Fantastic French wines
3:49pm Friday 20th April 2012 in Reviews
Known as the Garden of France, the rolling green hills of the Loire Valley are blanketed with vines and the variations in soil and climate produce a wide range of styles, especially its food-friendly whites.
Close to the Atlantic coast, Pays Nantais is the Loire’s largest appellation, and Sevre-et-Main the best district for this minerally, dry white wine. Try Taste the Difference Muscadet De Sevre et Main Sur Lie 2010 (£6.99, Sainsbury’s) which is bottled straight off the lees to give it some extra weight and brilliant freshness – a superb match with shellfish.
Not far from the historical and pretty town of Saumur (known for its sparkling wines), they also produce some super stills such as Abbesse de Loire 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (£6.99, www.
laithwaites.co.uk). A tribute white to the nobility of Old France, and the nearby Abbaye de Fontevraud, it’s grassy and nettly with ribbons of zingy peach and fresh passion fruit flavours.
Further east, sauvignon blanc from Touraine can offer excellent value. Try La Grille Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (£5.99 from £7.99, until May 8, Waitrose). Crisp and fresh with lasting grapefruit and gooseberry flavours on the zippy, minerally finish, it’s a great value vino while on special offer.
A notch up the scale, Touraine Domaine Octavie Sauvignon 2010 (£8.95, www.fromvineyards direct.com) is sharper and more complex. A floral nose and concentrated green fruits of gooseberry and greengage help to balance the refreshingly good acidity.
Cruising along the river banks to the Upper Loire, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume are the two prime appellations that produce sauvignon blanc and our thirst for this fashionable grape shows no sign of waning.
More restrained than its New World cousin, but just as crisp and refreshing, try Taste the Difference Pouilly Fume 2010 (£12.79, Sainsbury’s). With a typical smoky edge (fume) and concentrated gooseberry and citrus fruits with hints of elderflower and a streak of minerality, it’s terrific with warm goats’ cheese salad.
On the left bank of the Loire across from Pouilly-Fume, the chalky clay soils of Sancerre produce wines with real poise such as Domaine du Nozay Sancerre 2010 (£14.95, www.corneyandbarrow.com). Fuller and richer with a stony, mineral character and ripe flavours of passion fruit and freshly cut grass, this award-winning wine is as classy as the princely chateau on the charming Old World label.