Tom's blog

Loire's forgotten red wines

The other night I joined some friends at a tasting of Loire wines. The white wines from this region — sparkling wine, chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, for example — are delightful but not the most known from France. However forgotten the white wines, the red wines are even more ignored. How unfortunate.

Loire’s 630-mile region is host to a number of grape varieties both commonly known and obscure. Like all of France, the grape varieties aren’t evident on the label. Instead, the appellations or villages are highlighted. Thus, you may not known that cabernet franc is the pride of Chinon or that Sancerre is all about sauvignon blanc.

The red wines often fail to impress newbies because they don’t seem to have a lot of body or complexity. However, I’ve found that these wines are deceiving and generally get out of their adolescent stage in a few years. Their high acidity masks the fine tannins and subtle flavors. The Domaine de Reuilly Denis Jamain Pinot Noir I tasted had a lot of finesse and could be mistaken for a top-drawer Oregon pinot noir. But who thinks of Loire for its pinot noir?

I didn’t think I’d find a pinot noir from Loire that I liked, but even more impressive was the 2016 Domaine de la Chanteleuserie Bourgueil “Cuvee Alouettes.” Bourgueil is one of the most famous places in the Loire for cabernet franc, a grape variety relegated to blends in other parts of the world. While other Loire producers blend cabernet sauvignon in their wines, this producer relies exclusively on cabernet franc. No wonder — why dilute something so pure?

The wine, like most other from this region, is loaded with fresh fruit reminiscent of bing cherries and spice. The only reason I would think this wine has longevity is that I’ve enjoyed older cabernet francs from the Loire.

I’m headed to the store to sock away a few of these red wines.