Vines grown along the picturesque Loire Valley in France
Loire Valley, France

I haven’t had the chance to drink much French wine until recently. A group of friends and I have got together to try French wines in preparation for the WSET Diploma unit 3 on still wines. In this piece, I reflect on some of the Loire wines we tried over the weekend.

Gasp, it’s 2.30pm on Friday and the Bordeaux red wines I’ve ordered from Tanners and Averys haven’t arrived. We have left it quite late to order wines in preparation for tonight’s study tasting and, given I don’t have any delivery info on either order yet (placed on Weds), I call my friends to initiate our back-up plan.

“Nowhere in Bath has the wines I need,” I tell them. One of them has just picked up their wines from Cru in Bradford on Avon, and the other is praying their Berry Bros & Rudd order arrives shortly.

Looking at what’s available locally, we realise there’s a few safe bets for French wines when you’re trying to buy six different styles from a single AOC/region. The first is the Languedoc-Roussillon but it can be a bit of a free for all and we might all end up with similar wines. So the next best thing is the Loire Valley.

The great thing about the Loire is, as well as being beautiful, it’s got a diverse range of wine styles. Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc are perhaps its most famed, but there’s also Muscadet made from Melon de Bourgogne and some exceptional Pinot Noir. Chenin Blanc is also at home here and can provide a diverse range of wines from crisp and dry to sweetly indulgent.

As such we all agreed to go for the Loire.

It’s been ages since I have got to enjoy Loire wines, so even though the wines below were purchased in a rush, they provided a happy return to this stunning wine region.

Tasting Loire wines

2018, Chateau du Poyet Muscadet Sevre & Maine Sur Lie ★☆☆ – Clean aromas of seashore pebbles, petrichor (that smell of dry earth as it begins to rain), citrus and cantaloupe melon. Dry and saline palate with nectarines, green melon and bitter yellow fruits. Simple and needs something; could delight with oysters but a touch plain on its own.

2018, La Cabriole Saumur Chenin Blanc ★☆☆ – Lots of pink grapefruit and freshly cut, fleshy citrus on the nose. Some green passion fruit also. Pretty pronounced palate with searing acidity behind limes, grassy herbs, passion fruit and more grapefruit. Austere and takes a moment but a pretty good show and would appeal to Sauvignon fans looking for something a bit different. Can find this wine at great value, too.

2018, Les Duchesses La Porte Pouilly-Fume ★★☆ – Some very attractive aromas of sweet smoke, honeysuckle, lemon and tomato leaf. Flinty, too. A hint of grape skin tannin adds something on the palate. Filled with fairly intense notes of nettle, tomato leaf, flinty lemons and green citrus. Soft, smoky finish (but lightly so). An elegant wine, albeit a touch pricey.

2018, Pierre Chainier Vouvray, Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference ★☆☆ – Very apple nose; it’s on the royal gala red/green crisp apple note. Grapefruit and citrus pith. On the palate its off-dry sweet with a real zinger of acidity. Oily in texture with cider apples, honey and hay-like notes. A hint of toffee apple. Delicately bitter on the finish. Superb, drink-now Vouvray for the price (it’s under £10 at time of writing).

2018, Les Caillottes Sancerre Rose Millesime – Packs of red fruits on the nose, primarily dried strawberries, along with raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. Rhubarb and blood orange tartness. Voluptuous palate with lots of intensely ripe fruits. Great finish. This is a rose with a lot of style.

2016, Domaine de Pierre Rouge Touraine ★☆☆ – Bubblegum and cherry flan nose. Some herby, earthy notes like juniper, capsicum and smoke. Dry and tangy palate; cherries, anise, capsicum and strawberry. This is a more vegetal, savoury style of Gamay.