Loire Valley finds

Next time you swing into your local ABC Fine Wine & Spirits store, be sure to check out three new additions to our French selection. We are constantly tasting in a non-ending effort to refresh every category, and I can assure you, speaking from experience, that we thumbs down many, many wines for every one we find that fills a void or tells a different story.

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Early in 2015, my colleague Atanas and I tasted through five wines from a negociant that we were both familiar with. The main reason we looked a little closer this time was because over the 2014 holiday season we were wiped clean of every Sancerre in inventory in nearly every store company wide! It was not until a few months later – months we spent trying to fill the Sancerre pipeline – that we realized why Sancerre was the darling of the season. Seems it was featured in a very popular movie, Fifty Shades of Grey. Now, Sancerre is a lovely wine, which I have enjoyed for years, decades to be more precise. One thing I will say about Sancerre is that although it would be a lovely gift if I were on the receiving end, it’s not really the style of wine that pairs well with snow-covered hills and fireplaces. Apparently being named in a rap song or mentioned in a movie does wonders for a wine’s career!

Back to the new wines… So, in our quest for good Sancerre to bring in, we were presented with two separate bottlings by Nicolas Idiart, in addition to a simple Loire Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Everyone knows Sauvignon Blanc dominates the landscape of the upper Loire, where it goes unchallenged, and unblended, into wines as illustrious as Pouilly-Fume, Sancerre, Menatou-Salon and Qunicy; distinctive in style, due not only to the variety, but to the soils and sub soils in this part of the Loire Valley. Crisp and racy, these are some of the best, and best-known Sauvignon Blanc in the world. In this same area, they do cultivate a small amount of Pinot Noir. Accounting for about 20% of the plantings, Pinot Noir here is on the generous side, somewhat hard to find, and probably better known as Sancerre rosé than as a red wine. Finding a good red version is time consuming. Finding a good red one at $10 is more challenging, but I think we did!

The Loire is named ‘the Garden of France’ and for good reason. Beautiful cremant wines are crafted here, as are just about every style of white and rose wine imaginable, including Muscadet, Vouvray, Savennieres, Rose d’Anjou and not forgetting the world class sweet wines Bonnezeaux and Quarts du Chaume. Chinon may be the most famous red wine, along with Bourguiel and St. Nicolas de Bourguiel and Saumur-Champigny, all from the Cabernet Franc grape. You should become familiar with each and every one of these gems!

Shayne Hebert, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine and spirits supervisor

Follow me on Twitter @abcwineShayne

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