Earlier today I went to the Loire Valley in France. Not really, but that is how the e-mail inviting me to a class on the wines and cheeses of the Loire was posed. I was a bit bummed when I opened the e-mail to find that my wine heros, Sharon and Will, were NOT offering a field trip to the Loire.
However, with my Advanced WSET exam less than two weeks away, I figured a brush up class on the Loire couldn't help - especially since it's the (geographically) largest wine area in France spanning the Northwestern through the North Central parts of the country. Plus, when it comes to the cheeses, goat is it in The Loire. I always love a good goat - and not just because they look like a wise old Sensei or Shaolin master.
As for the wines, The Loire's most well known regions (from West to Central) are: Muscadet, Vouvray, Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. These regions are all most known for their whites - Sauvignon Blanc in Sancerre and Pouilly Fume, Chenin Blanc in Vouvray and Muscadet in well, Muscadet. In general, the closer to the Central region you get, the more minerality and crispness you get in the wines.
Though Sancerre and Pouilly Fume are among the classic wine regions and I can appreciate the Sauvignon Blanc from these regions, these tend to be a bit too acidic and citrus-y for my taste. But, if you like this style of wine, and many true wine experts do, you will love Claude Riffault "Les Boucards" Sancerre 2008.
On the other hand, Chenin Blanc is one of my favorite whites and we had a terrific one today! Domaine Huet "Clos du Bourg" 2008 had some nice body (though nothing like an oaked Chardonnay) and inviting notes of honeysuckle and melon. I will definitely be drinking more of this over the summer.
Gamay, Cabernet France and Pinot Noir are the main reds you'll find in The Loire and in this tasting we had both a Gamay and a Cabernet Franc. They were good, but truth be told, I think the very best wines The Loire has to offer are their whites and roses (and since they make up 50% and 30% of the sales in The Loire, I think many agree with me). Of the two, I'd recommend the Gamay, Domaine Sauvete "Les Gravouilles" 2008. It was nice - light and peppery with some sweet spice and raspberry. Would be good chilled at around 45 - 55 degrees.
If all goes well, one day I will get to The Loire and perhaps I'll be able to share some great wine tasting stories as well as some fun stories about finding, or not finding, my way around the French countryside. Maybe I'll find a red up there that I love. Until then, a classroom in Montclair, NJ will have to suffice.
Until the next sniff, sip or quaff (or I take my Advanced final),