The French Winophiles is doing a deep-dive into the Loire Valley region. The Loire Valley is divided in to five distinct regions – Pay Nantais (which we explored last month), Anjou, Saumur, Touraine, and Centre- Loire. This month we’re exploring the Anjou and Saumur region. I chose a wine from the Saumur-Champigny sub-region of Saumur.
I chose Saumur-Champigny because it’s an appellation that specializes in Cabernet Franc, a grape variety I adore. And Loire Valley Cabernet Franc renown for its inherent lightness and freshness, which makes it versatile at the table. I’ve also found that un-oaked Cabernet Franc is among the handful of red wines that takes a chill well, furthering its appeal in my eyes.
Note: If you’re a Cabernet Franc fan, There are four appellations in the Loire Valley that specialize in Cabernet Franc; aside from Saumur-Champigny from the Saumur region, look for wines with Chinon, Bourgueil, Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil on the label from the Touraine region.
Saumur-Champigny, created in 1957, is a red wine appellation in the Saumur region. The wines are made predominantly from Cabernet Franc, with a permitted (if rarely used) addition of up to 10 percent Cabernet Sauvignon or Pineau d’Aunis (sometimes called Chenin Noir here). They are typically light or medium bodied, and characterized by crisp acidity and forward, slightly spicy, berry fruit flavors. The grapes come from about 3700 acres (1500ha) of vineyards located within the parishes of Saumur and Champigny and six of their immediate neighbors. Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg is the most southerly of these and its vineyards are one of the core sources of Saumur-Champigny wine.
Cabernet Franc is put to some of its best use in Saumur-Champigny, which is the Anjou’s answer to Chinon, and one of the best red wine appellations of the Loire.
The terroir around Champigny is vital to the production of wines in this style and is the reason the area was singled out for its own independent appellation. A low plateau of tuffeau – the yellowish metamorphic rock so distinctive of the central Loire region – rises up at the eastern edge of Saumur town and continues almost uninterrupted for seven miles (11km) to the village of Candes Saint-Martin. This sandy, porous rock is the key to much of the Saumur wine character; it regulates water supply to the vines by immediately absorbing excess water and retaining it for use in the driest periods. Vines growing in tuffeau-rich soils rarely suffer from excess water stress but also benefit from dry, free-draining soils.
The climate around Saumur is moderated by a slight maritime influence from the Atlantic Ocean, albeit reduced by the intervening 100 miles (160km) of low-lying fields and woodland. In summer, however, the slow-moving waters of the Loire do little to combat the high temperatures. According to local folklore, it was this midsummer heat that gave Champigny its original Latin name: Campus Ignis (“Field of Fire”). (Source: winesearcher.com)
In my glass
2012 Château du Hureau Saumur-Champigny Tuffe
The Château du Hureau is located in the small town of Dampierre sur Loire, about four miles east of Saumur and 15 miles west of Chinon. The Château itself is an impressive sight, with its 18th-century Mansard roof and octagonal tower topped by a boar-headed weathercock, from which the domaine takes its name–a hureau is an old, solitary wild boar. Behind the Château sits the winery carved out of the limestone cliffs in the 13th century and overlooking the Loire river. For wine lovers, the cave is even more impressive than the Château, with numerous paths leading to carved out caverns housing stainless steel vinification equipment and lines of barrels…Seventeen hectares (42 acres) including 21 separate vineyard plots are spread around the towns of Dampierre Sur Loire, Souzay, Champigny and Saumur and are planted with Cabernet Franc. What links all of the plots is “tuffeau” (tufa/limestone), a kind of soft chalk from the Cretaceous period (146 to 65 million years ago). In Latin “creta” means chalk. The underlying tuffeau is the overriding factor in Saumur-Champigny’s distinctive quality, it also provides the name for this beautiful red. (Source: K&L Wine Merchants)
This is the Chateau’s “entry-level” wine. The fruit is from organically farmed vineyard. It’s fermented on indigenous yeast and is raised in concrete tanks between 10-20 months. 12.6% alcohol. SRP – $16
My tasting note:
Ruby-purple colour with appealing cassis, black cherry, and mineral aromas with hint of dried rose and spice. On the palate it’s between light and medium-bodied, pure, fresh, and moreish (it took considerable constraint for my wife and I not to finish the bottle in one evening) with chalky tannins and a core of cassis, black and red cherry flavors and very good length. Wonderful value here, especially for a 100% Cab Franc! Will buy more!
On my plate
I decided I wanted an entree salad for dinner. Now you may be thinking – a meatless salad and red wine…Noooo!?
Here’s how I made it work. I chose a Roasted Asparagus Salad from MyRecipes.com. Asparagus takes on a dramatically different flavor profile when it is roasted or grilled.(as opposed to steaming or boiling). While steamed asparagus has a grassy character, grilled asparagus takes on a delicious, meaty flavor profile. And I was counting on that transformation when I considered pairing a red wine with my entree salad.
To further increase my odds for a successful meatless salad and red wine pairing, I added some roasted eggplant cubes, which I thought would add further increase the “meatiness” of the salad. Other modifications I made to the recipe included grilling the asparagus rather than roasting (I also decided to grill a tri-tip, and since the grill was hot..), substituting blackberry “balsalmic” vinegar for balsamic, and using chopped romaine instead of bibb lettuce – the latter two because that’s what I had on hand.
First, the salad turned out remarkably well! I was very pleased with the pairing! The salad was dominated by the grilled asparagus and roasted eggplant, which gave the salad a “meaty” qualiyt in terms of texture and to some degree taste because of the charred bits on the asparagus. Likewise for the roasted eggplant. The wine was a great match for both the salad and the tri-tip steak!
Check out what my fellow French #Winophiles discovered about Anjou and Saumur on their virtual journey through the Loire Valley!
- Jill of L’Occasion –Five Things I Learned about Loire Wines from a Bottle of Rosé
- David of Cooking Chat – Asparagus Chicken Bow Tie Pasta With Anjou Blanc Wine
- Michelle of Rockin Red Blog – Diving into Loire Valley #wine with #Winophiles: Anjou
- Jeff from Food Wine Click – Seafood Brochettes with the Wines of Anjou & Saumur
- Christy from Confessions of a Culinary Diva – Chenin from Saumur, Cabernet Franc from Anjou
Join us on Saturday, April 16th for a live Twitter Chat at 8 am PST/11 am EST using hashtag #Winophiles to share your favorite wines, food, and travel experiences from the Anjou/Saumur regions.
Join us for our upcoming tour of the Loire Valley: May 21st – Touraine/Vouvray; June 18th – Upper Loire – Cheverny, Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume/Pouilly-Sur-Loire
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