The River Loire is the longest river in France, with its source in the low mountains of the Massif Central, flowing for 634 miles to its outlet on the Atlantic Ocean near the city of Nantes. Vineyards are planted along much of its course and along many of its tributaries, the different soils and micro-climates being one of the factors contributing to the diversity of wines produced.
Known in the UK particularly for the white wines and sparkling crémant, some of these are seen often on wine merchant or supermarket shelves, as well as on many a restaurant wine list. Wines such as Muscadet, Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé are perhaps the Loire wines most known and loved by consumers, but a whole host of others – red and white – are just waiting to be discovered.
I have selected six wines from the wide list of Loire wines offered by The Wine Society, all of which are perfect for summer drinking – particularly now we actually seem to have some summer weather! One of my absolute favourites is a sauvignon blanc from the small central region of Reuilly, which can give many a Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé a run for their money. Reuilly Les Fossiles 2020 from Domaine de Reuilly is an organic wine, with great depth and minerality from the marine fossils found in the soil. £15.50 a bottle.
Cheverny is a region further down river in the Touraine area, and Cheverny Domaine du Salvard 2020 has 15 per cent chardonnay mixed with sauvignon blanc, giving a crisp, fresh and deliciously complex wine, perfect for salads and seafood. £9.25. Produced by a small family estate near the famed chateaux of Chambord, Chenonceaux and Cheverny.
Close by is the separate small appellation of Cour Cheverny. Le Petit Chambord 2019 is made from the unusual and ancient grape variety of romarantin, producing a dry, seductive white wine capable of ageing well for more than five years. With its firm body and good acidity, it is a great complement to dishes in a creamy sauce or a cheese platter. £12.95.
Montlouis sur Loire is also in the Touraine area, right next-door to the well-known region of Vouvray and making similar style wines from the chenin grape. Les Tuffeaux 2018 made by Francois Chidaine who makes a range of wines from dry to sweet. Les Tuffeaux is in the middle, being medium dry and full of fruit. Ripe and concentrated, it is excellent with light Thai-style dishes, chicken and gammon. Serious wine at £24 a bottle.
Between Sancerre and Orleans is a little known and relatively new appellation region growing sauvignon grapes on ancient limestone slopes and terraces. The Coteaux du Giennois Blanc Domaine de Villargeau 2019 has typical sauvignon aromatics, ripe fruit and a balanced mineral acidity. Well worth a try at £9.95 a bottle. Calls for smoked trout or grilled prawns.
The last of my six is a red from the difficult to pronounce region of Bourgueil in central Touraine – Domaine de Matabrune 2018. Made principally from cabernet franc, this is a great summer red, which can be enjoyed lightly chilled. Rich, dark fruit character on the palate, with supple tannins and aromas of red fruits and a touch of spice. £9.50. Barbecued lamb cutlets or marinaded chicken.
Richard Esling is a wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. He runs wine agency and consultancy WineWyse, is founder and principal of Sussex Wine Academy and is chairman of Arundel Wine Society