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Alternative wines from France

Pascal Jolivet

For more than 2,000 years grapes have been grown in the Loire Valley of France and with almost 7,000 acres planted near the village of Sancerre, it has been the standard bearer for sauvignon blanc.

Weather conditions were very unfavourable in 2021 and yields were about half of the normal volume. Pair this with the popularity of this wine and supply is a challenge; prices are creeping up. Burrows Lightbourn has carefully investigated other nearby areas, and I would like to tell you about some very enjoyable alternatives.

Menetou-Salon is a village in the Loire where up to 80 per cent of their vines are sauvignon blanc and their wines are gaining an international reputation for crisp and refreshing whites that were originally produced at monasteries about a thousand years ago.

Today most of their sauvignon blanc spends some time ageing on its lees to add roundness and texture to the wine as it also displays citrus, flowers and minerality.

Our 2021 Calvet Menetou-Salon is typically citrusy, along with the expected mineral quality. Their winemaker, Pierre-Jean Sauvion comments, “I carefully selected this emblematic Loire Valley wine for its crispy, zesty, and slightly mineral aromas. Its fruity notes, together with herbaceous hints are typical of the French central region. Enjoy!" $29 (Stock #7248).

The name of Henri Bourgeois is no stranger to our shelves as this family, that has been making fine wine for ten generations, is renowned for their sancerre and pouilly fume and New Zealand sauvignon blanc, but we have others such as 2021 Henri Bourgeois Menetou-Salon Le Prieuré Des Aublats. As far back as the 15th century, Menetou-Salon wines adorned the finest tables in the country, including that of Jacques Coeur, Lord of Menetou in 1450. This wine offers up citrus fruits and flowers with peppery and menthol notes and beautiful length and a roundness in the mouth. $29.50 (Stock #7773).

Our 2021 Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from vineyards in the general area, and it is remarkably aromatic with pleasant flower and fruit fragrances. On the palate it reveals a freshness and vivacity that is pure and clean. Citrus, apple and gooseberry aromas with hints of passion fruit are found in this lively and bright wine. Here is an excellent aperitif that is also outstanding with fish, seafood and certain white meats. Enjoy Petit Bourgeois with a wahoo steak in lemon butter. Critic Wilfred Wong rates it 90/100 and writes, “The 2021 Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois is an on-point sauvignon blanc. This wine offers focused aromas and flavours of dried earth, pencil lead, dried citrus, and a hint of chalkiness.” $23.95 (Stock #7923).

Staying with this family, let me suggest that we pay €3 in the town of Sancerre and take a 14-minute train ride to the town of Pouilly-sur-Loire, also on this river as the name indicates. Now we can taste 2021 Henri Bourgeois Pouilly Fumé En Travertin 2021. It is said that the sauvignon blanc grape can display a smoky character and that is why the French add “fumé” to the town name and in the USA sauvignon blanc is sometimes called fume blanc. Commenting on this wine their winemaker says, “En Travertin is concentrated and very fruity while also being stylish and elegant. Sauvignon grape variety is the most dominant aspect of this charming wine. It displays its elegance, fruitiness – white fruits, light citrus – and is very persistent on the palate. It is a marvellous match with shellfish, fish, white meats, and goat cheese. For example, a turbot with spinach and feta cheese, or a Crottin de Chavignol goat cheese with toasted sesame seeds.” $34.90 (Stock #7924).

While we are in this town I should mention 2020 Pascal Jolivet Blanc Fumé, and here once again, my old friend Pascal has shown how cutting edge he is. Up until this vintage, like everyone else, he called it pouilly-fumé, but being concerned about the confusion between this wine and the well known white burgundy called pouilly fuissé (Pouilly and Fuissé are towns) he has renamed his wine.

Decanter magazine, that rated this wine 90/100, gave this explanation: “Pascal Jolivet has made this pouilly-fumé for 25 years but in this vintage has rebranded it as blanc-fumé, to avoid consumer confusion with pouilly-fuissé (chardonnay from the Mâconnais subregion of southern Burgundy). Flint is the principal terroir at play here, with vines grown along the right bank of the river Loire. This is quite ripe in style, fruit-forward with zingy lemon peel, white flowers and some smokiness. Juicy and pure with a long finish, and almost a suggestion of tropicality. Would be perfect with tuna steak, salmon or sashimi. Bottled with a very low level of sulphur.” $37.75 (Stock #7803).

Our 2021 Domaine Boutet-Saulnier Vouvray is a wine that I should mention before we leave the Loire Valley. Since 2011, Christophe Boutet and his wife have practised sustainable agriculture on their 12 hectares of vineyards and are moving towards organic viticulture. A portion of their wines are biodynamic. The Boutets have excellent vineyards of chenin blanc grapes in the small Vouvray appellation.

This vouvray is a dry example that is all about acidity and freshness. A deep and refined nose with fine chalky notes intermixed with juicy and well-concentrated aromas of lemon and wild flower, and quince fruit. It’s full of energy, laserlike acidity, and a very long finish.

A good dry chenin can accompany all sorts of cheeses, as it can simultaneously cleanse your palate and provide some of the fruit and honeyed characteristics you look for in cheese plate accompaniments. This would also be a great companion to richer seafood dishes – think salmon or shrimp scampi. A goat cheese salad or fried goat cheese balls would also hit the spot! $26.90 (Stock #7922).

• This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

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Published December 02, 2022 at 7:59 am (Updated December 02, 2022 at 7:59 am)

Alternative wines from France

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