Sunday, January 16, 2011

The LOIRE VALLEY WINE REVOLUTION by Maria and Philip S. Kampe

It is a time to step back into history.....a time when poets, writers and artists shared France's LAND OF ENCHANTMENT, a countryside dotted with a pastoral landscape of gentle, rolling hills, flowers the colors of the rainbow and vineyards producing France's BEST Wines.
We are in France's 'Jardin de Eden' (Garden of Eden)....a destination of the Gods!
Welcome to the LOIRE Valley....a region unchanged for centuries.
The Loire Valley is a kaleidoscope of cobblestone streets, gabled houses, small footbridges, Renaissance gardens, gothic churches and magnificient Chateaux's coupled with France's unique Medieval Archtitecture.

Ceci est la terre d'enchanement.....
Loire Valley's storybook setting is home to the world's most renowned wines, all with a bit of history in each drop. World class white wines, like Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, Chenin Blanc, Muscadet flourish in this idyllic 'GARDEN OF FRANCE.'
The Loire Valley is also home to Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.

Eprouver les vins de la vallee de Loire sont d'Eprovur Vie.

My out-of-body experience began at a recent trade tasting of Loire Valley wines in New York City. The tasting was held at a tiny, rustic, quaint French bistro that brought you back in time and space to the area around Anjou in the 19th century. The intimate tasting brought to mind that there are three white grape varieteies with which to become familiar. To understand the Loire Valley is to understand SAUVIGNON BLANC, CHENIN BLANC and MELON de BOURGOGNE. Besides learning about the grape varieties, two other factors are important to understand: STYLE and VINTAGE.

My journey began with SAUVIGNON BLANC, a grape originally from southwest France. My hosts explained that Sauvignon Blanc gets it's name from the French word, SAUVAGE, which means WILD and BLANC, which means WHITE. The grape buds late, but ripens early and flourishes in cooler climates. Wines from Sauvignon Blanc are normally consumed young. Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume are examples of wines from the Loire Valley that are made only with the Sauvignon Blanc grape.
As we all know, the Sauvignon Blanc grape is planted worldwide. The Loire Valley is divided into three sub-regions: Lower Loire (Pays Nantais)-Middle Loire (Anjou/Salmur/Touraiene) and the Upper Loire (Sancerre/Pouilly-Fume/Menetou-Salon/Quincy). The Loire Valley and the Loire River is France's largest white wine region and runs 634 miles from it's headwaters in Central France to its delta on the Atlantic coast at Nantes.
The area is beautiful and France's third most popular tourist region, behind Paris and the Riviera. The Loire is also France's third leading AOC producer.

Let's first focus on the Sauvignon Blanc grape. The grape is used in the dessert wine, Sauternes and can age up to fifteen years in oak. Sauvignon Blanc produces wines that are aromatic with bright acidity. It sounds crazy, but it is true: Experts describe the flavor of Sauvignon Blanc with the following terms. Look for hints of celery, stone, gunflint, gooseberry, herb, lemon-grass, grapefruit, capsicum and asparagus.
The grape is very versatile for food pairings. I asked many chefs what food would they serve Sauvignon Blanc with and the answers included: Smoked salmon+Chevre (goat) cheese+Spicy Shrimp Ravioli in a citrus achiote vinaigrette; Spring green salad with Chevre and citrus in a caramelized green pepper; Grilled marinated Shrimp with fresh melon salsa; Risotto of Lobster and sea vegetables with peas and asparagus; Quenelles of Lobster, Scallops and Leeks; White meat chicken and Veal with cream sauce.

Isn't this enough to make you want to purchase a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and enjoy these dishes? I have a few Sauvignon Blanc favorites that I would like to recommend.

