Friday, October 21, 2011

Gotta Have The Funk - Loire Valley

There is, perhaps, no region in the world that offers so much diversity in wine styles as the Loire Valley. From the lean and austere wines of Muscadet to the funky and fresh red wines of Anjou, its multifariousness cannot be denied. With the exception of white Sancerre (yes, Sancerre needs a qualifier) and the occasional request for Muscadet, the wines are often ignored by a large portion of the wine consumers. It’s not hard to understand why. Unless the merchant you shop with has tasted the wine and can direct you to the style that bets suits your palate, odds are you may not be happy with what you purchased. There is, generally speaking, no way to tell what’s in the bottle from the label. Okay fine, you can make basic generalization based on the village represented on the label. Bourgueil, for instance, will tend to provide wines of medium body, lively wines with soft fruit and low funk character. Sancerre will provide Sauvignon Blancs that are highly aromatic and bone dry with palate cracking acidity. But what about Menetou-Salon, Chinon, Touraine, Vouvray? It can be a very big mystery. Of course, this is a great source of enjoyment for those who love a mysterious bottle. Too be honest, I’m still not sure if I fall into that group, though I’m leaning toward no. I like knowing what I am getting into and what to expect from a bottle. So it makes shopping for Loire valley wines a little more difficult. Lucky for me I love all the various styles from Loire and I get to taste everything before I buy it. A great selection of wines hit my palate this week that really showed the diversity of wines available from this awesome wine region.

The 2010 Alain Assadet Menetou Salon Blanc is an authoritative style of Sauvignon Blanc from the Menetou Salon region. Fierce aromatics of litchi/passion fruit, round texture with soft acidity and a bright finish. It gets a worth it.  Alain’s red is produced from 100% Pinot Noir. The 2008 Alain Assadet Menetou Salon Rouge is the opposite of funk. Very pretty ruby color with berry aromas and the faintest hint of smoke. It’s round and polished with a little fatty weight on the palate that gives it structure to hold up the berry fruit. Pinot lovers will love the under $25 price of this wine which dedicates a worth it. Think Savigny Les Beaune without the Burgundy price tag. Alain owns 27 acres in Menetou Salon and Paray which dates back to his grandfather.

The 2007 Domaine Les Grandes Vignes Le Temps des Vignes Anjou Village “Les Cocainelles” receives to award for the longest and most annoying label EVER. It’s a good thing the wine is so damn good. At least to someone who loves funk because this is almost as funky as Cabernet Franc from Anjou gets. The producer Jean Francois Vaillant uses third pass oak for the wine allowing it to develop awesome texture and beautiful aromas. Spice, tomato compote, plum, prune and wet earth are dominant. The palate is medium to full bodied with outstanding polish and a long finish. Had me signing “We want the funk, gotta have that funk!” all day. The review in my previous post states it’s a cautious buy, but since this is a post about Loire Valley and I love the funk it gets a strong buy here. I’d happily pay $25 for this bottle but you can find it for less than that. The Valliant family has owned the estate since the 17th century and currently manages 136 acres. Wow that’s a lot of land!

For the record, this is just a picayune sampling of the diversity of the Loire Valley. I highly recommend that any person interested in wine explore the many styles and faces of the Loire Valley. Step out of the comfort zone of Burgundy, Bordeaux and Rhone. You’ll be surprised that you haven’t even scratched the surface of all the beautiful wines made in France. Loire has so much to offer.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Loire Valley, is a great resource to get you started.

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