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Loire Valley Whites: A Tasting Tour of French Wine

 by VineSleuth Contributing Writer, Steve Gross

As Courtney so ably put it in the intro post about the Loire Valley, Loire Valley whites are predominantly represented by Sauvignon Blancs from Sancerre, Chenin Blancs from Vouvray, and Muscadets from the lower Loire Valley. These grapes have very different characteristics, and I’d like to encourage anyone who thinks that “all white wines taste alike” to take a wine-tasting tour of the Loire Valley. Vive la difference!

Here’s what I found while tasting…

Loire Valley Whites Tasted

The Muscadets I tasted shared a bright, briny presentation, calling out for salty food, like oysters or salty cheeses/crackers. These wines might be to everyone’s taste, but you should definitely try them with food.

Estelle Sauvion Muscadet 2009 $24
12% ABV
Refreshing, briny, but in a good way. Some depth on the palate, with layers of flavors. Would be great with salty cheese, oysters, etc. seemed to demand salty accompaniment, even the salt from crackers. Nice wine, but likely not to everyone’s taste.

Chateau La Tarciere  Muscadet Sevre et Maine 2011 $15
Cuvee La Leveraudiere 12% ABV
Many of the qualities of the wine above, but not as complex. Would be great with food.

I really enjoyed the Vouvrays I tasted this month, and I find these very user-friendly wines. A bit on the sweet side, with readily identified fruit flavors, these wines vary in complexity but not on the basic level of enjoyment. Try one soon.

Domaine de Vaugondy Vouvray Demi-sec $19
100% Chenin Blanc 11% ABV
A bit of yeast before swirling the wine, along with apricot and tropical fruit.
More apricot and fleshy fruit (starfruit and tangerine) in the mouth, with a bit of sweetness, balanced by lively acidity. A bit of caramel emerged as the bottle progressed.
Very nice wine, with long finish. Not just a wine to drink and forget about; each sip starts you thinking, examining the wine’s layers and elements, and adding nuance and enjoyment to your evening.

Domaine Pichot Domaine Le Peu de la Moriette Vouvray 2010 $17
100% Chenin Blanc 12.5% ABV
Not a whole lot on nose, chalk and clean linen. Lively, with tart sweetness, and a bit steely.
Enjoyable, but not especially complex. Crushed Sweet Tarts with a splash of lemon juice.

Charles Bove Vouvray 2010 $16
12% ABV Wet chalk and clean linen on the nose.
In the mouth, more sweetness emerges, with tangerine and a little honey.
Nice, enjoyable wine, even for non-wine drinkers, like my sister, Lyn.

There’s a lot of Sauvignon Blanc out there, and it varies from the completely obvious “cat pee on a gooseberry bush” description that serves as the stereotype of the varietal, to really complex, integrated, sophisticated wines. It’s worth trying a number of them until you find one you really like.

Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2011 $15
12.5% ABV
Lemongrass and lime on nose, pleasant and bright,  though not all will appreciate the ammoniac notes found in many Sauvignon Blancs. In the mouth, elements of lemon zest accompany the dry, clean, moderate finish.

La Cotes des Monts Damnees Sancerre 2010 $30
13% ABV
Elegant, integrated, and complex nose of lime, lemongrass, and fresh linen. On the palate, blood orange, grapefruit, and lemon hold strong, with a touch of sweetness (just a touch) that offsets the bright acid of the other flavors. Really nice wine, showing me that I don’t have to settle for the acid-attack, grassy Sauvignon Blancs out there. There are wines of nuance and complexity out there.

Domaine Daulny Sancerre 2011 $25
12.5% ABV
Darker nose than the Petit Bourgeois, a bit better integrated, less sharp on the nose. It might’ve just been this bottle, but this wine seemed a bit flat, with a slightly unpleasant aftertaste as you swallow the wine. On second tasting, it still seemed uninspired.

…..

Please keep in mind that these are the impressions Steve had of the wines he tasted this month. Your palate might have a different opinion.

Have you enjoyed any standout whites from the Loire Valley? Or have you tasted any Steve mentioned? We’d love to read your observations in the comments…

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