My first choice would be: Le Petite Premiere SAUVIGNON BLANC 2008 by GUY SAGET
Jean-Louis and Christen Saget, known as the SAGET Brothers, produce outstanding wines on their limestone and clay base 150 acre vineyard. The Le Petite Previere Sauvignon Blanc 2008 represents a wine with conviction and intensity. There is an obvious ripe peach and apricot aroma that is quickly followed by a complex ripe melon flavor that explodes on your palate. I like this wine alot. It fits perfectly into my budget at $11.99 a bottle.

My second favorite and moderately priced ($14.99) Sauvignon Blanc is:
Joel Delaunay SAUVIGNON de TOURAINE 2008
Joel Delaunay produces special wines that are memorable on the palate. The Sauvignon de Touraine 2008 is an example of a wine that has perfect balance, lots of acidity and a mix of aromas that include mint, grass, summer flowers, green apples and melon. On the palate a lively, crisp mouth feel of lemon, kiwi, lime and grapefruit prevail, followed by a long finish. This wine is a great introduction to the Sauvignon Blanc grape.

SANCERRE is made from the SAUVIGNON BLANC grape and is a wonderful wine to learn about. My hosts explained that Sancerre is produced in fifteen villages in the Loire Valley.
The wines from Bue and Chavignol are considered the best examples of Sancerre. The Sancerre grape grown in the marl (white soil) is normally fruity and well-balanced, although that is debatable. The Sancerre grape grown in limestone is full-flavored and is known at various times to be less stable. Sancerre dates back to the Roman times and was mentioned by Gregory of Tours in 582.
Sancerre wines are generally dry with a round mouth. The wines are normally fresh, well-balanced and can be drunk young, from 2-3 years after harvest. Sancerre has the potential for aging. The aromas range from floral to fruity to citrus fruit, depending on the soil where the vine is planted. The hue is green or pale yellow. Sancerre wines are special and favor foods. Foods that pair well with Sancerre include many that I grew up with in New Orleans. Obvious pairings include: Shellfish, Sardines, Sea Bass, Chevre (goat cheese), Lemon-herbed chicken, Grilled fish with mango sauce, Caprese salad (mozzarella, tomatoes, basil), Fettuccine Alfredo, Sushi and Sashimi and Seafood pasta. As you can see, Sancerre's full flavor profile and citrus fruit backbone
create a match in heaven. Sancerre can be a bit pricey on the budget. I believe it is money well spent.
My favorite Sancerre's include:
Crochet SANCERRE CROIX du ROY 2008
This is an amazing, complex Sancerre with a chalky, nearly musty concentration of herbs, lime and grapefruit that creates an acidic masterpiece. Aging is a must, even though it is difficult to resist the temptation of consuming the wine after immediately.
This $22.99 bottle drinks well about its cost.

My second favorite Sancerre is priced in everyone's budget ($15.99) and is:
This is another amazing, complex Sancerre with flavors of butter, lime, chives, talcum powder and flint. The wine is crisp, clean and grassy with a hint of citrus on the nose. This is a great bottle to open and savor with some of my personal food suggestions.

The main grape of the Middle Loire (remember Anjou/Salmar and Touraine) is CHENIN BLANC, also known as PINEAU de la LOIRE. Chenin Blanc originated in the Anjou wine region in the 9th century. Chenin Blanc buds early and ripens late. Because of its susceptibility to boytrytis cinerea and it's ability to retain acidity, is often used for dessert wines. If planted in sandy soils, a lighter, faster maturing wine is produced. If planted in limestone based soils, a more acidic wine is produced. The versatility of the grape allows vineyards to produce wines, both sweet and dry, still and sparkling. Chenin Blanc wines from Samur and Savennieries tend to be dry. Chenin Blanc wines from Anjou and Vouvray tend to be off-dry. Chenin Blanc wines from Coteaux du Layon and Quarts de Chaume are dessert wines. Sparkling wines from Cremant de Loire make the Loire Vallet France's second largest sparkling producer

