LOIRE VALLEY WINES WITH FOOD
Unlike Provence with its olives and herbs, Normandy with its apples and cream, or Alsace .with its choucroute and Munster, the Loire Valley, the “garden of France” is not associated with particular dishes or flavors but with the superb quality of its produce. This is the region of classic, simple, French home cooking and the wines of the Loire Valley are great table wines - real value for money. The huge variety of styles means that there is hardly a dish for which there is not an appropriate Loire Valley wine. And the qualities that all these wines have in common – a lean and refreshing acidity, lively fruit, elegance and finesse – make compliment great food rather than competing with it. .
It may be a cliché to pair Muscadet Sur Lie with oysters, but, like all clichés, it is based on good sense. The fresh, straightforward and tangy wine matches the briny freshness of rawshellfish like no other. It is also superb with (and in) mussels à la marinière and it may have been used in the original beurre blanc, a white butter sauce from Muscadet’s native Pays Nantais. . Chenin Blancmakes richer, more complex white wines. Dry Vouvray can be richly fruity or complex with mineral aromas, but either pairs beautifully with the slight sweetness of scallops and lobster. Intense, pungent Savennières, is excellent with a widerange of fresh and smoked fish, as well as with white meats such as veal or sweatbreads. As it ages it becomes more a superb apéritif.
The great sweet wines of the Loire Valley (all made from Chenin Blanc)are traditionally drunk alone, as an apéritif or after a meal, but they also go great with foie gras, with blue cheeses and with Tarte Tatin, the famous caramelized apple tart that was created in the Loire Valley.They also complement almost any dessert that does not contain chocolate, and are especially successful with those made with pears and almonds.
Cabernet Francred wines (Chinon, Bourgueil, St Nicolas de Bourgueil, Saumur Rouge,Saumur Champigny and Anjou Rouge) are versatile. Good with any grilled or roasted meat, and there is evidence that, despite the claims of the people of Chambertin, coq au vin originally was made with these wines. The stronger,richer red wines are especially well suited to roast leg of lamb, and the lighter ones, slightly chilled, are ideal wines for a summer barbecue or for salty preparations, like ham, which require a refreshing wine.
The appellations of Anjou, Saumur and Touraine produce a wide variety of wines for everyday drinking and are excellent purchase values. Whether red, white or rosé, there are few better wines to buy in quantity and to keep on hand for whenever one wants a bottle ( or box) of good, easy wine for a simple dinner at home- if it’s a box wine serve in traditional style carafe to create a traditional French meal atmosphere. Saumur may have a particular affinity for mushrooms, as the limestone caves in the area around Saumur also produce more than 40% of France’s cultivated champignons de Paris. . The fragrant Sauvignon Blanc wines of Touraine, Sancerre, Quincy, Reuilly and Menetou-Salonare natural partners for the goat cheeses for which the region is famous. These versatile wines are also excellent partners for shellfish (Sancerre gives Muscadet competition as a wine to drink with oysters) and seafood in general. The Centre Loire is also where the best lentils in France (lentilles vertes du Berry) are grown and grilled salmon with lentils could be paired equally well with white or red from the region.
Finally, the Fines Bulles (fine bubbles), as the Loire Valley’s excellent sparkling wines– terrific values as often the equal or better of higher priced Champagnes - are an excellent way to begin any meal or celebration. They pair well with hors d’oeuvre of all sorts, but because of their fruit-acid balance, they go better with meals than most other sparkling wines. The brut wines are especially good with a late supper of cold roasted meats and the off-dry wines are ideal at brunch or with a dish of fresh strawberries.