Last Monday’s postcard post saw a sun-drenched bike ride.
But, back in Tours, while enjoying its centuries-old city center…
The clouds open, drench, and, drive us…well…into a bottle shop (surprise!):
Maison des Vins de Loire de Tours. A group of winemakers and negociants wanted to educate visitors about the Loire’s many wines, grapes, and regions. So they set up tasting rooms in Tours, Saumur, Nantes, and Angers.
Yes, it’s for tourists. But mostly locals popped in: partly out of pride, partly because the prices are low.
Overwhelmed by their range, hospitality, and knowledge, we visit it twice. Here are some highlights:
This fizz has a mild but spicy nose of cinnamon, candied pear, wax, smoke, and mineral. It is bone dry, with bright lemon, white pepper, grass, and a medium plus length. Very good (4 of 5). Airy and ornate, like Tours’ Psalette Cloister.
But we’ve tried enough whites and bubbly in Vouvray. So we turn to rosé:
This pink comes from the Grolleau grape. Critics hate it. Robert Parker once told the Loire to tear it up. When people think of Grolleau, they think of mass-produced, light, cheap, bland Rosé d’Anjou.
However, Pibaleau’s clear, pale rosé smells of red clay, rose water, turkish delight, and a fun bit of barnyard funk. The palate tastes off-dry (1.3% rs). But high acids tighten it. Medium flavors tend toward a wild, mineral driven, tart, berried drink with roasted almonds rounding the medium-plus long finish.
Clearly, Grolleau can become very good wine (4 of 5): charmed, inviting, but all too ignored, like poet Ronsard’s retirement at the Saint-Cosme Priory:
We turn to reds.
The Malbec (aka Côt) wines on hand taste fine but forgettable.
We try some solid Cabernet Francs. But the meaty, grippy, brambly, black-cherried 2009 Chinon “Caractère” from Jean-Max Manceau stands out (3 of 5). 12.50 EU.
These serious, structured reds recall our rain-drenched discovery of the intimidating, austere, château retreat of Louis XI:
Next up, Gamay.
Beaujolais Nouveau has done much to popularize and demonize this grape. Even the Loire celebrates Touraine Primeur: a carbon-copy Nouveau release of gamay. We expect little.
But Domaine de la Charmoise‘s “Première Vendage” 2011 Touraine is a completely different wine. Henri Marionnet let native yeasts ferment a wine, meant for young drinking.
Our 50 cent taste reveals a purple color. Wild bramble fruits, cranberry, cinnamon and a slight savory edge make up the bouquet. Vibrant high acids, mild tannins, and moderate alcohol (12.5%) add up to a lightish body. Present flavors of cranberry sauce, followed by earth, chalk, cinnamon last for a moderate length. It is strange and fun like
We like this lean, fun, earthy gamay: very good (4 of 5). So we buy it for 8.50 and enjoy it with the bonkers cat at our homestay:
Want a more wayward grape? Then try and find a Pineau d’Aunis. Once the darling of medieval kings from England’s Henry III to France’s Charles VII, Aunis today has rapidly declined, with fewer than 1,000 acres remaining.
But Domaine de Cézin makes a red Côteaux du Loire 2011, called “Aunis” from it. Similar to Pinot Noir, this Aunis looks a clear, light ruby. Aromas and flavors evoke clove, cranberry, and cracked pepper. It holds our palates with a good, dusty, tannic grip, and high-toned acidity. The body is round. The length is impressive. The quality is very good (4 of 5), especially at 6.50. It’s just as odd, rare, yet adored as Tours’ stuffed elephant, Fritz:
Lastly, dessert. And back to the Loire’s classic grape: Chenin Blanc.
Domaine de la Chataigneraie, Sélection St Martin, 2010 Vouvray.
It looks like clear, golden amber. Aromas announce themselves with rich perfume, beeswax candle, savory yeast, and stone fruits. It is lusciously sweet, full bodied yet balanced by peaked acidity. Twisting, complex flavors range from raspberry, to dried apricot, botrytis, fresh nectarine, and endless honey. Very good (4 of 5) for 16.50.
This is challenging yet charming, lovely yet stately: just like the strange, experimental, half-bridged Château Chenonceau:
Maison des Vins de Loire pulls off a difficult trick.
The Loire river holds amongst its banks a Noah’s Ark of wines. Yet this chain creates a sharp, straightforward environment. They carry well made, reasonably priced wines, and are excited to teach you about them. There one can sample the wide diversity of grapes, regions, and styles of Loire wine, without ever getting soaked.
- Why We Shouldn’t Forget About the Loire (girlonwine.com)
- Velo Vouvray: Cycling the Loire Valley to Marc Bredif Winery (waywardwine.com)
- Velo Vouvray 2: Chateau Moncontour and Chenin Blanc (waywardwine.com)
- Touraine’s Sauvignon Blanc Webcast Videos Capture Evening of Discovery for Wine Bloggers Across U.S. (tasteliveblog.com)
- VELO VOUVRAY 3: Maison Darragon (waywardwine.com)
- TOURING TOURS DAY 1: OLGA RAFFAULT CHINON 2006 and 2009 (waywardwine.com)
- Loire (vinodatum.wordpress.com)
- The Wine Cellar: Don’t turn your nose up at Loire Valley reds, roses (triblive.com)