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The Loire’s chenin blanc is a master of disguise

David Williams
·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo</span>
Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Bouvet Ladubay Saumur Brut, Loire, France NV (£13.99, or £9.99 as part of a mixed case of six, majestic.co.uk) If you’re a producer of chenin blanc in France’s Loire Valley, you get used to ceding the spotlight. You have to accept that the grape variety you’re working with is currently better known around the world for its contribution to the recent proliferation of superb dry white wines from South Africa. And you know very well that the white grape variety for which your home region is most famous has for some years now been sauvignon blanc, as found in the wines of Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and Touraine. But there are some compensations. Chenin blanc grown in the Loire Valley has a kind of super-power shared by very few other grape varieties (riesling is the only other one I can think of): you can use it to make any style of wine at the very highest quality level, from golden sweet dessert wines to crisply apple-scented, incisive champagne-alike sparkling wines such as Bouvet Ladubay’s reliably fresh and tangy fizz from Saumur.

Domaine la Rouletière Patrimoine Vouvray Sec, Loire, France 2015 (from £17.49, allaboutwine.co.uk; greatwinesdirect.co.uk; corkingwines.co.uk) My current favourite Loire chenin fizz is a little more expensive than the Bouvet Ladubay. But at £21.95 (vincognito.co.uk) Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Triple Zéro is pretty competitive alongside the likes of champagne and English wine. It gets its name from the absence of sugar, which is commonly added in three stages in the production of sparkling wine, but not here: what you get is a tinglingly dry wine of luminous clarity and depth of ripe apple (a classic chenin character) and more exotic fruit. It’s made by one of the stars of Loire still wines, Jacky Blot, whose Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Remus 2017, a still dry chenin from vineyards around the village of Montouis-sur-Loire (£26.68, justerinis.com), has the same mix of fruit-depth and struck-bell resonance of flavour as the Triple Zéro, and which you can also find in the silkily elegant Patrimoine from Domaine la Rouletière in Vouvray.

Domaine des Forges Coteaux du Layon Chaume 1er Cru, Loire, France 2016 (£18.56, gauntleys.com) The very best Loire chenin is certainly a match for the best chardonnay from Burgundy, and at a fraction of the price to boot. But the combination of grape and region is also responsible for some charming wines at more accessible prices: I’m thinking of reliable staples such as Waitrose’s Les Andides Saumur Blanc (currently on offer for £7.49) and Yapp Bros’ never-less-than-fun, tangy-racy and drinkable Saumur Blanc (£11.49). For sheer gastronomic pleasure from chenin, however, it’s hard to beat the dessert wines, which combine the lusciousness of honey, brown sugar and crystallized apple with that resounding, cleansing, Cox’s apple acidity you find in the dry and sparkling wines. A wine such as Domaine des Forges’ lingeringly lovely Chaume 1er Cru, for example, is the closest thing the wine world has to the experience of eating a perfectly made tarte tatin.

Follow David Williams on Twitter @Daveydaibach