If you are hankering for fine French wine and food, why not consider the Loire Valley region of central France? You may even find a bargain. I think you'll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a white Chenin Blanc from Anjou-Saumur Touraine in the central part of the region. Among France's eleven wine-growing regions the Loire Valley is third in the acreage devoted to vineyards. The Loire is France's longest river running for 620 miles (one thousand kilometers) across the center of the country. In many ways the Loire Valley can be considered as a series of regions. Here they are running from west to east: Nantais whose number one grape is the white Muscadet, Anjou-Saumur whose primary grapes are the white Chenin Blanc and the red Cabernet Franc, Touraine whose major white grapes are Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc and whose primary red grape is Cabernet Franc, and Central Vineyards whose primary white grape is Sauvignon Blanc and whose primary red grape is Pinot Noir.
We will review at least one wine from each of these four areas. Saumur is a city of about thirty-five thousand inhabitants where the Loire and the Thouet Rivers meet in the Anjou and Saumur zone of the Loire Valley, east of the Nantes and west of Tours. It is a bourgeois city quite proud of its historic center and Fourteenth Century Church of St-Pierre as well as the city square of the same name. And of course there is a Loire Valley turreted Castle, the Château de Saumur well worth the visit even though the Musee des Arts Decoratifs (Decorative Arts Museum) and the Musee du Cheval (Equestrian Museum) may be closed to the public.
Saumur's Riding School, the Cadre Noir de Saumur (literally the Black Cadre) was founded well over one hundred fifty years ago. Its instructors, whether military or civilian, wear beautiful black and gold uniforms in public performances that attract up to forty thousand spectators. If you are at all interested in equestrian performances make sure to catch their class act. And stop by the Maison du Vin (House of Wine) for more information on this great wine-growing region. Before reviewing the Loire wine and imported cheeses that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region. Start with Rillions (Big chunks of Pork cooked in Pork Fat).
For your second course savor Becasse fouree au Foie Gras (Woodcock stuffed with Foie Gras). And as dessert indulge yourself with Tarte Tatin (Upside down Apple Tart). OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines reviewed here have been purchased at the full retail price. Wine Reviewed Domaine de Saint-Just Saumur Blanc 2005 AC 12.5% alcohol about $13 Let's start by quoting the marketing materials.
We see very little white Saumur in our market, so this is a rare treat indeed. Made with 100% Chenin Blanc, it shows the aromatic virtues of the grape coupled with racy acidity. The result is a wine that may be enjoyed in its youth with seafood dishes such as grilled prawns, but will definitely age gracefully for 3-5 years.
My first meal was fried chicken-breast scaloppini, with rice and Turkish salad. This wine was very refreshing and pleasantly acidic. It was palate-cleansing with a lot of lime. It was quite present in the face of a strong Turkish salad.
The next meal consisted of slow-cooked chicken legs with a mix of Eastern spices, brown rice, and green beans. The Saumur Blanc was quite forward with plenty of fruit and acidity. It was very pleasant. The final pairing involved whole-wheat spaghetti and hamburgers but no tomato sauce.
The wine was refreshingly acidic with a lot of lime. It was very long. While the wine was somewhat flattened by a fruit-juice candy, it displayed delicate fruit and acidity when paired with a good-quality cheesecake. The first cheese pairing was with a mild Italian Pecorino Friulano cheese. This was no success; the wine became a bit thin and lost a lot of its fruit.
Then I tried a nutty Dutch Edam cheese. The wine was moderately fruity and that combination was OK but not great. Final verdict.
I liked this wine and would definitely buy it again. I feel that it was quite good for the price. And I can't find much more to say about it.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine German, Italian, or other wine, accompanied by the right foods and the right people. He knows what dieting is, and is glad that for the time being he can eat and drink what he wants, in moderation. He teaches various and sundry classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his Italian travel, wine, and food website www.travelitalytravel.com and his Italian wine website www.theitalianwineconnection.com .