Loire Sèvre et Maine

Aptly referred to as the ‘Garden of France’, the 630km run of the Loire Valley and its namesake river represents a broad diversity of agricultural zones that produce food crops, flora, orchard fruit, and of course grapevine. With a 2,000-year history that spans early Gaulish, Roman, and then medieval French legacies, the vineyard-lined waterway is punctuated by an array of astonishing Chateaux and was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2002. Anchored by the city of Nantes, the western portion that’s closest to the Atlantic is the heartland of Muscadet wine making; marketed under the designation of Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine AOC. Here, a concentration of 23 towns and villages in the watershed lands of the Sèvre River and its Petit Maine tributary output about two-thirds of France’s total for this distinctive, varietal wine style. A combination of volcanic and alluvial soil imparts vital minerals that promote optimal vine growth, and the underlying beds of chalky limestone and gravel provide the required drainage in an often, damp maritime climate. Unsurprisingly, the flinty white wines that are produced under these conditions is a natural compliment to both the river’s abundance of freshwater fish and seafood of the nearby Ocean!

This week’s DéClassé recommendation of Réserve du Chiron Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2015 is fashioned from 100% Melon de Bourgogne grapes, which is the sole variety used to produce Muscadet. Initially imported by Dutch traders in the 17th century, the plantings around Nantes were primarily used for making ‘brandewijn’ – a distilled wine with added Brandy Spirits. After suffering a particularly hard freeze called the ‘Black Frost’ that killed off most of the region’s vineyards in 1709, King Louis the XIV is reputed to have ordered widespread replanting with a hardier variety then known as ‘Muscadent Blanc’. As a parent grape of the present day ‘Melon de Bourgogne’ cultivar, it has endured many stages of being in and out of commercial favour due to its relatively neutral nature. Somewhat more modern production techniques such as leaving the unfiltered wine stored in tanks on its lees (expired yeasts) over the winter months, the ‘Sur-Lie’ ageing process helps develop additional complexities of flavour, aroma and a creamier texture in the wine.

La Cave du Coudray is demonstrably one of the region’s masters for this inherently lean wine style – evidenced by winning multiple Gold Medals at the Concours des Vins du Val de Loire and the Concours Général Agricole de Paris in 2016. If you’re a seasonal fan of refreshing white wine Spritzers during the warmer weather, then try uncorking a well-chilled Muscadet – and leave out the ice cubes and soda water!

DU CHIRON MUSCADET SÈVRE & MAINE SUR LIE 2015
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #413757 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 13.95
12.0% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Loire, France
By: La Cave Du Coudray
Release Date: June 10, 2017

Tasting Note
This pale golden-hued wine is delicately scented with stone fruit and citrus aromas, making for a zippy, mineral-edged wine style built around generous levels of acidity. Try serving with poached sole, stuffed trout, oysters, scallops or a cool crab salad – it’s also pleasing as a chilled apéritif with a lemon slice!

Crémant de Loire

Set high on a prominence that overlooks the Loire River and its embankments, 130 hectares of Château Moncontour make for one of the oldest and storied estates in Touraine — a Loire Valley sub-region where the namesake river meets two of its main tributaries, the Indre-et-Loire and Loir-et-Cher. Dating to the mid 15th-century, the Renaissance-era château was built by King Charles VII as one of the many gifts lavished on his courtesan, Agnès Sorel. Euphemistically known as ‘Dame de Beauté,’ the striking beauty and courtly influence of Agnès was one bookend in the life and fortunes of the king; the other came disguised as a boy, but was a young country maiden, Jeanne d’Arc, aka ‘La Pucelle d’Orléans.’ Her religiously-inspired military campaign to challenge the occupying English armies was a deciding factor in Charles’ quest to resecure his crown and fractured lands. Among many other tales linked to the Moncontour estate in the ensuing ages is the partial destruction by fire during the French revolution, and then becoming an elusive fascination for the 19th-century author, Honoré de Balzac, who featured its twin white turrets and brambled riverbanks in his published and personal
writings — perhaps, while giddily inspired by the bottled bounty of its vineyards!

