Loire Valley - Sauvignon Blanc: PRIMER
The Loire Valley is France's most diverse wine region, producing exemplary wines in every style. Popularity of Loire Valley wines with sommeliers and wine writers has been growing steadily for the last ten years because for all their variety, Loire Valley wines share important characteristics that make them perfect for contemporary taste.
- Moderate alcohol, refreshing acidity and minerality make them ideal food wines.
- Pure expression of varietal and terroir unmasked by oak.
- Excellent value.
Sauvignon Blanc probably originated in Bordeaux, but it is in the limestone soil of the Centre-Loire, that it shows its best, most characteristic qualities. Although widely planted the world over, and highly successful in such widely different climates as California, New Zealand and Chile, all Sauvignon Blanc aspires to standards set in the Centre-Loire. The climate here is too cold for later-ripening grapes (such as Chenin Blanc) but Sauvignon Blanc buds late and ripens early, making it ideal for a region prone to severe frosts and harsh winds. Sauvignon Blanc is rarely blended with other grapes in the Loire Valley and it is responsible for the distinctive characters of Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, Reuilly, Menetou-Salon, Quincy and Touraine Blanc.
Sauvignon Blanc is almost always dry, yet there is diversity within the refreshing, fruity and almost tart style that predominates these wines, and there are few more vivid demonstrations of the ways in which different soils can determine the character of wines made from the same grape, than to taste the great wines of the Centre-Loire side by side.
Much of Sauvignon Blanc is made for early drinking. With their distinctive aroma, which reminds some people of gooseberries and grapefruit - with their fresh, lively acidity - these are ideal wines to drink with the famous goat cheeses of the Loire Valley, with cold shrimp or lobster, or simply with a springtime picnic! Nonetheless, the high acidity of Sauvignon Blanc means that the wines can be kept, and a few producers have experimented with aging exceptionally ripe vintages in oak. These wines are richer and take longer to show their best qualities. With time, however, they develop a remarkably fragrant complexity that makes them seem almost sweet, better paired with aged cheeses, and even with foie gras (so look out Sauternes!)
Enjoy Sauvignon Blanc four ways, four producers and four appellations from the Loire Valley this week: