The world of wine is vast. Trying new wines opens the world up to you in so many ways, including; culturally and geographically. As the saying goes, the more you know about wine, the more you realize how much you don’t know. Try new wines and explore new wine regions. Be wine adventurous!
This month the French Winophiles are taking a closer look at the Loire Valley, specifically the Middle Loire wine region of Anjou and Saumur. While I have tasted wines from the Loire Valley, the Anjou and Saumur regions are new for me. When I explore any new wine region the first thing I do is look at a map of the region, learn the main varieties grown there, the climate and terroir, and then what food to pair with the wines.
Where is the Loire Valley and Anjou-Saumur
The Loire Valley is located in central France along the banks of France’s longest river, the Loire.
The Loire Valley wine region is divided into three main growing areas;
- Lower Loire – Pays Nantais
- Middle Loire – Anjou, Saumur, and Touraine
- Upper Loire – Centre
Grape Varieties of the Middle Loire Region
White Wine Varieties
- Chenin Blanc – also known as Pineau de la Loire (the signature white grape of the region)
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Arbois – indigenous to the Loire
- Pinot Gris
- Romorantin – indigenous to the Loire and only grown in Cour-Cheverny AOP
Red Wine Varieties
- Cabernet Franc – also known as Breton in Loire (the signature red grape of the region)
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pineau d’ Aunis – indigenous to the Loire
- Malbec – known as Côt in the Loire
- Grolleau – indigenous to the Loire – used to produce off-dry Anjou rosé
- Pinot Noir
- Pinot Meunier
Anjou has an oceanic climate that is mostly dry with small variations in the temperature. The soils are mostly granite, schist, and slate. The region produces white, red, and sparkling wines ranging from dry to sweet. Anjou is known for its Rosé wines and sweeter style Chenin Blanc.
- Savennières AOP – Chenin Blanc is produced in an oxidative style and worthy of aging.
- Anjou Côteaux de la Loire AOP – known for their sweeter style Chenin Blanc with some that has been affected by Botrytis cinerea or noble rot.
- Anjou Mousseux AOP – produces sparkling wines from mainly Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon that offer a great value.
- Crémant de Loire AOP – sparkling wines that are with more complex with aging on the lees and bottled under higher pressure resulting in more bubbles.
Saumur has mostly a maritime climate, however, vineyards further from the Loire river experience a more continental climate with the Saumur hills protesting against the west winds. The soils are mostly limestone giving the white wines bright acidity and the reds a softer character. The region produces white, red, and sparkling wines ranging from dry to sweet in style. Saumur is known for its sparkling wines.
- Crémant de la Loire AOP – like Anjou producing more complex sparkling wines.
- Saumur Mousseux AOP – known for Saumur Brut made with a Chenin Blanc base.
- Saumur Mousseux Rosé AOP – producing Rosé sparkling wines.
- Saumur Rouge AOP – included within this AOP is Saumur-Champigny AOP a unique micro-climate known for producing exceptional Cabernet Franc based reds.
- Coteaux de Saumur AOP – producing sweet, late harvest Chenin Blanc wines.
My Tasting Notes
2018 Domaine du Pas Saint Martin, La Pierre Frite Saumur Blanc, Saumur AOP
13% abv | ~$18.00 | 100% Chenin Blanc
The Domaine is farmed organically with certification since 1997 and run by Laurent Charrier and his mother.
The grapes were hand-harvested, fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats with natural yeast and partial malo-lactic fermentation. Only a small dose of sulfites was added at bottling in February 2019.
Pale straw in color with a green hue. Medium-bodied with high acidity. On the palate sharp racy acidity, notes of chalky minerality and lemon-lime citrus.
2017 Château Soucherie, Anjou Rouge AOP
12.5% abv | ~$24.00 |90% Cabernet Franc 10% Grolleau
The vineyards are farmed without synthetic products or chemical fertilizers. The grapes come from 35-year-old vines and are hand-harvested. After a cold maceration, the fermentation takes about 20 days for the Cabernet Franc and 10 days for the Grolleau. The wine continues aging on its lees for 9 months without extraction.
Medium ruby in color. Medium-bodied, with medium tannins, and acidity. On the palate astringent with dusty notes, dried herbs, and raspberries.
Food Pairings with Loire Valley Anjou-Saumur Wines
Corn Cakes with Fresh Tomatoes and Fried Sage
The Chenin Blanc from Saumur was dry with high acidity, medium-bodied, and notes of minerals and citrus. The corn cakes with the acidic tomatoes balanced the acidity in the wine with the garlic and fried sage bridging and enhancing both the wine and flavors of the corn cakes. A few crumbles of fresh goat cheese would be a nice addition to the corn cakes, complementing the acidity in the wine but also adding a creamy element to cut the acidity in the wine.