moncontour

As with most Crémant, this week’s effervescent bottling has been produced by a double fermentation process generally referred to as méthode Champenoise, though, in the 1980’s, the term was made proprietary to wines originating from the Champagne AOC appellation in north-eastern France. This was justified to guard the distinct typicity of the region’s sparkling wines but doesn’t directly infer a greater level of quality. Moreover, the highly- variable pricing for bonafide Champagnes tends to be among the most arbitrary of all premium wine styles in France – frequently more informed by what the market is willing to pay rather than how much effort has been invested by the vintner. This week’s DéClassé featured bottle of Château Moncontour Tête de Cuvée Brut is made with 100% Chenin Blanc grapes sourced within the Vouvray AOC boundaries and finished
in an equivalent winemaking manner called méthode traditionnelle.

Moncontour’s current custodial vintners are the Feray Family, who since 1994 have been drawing Chenin Blanc fruit, aka Pineau de la Loire, from numerous small plots dotted around the village of Vouvray. Influenced by the sedimentary rock and clay soils that are typical of the Touraine, this local cultivar imparts a distinct minerality along with a high level of acidity – making it an ideal base for the pétillant (sparkling) versions of Vouvray. Having spent at least 22 months aging in the bottle before disgorgement, final corking, and release, this is so modestly priced that you will chide yourself endlessly for
not having bought more before having to wait again until next October!

Chateau Moncontour

CHÂTEAU MONCONTOUR TÊTE DE CUVÉE BRUT VOUVRAY
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #207936 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.95
12% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in: Loire, France
By: Château Moncontour
Release Date: October 29, 2016

Tasting Note
This wine’s straw-yellow colour, apricot and pear aromas, some nutty and baked brioche notes, and a lively mousse make for a refreshing counterpoint to unseasonably warm weather and the possibility of a few more ‘al fresco’ meals! Try as an apéritif or with lighter fare such as fresh salads, goat cheese tartlets, pâté and seasoned crisps or alongside moderately spicy Asian appetizers.

Loire Sauvignon Blanc

The Loire River Valley in west-central France has a long history of being a geographical and political demarcation line. In the 1st century, Imperial Rome used it to sub-divide their occupation of Gaul into two large areas: Aquitania to the south, and Celtica to the north. With the demise of the empire, Val de Loire continued to act as a borderland, separating the southern territories controlled by the ‘barbarian’ Visigoths, and the Gallo-Romans who renamed their northern realm as Syagrius. During the Middle Ages, and perhaps most famously, English Plantagenet King, Henry 2nd ruled the north while his erstwhile wife, Eleanor, held sway in Aquitaine. Spanning these diverse historical periods is a steady, unifying development of viniculture; eventually taking pride-of-place in the landscape and providing the modern-day Loire with an appropriate moniker, ‘garden of France.’ Winemaking legend suggests that a 4th-century monk, Saint-Martin, was first to introduce suitable vines for the terroir, and to promote an early form of pruning practice by having his donkey graze in the monastery vineyard; to strip the vines of their lower leaves and buds. It’s a critical cultivation step, where the limiting of harvest yields results in far more concentrated grapes and flavour. Nonetheless, the Loire’s vintners still manage to produce about 400 million bottles annually, with varietal Sauvignon Blanc output accounting for a large share of the total.

domaine-de-la-chaise-touraine

Centered on the city of Tours, the sub-region of Touraine is located where the valley’s namesake river meets two of its numerous tributaries; Cher and Indre. In turn, these fertile river junctions, the Indre-et-Loire and Loire-et-Cher, encompass 146 communes and an expansive list of winemaking châteaux that qualify for Touraine AOP designation. Among them is this DéClassé featured, Domaine de la Chaise and their Touraine Sauvignon 2014. Drawing fruit from vineyards that lie near the postcard-famed, white Château de Chenonceau, pedigree, and high standards are not in short supply!

