The Loire River winds along the northwestern region of France, passing by villages that range from large, like Nantes, to small, like Chambord and Champigny. As the river makes it’s way inland from the Atlantic Ocean, it finds itself right in the heart of age-old vineyards that have produced wines celebrated all over the world.
At the edge of the Loire Valley region, the river divides two towns that are both known for producing beautiful expressions of the Sauvignon Blanc varietal, Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire.
For me, the picturesque image I had painted in my mind got me wondering which style might I prefer more. Better yet, would I even detect a notable difference? I also dreamed up a feud between the two sides of Montague and Capulet proportions but that is likely entirely untrue (who knows?).
My curiosity won over so I decided that my first tasting of French whites would be a face-off between the Sancerre and the Pouilly-Fumé.
From the West of the river hails the first contender, Sancerre. I picked up a bottle by producer Laurent Reverdy for about $15 at Trader Joe’s. Given that I’m not (yet) a connoisseur and it did say Appellation Sancerre Contrôlée on the bottle, I felt confident that my selection would do the trick. Oh, and it was the only option on the shelf.
Once home, I called a friend and we poured ourselves a few ounces to kick-off the tasting. The wine was a very pale yellow that got lighter around the rim alluding to a younger vintage. Thin, quick legs ran down the glass after giving it a good swirl which also released a bouquet of bright acidity, green apple, and pineapple (or so we both agreed). The taste confirmed what we detected on the nose: a balance of acidity and lightly sweet fruits. There was, however, a certain je ne sais quoi about this one. It caused my tongue to feel almost numb and, drawing back on my sommelier training, I remembered it could be described as minerality.
Overall, I rated the wine a 9.1 out of 10.
Representing the East side, our second contender was the Pouilly-Fumé from Pouilly-sur-Loire. During my Total Wine shopping spree the day before, I picked up a bottle for $17 by producer Les Franches. I had a few options on the shelf but, honestly, the label was appealing and the guy stocking the shelves next to me said it was a fine selection (thank you, sir).
The Sancerre had come out swinging so I really wasn’t sure what to expect. The wine was similarly a pale yellow that got lighter toward the rim. After many attempts at swirling, the legs would not form on the side of the glass. However, I realized an hour later on glass number three that I was overzealous on chilling the wine; after it rested on the counter for a while, it opened up and the legs did form what I would classify as medium-sized and medium-speed (note: I was three glasses in). Even overly chilled, the aroma of pears balanced with a citrusy acidity jumped out of the glass. The taste revealed a light body and minerality that lingered on the tongue for moments after. I did feel a bit of heat in this one which made me guess that it was higher in alcohol but after checking, it comes in at 12.5%.
Overall, I rated the wine an 8.5 out of 10.
While the ratings I submitted to Delectable show a clear winner, I feel as though I only scratched the surface of the wines from the Central Vineyards. We’ll just call this round one.