The wines of the Loire cover every taste and are perfect with summer food. Christine Austin serves up her favourites.

The one region of the wine world that really comes into its own during summer weather is the lovely Loire.  You may pass through it on your summer hols and marvel at the wide languid river that meanders through the countryside, or you might visit some of the spectacular châteaux that dot the region.

But the real gems of this region are the wines of the Loire that cover all the tastes needed in wine.  From dry to sweet, white to rosé and reds and there are even some decent sparkling wines too.  The great thing is that most of these wines will appreciate being chilled – even the reds – and they are packed with refreshing, lively flavours that accompany all kinds of summer foods.

Reds

The key to the flavours of most Loire reds is the Cabernet Franc grape.  This is actually the parent of its more famous son, Cabernet Sauvignon, and so it has a touch of that elegant, cassis background but it has so much more.  Overlaid on top of the flavours is the definite taste of crushed raspberries, even with a few leaves in the mix.  The result is a refreshing, crunchy, fruit-filled wine that doesn’t have all the tannin of Cabernet Sauvignon, but does manage enough structure to go alongside a lamb steak or a plate of charcuterie.

It is soft enough for roast salmon and because of its particular green leafy note, it goes wonderfully with herbs, such as a pesto pasta, or herb-spiked chicken.  Saumur Champigny is the wine to look out for.  It comes from a tiny zone on the south side of the river, close to the gorgeous town of Saumur where the slope of the land and the angle of the sun seems to achieve just a shade more ripeness than surrounding areas.  Here the soil is known as tuffeau, a fine-grained limestone that allows the vines to sink their roots deep to gather all the right flavours and moisture.

Serve Saumur Champigny chilled but not cold – and if eating outside, occasionally dunk it in an ice bucket.

Top suggestions:

Les Nivièrs Saumur 2016, Waitrose £9.49

Made from grapes grown in the wider area of Saumur, this wine gathers good raspberry crunch and a smooth, fresh-tasting style.

Plessis-Duval Saumur-Champigny 2017, Marks and Spencer £10

With lifted green-leafy and floral aromas followed by juicy, raspberry and strawberry fruit, this has freshness on the finish that makes it perfect for sunny lunches.

Domaine Filliatreau Saumur Champigny 2016, Le Bon Vin (Sheffield 0114 2560090) £14.50

Full of crunchy raspberry fruit.  This comes from a sizable, family estate now run by Frédrik Filliatreau whose attention to detail in viticulture and winemaking is exceptional. Perfect in sunshine, but if it is still on the wine rack as the weather chills, enjoy it at room temperature with duck or chicken.

 

Whites

Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé are the famous Loire whites but the central area of Touraine and Anjou-Saumur produce some excellent white wines at a fraction of the price.  Grape varieties to look for here are Chenin Blanc which can make totally dry wines with honeysuckle and melon flavours, but also manages a whole range of sweeter flavours from just gently off-dry to magnificent sweeties.

Sauvignon Blanc also makes exceptional wines in the central Loire region, producing crisp, lively, gooseberry and beach-pebble flavours.  If New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is beginning to lose its excitement for you, then head to the Loire for zippy freshness and style.

Top suggestions:

Morrisons The Best Touraine Sauvignon Blanc £7.50

A great value introduction to the wines of the Loire.  With crisp gooseberry and lemon freshness this is a wine to be kept in the fridge on stand-by for a sunny weekend.

Côte de Charme Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Marks and Spencer £9

Cool nights and chalky soils retain the freshness in these Sauvignon Blanc grapes. This wine has all the gooseberry and lemon zest to accompany a warm sunshine day.  Great alongside seafood and salads.

Château de Montfort Vouvray 2017, Waitrose £11.99

Vouvray in its classic style with just a bit of sweetness adding to the honeysuckle, lime, and pineapple fruit, with clean, clear Chenin Blanc acidity balancing the finish.  Drink this with those crackly bits from roast pork, especially if there is apple sauce on the plate, or with any salad that has raisins or fruit in the mix.  It is really good alongside goat’s cheese or a spicy terrine.

Rosé

Long before Provence rosé became fashionable, the shelves were full of Cabernet d’Anjou usually made from a blend of Pinot Noir, Cabernet France and Gamay. Now they are more difficult to find, but the quality still shines out and they are perfect for summer drinking.

Top Suggestions:

Champteloup Rosé d’Anjou 2017, Waitrose £7.99

Old-style Rosé d’Anjou with strawberry fruit and an edge of sweetness.  Perfect for afternoon tea, alongside a strawberry-filled cream cake.

Ch. la Tomaze Rosé de Loire 2017, Le Bon Vin (Sheffield 0114 2560090) £10.99

Rather deeper in colour than is fashionable these days, but it is made from Cabernet Franc grapes and they bring the fabulous raspberry and pink grapefruit flavours. Dry, crisp and delicious.

Sparkling wines

Tunnels have been dug in the soft limestone cliffs just west of Saumur for centuries. People used to live in these caves although not many are occupied now, but still there are still windows and chimneys visible as you drive past.  These caves are also vital for the ageing of the wonderful sparkling wines of the region. Langlois-Chateau was acquired by Champagne house Bollinger some years ago and now it produces serious quality, traditional in-bottle aged, Loire sparkling wines with finesse and elegance.

Top suggestions:

Crémant de Loire Rosé, Ch. de Champteloup, Brut, Aldi £7.99

A great value Loire sparkling wine with strawberry and floral aromas and a rounded, fresh palate.  Perfect for any garden party.

Langlois Brut Rosé, Crémant de Loire, Roberts and Speight (Beverley) £13.99

Made from a blend of Cabernet Franc and just enough Pinot Noir to add delicacy and suppleness.  Pale pink, with a creamy mousse and a fine, dry finish.

 

 

 

About The Author

Christine Austin

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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