exploring France's Garden
France’s Loire Valley has been known for centuries as The Garden of France, and a quick perusing on your internet browser, or better yet, a few days' visit of the region and you will without question understand why.
Visiting the Loire Valley, the 170 miles stretch across the north central part of France, is like stepping back in time. Harkening a time when poets, artists and writers wandered the lush rolling hills peppered with the nearly 1,000 Chateaux, lavish structures built by French nobility and the exceedingly wealthy. Stuffing themselves on local culture, the beauty of crisscrossed rivers overflowing with local fishes, ample and prolific produce and washing it all down with a dizzying array of fresh, bright, stirring local red and white wines.
Nowhere else in France will you find such diversity in wine and for such affordable prices. The reds range from super light, fresh and crushable to deep, earthy, brooding with dark fruit and tannin. The whites lean, fiercely day with raging acidity, to soft, plump with stone fruit and citrus, all the way to dessert level sweetness with thick and luscious textures.
There is quite literally something for everyone and now, with sharing of information globally, organic farming and newer generations open to new ideas, the wines of the region have never been better.
While scouring our suppliers' catalogs and setting up tasting appointments for the new year we were lucky enough to come across some really fun, traditional and utterly mouth-watering wines from our beloved Loire Valley. We discovered so many things we were charmed by that we packed a Friday night tasting and poured them for a group of wine lovers that, much like those poets and writers of old, walked away completely enchanted.
Here are a handful of new Loire Valley discoveries but we couldn’t fit them all here, so come in and see what’s new!
While preparing for a recent Loire Valley seminar we stumbled across this wickedly delicious and wallet friendly Loire Valley porch pounder. Practicing organic farming but as of yet, not certified and grown in clay and limestone soils. Right upfront you get that luscious green, plushy freshness we love about the wines from Touraine, but right behind that there is a pop of stone fruit, like nectarine and a hint of tropical citrus. Soft entry on the palate but with that traditional Loire Valley brush of palate cleaning acidity. Such a value!
$14.99 per bottle
We first developed a, “relationship” with this domaine a few vintages ago when their Rose knocked our ever-loving socks off, since then we have been stocking each new vintage of their authentic and very traditional Cabernet Franc from Saumur-Champigny. Classic Loire Valley Cabernet Franc on the nose, packed with root veggies, fresh greens, tart red fruit and a blast of minerals. Medium weight on the palate with a delightful lift and just a tiny bit of chew from tannin. Perfect for red meats, stews, grilled lamb or even burgers.
$21.99 per bottle
2018 Claude Riffault Sancerre Les Chasseignes
Although the label still bears his father’s name it is a young and intense Stephane Riffault that is now in charge of making the wines for you family’s domaine in Sancerre. Trained in Burgundy at the famed Leflaive winery. Once home back in Loire Valley Stephane reached out to his old contact at Leflaive to purchase used barrels to age some of his wines back home. This focused, explosive Sancerre has all the gorgeous vibrancy, racy citrus and green notes we love about Sancerre but here, here you get the added bonus of a silky, richly textured wine that packed with sexy layers. Not going to lie, there may have been some groaning and muttering of disbelief when we tasted this the first time. Even more when we blew through two cases at a recent Loire Valley tasting. Certified organic, 25-50-year-old vines, half aged in stainless steel and half in used Burgundian oak. This is one of those wines that defies you to stop thinking about it.
$31.99 per bottle
Not sure I need to keep shouting this from my little soapbox, but I’m going to once again, “Muscadet is NOT Muscat”. So, don’t go thinking this is a sweet wine, though there is certainly nothing wrong with those either. Muscadet is a bone-dry white wine made from a grape called Melon de Bourgogne and is grown, most famously, in France’s Loire Valley. There has been a resurgence of interest in these briny and refreshing wines and even more specifically, the ones with some age on them. When we tasted this 2014 we delighted to find that it was still packed with salinity and eager energy but where that bracing acidity you tend to find in younger wines, you find this supple roundness and weight. Chalky, zippy with citrus and herbs but with a lovely mouthfeel. Baked white fishes and chicken would be screaming good with a chilled bottle of this wine.
$23.99 per bottle
Menetou-Salon is a village in the Loire Valley that is south west of Sancerre. For many years all the village produced were apple orchards but after the Middle Ages vines were planted and a secret spot for gorgeous Pinot Noir and Sauvignon was born. Classic Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc, like Sancerre but with a little more curve and body. Citrus, guava and river stones. Bring on the seafood!
$25.99 per bottle
Menetou-Salon is a village in the Loire Valley that is south west of Sancerre. For many years all the village produced were apple orchards but after the Middle Ages vines were planted and a secret spot for gorgeous Pinot Noir and Sauvignon was born. This delicate, light bodied Pinot Noir is almost haunting in is delicate warm spicing, both on the nose and palate. Plenty of tangy red fruit to this lacy wine but it that warm cooking spice thing induces cravings. Gobble it up while you can!
$26.99 per bottle