Photograph: ©Egor Murikov istock.adobe.com
In the heart of France, the valley that surrounds the River Loire and its tributaries is home to some 400 vineyards that produce a good deal of the fresh, light white wine (plus rosés and red wines, too) that we love to enjoy in warmer climates. Known as the “Garden of France,” the Loire Valley is a cool region with long, warm autumns, where the rivers create microclimates among slopes of chalk and flint, and river banks of clay. As a result, it is one of France’s great wine-making areas, producing a variety of styles that match well with seasonal menus. Whether you’re dining out or hosting dinner al fresco, wine experts share some intel for your next pairing pleasure.
LOCAL EXPERTS’ FAVORITES
Gabriele’s Italian Steakhouse
“The COMTE LAFOND SANCERRE is truly a special occasion white, with layers of flavor and complexity associated with better white burgundies.”
“SAUVIGNON BLANC pairs with full-bodied fish in citrus and white wine sauces, although some of the better ones like MAISON IDIART go well with Livornese preparations, which use capers, olives and cherry tomatoes to accent the sauce.”
Ten Twenty Bistro
“Regarding SANCERRE and POUILLY-FUMÉ, the mineral notes in both tame the fruit of the Sauvignon. Either are perfect with any of our simple fish preparations, Spinney Creek Maine steamers or steamed lobster.”
“MUSCADET is a perfect oyster wine. Many say better than champagne. It’s the minerality in both that complements our large selection of raw oysters.”
THE FANTASTIC FOUR
The inside story on grapes from the “Garden of France”
1 Melon de Bourgogne
It’s from the Muscadet region, where the Loire meets the Atlantic Ocean. It boasts brisk, fresh, mineral flavors.
2 Chenin Blanc
There are many expressions of this grape grown in the central regions of Tourraine in Vouvray, Anjou and Saumur; it is sparkling, sweet or bone dry.
3 Cabernet Franc
The red of the region. For those of you who prefer reds and rosés, they are produced in Anjou and Chinon, which pair well with seafood stews.
4 Sauvignon Blanc
The “ambassadors” of this familiar grape, with its crisp, grassy, and citrus flavors, are Sancerre, which balances fruit, body, minerals and acidity, and Pouilly-Fumé, which is richer and more full-bodied.
White Wine Pairings
A few suggestions for guaranteed soirée success
Start your gathering by toasting with a glass of sparkling Crément de Loire.
Sip a minerally Muscadet while slurping oysters on the half shell.
Share a conversation over a juicy Sancerre and shrimp avocado salad.
Best For Last
Savor a sweet Chenin Blanc with a cheese plate for a refined dessert.
Elizabeth Keyser has written about beer, wine and spirits for newspapers, magazines and blogs. She has sat on the Yankee Brew News tasting panel and judged craft and European brew contests.