THIS week I want to write about a wine region dear to my heart that is hardly known in Ireland, despite the fact that it is the nearest wine region to Ireland — the Loire Valley.
Yes, we drink plenty of Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé from the Eastern Loire, but when was the last time you tasted a Chinon or Anjou Villages?
The wines of the Western Loire are only 200 miles from the ports of Roscoff and Cherbourg — and all wine styles are represented. South of Nantes is dry crisp Muscadet (which is making a comeback) and further inland near Angers can be found steely, aromatic Chenin Blancs, fragrant Rosé d’Anjou, elegant Crément de Loire and the soft red fruits in the wines of Anjou, Chinon, and Saumur. My favourite wines in the region are the limpid, honeyed dessert wines of Coteaux du Layon and Bonnezeaux.
I spent a magical few days there recently with some food and craft producers from Galway, including Galway Hooker Beer, Sheridans Cheesemongers, Connemara Smokehouse, McGeoghs Meats and Marty’s Mussells. We were there to attend the 54th Fete des Vins d’Anjou in Chalonnes sur Loire and to demonstrate just how well the food of Ireland matches the wines of the Loire — Kellys Native Oysters with Savennières and Cashel Blue with Bonnezeaux to give two perfect examples.
I stayed with Jean Francois and Isabelle Vaillant of Domaine des Grande Vignes who practice completely natural Bio-Dynamic farming methods producing tiny yields and beautifully elegant wines which are thankfully available in Ireland.
The wines of this region can be hard to find but Stuart Brechin in Ranelagh has some aged Dom. des Grandes Vignes’ Bonnezeaux and all French wine specialists should stock some Loire so ask around.
And if you do visit France this year can I recommend you buy your wine from a farmer rather than a supermarket.
Best value under €10
Domaine des Grandes Espérances Sauvignon Blanc 2011 — €9 (reduced from €13)
This is reduced along with most French wines — e.g. watch for their elegant sparkling Crément de Loire for €12. This has a floral touch on the nose mixed with the usual gooseberry and grapefruit, bracing fresh acidity and a lively lemony finish.
Domaine des Grandes Espérances 2010 — €9 (reduced from €13)
This fruit-driven wine from Touraine is a blend of Gamay, Malbec and Cabernet Franc with the Gamay most prominent. Cherries and red currants with some nice stewed fruits and soft juicy flavours on the finish.
Simonsig Chenin Blanc 2011, South Africa — €9.95
Stockists: Selected O’Donovans Cork, Jus de vine Portmarnock, Corks Terenure, Vintry Rathgar, Ardkeen Stores, World Wide Wines Waterford.
I couldn’t find a Chenin Blanc from the Loire for under €10, but this is an excellent introduction to the grape. Aromas of fresh straw and citrus with a lively fresh palate and lingering hints of creamy lemon and lime.
Best value under €20
Réserve des Vignerons, Saumur 2010 — €12.99-€13.99
Stockists: 1601 Kinsale, Ardkeen Waterford, Vintry Rathgar, Redmonds Ranelagh, Martins Fairview
Produced by one of France’s more progressive co-ops from 100% Cabernet Franc. Sweet raspberries on the nose with supple red fruit flavours and a nice lingering raspberry compote finish. Perfect with some spring lamb or roast pork.
Domaine des Grandes Vignes L’Aubinaie, Anjou 2010 — €15.99-€16.99
Stockists: Sheridans Cheesemongers Galway, www.FrenchWines.ie
Bio-Dynamic 100% Cabernet Franc Bright fruity aromas with a mix of red and black fruits — soft fruity palate with touches of red currants and raspberry jam and a long complex finish. One of the most popular wines at Sheridan’s wine bar in Galway!
Domaine des Grandes Vignes Le Pont Martin, Coteaux du Layon 2009 — €17.99
I had to recommend a sweet Loire wine here as they really are a revelation. The honey, sweet pineapple and creamy lemon aromas and flavours are quickly replaced by light fresh acidity to cleanse the mouth. A lovely balance between honey and acidity with lingering lemon bon-bon flavours.
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