Wine Routes of Loire - Anjou - Angers Region and Samur wine trails - Opportunities for Loire Vineyard Tastings for Classic  Loire Red,  Rose and White - Still and Sparkling Wines.

 

SAVENNIERES - Wines Traditionally Sweet - but now rich, dry wines showing minerality.  All made from the Chenin Blanc grape.


At the western edge of Anjou lies the small appellation of Savennières, and its two lieu dits –or specified vineyards – Les Roches aux Moines and the Coulée de Serrant. Curnonsky, the great gastronome and food writer of the early 20th century included Savennières Coulée deSerrant among the five greatest white wines of France.
Production is small. 124 hectares of vineyards produce 1,700 hectoliters of wine. The stony vineyards lie on slopes of slate and sandstone. They are the only vineyards in Anjou on the north side of the Loire and must be worked by hand, as they are too steep for most machinery. All Savennières vineyards lie close to the Loire, where the warmer temperature and morning fog protects the vines from frost, a common problem in the area. The stones in the soil retain heat from the sun, providing much needed warmth as well. Savennières was much in vogue in Napoleon’s court. At that time Savennières was a sweet wine in the style of Coteaux du Layon and the other great botrytis
wines that grow nearby. The style has gradually evolved to a point where Savennières is now made fully dry, but the wine retains the perfumed intensity of its ancestors, and a few winemakers still make a small amount of sweet wine in the old style.

Savennières is made entirely from Chenin Blanc, at the western extremity of the area where that grape can be successful. Yields are kept low to insure quality and concentration of flavor. Grapes are harvested for optimal ripeness, and as with the sweet wines of the region, pickers will make several passes through the vineyards to select individual ripe grapes from bunchesthat may not yet be ready. Unlike the other great Chenin Blanc wines of the Loire, the first impression Savennières creates is not of fruit, but of mineral-rich soil. In this way it can be seen as a contrasting counterpart to Vouvray --the great white wine at the eastern extremity of Chenin Blanc country-- the two wines demonstrating the versatility of this remarkable grape and the impact that different soil types can have on the flavors of the wine.Like all Loire wines made from Chenin Blanc, Savennières has a high acid content that makes the wines capable of long aging. Young Savennières are refreshing and exciting wines, but with several years in the bottle, the acidity mellows and the bouquet becomes increasingly floral. Complexity may be an over used term for describing wine but it certainly applies to Savennières, and writers are often at a loss to find the right words for it. Some speak of acacia flowers and white peaches, others of ferns and jasmine. One celebrated authority on the wines of the Loire avoids the issue by saying “Savennières is not a wine for beginners” and a noted New York City Sommelier – noting the full flavor and the ability of Savennières to pair with white meats as well as fish – calls it “a red wine masquerading as a white.”

In local restaruants you will find Savennières paired remarkably well with a wide range of foods. The intensity of the aromas and flavors mean that it can hold its own with smoked salmon, with fish in richsauces, with white meats such as veal and sweetbreads, and with some cheeses. Older,more delicate Savennières may be best appreciated by themselves before a meal, when one’s palate is most receptive to their fascinating combination of aromas and flavors, and when they can be savored without the distraction of food..

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THE WINES OF ANJOU -


The ancient Duchy of Anjou is one of the most historic areas in France. Throughout the middle ages, the dukes of Anjou rivaled the kings of France for wealth and power. The vineyards of Anjou cover a wide area south of the city of Angers. Most of the vineyards are on the left bank of the Loire, but there are a few on the right bank as well, most notably those of Savennières. In your tasting  visits of vineyards in this region tasting . you can see the  difference between wines made from the same grapes, but grown on the two different soils,  Anjou produces wines of all colours and styles, and there are smaller appellations within the general appellation of Anjou that are labeled under their own names.  Today Anjou is famous for the rosé d'Anjou. Rosé wine makes about half of the production of Anjou wines and a visit here is your opportunity to become familiar with classic rosé wine styles.

Two very popular types of rosé represent the best-known wines of Anjou. Rosé d’Anjou is very fruity and slightly off-dry, usually includes a high percentage of Gamay although other grapes, such as Grolleau can be used, alone or in combination.    Cabernet d’Anjou which is often fuller bodied and more deeply flavored, is made from Cabernet Franc and (or sometimes exclusively from) Cabernet Sauvignon. Nowadays Anjou is famous for the rosé d'Anjou. Rosé wine makes about half of the production in Anjou

Red wines outnumber whites and may be made from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Côt (the local name for Malbec), Pineau d’Aunis, Gamay and Grollot . These may be used alone or (as is more often the case) blended, depending on local standards, but the best red Anjou is made entirely from Cabernet Franc. .

 As with the red wines, white Anjou can be made from a number of grapes in a variety of combinations. Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay are all planted here but Chenin Blanc holds pride of place. Chardonnay, one of the most popular and versatile grapes in the world, rarely makes up more than 20% of any Loire blend.   As with most Loire wines, a bright acidity, the result of a mild climate, makes them refreshing wines that pair well with a wide range of foods.

Anjou reds may be served lightly chilled, and the whites and rosés are perfect for summer picnics. These wines are excellent values and  it is no disrespect to say they are excellent when matched with simple, fresh ingredient French cooking.

