Friday, July 8, 2011

Tour de France - Through the Loire!

Today the Tour winds its way down from Normandy and the coast and passes very near the heart of the Loire Valley. This noble river winds its way over a thousand kilometers from its beginnings in the Ardeche at about 4430 feet near Mont Gerbier de Jonc. It flows to the north and then makes a hard turn towards the west near Orleans and finally to the Bay of Biscay at Saint Nazaire. It spans such a wide range of climates and soils that the types of grapes grown vary as you travel along its course, and the wine style also vary dramatically response to local conditions or "terroir". It is really best to think of the Loire as four major regions, the eastern Loire, followed as you head downstream to the west by the Touraine, Anjou-Saumur, and the Region Ouest, each of which is comprised of multiple small AOC's.

Along the route it passes though some of my favorite wine regions, the first and easternmost of the better known wine regions are Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. These are located are well inland, just north of Nevers and are known for crisp, racy, mineral Sauvignon Blanc and a tiny amount of red and rose from Pinot Noir that can be quite enjoyable, all grown in the semi continental climate and flinty limestone soils of the Kimmeridgean belt. Reuilly,  Menetou Salon and Quincy are nearby and offer similar wines at at lower price than the more famous Sancerre and Pouilly Fume.

Just after it passes these famous villages, the Loire bends to the west, sweeping in an arc through Orleans and into the Touraine. Inexpensive Sauvignon from the Touraine can be found here, good summery and inexpensive. But the best known wines are the superb dry and sweet white wines made from the Chenin Blanc grape grown on chalky soils in vineyards surrounding the villages of Vouvray and Mont Louis, and terrific reds from Cabernet Franc in Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil.  Olga Raffualt is one of my favorite reds, delicious and fresh when young and able age for years in the best vintages.

Anjou - Saumur is next, with Cabernet Franc from Saumur Champigny and Saumur the top reds, and a dozen small AOC's making dry and/or sweet styles of Chenin that are among the best in  the world with Quarts de Chaume, Coteaux de Layon, Savennieres and Bonnezueax among the tops.

Finally in the east is Muscadet, just to the north and east of the start of this years Tour in the Vendee. Its crisp, racy high acid whites perfect with the seafood and shellfish of this region by the sea.

So grab a glass of wine from the Loire, turn on the Versus network and drink in the beautiful scenery of this spectacular region of France. For a list of wines from the Loire available at 56 Degree Wine - click here and type "Loire" in the search box. See the list below for a couple of favorites. For a truly in depth explaination of the Loire, visit the Wine Doctor website - Cheers!

Claude Lafonde Reuilly 2009

2008 Domaine Damien Lorieux Bourgueil Cucee Graviers

Gasnier Chinon Rose 2010

2009 Domaine Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Sec

2009 Domaine de la Potine Sauvignon Blanc Touraine

2009 Domaine Serge Laporte Sancerre Chavignol

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