Trademarks of CHENIN BLANC are honey, honeysuckle, quince, honeydew, cantaloupe, grass, hay, iodine, flint smoke, vanilla and oak. Look for primary fruit aromas of peach, quince, apple and pear.: secondary aromas of clotted cream and buttermilk and tertiary aromas of ripe grain, marzipan and toasted nuts. On the palate, a nutty, floral, honeyed flavor coats the mouth. Couple that with acidity and minerality.
Sounds very complex, doesn't it? The acidity and minerality pair well or should I say perfectly with shellfish, sushi and yellowtail sahimi, curried chicken salad, roasted duck in fruit sauce and Thai green papaya salad. If cheese is your thing, camambert pairs perfectly.
Thanks to the numerous BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) restaurants in New Jersey, I have become aware of what wine matches well with what food. I normally bring wine with me that will work with the cuisine of the night.

My favorite Chenin Blanc for food pairing is:
This is a perfect example of Chenin Blanc at its best. What aromas you smell are passed directly onto your palate. The Champalou VOUVRAY FONDRAUX 2008 has aromas of ginger, nutmeg, quince, pineapple and lime. These aromas transfer to your palate creating a complex, lingering finish of oily, citris sweetness. I would buy two bottles ($17.99) and age the second bottle. With a couple years of aging, the nuances of Chenin Blanc will fill your palate. My second choice is
Francois Chidaine VOUVRAY ARGILES 2008
The style of this versatile grape exhibits zesty minerality in the form of lemon, nectarine, orange and melon on the nose followed by apple, pear, honeydew and plum on the palate.
This Vouvray has a very long finish and is a wonderful meal wine for $17.99 a bottle. It is normally my 'go to' wine of choice.

Of course, there is always MUSCADET, made from the
Melon de Bourgogne or Melon for short, grape. More Muscadet is produced in the Loire Valley than any other wine. It was first planted in the 17th century. The wine originally had a musk like flavor, described as: "Vin qui a un gout musque". Normally Muscaet is primarily produced in the western part of the Loire Valley near Nantes. Many of the Muscadet wines are aged "sur lie" (dead yeast cells which have settled to the bottom of the tank or barrel after the alcoholic fermentation. This process gives Muscadet its creaminess and rounded mouth feel. Muscadet is a lively and complex wine that is very floral and fruity with herbal overtones. A tangy, savory, mineralilty prevails on the palate. Fruit flavors like apple, grapefruit, lemon, lime and orange come to mind. Muscadet is the number one seafood wine. Perfect pairings begin with oysters, shrimp, mullets and lobsters.
Muscadet is generally inexpensive and easy to find. Some of my favorite wines include:
The Delhommeau Muscadet Harmonie 2009 is a mineral driven citrus oriented wine that is lively and tangy. Orange, mango and nectarine elements blend to create this mineral driven complex wine. The finish has an herbal quality that is followed by a tangy jolt. At $11.99 a bottle, it is hard to pass up this value. I also like: Fessardiere MUSCADET 2007
The Fessardiere Muscadet 2007 is an overly complex wine that has hints of juniper berry mixed with fennel and grapefruit. Your palate explodes with toasted nuts and chalk flavors that create a long and lasting finish. This is an exciting wine that has no equal. At $14.99, it is a compelling buy. I always have a few bottles on hand, as I am a true seafood lover who cooks shrimp, scallops and lobster weekly.

As you can see, the LOIRE VALLEY is a unique area of the world where complex styles of wine are produced along the Loire River and its valley.
The 'terroir' is the main ingredient that gives the unique grape flavors that are only found in the Loire Valley. Obviously, the world has tried to imitate the wines of the Loire Valley, but, that is impossible. The soils are unique, as is the weather.

It is time for the Loire Valley White Wine Revolution - a wine revolution where you, the consumer can focus on "Three of Loire Valley's Great Grapes:" SAUVIGNON BLANC, CHENIN BLANC and MELON de BOURGOGNE..

Tell your friends and the world about these grapes and wines, and just maybe the LOIRE VALLEY WHITE WINE REVOLUTION will begin throughout the World.

Il n'ya qu'une seule de la Loire dans le Monde!


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