An ‘Anjou Blanc’ style of wine, chosen earnestly and with some trepidation, was lucky enough to have met the approval of my lovely wife on our wedding day. We remember the light, fruity and pleasing taste which had a little more complexity that the others we tried. I was reminded of this following a plan recently for a virtual tasting with old college friends – something positive that has come out of this enforced lockdown.
The three wine regions of Anjou, Saumur and Touraine roughly bordering each other and described as a ‘microcosm of the Loire Valley’, bring a unique power and range to these northern French wines, nurtured by the gravel, clay and porous calcareous ‘tuffeau’ soils, warmed by an equitable continental climate and tempered by the far-reaching, maritime influence of the broad river Loire.
The Angevin capital at Angers was the seat of Plantagenet power ruled by Henry II, king of England from 1154. Saumur upriver was then an outpost which had been fortified by Henry in the war against France, whereas the castle of Chinon, further east on the tributary of the Vienne river in Touraine, was the strongest fortified city of its day. These citadels and chateaux are now tourist destinations for all who love to visit the Loire.
Here they use essentially the same grape varieties - Chenin Blanc for white wines and Cabernet Franc for the reds. I have, in my choice of the month, focussed on five wines that represent the Anjou region, which includes Saumur, Touraine and the famous brands Chinon and Vouvray. (I have resorted again, due to logistical difficulties during lockdown, to third-party tasting notes, duly acknowledged with thanks.)
To experience these my choices of the month, in order of progress up-river firstly Anjou, Cheninsolite Organic Chenin Blanc, from Domaine Cady (my virtual tasting wine) at £13.99 from Waitrose, is all ‘lovely honeyed tones, a hint of cream and vanilla and bright toffee-apple fruit’, (thanks to Richard Hemming MW, amazing notes for a dry wine style); I’m reminded of a trip to the fairground maybe?
Further upstream I’m pushing the boat out with Bouvet Saphir 2017 Saumur Brut (sparkling Chenin Blanc) at £16.99 from Majestic, this is from one of the oldest producers in the Loire, a ‘fragrant wine … ripe with hazelnut and peach flavours’ according to Wine Enthusiast magazine.
Reaching Chinon, my next Loire wine choice is Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon 'Le Temps des Cerises' at £12.95 from Portland Wine Company. This Cabernet Franc red is cherry-flavoured ‘all fruit, perfumed, fresh and crisply textured’ – (thanks again to Wine Enthusiast magazine).
Further up river is Touraine, and my choice from here is Mabileau Les Rouillères Organic, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil at £13.99 from Waitrose, ‘silky Cabernet fruit with a bit of crackling freshness’ according to the doyenne of good taste Jancis Robinson.
And to a final destination, Vouvray is noted for its sweet wines and sparklers, but this time my choice is a dry version, Domaine Careme Vouvray ‘Spring’ Sec, at £14.99 from Waitrose. This négociant harvests mostly organic Chenin Blanc grapes, all grown sustainably, which is good to know as you drink. The wine is ‘instant mountain-stream freshness, with delicate notes of apple, blossom and citrus’ (thanks to Tom Cannavan), wine which is carefully marketed as a ‘Spring’ to look forward to; maybe a reminder of present brilliant spring weather. These Loire wines are nice enough to drink any time in the coming Summer either in virtual tastings or in the company of friends. Cheers!
Clear Wine Co. Founder, shares his latest wine-based musings and expertise to get your taste buds tingling.