Articles from: August 14, 2011

Food and Wine in the Loire Valley

By far the most interesting part of France in all sorts of ways is the Loire Valley. From the earliest times around 1000AD throughout the Capetian period of the French monarchy up to the 18th century, in particular the Valois kings, the area has been developed by the religious orders, the monarchy and the nobility.

The Loire valley was the home of the kings of France as well as the royal household, nobility and public figures, so the grandest of houses and chateaux can be found here. For many years the courts of the monarchy were based in many of the grand chateaux from Chinon, Amboise, Loches, Blois to name but a few.

The Loire valley was also a great trading route both from the Atlantic, up the river to Orleans and thence to Paris, as well as the other way with the exportation particularly of wine to other countries including of course to Britain.

The other great attribute was and is the temperate climate that the Loire enjoys throughout the year. It is therefore an area where food produce has been grown for many years helped of course by the fertile land along the river and its tributaries.  It is called the garden of France and all along its banks are market gardens, nurseries, orchards and of course vineyards. The Loire itself had all sorts of fish from eels, pike, carp, salmon, trout, perch etc and the land around was full of game like partridge, pheasant, duck, goose and  rabbit.

The wines of the Loire have changed over time with fashion and development of the wine trade. Sweet wines used to be very popular with the Dutch for example, and more recently the Anjou area was best known for its pink wines. Some areas have changed grapes varieties and I am sure the Loire wine industry will continue to change with the times.

Wine styles in the Loire have always been reflected by the food that has been consumed and here the main ingredients have been fish, white meat, vegtables, cheese and fruit.

The wines needed  to match the region’s food and not be overpowering so with the whites the dry style developed with melon de Bourgogne in Muscadet, Chenin blanc in Anjou/Saumur/Touraine, and Sauvignon in Touraine also and down to Sancerre. These wines pair well with fish and shellfish from the Atlantic and the rivers, Goat’s cheese and white meats in a light beurre blanc sauce.

The sweet whites made with the chenin blanc grape are by far in my book the best in the world for complexity and depth, and also with a range of styles from light sweets all the way to deep rich nectar. All wines should be drunk cold around 8° to 10°C. The lighter wines are best with a light dessert. The more complex sweets can be drunk with foie gras, a strong blue cheese or on their own as an aperitif.

Traditionally the red wines have been light and fruity from the gravel soils and these pair well with the local river fish whilst the wines from the limestone areas of Saumur Champigny for example are robust enough to be eaten with red meats and game. All wines should be slightly chilled to bring out the fruit.

So there we have it. Some ideas for your wine choice. The Loire even has full bodied red wines which are aged in oak barrels normally imported second hand from Bordeaux so you have a wine that will sit happily on the table with your roast beef sunday lunch. Where else in the world would you find such quality and choice.

Have a look at our wines at gfwine.co.uk. We have suggestions for all our wines on food pairing. There is even a choice to go with fish and chips from Chateau de Chaintres. The light and fruity Domaine de Chaintres. Cheers.