Frosts and hail open door to other grapes
- Credit: Archant
The Loire River winds its way past glorious picturesque castles to admire along the valley on route to the Atlantic coast. It is also home to the Sauvignon Blanc grape variety making iconic wines such as Sancerre and Pouilly Fume.
However, poor harvests due to frost and hail destroying the crops and subsequent price hikes have provided the opportunity for other grapes such as Chenin Blanc and regions including the newly acclaimed Coteaux du Giennois to come to the fore.
Starting at the mouth of the Loire River at Nantes there are delicious wines in Muscadet de Sevre et Mains with crisp fruity notes with lime aromas and pear and apple on the palate.
Muscadet has made a successful comeback after the supermarkets drove down the price and raised the quality of these crisp wines that are ideal with fish dishes. A review and renewal of the wine making laws of the appellation has resulted in some delicious wines that have reverted to the original wines of the region with character.
Moving east and inland is the region of Anjou and Saumur, the latter being renowned for great quality sparkling wines from the Chenin Blanc grape. There is also Savennieres where delicious Chenin-based wines were traditionally sweet or demi-sec also known as moelleux.
Vouvray is another region renowned for its Chenin Blanc-based wines that range from appley and bone dry through demi-sec to unctuous complex dessert wines with great longevity and aging potential due to the natural grape acidity present in the wines.
Bonnezeaux, Chaume and Coteaux du Layon are also dessert wine-producing Loire regions where the fruit may often be afflicted by noble rot producing the delightful hint of vegetal nuttiness amongst the aromas of these delightful complex yet refreshing dessert wines.
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These wines are fabulous with fruit puddings especially those with apples and berries as they have a light balancing acidity to match the crisp fruits.
Saumur is also a red wine area making wines in the Saumur Champigny appellation mainly from Cabernet Franc that gain in rich softer fruit notes over time making them very appealing.
East of Saumur and Vouvray is the predominantly red wine producing region of Bourgeuil, St Nicholas de Bourgeuil and Chinon and here Pinot Noir, Gamay and Cabernet Franc are grown and which in good years produce exceptional vibrant fruity reds.
However, due to its northern location many of the reds are lean and mean in cold years so it’s a often a bit hit and miss when seeking good wines.
A lesser known appellation in the Loire is that of Cheverny, where the wines are mainly Sauvignon-based. However, all AC wines have to be a blend so the wines often have up to 20% of Chardonnay or Aubois added for example.
It also creates a point of difference for the wines that have a more textural flavour than their peers from Sancerre etc.
The Coteaux du Giennois is the newest appellation in this region; the appellation was received in 1998 but the wines have been eclipsed by its better known neighbours until recently.
It is becoming well-known for white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc and reds from Pinot Noir and Gamay.
The Sauvignons from the Giennois are delicious though slightly broader on the palate than those of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume thought they still display the lovely dry minerally fruit.
Red wines from the Gamay and Pinot Noir grapes are often light and fruity with obvious tannins like the wines of Bourgeuil as the climate does not favour the ripening of red grapes.