I have that same feeling you get when an exciting whirlwind vacation is coming to a close. After spending so much time thinking about the local culture, flavors, and terroir, I am on my last two bottles of wine from France’s Loire Valley and it is bittersweet (the feeling, not the wine).
According to UNESCO committee, The Loire Valley is “an exceptional cultural landscape, of great beauty, comprised of historic cities and villages, great architectural monuments – the Châteaux – and lands that have been cultivated and shaped by centuries of interaction between local populations and their physical environment, in particular the Loire itself.” Here’s a few quick things I learned about the Loire Valley:
- The Loire River is France’s only wild river.
- The region is decorated with more than 1,000 châteaux (castles).
- The Loire Valley is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.
- It’s known as the “Garden of France” – Just google image it!
I decided to spend my last night tasting a selection from Pays Nantais and Touraine as I had already hit the two other major regions, Anjou-Saumur and Central Vineyards. Spoiler alert: I came out with a clear winner on this one!
I was excited to give the Muscadet a try as I was sure that I had never tasted the Melon de Bourgogne grape and I was equally as sure that I had never tried a wine from Pays Nantais which is situated on the picturesque coast of France. My selection was a Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie by producer Chateau du Jaunay. The Sèvre et Maine part describes that the vines are located in-between a fork in the river and the Sur Lie part explains that the wine was aged on its sediment, or lees.
The wine was pale like the others I had tasted from the region but it did have a slightly deeper tint toward a straw yellow. The smell was familiar but, at the time, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it and the taste followed suit. It was dry, light bodied, and only very lightly acidic but that may just have been relative to the others. I was stumped. After digging in to find out why this flavor was such a conundrum to me, I figured it out. The Melon de Bourgogne is a distant relative of the Chardonnay grape which makes perfect sense – The Muscadet had a familiar yet not extremely pleasant nose and taste because I am not Chardonnay’s #1 fan. Remember, it all comes down to what you prefer.
Overall, I rated this wine a 7.0 out of 10.
Moving a little inland, my last and final stop was in Touraine where I tried a Vouvray by producer LaCheteau. Vouvray was not as unfamiliar to me as the Muscadet but, if you were to have asked me to share about the wine, let’s just say I would have been guessing at best.
Consistent with the others from this region, the color was a pale yellow which was typically describing the grape and age of the wine (young). The nose had a certain freshness that reminded me of coastal air and boasted a bright citrusy flavor with a touch of sweetness. The taste confirmed what I had smelled and even took it further when I picked up on the lemon-like acidity. After several sips, I concluded that this wine had all the notes of a refreshing lemonade, but better.
I immediately felt as excited as I was when I tasted the Chenin Blanc from Anjou and I am nothing if not consistent. Touraine is just a stone’s throw away from Anjou and it is made with Chenin Blanc, so similar but yet so distinctly different.
Overall, I rated this wine an 8.5 out of 10.
I’ve still got plenty of wine to drink tonight and, if I have enough, I might just buy the next ticket to France so I can explore the vineyards, seafood, and châteaux of the Loire Valley.
Next stop, Alsace!