Sauvignon Blanc isn’t the only sensational speciality from the Loire. As Owain John, Assistant Manager at Majestic Wines Aylesbury explains, the region’s wines enjoy a special relationship with a familiar fromage.
The Loire Valley has been growing grapes since Roman times and Sancerre has been a fashionable label for nearly a thousand years. And while Sancerre is now known as the spiritual home of Sauvignon Blanc, the grape was only introduced here from its ‘real’ home of Bordeaux in the late 19th century. However, the distinctive wines produced by the region’s continental climate and limestone-rich soils rapidly gained popularity as the 20th century progressed.
Achieving those characteristic pungent gooseberry aromas and bone-dry zestiness is a question of picking the grapes at the perfect point of ripeness. Unripe grapes lead to “cat’s pee” aromas, while overripe ones suffer from vegetal flavours such as asparagus or tinned beans. But picked at the right time, the grapes produce attractive citrus, green apple and gooseberry flavours, accompanied in the best examples by mineral complexity.
These are wines that really come into their own when drunk with food. Their acidity makes them useful matches for high-acid foods like tomatoes and salads. The richer Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are wonderful with freshwater fish such as grilled trout with marinated peppers.
The Loire’s goat’s cheeses have a history every bit as impressive its wines’. Goats arrived with the Moors in the 8th century and each village in the region quickly developed its own traditional recipe. So in perfect keeping with the principles of local food and wine matching, here the local wines have literally been made to go with the local cheese. Try a good Sancerre with baked Crottin de Chavignol, a subtle and slightly nutty goat’s cheese, to see just how well they go together.
Did you know?
Valençay is the only place in France to have an appellation d’origine contrôlée for both wine and cheese.
£7.99 or £7.49 when you buy 2 bottles*
Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé have both sadly suffered from their own success in recent times. Unscrupulous growers have upped yields beyond the ability of the vines to ripen the grapes, producing woefully dilute, sour wines. We favour quality-minded growers such as Paul Cherrier or Jean-Pierre Bailly, whose old-vine wines show a classic smoky, stony character.
£11.99 or £9.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
£11.99 or £10.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
Quincy is a long-standing appellation whose excellent wines are similar to Sancerre 30 miles to the east. Without its neighbour’s fame, this area’s feather-light, racy wines are sold on their sheer quality.
Further west lies Touraine, a region mainly planted to Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc, but with some very good Sauvignon Blancs offering great value. Domaine Prévôté, with its pungent nose, crisp green apples, citrus and steely mineral cut, is a fine example. By contrast, Joël Delaunay’s wines show riper greengage and blackcurrant leaf notes on the nose and a softer, rounder palate, though still with crisp acidity. Both are fantastic with Sainte-Maure de Touraine, the local logshaped goat’s cheese distinguished by the presence of a straw running through its centre.
£6.99 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles*
£6.99 or £6.49 when you buy 2 bottles*
*All prices valid until 26th April 2009