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May 2007


WINE & SPIRITS

Loving the Loire
By Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave

WHITE WINE LOVERS REJOICE! THERE'S MORE TO POUR THAN CHARDONNAY

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Just as merlot took a nosedive post Sideways (and pinot noir surged), chardonnay, too, has lately fallen from grace. Both wines, suffering from marketplace over-saturation, have lost major ground among discerning oenophiles. Lately, increasing numbers of casual white wine drinkers have also begun abandoning over-oaked chardonnays for crisp, mineral-tinged sauvignon blancs. Paired with oysters and shellfish, they're wonderful, easy-drinking, warm-weather wines. Make them your "it" wines this summer.

As most connoisseurs know, few wine districts do sauvignon blanc better than the Loire Valley in France—Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé being the region's best known appellations. For years Sancerre, made with 100 percent sauvignon blanc grapes, has been my de facto white wine with lunch. Every fine New York restaurant offers one by the glass, and I have never been disappointed.

Recently the Loire Valley hosted a tasting in Manhattan with 32 white wines represented. I can resoundingly recommend every one. In addition to Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé, there are five other lesser-known sauvignon blanc appellations in the region, and all are well worth discovering. The great thing about Loire Valley wines is that you don't need to know the producer to be assured of a fine product. The region's varied soil (gravel, sand, limestone, clay, siliceous clay, chalky kimmeridgian and silex) has a profound impact on the grapes and the wine, lending floral, herbal, mineral and citrus notes along with nuances of menthol, acacia, quince and flint.

At the tasting, Loire wine promoter Benoit Roumet, based in Sancerre, offered the lay of the land of the smallest appellations. Mentou Salon, he explained, is Sancerre's twin sister. Its slope-side vineyards, located just to the south, produce rounder wines with notes of grapefruit, pepper and menthol.

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