A Taste of Loire; Saumur-Champigny #Winophiles

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.

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About Saumur-Champigny

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)

Chateau H Loire

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

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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.

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The pairing

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!

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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T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like – NV Louis de Grenelle Saumur Corail

This week’s T.G.I.F. sparkler is the the Loire Valley in France.   Louis de Grenelle has been producing wines since 1859 in the heart of the Loire Valley.  It is the last independent, and family owned sparkling wine house in Loire.  They make a variety of sparkling wines.  Unlike Champagne, where the primary grapes are Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier,  and Chardonnay, the sparkling wines of Loire (also known as Crémant) the primary grapes are Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and Chardonnay.

This sparkler is made from 100% Cabernet Franc, a parent along with Sauvignon Blanc to the ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Franc. It is a red grape the produces lighter colored wine higher in acid, and slightly lower in tannins than Cab.  Because of the higher acidity it can produce very food friendly wines.

NV Louis de Grenelle Saumur Corail

N.V. Louis de Grenelle Saumur Corail

France/Loire Valley/Anjou-Saumur/Saumur

100% Cabernet Franc

$17, 12% abv

Production method: Méthode Champenoise; Aged 12 months on wooden lats

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Intense salmon color with dispersed bubbles

Aroma: Strawberries, with faint floral notes, and a hint of yeast

Body: Very little sparkle, almost like a soda that has gone a bit flat, with course bubbles.

Taste: Strawberry

Finish: Medium

I was hoping this one was going to the comparable to a 100% Cabernet Franc – based Rose I very much enjoyed last summer.  While I enjoyed the taste of this one, I was disappointed because it just didn’t have much sparkle, and it was a tad too acidic.  Perhaps I had an off bottle, but  I wouldn’t recommend this one.  However,  I’m looking forward to perhaps trying another 100% Cabernet Franc based sparkler. Buy wine here