Anjou is also home to most of celebrated sweet wines of the Loire Valley -- Coteaux du Layon, Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux all of which are made completely from Chenin Blanc, as is Savennières,  Anjou’s most famous dry white. .

 WINES OF COTEAUX DU LAYON, BONNEZEAUX AND QUARTS DE CHAUME

At the western end of Anjou lie some of France’s greatest vineyards for fine sweet wine: Coteaux du Layon, Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux. As with Vouvray and Montlouis sur Loire, at the eastern end Touraine, the only grape allowed in these appellations is the Chenin Blanc. However, unlike Vouvray, which makes dry, off-dry and sparkling wines as well, these vineyards are devoted almost exclusively to sweet wine. Although the soil varies among these appellations, and the wines express different characters, all are planted on mineral-rich schist, on steep slopes above the Layon river (technically, Coteaux du Layon is the general appellation that includes the other two), which provides thick morning mists that protect the vines from frost. The vineyards face south and southwest, allowing for maximum light and warmth in autumn. These last two factors are essential for the development of botrytis cinerea, the microorganism, known as noble rot that, in years when all conditions are right, causes the grape skins to become permeable,shrink and thesugar to concentrate.. On warm autumn afternoons, the morning mists burn off and water evaporates from the grapes, making the remaining juice intensely sweet and concentrated.  Quantities are always limited. Annual production of Coteaux du Layon is49,017 hectoliters from 1,694 hectares (which includes some dry and semi dry wines as well),and that of Bonnezeaux is 1,964 hectoliters from 99 hectares. Quarts de Chaume producesa mere 575 hectoliters from 56 hectares of vineyards. The over-ripe grapes are pressed with extreme care and the wines are fermented slowly, at cool temperatures, to maximize their fruit aromas. These wines are usually bottled as soon as fermentation is complete, but a few producers age some of their wines in wood for more than a year. In these rare cases little or no new oak is used, so that no extraneous flavors will be added to the wine, but the slight oxidation that occurs when the wine is left in barrels adds to the complexity of the finished product. In youth these wines are a light golden color and their aroma is richly floral. Many tasters say these wines suggest acacia, verbena and orange peel. As they age, the color deepens and the bouquet develops, suggesting ripe quince, apricot compote, caramel and exotic fruits as well as sweet spices. Although their sweetness suggests that these are dessert wines, the underlying acidity of Chenin Blanc makes them much more versatile than one think. They make a superb aperitif and pair well with foie gras, white fish in rich sauces and blue cheeses. They are also excellent with desserts, especially those made with pears and almonds. .

 


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Samur - Vineyards,  the Chateaux and the Loire

THE WINES OF SAUMUR

Saumur is situated between Angers and Tours, where the white Château of Saumur stands in contrast to the imposing, black fortress of Angers. Immortalized in  illustrations for Les Très Riches Heures du Duc deBerry (among the most famous examples of French Medieval art), Saumur castle, like many of the great Châteaux of the Loire Valley, is built with the same tuffeau limestone that underlies the vineyards of the region. Tuffeau is easy to carve, making it the stone of choice for medieval castles and cathedrals, and the area around Saumur provided stone for most of the famous buildings of the Loire Valley as well as for Westminster Abbey.

 Excavations from building castles and palaces have left a network of hundreds of miles of underground tunnels. These ready-made cellars make Saumur the ideal center for the sparkling wine - Fines Bulles (fine bubbles) of the Loire, produced using the Méthode Traditionnelle – the same procedure as used in Champagne --  a still wine is re-fermented in the bottle to become a sparkling wine. This takes at least nine months and requires extensive cellar space for storage – thus many of the great sparkling wine houses of the Loire have their headquarters in Saumur.

The Saumur Brut appellation  are among the most prestigious sparkling wines of the Loire. They can be made from Chenin Blanc and/or Cabernet Franc, with small additions of Chardonnay and rarely some Sauvignon Blanc depending on the style of the individual producer. Saumur is also the principal region for the production of Crémant de Loire.  Also made using the Méthode Traditionnelle, Crémant de Loire can include a greater variety of grapes, but all must be hand harvested, yields are strictly limited and the wines must age for at least a year before commercial release. Annual production is 30,000 hectoliters, of which 10% is sparkling rosé.

 Saumur also produces excellent still wines. White Saumur is primarily Chenin Blanc, and reds are mainly made from Cabernet Franc. Most of the wines are light bodied and made for early drinking, but as the refreshing acidity that characterizes  Loire wines also makes them last, more and more wines from Saumur are made with aging in mind. .

Cabernet de Saumur is a rosé that is generally dryer and lighter than the more famous Cabernet d’Anjou.

Saumur-Champigny  makes somewhat richer red wines that have seen a tremendous growth in popularity in recent years. They are made from Cabernet Franc, but this may be blended (although the practice is rare) with small quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon or Pineau d’Aunis, a grape unique to the Loire Valley.

 In addition, the tiny appellation of Coteaux de Saumur produces semi-sweet white wines from Chenin Blanc .

In summayr , Saumur produces a wide variety of wines for every kind of food and for every occasion. On your vineyard visits and restaurant meals take the opportunity to give serious attention to the styles and quality as these wines represent terrific purchase value.