Todd asked for Ideas in the Idea Pit thread over in Asylum. http://www.wineberserkers.com/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=17754" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
My thought was to dedicate one week a month to exploring wines from different regions, same grape varietals but from different regions (such as Cabernet from South America), or even more specific vintage tastings like 2002 Napa Cabernet. Right now, my thought is to keep a little more generic so that many people can participate. Ultimately the goal is to have fun, drink some interesting and maybe new wines, have lively discussion and maybe, just maybe learn something.
With that, during the week of the event, you are encouraged to open wines that relate to the theme and post your notes. I would ask that when you post your notes you include: price, retailer purchased (if you can remember), importer information (if imported and available) and any information on the winery/domaine that you can find. Also, if you know anyone that is an expert in the wines being discussed, please invite them in to the discussion.
For future Berserker exploration weeks, I will be open to suggestion from everyone on themes and how to improve the “Berserker Exploration”!! If you are on Facebook, please post the link to the thread (Todd assures me it will be “stickied”).
So, without any further ado, I will kick off week #1 with the theme being LOIRE wines. Easily available, can be inexpensive and includes Bubbly, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc and sweet wines.
If anyone needs producer recommendations, please PM and I’ll see if I can help. Otherwise, just wander into your local wine shop and peruse the aisles and pick up a couple of Loire wines…now let’s get to Exploring.
Here’s some information on Loire wines from Wikipedia.
Appellations: Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, Anjou, Saumur, Vouvray, Touraine, Chinon, and Muscadet to name a few.
The Loire Valley wine region includes the French wine regions situated along the Loire River from the Muscadet region near the city of Nantes on the Atlantic coast to the region of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé just southeast of the city of Orléans in north central France. In between are the regions of Anjou, Saumur, Bourgueil, Chinon, and Vouvray. The Loire Valley itself follows the river through the Loire province to the river’s origins in the Cévennes but the majority of the wine production takes place in the regions noted above. The area includes 87 appellations under the Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), Vin Délimité de Qualité Superieure (VDQS) and Vin de pays systems. While the majority of production is white wine from the Chenin blanc, Sauvignon blanc and Melon de Bourgogne grapes, there are red wines made (especially around the Chinon region) from Cabernet franc. In addition to still wines, rosé, sparkling and dessert wines are also produced. With Crémant production throughout the Loire, it is the second largest sparkling wine producer in France after Champagne. Among these different wine styles, Loire wines tend to exhibit characteristic fruitiness with fresh, crisp flavors-especially in their youth. The Loire Valley has a long history of winemaking dating back to the 1st century. In the High Middle Ages, the wines of the Loire Valley were the most esteemed wines in England and France, even more prized than those from Bordeaux.
Grapes and Wines
The white wines of the Coteaux du Layon, Montlouis-sur-Loire, Savennières, and Vouvray are based on Chenin blanc and are known for their high acidity when young and ability to develop and age well. The villages of Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire are known for their crisp and herbaceous Sauvignon blancs. Some producers in the area are experimenting with oak aging their Sauvignon blanc to give them more rounder and softer appeal. The villages of Bourgueil, Chinon and Saumur are known for their Cabernet franc based wines that range from light and fruity in Saumur to rich and velvety in Chinon. The Muscadet wines from the Pays de la Loire are made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape and are known for their citrus and mineral notes.
In addition to the main production grapes, several local grapes are also used to make wine in smaller quantities. These include the Tressallier grape of Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule, the Romorantin of Cheverny, the Pineau menu and Groslot of Touraine and the Gros Plant of Nantes. There is also some plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gamay, Malbec, Pineau d’aunis, and Pinot gris, Pinot noir.
A characteristic of many Loire wines (both red and white) is the high acidity which highlights the fresh, crisp flavors of their youth only to go through a “dumb phase” between 2 to 5 years of age when the wines flavors are drastically toned down. Many of the better made examples come out of this period with their full palate of flavors and can continue to age well into 20 years. Some of the Sauvignon blanc based wines like Sancerre buck this trend and instead stay more low key till their third year when they mature and develop their full assortment of flavors before they eventually fade around their 7-10th year. However the best made examples in top vintages can often live much longer. Some classic examples of Vouvray can even reach the levels of longevity commonly associated with Port.
Sancerre & Pouilly-Fume
Sauvignon blanc and Pinot noir are the principle grapes of this region that is centered around the appellation of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. The two towns of Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire (where Pouilly-Fumé is made) sit on opposite sides of the Loire river with Sancerre being about 10 miles (16 km) to the northwest of Pouilly. The Fumé is said to come from the silex flint interspersed with the limestone in the area that can give a smoky gunflint note to the wine. Another possibility for the name is the early morning fog created by the Loire river that can blanket the vineyards. Wines labeled with just Pouilly are often made from the Chasselas grape.