Likely to have originated next door in Bordeaux, the Sauvignon Blanc variety is widely planted throughout the world and highly adaptable to a range of climates such as Chile, North America, and New Zealand. In the Loire’s maritime conditions, its characteristics of budding late, then ripening early, makes for a benchmark Sauvignon white wine that’s delicate, nuanced and balanced. At Domaine de la Chaise, they’re offering a refined example at a modest price. If you’re not a fan of overpriced, over-ripe and grassy Sauvignon, I suggest buying 3; to dispel your negative predisposition permanently!

Domaine de La Chaise

DOMAINE DE LA CHAISE TOURAINE SAUVIGNON 2014
VINTAGES – LCBO Product # 452540 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 14.95
12.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Loire, France
By: Christophe Davault
Release Date: July 9, 2016

Tasting Note
Refreshing, fruity and pleasingly tart, this is a classic Loire Sauvignon Blanc with citrus and subtle honeysuckle aromas. Grapefruit and pineapple flavours mark a medium-bodied wine with some restrained, herbaceous notes left to the finish. Try serving alongside a fresh pea risotto, arugula salad with a lemon vinaigrette or with cold shrimp, lobster, and crab cakes.

Vouvray Alert

Overlooking both the river and expansive hillsides of its meandering valley, 130
or so hectares of Château Moncontour make up one of the oldest estates in
the Touraine, a sub-region of the Loire – also known as ‘the garden of France’.
The current building dates back to the Renaissance period, having been built by
King Charles VII. Among many noteworthy tales, including being ravaged by an
unfortunate fire during the revolutionary period, the sculpted, ivy-covered, white
fairytale turrets of the château and its adjacent bramble-lined riverbanks were
prized by 19th century, local French writer: Honoré de Balzac, who featured it in
some of his writings while perhaps savouring the bounty of its vineyards!

Like most Crémants, this week’s very effervescent bottling has been produced in
a double fermentation method known as “méthode Champenoise” – in the late
1980’s though, the term was made proprietary to only wines originating from
within the Champagne region to the north-east. This was justified in order to
guard the distinct typicity of the region but doesn’t necessarily suggest greater
quality. Moreover, highly variable pricing for bona-fide Champagnes tends to be
among the most arbitrary of all wine styles – frequently more informed by what
the market is willing to pay rather than how much effort has been invested by
the vintner. Having said all that, note that this week’s DéClassé recommended
varietal offering from the Vouvray AOC is made with 100% Chenin Blanc
grapes and produced in an equivalent manner known as ‘méthode traditionnelle’.

Moncontour’s current custodial vintners are the Feray Family, who since 1994
have been drawing on numerous small plots dotted throughout the villages of
Vouvray for their Chenin Blanc fruit. Influenced by the limestone and clay soils
found here, this variety has a distinct mineral component along with a naturally
high level of acidity – making it an ideal base for sparkling versions of Vouvray
that are also known as ‘pétillant’. Having spent at least 22 months ageing in
the bottle before disgorgement, final corking and release, this is so modestly
priced that you will chide yourself endlessly for not having bought more before
having to wait again until next August or perhaps even a touch longer!

Chateau Moncontour

CHÂTEAU MONCONTOUR TÊTE DE CUVÉE BRUT VOUVRAY
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #207936 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.95
12% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in: Loire, France
By: Château Moncontour
Release Date: August 16, 2014

Tasting Note
Straw yellow colour, apricot aromas, a nutty note and lively, refined mousse
make this a refreshing counterpoint for warm weather and ‘al fresco’ meals.
Try as an apéritif or with lighter fare such as fresh salads, goat cheese, pâté
and seasoned crisps or moderately spicy Asian appetizers.