A river runs through it

Raymond Blake rounds up a wide selection of Loire
white wines and finds a few gems to add to your ‘must try’ list

The Loire is France’s longest river, stretching to just over one thousand kilometres in a great sweep, running south to north at first and then turning west to head for the Atlantic, draining into the ocean just after Nantes in the heart of Muscadet country. As a wine region, it is the most elongated of any in France, and is home to many styles and grape varieties, yet all the wines (including the reds) carry the same DNA beneath their outward differences, in much the same way that family members can differ widely while sharing the same genetic material. In the case of Loire wines, that material takes the form of a zippy fresh acidity, flavours that are brisk not bold, immediately likeable rather than profound.

This tasting comprised a broad selection, though it was inevitably dominated by Sauvignon Blanc. Chenin Blanc, for many the Loire’s greatest grape, and possibly the most age-worthy of all, barely got a look in yet still managed to nab one of the ‘Recommended’ slots.

Sauvignon reaches its apogee in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé; there were four of the former and three of the latter included, yet the serious plaudits all went to the Pouillys. The Sancerres were pleasant enough; it was just that the Pouillys went that bit further on the palate in terms of fruity excitement, balance and enjoyable length on the finish. Sancerre may be better known but the message was clear: if you are a regular Sancerre drinker and never give Pouilly-Fumé a second thought, it’s time to change.

LOIRE LORE

Melon de Bourgogne is the grape of Muscadet yet, as the name suggests, its origins lie far to the east in Burgundy. Thanks to its being banned there in the sixteenth century it ‘migrated’ to the mouth of the Loire where its resistance to frost made it a winner. A good Muscadet works brilliantly with shellfish, especially oysters, yet recent years have not been kind to Muscadet. Out of fashion and struggling after a minuscule harvest in 2012, it is crying out for rehabilitation. Make the switch from Pinot Grigio. 

Recommendations

Best Wine

Maybe it was the extra bit of age but the Domaine Chatelain, Pouilly-Fumé Harmonie 2010 moved to the top of the class thanks to some appealing complexity.

Best Value

If you have cut your teeth on Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc and are looking for a good introduction to Loire Sauvignon, the Henri de Lorgère, Sancerre 2013 is it.

Most Character

Vouvray continues to languish in the shadows. Perhaps the Domaine de la Taille aux Loups, Vouvray Les Caburoches 2012 will help to change that.

The tasting was held in Pearl Brasserie, 20 Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2, and we are grateful to proprietors Sebastien Masi and Kirsten Batt for the use of their facilities. All the wines were tasted blind but included their price; their identities only being revealed after all notes and scores were made. All the wines were sampled in Riedel tasting glasses. All the ratings are out of five. Our tasting panel this month was: Thomy Sabbe, sommelier, Pearl Brasserie; Quentin Vidal, assistant sommelier, Pearl Brasserie; and Raymond Blake, wine editor, FOOD&WINE Magazine.

1. Château Cassemichère, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2011, €13.99 ABV12%

1. Château Cassemichère, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2011, €13.99, ABV12%

Rating: 3.5 Stars 

This wine provides pleasant proof that Muscadet does not have to be thin, mean and forgettable.

“White flowers on the nose, dry palate, slightly citrus flavour, lightly nutty, high acidity.” (TS)

“Green apple and lime on the nose, palate light and dry, crisp acidity, green apple, classic Muscadet.” (QV)

“Inviting nose, sea-breeze fresh, crisp and bracing on the palate with appealing mineral cut.” (RB)


WHERE TO BUY
Corks, Terenure; Village Stores, Ballyvaughan; O’Neills, Carrickmines; Redmonds, Ranelagh.
(Findlater Wine & Spirit)

2. La Griffe Bernard Chéreau, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2012, €15.50,    	ABV12%

2. La Griffe Bernard Chéreau, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2012, €15.50, ABV12%

Rating: 3 Stars 

From the large house of Chéreau-Carré, owners of over 300 acres of vineyard close to Nantes.

“Fruity, white peach nose, slight spritz, medium acidity, resembles an Albariño, good for aperitif.” (TS)

“Light dry wine, good acidity, yellow apples and yeast flavours, probably sur lie which gives nice body.” (QV)

“Light melon fruit on the nose, faint prickle on the palate, nice citric cut, bit short.” (RB)


WHERE TO BUY
The Vineyard, Galway.
(Febvre & Co)

3. Domaine de la Louvetrie, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2012, €16.75 	ABV 13%

3. Domaine de la Louvetrie, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2012, €16.75 ABV 13%

Rating: 3 Stars 

A wine of distinctive character that divided opinion amongst the tasters.

