As a sommelier, I’m excited when guests ask, “Find me something different.” Discovering the perfect wine they’ll love is sometimes challenging, but it’s not that hard when you know where to look. More often than not, I head to the Loire for inspiration. Separated by 59 appellations, the region offers stylistic diversity, which gives me leeway to find something different without suggesting something too obscure.
Below are six appellations that showcase the range of diversity, offering (mostly) affordable suggestions from a region that under promises and over delivers inexpensive, old-world quality wine. I made a conscious effort to pick appellations where styles contrast most, to give you a sense of how different a wine can be, even when it’s made from the same grape variety. If you haven’t tried a wine from the Loire region, here are a few suggestions to kickstart your journey.
Why you’ll love this region: Chinon is one of Loire’s most famous regions, producing many different whites, reds and rosés. For reds, Cabernet Franc reigns supreme and I found two examples that juxtapose old-world (earthy, lighter-bodied) versus new-world (riper, fuller-bodied) styles.
2012 Bernard Baudry Chinon La Croix Boissee, Loire, France ($43)
Concentrated and powerful, this new-world style Cabernet Franc has layers of black cherry and cassis that carries through to the soft, balanced finish that is laced with plums and violets.
2015 Domaine Olga Raffault Red ‘Les Picasses’, Loire, France ($20)
This is a rustic old-world style Cabernet Franc with dark cherry and orange zest flavors. Tannins are soft and pretty with wonderful complexity and minerality on the finish. I also tasted the 1989 vintage which really showcases its earthy, dusty qualities and validates that this wine ages gracefully, so if you find some bottles, cellar them for a decade (or two).
Why you’ll love this region: Vouvray offers so many different types of wine, from bone dry and sweet to fizzy. Flavors hit green apple, honey, citrus, stone fruit, and minerals. Wines are made from the Chenin blanc grape and styles differ from angular and austere to buttery and creamy.
2015 Domaine Bourillon Dorleans Vouvray La Coulee d’Argent Vieilles Vignes, Loire, France ($20)
Austere in style, this Vouvray offers pretty green apple, pear, and apricot notes that evolve into honey, lime and mineral on the finish. It is tight and angular, pairing perfectly with goat cheese or baked apple desserts.
2014 Domaine Vincent Carême Vouvray l’Ancestrale, Loire, France ($25)
Savory in style, the l’Ancestrale is a natural sparkling wine made in the pétillant method, a term used to describe a wine that is bottled before fermentation finishes. The result produces natural bubbles in the bottle. Its opulent flavors are refreshing with layered apricot and mineral notes.
2015 Philippe Foreau Domaine du Clos Naudin Vouvray Demi-Sec, Loire, France ($34)
Creamy in texture, this demi-sec (slightly sweet) wine is layered with honey, butterscotch and caramel intertwined with apricot. It finishes with a nutty almond note.
Why you’ll love this region: Savennières is a small region that offers a spectrum of distinctive age-worthy Chenin blanc styles, particularly due to varied soils and terroirs across the appellation. Unlike other regions, the characteristics are much more mature, full-bodied and austere in style. They are somewhat unapproachable when young, but with age, the wines shine with notes of candied fruits, nuttiness, and spice. I like to call this the sommeliers special, meaning, Savennières often leans more towards the obscure side, but they are quite beautiful and complex.
2014 Chateau Soucherie Savennieres Clos des Perrieres, Loire, France ($25)
Playful and fun with white peach, apple and pear notes that play harmoniously with undertones of complex mineral and toasted hazelnuts.
2014 Domaine des Deux Vallees Savennieres, Loire, France ($17)
Sophisticated style with caramel and honey notes that race through to a pure, intense mineral and green almond finish.
2008 Nicolas Joly Vignobles de la Coulee de Serrant ‘Clos de la Coulee de Serrant’ Savennieres, Loire, France ($90)
Intense and vibrant, this Savennieres is very distinctive in its flavor profile, varying from jasmine, celery salt, and herbs to citrus rind, candied fruit and nuts. A dynamite Savennières for a special occasion.
Why you’ll love this region: The Touraine is a large area located southeast of Tours, stretching from Anjou to the Sologne region to the east, producing whites, reds and rosés. The area offers a vast palette of grape styles and varieties that are fruity, fresh, and crisp—and they won’t break the bank!
2015 Domaine Delobel Sauvignon Blanc AOC Touraine-Oisly, Loire, France ($12)
A refreshing style that exudes fresh fruit, mineral notes and crisp acidity that are hallmark traits for the region; expressive and round Sauvignon blanc with exotic tropical fruit and honeysuckle notes.
2014 Domaine des Corbillières Les Demoiselles Rouge, Touraine, Loire, France ($11)
An easy going red blend of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Côt that delivers vivid acidity and cherry notes that carry through to the finish.
Why you’ll love this region: Celebrating over 1,000 years of winemaking, Anjou is notable for its fruity rosé wines made from Cabernet Franc and Grolleau. Both Cabernet d’Anjou and Rosé d’Anjou within the Anjou produce wines that are distinctive, with beautiful natural sweetness. You’ll find many different styles of rosé, and rarely are two alike, which makes tasting them so fun.
2016 Domaine Leduc-Frouin Rose d’Anjou, Loire, France ($14)
This style bursts with excitement, offering plenty of gooseberry, red berry and mint; wonderfully layered fruit flavors with bright acidity.
2016 Pierre Bonnet Cabernet d’Anjou La Planchelière, Loire, France ($10)
Stylistically clean and inviting, with aromas of strawberry and red berries; flavors are fruity with a hint of smoke on the long, refreshing finish. It’s delicate, slightly sweet and easy to drink. This is a steal at ten bucks.
Why you’ll love this region: Saumur-Champigny is a warm climate producing delicious, earthy reds that come from eight villages near the city of Saumur. The primary grape is Cabernet Franc, but Cabernet Sauvignon and a smattering of Pineau d’Aunis is also found, giving the region some freedom to differentiate themselves through blending. Here are three different styles that impress.
Domaine des Champs Fleuris Saumur Champigny Les Rotissants, Loire, France ($12)
Pretty and inviting, this Cabernet Franc is a delicious value serving up aromas a flavors of violets, blackberries and black cherry goodness. The finish is clean and inviting with tobacco and leather notes. It’s a delightful red at a price point that can’t be beat.
2010 Rene Noel Legrand Saumur-Champigny Les Rogelins, Loire, France ($33)
Intense and ripe with black fruits, licorice, dense tannins and a tinge of smokiness and vanilla on the finish. It drinks wonderfully now but I would suggest cellaring a few years for optimal enjoyment.
2015 Dominique Joseph Le Petit Saint Vincent Les Clos Lyzieres, Loire, France ($24)
Rich and full bodied, this Cabernet Franc is layered with black fruits, cherries, plum, and violets, leading to a long finish of leather and lavender. Delicious!
This article was originally published on Wine Bytes, Oregonlive