The Loire produces wonderful wines for summer. Perhaps it’s holidays in July and August, driving from château to château, past the slow reaches of the river and green meadows almost yellow from the sun. Baguettes and pâté under the willow trees…. Actually that may be a figment of my unreliable memory. But the wines really are crisp, refreshing and lively, as well as having plenty of body. Lay in supplies so that your al fresco meals will be even more delightful.
And less expensive too. The Loire had the same crummy summer we did last year, but, like us, they did get sun in spring and autumn. Most — though not all — wines were better than rescued, though prices went up. But since Simon Taylor of the terrific independent merchant Stone, Vine & Sun has knocked 15 per cent off every bottle, you need not suffer. My choice was very difficult, but all four wines come from different grapes, so there is variety here as well as quality.
Chenin Blanc is one of the archetypal Loire grapes. It’s got fullness and fatness and fruitiness, yet this 2006 Domaine de l’Aumonier, Cuvée Henri, from Touraine (1) is bone dry. It will continue to improve in bottle, which is something you can’t say about all white wines. Down to £6.99 and great value.
There are many fine Sauvignon Blancs in the region, all intriguing and all subtly different. In the end I opted for the 2007 Pouilly-Fumé Les Pernets (2) which has the dry, slatey character of this appellation, but with a nice rounded flavour as well. Keep it cold, but open an hour or so before serving to get the full flavour. Down to £9.30 — super value.
Sancerre is now one of the world’s great centres for Pinot Noir rosés. This 2007 (3), from Daniel Crochet, is understated (not a euphemism for tasteless) but is fleshy and subtle with overtones of strawberries and altogether delicious. Perfect for sipping with cold meats, cheeses and salad and fruit. Reduced to £10.15.
Finally a Cabernet Franc, the grape that is just allowed into claret, but which comes into its own in the Loire. This 2005 Chinon Les Puys (4) is from Wilfred Rousse. It’s spicy and earthy and herby and dense and altogether lovely. The New York Times recently picked it as one of the three best Chinons of all, and who am I to argue? I like it very slightly chilled — say after half an hour in the fridge. Reduced to £8.70.
Delivery is free, as ever, and there is a sample case containing three each of these terrific wines.