The Cabernet Franc from Anjou also paired nicely with the corn cakes. Again the acidity in the wine was echoed in the tomatoes, but also the fruity raspberry notes of in the wine played to the sweetness in the corn cakes. The sage complemented the herbal notes common in Cabernet Franc.
Baked Eggs with Farro and Mushrooms
Cabernet Franc with eggs! The herbal, green, medium/high acidity in the Cabernet Franc paired up nicely with the earthy flavors of the mushrooms, herbs, onions, and garlic …oh and yes, the runny soft egg yolks in this baked eggs with farro and mushrooms echoed the soft fruit texture in the wine.
The Chenin Blanc also stood up to the baked eggs with farro and mushroom. The dish tamed the sharp acidity in the wine and again the herbs were an overall enhancement to the wine and food.
An appetizer bursting with fresh summer flavors. Pair with a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley.
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears of corn)
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 3/4 cup fine cornmeal
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, +
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- extra-virgin olive oil for fryin
- 24 + small fresh sage leaves
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
- 1 lb. tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch diced pieces
- freshly ground black pepper
- fresh goat cheese crumbles, for serving (optional)
In a food processor pulse the corn kernals to a rough puree. Add the egg and buttermilk and pulse again to mix. Add the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and pulse until just mixed to a smooth batter. Stir in 4 tablespoons of the melted butter. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
In a 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat, add a thin film of extra virgin olive oil. When the pan is hot add a scant 1/4 cup of the batter to the pan per corn cake. Cook in batches for 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown. Transfer the cooked corn cakes to a sheet pan covered with foil. Add more oil to the pan as needed and continue to cook the cakes until all the batter is used.
Wipe the sauté pan out if needed and add one tablespoon of butter. Add the sage leaves and fry until the leaves are crisp about 2 minutes. Transfer gently to a plate lined with a paper towel.
Add one tablespoon of butter to the pan and sauté the smashed garlic for about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and thinly slice the garlic lengthwise.
In a bowl add the diced tomatoes and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
Arrange the corn cakes on a serving platter and divide the tomato mixture topping each corn cake. Garnish each corn cake with a sage leaf and crumbled goat cheese(optional).
A savory dinner paired with a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley.
- 1-1/4 cups farro
- 1/2 white onion
- 1 bay leaf
- kosher salt
- 2 slices rye bread, torn into small pieces
- 12 oz. shiitake mushrooms
- 1 large shallot
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed
- 3/4 cup dry red wine
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 4 large eggs
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chives, minced
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan add the farro, onion, bay leaf, 2 teaspoons of salt and enought water to cover by 2-inches. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 25-30 minutes uncovered. Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking liquid, then drain. Discard the onion and bay leaf.
In a mini food processor, pulse the bread to coarse crumbs. Transfer the bread crumbs to the parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt. Toss to combine and spread into an even layer. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, stirring half way through. Set aside to cool. Keep the oven on.
In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat add 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Add the mushrooms and shallots and sauté until tender and golden brown, about 5 minutes. About one minute before the mushrooms are tender add the garlic and caraway and sauté.
Add the red wine and a pinch of salt and bring the wine to a simmer. Stir in the cooked farro, and 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid.Add the thyme and cook until mixture is thickened and liquid absorbed, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer to a serving baking dish if desired. Make 4 shallow wells in the mushroom farro mixture. Crack an egg into each well. Season the eggs with salt and pepper. Transfer to the oven and make for about 6-10 minutes. Ideally you want the whites cooked and the yolks runny.
To serve; sprinkle with chives and rye bread crumbs.
More adventures from the French Winophiles on Loire Valley Anjou-Saumur Wines
- Cindy, of Grape Experiences, gives us A Taste of the Loire: Domaine Filliatreau Saumur-Champigny 2015 and Sauteed Duck Breasts with Wild Mushrooms.
- Jeff, of FoodWineClick!, serves NOT the Easter Bunny with Wines from Anjou-Saumur.
- Payal, of Keep the Peas, offers up Angevin-oisserie: Chenin Blanc from Anjou.
- Jane, of Always Ravenous, shares What to Pair with Loire Valley Anjou-Saumur Wines.
- Wendy, of A Day in the Life on the Farm, is planning on Korean Pork Tenderloin with Cab Franc from Saumur.
- Gwendolyn, of Wine Predator, is Off to Loire: le P’tit Domaine Saumur Champigny and a Tritip Summer Salad
- Linda, of My Full Wine Glass, says to Make ‘room for Saumur Champigny from the Loire.
- Camilla, of Culinary Adventures with Camilla, shares Lamb, Two Rabbits, and Some Quail with Wines from Anjou-Saumur.