We love the wines of the Loire Valley all year round, but there is something about them that makes them especially perfect for spring. Perhaps it is their bright, lively acidity, or their ability to exhibit fruit-forward, aromatic character while remaining harmoniously balanced. Whatever the case may be, this region of western France excels at every point on the wine spectrum, from dry to sweet, still to sparkling, and white to red (not to mention rosé!). Stretching across the Loire River from the Muscadet region on the Atlantic coast to Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé at the heart of the country, this area has something to offer just about every wine drinker.
This bright, fresh sparkler is a wonderfully affordable alternative to Champagne, and Paul's favorite crémant. Made from a blend of 80% Chenin Blanc and 20% Cabernet Franc, it offers unmistakably Chenin-like aromas of honeysuckle and crisp McIntosh apples. Marked acidity on the palate is balanced by a creamy mouth-feel lent by extended lees aging.
This Muscadet produced only in excellent vintages from 45-year-old vines is what we want to drink all summer long. Not to be confused with sometimes-sweet Muscat, the grape variety here is Melon de Bourgogne and it is anything but saccharine. What makes this wine especially unique is the aging process it undergoes--not only does it spend four years resting on the lees (more than four times the local standard), but the aging practice also takes place underground. The extended lees contract lends body and texture while the subterranean storage facilitates consistent temperature and humidity conditions year-round. On the nose this wine is slightly toasty with aromas of apple, quince, and citrus, and a pleasingly surprising palate that is simultaneously refreshingly crisp and luxuriously rich. While it is fantastic enjoyed on its own, hints of briny sea salt make it the perfect companion for any seafood dish, especially raw oysters.
The Chenin Blanc grape is the crown jewel of Loire Valley wine, and here it is no exception. Though richly perfumed and lusciously textured, it is vinified completely dry, so that the lean, bracing salinity on the palate is a striking complement to the aromas of honey, white flowers, fresh apples, and white peaches, which give an illusion of sweetness. François Chidaine is one of our favorite Loire Valley producers, and he certainly didn't let us down with this wine. It is quite a versatile wine when it comes to food pairings, and is a truly ideal brunch wine--think soufflés, quiche, or bagels topped with smoked trout.
Made from a blend of equal parts Pinot Noir and local underdog Grolleau, this is the rosé you'll want to bring to every picnic this season. Classic flavors and aromas of strawberry, raspberry, spice, and stone fruits make this wine eminently quaffable, while the tart acidity and mineral backbone remind one that, despite the approachable price tag, this is serious rosé.
Gorgeously aromatic and redolent of blackberries, violet petals and spice, this expression of Gamay grown on limestone soil is quite different than those grown on the granite soils of Beauajolais. On the palate, there is tart black fruit, bright acidity, and an appealing chalky texture. This is the first (and possibly last!) time Xavier has produced this wine--to supplement his own tiny yields in 2009, he added some fruit from a few nearby parcels offered by a neighboring vigneron for a limited run of Touraine Gamay--so enjoy it while you can.
If you're not already a fan of Cabernet Franc, this earthy, fragrant bottling should have you convinced. It is soft and approachable, but at the same time concentrated and complex. An enticing nose of tart red fruits gives way to dusty and floral flavors, with mouthwatering savory notes of rhubarb, raspberry and dried herbs. A store favorite since the epic 1996 vintage!
Discounted six-pack price: $96
Actual retail value: $119