Where have you been?
I've been busy. Barely time to drink wine nonetheless think about it.
July: Loire Valley Whites
Right. So that is what I *was* drinking for July. What's it all mean?
The Loire river forms north of the Rhone valley and flows north a little bit until it hangs a left and meanders west towards the sea. Along the way there are some valleys as you'd expect and some fine grape growing regions.
As far as wine regions, this is a general overview of what you'll find:
The far eastern end of the region is home to some fine classic white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc in fairly popular areas such as Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. Somewhat west of Sancerre is the small wine region of Quincy - a region that makes lovely Sauvignon Blanc that I really adore.
If you only drink new-world Sauvignon Blanc, it would be worthwhile to check out to the old-school originals.
The Middle/Big Section
In the middle of this region is where you will find the most activity in terms of wine styles and techniques. The primary white grape here is the sometimes misunderstood and under appreciated Chenin Blanc. This grape can produce a large variety of wines from dry to sweet to sparkling.
The Western Section
Near the coast, they are famous for light wines made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape. The main region is Muscadet. These wines are classic for seafood pairing, especially with oysters and shellfish. It's a great summer pairing as long as you serve them cold and young.
The WSJ recently wrote about this wine: From France, a Refreshing Steal Muscadet, the Loire Valley white, is a treat with seafood -- and surprisingly affordable
So, Right. Chenin Blanc.
I have drunk a fair amount of Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre so in July I really wanted to concentrate on Chenin Blanc. This is a lovely, food friendly summer wine for a number of reasons. I guess I need to state a few of those reasons now. Crisp & refreshing: Chenin Blanc has a lot of acidity. So, there is rarely a problem with it being flabby and with that crispness it is a good food wine. Honeyed: On most examples you will find in the stores, Chenin Blanc can have an attractive honeyed character that people tend to like (yet, even with the honeyed character, there's that acidity). Complex: Chenin Blanc can be very geeky as it can have some fascinating deep and layered flavors. Citrus fruit. Lanolin. Wet wool. Floral. Honey. Nutty (almonds!). Ages: These wines can usually age quite well and then have characteristics that your geeky friends will geek out over - primarily nuts.
In the shop
The Loire Valley is a bit crazy in style and experimentation, but for most shops they are only going to have a few examples (depending on where you live of course). The easiest is to ask the clever wine shop person for Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley. But, if the shop isn't clever or you have broken in late at night and no one is there (yet) you can look for wines from Anjou, Vouvray, Touraine, Coteaux du Layon, or Savennieres.