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The Loire Valley: a magical place for winemaking

Today we will take a trip to the Loire Valley.

Once inhabited by Neanderthals it is now known as “the Cradle of the French” and “the Garden of France”, the latter because of its vineyards, fruit orchards and even asparagus farms.

This is also the home of many furniture producers (signs reading fabricant de meubles are everywhere) and boat builders and I confess that my fondest memory there has nothing to do with wine. The time was the early 1980s and, as a consequence of my wife uttering five magical words most Bermudian males could only wish for, we were at Beneteau.

It was then, and I believe still is, the world's largest builder of fibreglass sailing craft.

As a result of her five words — “we need a bigger boat” — two small boys, unexpected at that time, spent most holidays and weekends on Premier Cru.

Most of us know the Loire for the town of Sancerre, the vineyards of Pouilly-Fumé and the sauvignon blanc grape, but there is much more; for instance, the dominant red grape is cabernet franc.

For ten generations the Bourgeois family have crafted their unique expressions of Loire wine and, in August of 2019, they were selected to be included in the world's top fifty wineries by the respected William Reed Business Media Report.

The family also have a Michelin Assiette (a new category) restaurant and hotel on the edge of the Loire River if this area is on your future bucket list.

Henri Bourgeois 2016 Cabernet Franc is priced at $22.50 — stock #5892 — and its aromas of strawberries, red currants, cherries and some added spice show nicely the red fruit so representative of Loire vineyards. This light and elegant offering is just fine with chicken and other light meats.

Château de Targe is another historic property that was bought by the personal secretary of King Louis XIV and has stayed in his family since 1655. Each year, they make about 5,000 cases of Château de Targé Saumur-Champigny Cabernet Franc and we have the 2016. They use natural compost rather than fertilisers and practice sustainable agriculture.

The wine is ruby-red and full of rich fruit-filled aromas that are backed up by soft tannins and a delicate structure.

They suggest serving it at about 59F with steak and shallots, turkey and orange or fresh peppered goat cheese. $26.95; stock #7069.

Once you get past the rather painful name of Domaine des Ouches you can experience what Thomas and Denis Gambier, eighth generation of wine makers on this estate, can offer with their Domaine des Ouches Bourgueil Igoranda 2017 Cabernet Franc.

Its deep ruby colour opens with a delicious nose of slightly spicy red fruits and it is round and still fruity on the palate. Think of blackberries, some earth and a touch of flowers. $25.35; stock #7067.

Anjou is an area around the city of Angers is the western Loire Valley that is known for its rosé wines. Jean-Marie Calvet founded his firm in 1818 that today is known for supplying good examples of wines from many areas in France.

Their Calvet 2018 Rosé D'Anjou is a traditional blend of cabernet franc, gamay and grolleau that is slightly darker than the light wines so in demand today, but I find it most quaffable.

Strawberries and red currants are enhanced by a smidgen of natural sugar and, well-chilled, it is a perfect refresher. $18.10; stock #7249.

Christophe Boutet took over the family estate in 1997 where he and his wife have practised sustainable agriculture on their twenty six acres of vineyards and they are moving towards organic. A portion of their wines are also biodynamic.

Vouvray is a magic place to grow chenin blanc and many producers make it in a rather sweeter style, but we offer the dry Domaine Boutet-Saulnier Vouvray Sec 2017.

This tiny estate producer makes a textbook dry vouvray that one reviewer says is like “plunging into a cool lake in summer”.

Expect pear and quince and even yuzu, which is a hybrid of mandarin orange and ichang papeda, please do not ask what the last one is. $21.75; stock #7922.

Critic Jancis Robinson has this to say about Domaine Gadais Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie 2017: “Saline, appetising, bitter lemon fruit and light body yet plenty of texture — the lees influence is nicely stated here.”

Wine Enthusiast magazine rates it 90/100. Let's just analyse the name. The Gadais family have been producing wines in the Loire Valley for five generations.

Muscadet is one of the main white grapes grown there; Sevre et Maine is the best known appellation for this grape.

Of equal importance — this is where Beneteau builds boats! Sur lie is the practice of leaving the wine to age on dead yeast cells as this enriches it. $17.90; stock #5891.

And Premier Cru? Well her sale helped fund private schools and universities (including a PhD).

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail mrobinson@bll.bm or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George (York Street, 297-0409). Visit www.wineonline.bm

Bucket list: the Loire Valley is also known as “the Cradle of the French” and “the Garden of France” (Photograph submitted)

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Published May 28, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated May 28, 2020 at 9:08 am)

The Loire Valley: a magical place for winemaking

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