Sauvignon blancs from the Loire Valley are bracingly fresh and taste great with healthy food - just don't serve them too cold.
|Wines from Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre are great matches for herby risottos and salads|
Like many, I have a bouncy relationship with New World (especially New Zealand) sauvignon blanc – sometimes that perfumed, juicy blast of gooseberry, passion fruit and tomato leaf is exactly what’s needed to wake up the taste buds with a zap, yet at others it seems altogether too loud, too strong, too relentlessly bright.
So I found myself in the pretty French town of Sancerre recently, marvelling at the elegance and poise of the classic sauvignon blancs of the Loire Valley. My tasting notes from the trip include “tangerines, pears, roses, melon, peach and greengage”, but these are subtle hints; at the heart is always whistle-clean lemon juice, precise and clear, sometimes with minty or smoky whiffs but almost always with a bracingly fresh mineral streak.
The top wines of Sancerre and nearby Pouilly-Fumé can be expensive, but in the same general area sauvignons from less famous Quincy, Reuilly and Menetou-Salon can also deliver at lower prices, and, sauv blanc lovers, do look out for the affordable, simpler but moreish versions from the Côteaux du Giennois appellation.
This is exactly the right time of year to sip them with healthy new-season food – salad leaves and fresh asparagus, baby broad beans and newly sprouted green herb risottos. Oh, and goat’s cheese, and of course white fish and seafood.
On my last night in Sancerre I was the guest of a Japanese chef who paired the wines with her own exquisite, delicate dishes made using nori, radish, miso. Sushi too – all worked beautifully with these restrained and refined white wines.
Finest Pouilly-Fumé 2013 Loire, France (Tesco, £10.99)
This has a riper, creamier texture and long finish but the flavours are crystal clear: zesty lemon and grapefruit with a grassy hint – just made for white fish.
Domaine de Villargeau 2013 Côteaux du Giennois Loire, France (Majestic, £8.99)
Lemon and clementine mingle to make a mouthwatering, light and dry citrus cocktail, and there’s a faint hint of mint on the scent. Properly refreshing sauvignon blanc.
Domaine Vacheron Sancerre 2013 Loire, France (selected Waitrose, £19.99)
A brilliant organic producer whose whites have strikingly pure flavours and clean acidity; here’s lemon again, and very light peach. Dry, crisp finish – a seriously good match for lobster.
TIPPLE TIP keep yours cool...
Though it’s tempting in summer, never serve fine whites like these sauvignon blancs too cold, or their delicate flavours and aromas will be hard to detect through the chill. Aim for a cool 8C, which should be just right to make the wine more refreshing without masking its subtle character.