Unlike many areas of France, the Sancerre region is heavily mechanized with the use of mechanical harvesting rather than hand pickers. One of the best known producers in the region is Didier Dageneau who, until his tragic deathin 2008, was an influential voice in the area advocating the reduction of yields and the use of organic viticulture. Pouilly-Fumé only produces white wines while Sancerre produces red, white and rosé wines. The white Sauvignon blanc based wines from this region has characteristic gooseberry and grapefruit flavors with the Pouilly-Fumé version typically being more full bodied and rich in texture. The red Pinot noir wines are very light in both body and color that are not very similar to other French expression of the grape like those in Burgundy. Smaller appellations in the region include-
Menetou-Salon - White, red and rosé
Quincy - White wine
Reuilly - White, red and rosé
The region was under the influence of the Duchy of Burgundy for most of its history which partly the reason why plantings were once heavily dominated by the Pinot noir grape. The Phylloxera epidemic of the 19th century altered that dynamic when many of the Pinot noir vineyards were wiped out by the louse. In their place, plantings of the easier to cultivate Sauvignon blanc vine began to increase. While there are still isolated batches of Pinot noir in the region, Sauvignon blanc is now the most heavily planted.
Anjou and Saumur
The Anjou region of the Middle Loire is situated around the town of Angers and is known primarily for the rosé wines based on the Cabernet franc grape-including the Rosé d’Anjou and the Cabernet d’Anjou. White wine made from the Chenin blanc is known as Anjou Blanc while Anjou Rouge is often made from Gamay. Some of the higher quality wines are often labeled with the AOC designation Anjou-Villages. The Chenin blanc grape has been planted in the region since at least 845 AD when it was planted at the Abbey of Glanfeuil. Throughout the years it was known in the region under a variety of synonyms including Pineau de la Loire and Franc-blanc.
The area around Saumur is the third largest sparkling wine appellation in France after the Champagne region and the Crémant d’Alsace AOC with more than 12 million bottles of Saumur Mousseux produced each year. Unlike Champagne which is made with Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier, Saumur sparkling wine is based on the Chenin blanc grape. The area around Saumur-Champigny produces red wine based on the Cabernet franc grape that is similar in profile to the wines produced in St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil.
Vouvray and Touraine
The region around Vouvray, Montlouis-sur-Loire and Touraine has some of the most diverse plantings of all the Loire region and makes a wide variety of white, red and rosé wines. For white wines the main grape is Chenin blanc but Sauvignon blanc and (to a smaller extent) Chardonnay is also planted. For red wines the main grape is Cabernet franc with some smaller plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay and Malbec. The rosé wines are made from an assortment of Gamay, Pineau d’aunis, Pinot gris and Pinot noir. The villages of Vouvray and Montlouis are the largest appellations in the region and make only white wines from Chenin blanc. The wines can vary in sweetness from bone dry (often appearing as sec on the wine label) to very sweet moelleux wines that are often infected by noble rot.
For years the Touraine region would compete with the Beaujolais region for the release of an early bottling of Gamay that would rival the Beaujolais nouveau. While the competition is not so much of a focal point now, there are still some producers who release early bottlings of the wine around the same time as Beaujolais. The soil around the Touraine area is a variety of limestone with excellent drainage that is known as tuffeau which is the same material used to build many of the famous Loire Valley Châteaux.
The Muscadet region is located at the westernmost edge of the Loire Valley near the city of Nantes. In the 17th century, Dutch wine merchants laid the foundation for the Muscadet style by encouraging the villagers of Nantes to plant the early ripening Melon de Bourgogne grape to use in the production of their brandewijn-distilled wine with brandy added to it. Following the devastation in 1709 of winter frost to many of the vineyards in the Loire-Atlantique, King Louis XIV ordered that the frost resistant Muscadet grape be given preferential treatment in the replanting of the area. Despite the inference of “Muskiness” in its name, Muscadet is a neutral flavor wine and the Melon de Bourgogne grape has no relation to the Muscat family of grapes. The area’s four appellation all produces white wine made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape. The appellations are-
Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine
Muscadet-Côtes de Grand Lieu
Muscadet-Coteaux de la Loire
Muscadet- A generic appellation covering the whole of the Loire-Atlantique department.
The wines of the Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine and Muscadet-Côtes de Grand Lieu appellation are often bottled sur lie straight from the tank that they are fermented in without any racking or filtering. This create wines that can be very cloudy and require decanting to remove sediments but also produces wines that can be fuller bodied and show extra dimensions of freshness.