I grew rather fond of the Loire when I lived in France last year. In the area I lived in, not far from Gien, the river was wide and lazy and quite wild. There were not many towns along its banks. When I went into the bakery very early the mist hung eerily across the fields close to the river – the sign of another hot day to come. So lovely and tranquil.
Further towards the coast you’ll discover the gorgeous chateaux along the Loire. If you’ve never visited, you really, really must. There’s mighty Amboise sitting high above the river, Azay le Rideau glinting in the lake that surrounds it. This is the area for Touraine wines. A little further still past the town of Saumur is where Rose d’Anjou is created. Think of the sunshine, the long lingering days sitting watching the waters flow and sup your wine.
When I drink wine, I tend to choose red. I like the big juicy flavours. Consequently, I do not know too much about white or rose wines. So I particularly enjoy getting a sommelier’s recommendations when drinking white wine as part of a tasting menu. Such art choosing something that perfectly matches what you’re eating.
We were invited to an evening at Café St Honoré to discover les Vins du Val de Loire – wines from the Loire. Producers in this area market and promote their wines collectively so that evening rather than one wine outlet being promoted, the wines we tasted were chosen from several different outlets. All are under £10 a bottle.
It was one of those rare, warm sunny evenings in Edinburgh and the welcoming glass of rosé d’Anjou was perfect. Juicy and refreshing and such an enticing colour. Later I wished I had not eaten quite so many of the canapés as our delicious meal proved to be copious!
Tom Cannavan’s explanations of the wines was enjoyable. It was simple, and engaging. He explained how rosé is made – from red grapes that are left to steep just a few hours to give it its delicate hue. (It does make you wonder how someone found that out!) The types of grapes in the white wines were described and how their characteristics gave the wine its flavour. All the wines except the red were from the 2014 vintage.
Our menu included prime Scottish ingredients that paired beautifully with the wines cooked with the flair we always associate with Café St Honoré.
Argyll sea trout tartare was paired with a Touraine Sauvignon Blanc from the Domaine de l’Aumônier. My memories of Loire blancs were of wine that was on the acid side, here the wine was soft and slightly sweet. The second Sauvignon Blanc from Domaine Jacky Marteau was paired with the North Sea Hake proving that the wine is ideal with fish but can also stand up to stronger flavours.
Our second Rose d’Anjou from La Jaglerie accompanied the Grierson’s Organic Chicken and Ham Hock Terrine. Another juicy wine that brought out the flavours of the terrine beautifully.
The wine accompanying my favourite dish of the evening, Gartmorn Duck Breast and Confit duck leg was a Touraine Gamay from Les Marcottes. This was rather a shock to me, as a red wine drinker. I really did not like it. It really divided the guests as half of those attending really loved it! Apparently, it is one of those wines you love or hate, with nothing in between.
By this time, we were very, very full. I cheekily asked for some of my duck to be wrapped up to take home. It made a very good sandwich the next day!
At this point I was filmed answering a few questions for an online TV show that was covering the event. It’s amazing how your mind goes blank. One question was “Where would you see yourself drinking the wine” – I blurted out something about sitting in the sun – hence my comment above! But could I remember all the dishes I had just eaten? No!
Our meal was completed with a mini cheese tasting from Phoebe Weller of the Roving Fromage which included just one French cheese. We were challenged to taste the wines with the cheese to see which enhanced and which detracted from the flavours.
What did I learn from the evening? That it is great matching wine with food, but also go with what you love. Would I drink Val de Loire wines again? Definitely, in particular the Rosé d’Anjou. I’ll leave the Gamay for the other half of the guests! It’s definitely time to go back to drinking wines from the Loire.
Find out more
Follow Tom Cannavan on Twitter at Wine Pages
Follow Cafe St Honore on Twitter
Follow Roving Fromage on Twitter
Find out more about Val de Loire Wines
Rosé d’Anjou 2104, Eric Legrand from M&S
Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Domaine de l’Aumonier from Stone Vine and Sun
Rosé d’Anjou 2104, La Jaglerie from the Oxford Wine Company
Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2104, Domaine Jacky Marteay from M&S
Touraine Gamay 2012, Les Marcottes from Lea and Sandeman
Rosé d’Anjou 2014 Domaine des Essarts from Christopher Piper Wines