If you are looking for some fresh new wines for spring, you definitely want to consider the wines of the Loire Valley. The Loire Valley is in northwestern France— a cool climate growing area that produces wines known for their crisp acidity, which makes them exceptionally food-friendly. The Loire produces a diverse range of wines that includes sparkling, white, rose, red and luscious dessert wines. Three of my favorite Loire wines are Muscadet, Rosé d’Anjou and Savennieres.
Muscadet is a Loire Valley region that focuses on making bright, high-acid, white wines from the Melon de Bourgogne grape. Muscadet is known for its minerality, with a backbone of acidity that makes this wine a natural pairing for oysters and all types of seafood. The best vineyards are in the area around the Sèvre Nantaise and La Maine rivers, and are labeled “Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine.” Some Muscadet will be labeled sur lie to indicate the significant amount of time spent aging on their lees (lees are the dead yeast cells that are left over from fermentation). Aging the wine on its lees will add additional complexity, character and taste. There are some excellent small producers that focus on making high-quality Muscadet wines including Marc Ollivier, Andre-Michel Brégeon, Luneau-Papin and Chateau du Cleray.
Another great way to kick off spring is with rosé. The Anjou region of the Loire is known for its easygoing rosés that have a touch of sweetness. Rosé d’Anjou can be made from a blend of grape varieties, including the relatively obscure Pineau d’Aunis or Grolleau, as well as the more familiar Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec or Gamay. These wines have aromas of cherry and berries with enough acidity to balance the sweetness. There are wine snobs who turn up their noses at pink wine but don’t be one of them! Rosé d’Anjou is a great pairing for barbecue, spicy cuisine such as Asian dishes, as well as seafood. Producers to look for include Marquis de Goulaine, Sauvion, Remy Pannier and Monmousseau.
Savennieres is also an area in the Anjou region that makes a more serious white wine from the Chenin Blanc grape. This small appellation is known for its bone-dry Chenin Blancs that, with age, develop honeyed, creamy whites that also have citrus flavors and, you guessed it, crisp acidity. Although not aged in oak barrels, Savennieres will appeal to wine lovers who enjoy the creamy richness of oak-aged whites. These are complex wines that improve with age, unlike most white wines. Great with seafood, Savennieres also has enough body to stand up to poultry and pork. Once you’ve tasted a great Savennieres, you will have a hard time finding anything else like it. Producers to try include Domaine des Baumard, Domaine du Closel and Chateau d’Epire.
The wines of the Loire Valley are among some of the best in the world. This spring, tour the Loire via glass by trying Muscadet, Rosé d’Anjou and Savennieres. Bon Voyage! —Laurie Forster
Laurie Forster, The Wine Coach®, is a wine educator and author of the book “The Sipping Point: A Crash Course in Wine.” Her specialty is providing wine expertise for corporate events, group tastings and team-building seminars. She is also a frequent guest expert on radio shows, including Martha Stewart Radio. Visit the http://www.winecoach.com.