“Sugary note on the nose, low acidity on the palate, not much length.” (TS)

“Yellow apple and lemon on the nose, dry on the palate, medium bodied, apple and lemon again.” (QV)

“Gentle overlay of honey on a savoury base, probably not strictly ‘correct’ but will appeal to some.” (RB)


WHERE TO BUY
The Vineyard, Galway.
(Febvre & Co)

4. Château de Montguéret, Saumur 2011, €13.29  	ABV12%

4. Château de Montguéret, Saumur 2011, €13.29 ABV12%

Rating: 4 Stars 

It’s such a shame that Chenin Blanc is so overlooked – this one might win a few new fans.

“Ripe fruits on the nose, very good attack on the palate, good minerality, high acidity.” (TS)

“Developing apple flavours with good body, probably aged a little, nice acidity, good finish.” (QV)

“Starts slowly but winds up nicely as it crosses the palate, lovely juicy tingle and citrus notes on the finish.” (RB)


WHERE TO BUY
Marks & Spencer

. Domaine de la Taille aux Loups, Vouvray Les Caburoches 2012, €27.50 	ABV12.5%

. Domaine de la Taille aux Loups, Vouvray Les Caburoches 2012, €27.50 ABV12.5%

Rating: 4.5 Stars 

The only Vouvray in the tasting was a particular favourite of Thomy Sabbe and Raymond Blake.

“Great intensity on the nose, grapefruit zest, slightly buttery flavours on the palate, great length, needs food.” (TS)

“Pale lemon colour in the glass, ripe apples on the nose, some oak perhaps, developed flavours.” (QV)

“Muted nose gives way to an abundantly flavoured palate, lovely savour and great gentle depth, whistle clean finish.” (RB)

Most Character


WHERE TO BUY
Wines Direct @ Arnotts;
www.winesdirect.ie

6. Vignoble Gibault, Sauvignon NV, €11.99  	ABV12%

6. Vignoble Gibault, Sauvignon NV, €11.99 ABV12%

Rating: 3.5 Stars 

The first Sauvignon Blanc in the tasting went down very well with Thomy Sabbe.

“Classic gooseberry nose, good citrus flavours and green apple, perfect as an aperitif with oysters.” (TS)

“Fresh apple on the nose and dry on the palate, medium acidity, medium finish.” (QV)

“Simple enough on the palate, pleasant, no hard edges.” (RB)


WHERE TO BUY
McCabes, Blackrock; Cases, Galway; Sweeneys, Glasnevin; Gables, Foxrock; Wines on the Green, Dawson St.
(Celtic Wines and Whiskey)

7. Marquis de Goulaine, Touraine Sauvignon 2012, €13.99   	ABV 12.5%

7. Marquis de Goulaine, Touraine Sauvignon 2012, €13.99 ABV 12.5%

Rating: 3 Stars 

Touraine is a huge, catch all region that encompasses Vouvray, Chinon and Bourgueil.

“Fresh on the nose with grassy notes, flavour pretty low on the palate, medium length.” (TS)

“Pale clear lemon colour in the glass, red apples on the nose, dry on the palate.” (QV)

“Some pleasant Sauvignon Blanc grip here, juicy and fresh, flavour a bit angular.” (RB)


WHERE TO BUY
Independents, nationwide.
(Cassidy Wines)

8. Thierry Delaunay, Sauvignon Blanc 2013, €15.95   	ABV12.5%

8. Thierry Delaunay, Sauvignon Blanc 2013, €15.95 ABV12.5%

Rating: 3.5 Stars 

The only wine in the tasting sealed with a screwcap – quite unusual to have just one these days.

“Pea and gooseberry on the nose, lovely freshness on the palate, good for a warm day outdoors.” (TS)

“A light bodied wine, ready to drink now, green apple flavours, medium finish.” (QV)

“Some nice juicy charm here, tingly and fresh, balanced acidity, clean finish.” (RB)


WHERE TO BUY
Ardkeen, Waterford; Corkscrew, Chatham St; independents.
(Febvre & Co)

9. Domaine Raimbault-Pineau, Coteaux du Giennois 2013  €17.49  	ABV 12.5%

9. Domaine Raimbault-Pineau, Coteaux du Giennois 2013 €17.49 ABV 12.5%

Rating: 2.5 Stars 

Coteaux du Giennois is a small, little known appellation north of the much better known Pouilly-Fumé.

“Slightly woody on the nose, needs to breathe.” (TS)

“Yellow apple and developed lemon on the nose, nice apple flavours with good citrus, medium body, good finish.” (QV)

“A slight vegetal note dominates at first, quite firm and forceful, more charm please.” (RB)


WHERE TO BUY
Mitchell & Son, CHQ & Glasthule.
(Mitchells)

10. Henri de Lorgère, Sancerre 2013, €10.49  	ABV12.5%

10. Henri de Lorgère, Sancerre 2013, €10.49 ABV12.5%

Rating: 4 Stars 

Along with Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Beaujolais, Sancerre is one of the most widely recognised French wine names.

“Very fresh nose, green flavours of fresh cut grass, good grip on the palate, a classic.” (TS)

“Nice juicy fruit on the palate, apple and lemon, mouthwatering finish.” (QV)

“Lovely juiciness here, nice tingle, crisp and clean, good balance.” (RB)

Best Value


WHERE TO BUY
Aldi

 

11. Tesco Finest, Sancerre 2012,        €21.99 	ABV12.5%

11. Tesco Finest, Sancerre 2012, €21.99 ABV12.5%

Rating: 3 Stars 

Produced for Tesco by the Fournier family in Verdigny, though it was well outstripped by its sibling Pouilly-Fumé.

“Passion fruit on the palate, new world style, fresh on the finish.” (TS)

“Nice acidity on the palate, apple and lemon fruits.” (QV)

“Nose a bit mute, palate has more character, crisp and stony, will probably divide opinion.” (RB)


WHERE TO BUY
Tesco

12. Domaine Masson-Blondelet, Sancerre 2012, €23.50 	ABV 12.5%

12. Domaine Masson-Blondelet, Sancerre 2012, €23.50 ABV 12.5%

Rating: 3.5 Stars 

Made from vineyards close to the village of Thauvenay and without the use of insecticides.

“Caramelised fruits on the nose, very good attack on the palate, grapefruit all the way through to the finish.” (TS)

“Attractive minerality on the nose carries onto the palate, light bodied with good acidity.” (QV)

“Oodles of fresh juicy fruit, well balanced and clean on the finish, a little one-dimensional.” (RB)


WHERE TO BUY
Wines Direct @ Arnotts;
www.winesdirect.ie

13. Marquis de Goulaine, Sancerre Les Lorys 2012, €23.99 	ABV 12.5%

13. Marquis de Goulaine, Sancerre Les Lorys 2012, €23.99 ABV 12.5%

Rating: 4 Stars 

A real favourite of Raymond Blake, the other tasters were more reserved in their enthusiasms.

“Very fresh in the mouth, delicate citrus flavour, hint of quince, good minerality.” (TS)

“Appealing nose and nice soft fruit on the palate, pears and red apples.” (QV)

“Rich fruit on the nose, leaner on the palate but not austere, lovely balance and length, this is a classy drop.” (RB)


WHERE TO BUY
Independents, nationwide. (Cassidy Wines)

14. Tesco Finest, Pouilly-Fumé 2011, €19.99   	ABV12.5%

14. Tesco Finest, Pouilly-Fumé 2011, €19.99 ABV12.5%

Rating: 4.5 Stars 

Pouilly-Fumé sits across the Loire from Sancerre, just before the river turns towards the Atlantic.

“High intensity nose, earthy notes on the palate, some green flavours, good length.” (TS)

“Pronounced flint stone aromas and good minerality on the palate, plenty of fruit and a nice long finish.” (QV)

“Lovely balance and good fruit with a stern mineral core, lingers nicely.” (RB)


WHERE TO BUY
Tesco

15. Domaine Chatelain, Pouilly-Fumé Harmonie 2010, €21.99 	ABV 12.5%

15. Domaine Chatelain, Pouilly-Fumé Harmonie 2010, €21.99 ABV 12.5%

Rating: 5 Stars 

Both Thomy Sabbe and Quentin Vidal were very impressed with this wine.

“Full yellow in the glass, good balance between acidity and fruit, elegant and racy wine, great for a meal.” (TS)

“Developed aromas of apple, ripe fruit flavours on the palate, floral notes too.” (QV)

“Succulent fruit on the nose, lovely integration on the palate, good depth, lively tingle.” (RB)

Best Wine


WHERE TO BUY
Corks, Terenure; Sheils, Malahide; Mitchells, CHQ & Glasthule.
(Findlater Wine & Spirit)

16. Domaine a Cailbourdin, Pouilly-Fumé Cuvée de Boisfleury 2012, €25.50  	ABV12.5%

16. Domaine a Cailbourdin, Pouilly-Fumé Cuvée de Boisfleury 2012, €25.50 ABV12.5%

Rating: 4.5 Stars 

The tasting finished on a high note – with another delicious Pouilly-Fumé.

“Complex nose, round and fleshy on the palate, stays in the mouth, elegant finish.” (TS)

“Juicy fruit on the nose and nice acidity on the palate, good flavours, good finish.” (QV)

“Lovely savoury snap here to hold the ripe fruit in check, rounded and fresh, long finish.” (RB)


WHERE TO BUY
Corkscrew, Chatham Street; independents.
(Febvre & Co)