Summer Loires

The Loire is one of France’s larger wine regions where a plethora of grape varieties grow, some near the long, winding Loire River that flows into the Atlantic. Its districts produce all types of wines—white, red, rosé, sweet, and sparkling. The region is a source of many wines that are crisp and refreshing with floral scents like a summer garden. “If I take a wine to a picnic,” says Florence Lowell, owner of the Naked Oyster restaurant in Hyannis, “my number one pick is a wine from the Loire.”

Loire wines pair well with the season’s lighter fare and are perfect warm-weather thirst-quenchers after a day at the beach. These are wines you may have left behind to experience new viticulture regions, but it’s worth revisiting these well-priced, familiar selections.

Take, for instance, the white wines from Muscadet, the area in the western part of the Loire. Muscadets are made from the melon de bourgogne grape. The better ones come from the Sevre-et-Maine district and have the words “sur lie,” a process in which the wine is bottled directly from the lees to improve its flavor and complexity, written on the label. A lemon-lime and mineral taste makes Muscadet the quintessential pairing for shellfish. “Muscadet is great with clams and oysters,” says Lowell, whose restaurant features a raw bar and a superlative menu of shellfish dishes.

Wines from Vouvray, a region on the right bank of the Loire River, are made from the Chenin Blanc grape and are know to be fruity and sweeter with a golden color. There are four levels of sweetness usually indicated on the label: sec (the driest), demi-sec (medium dry), moelleux (medium sweet) and doux (very sweet). Dry Vouvrays have flavors of green apples, tastes of oranges and pineapples, and can be softer and creamier than other Loire wines.  For Lowell, a sweeter Vouvray is the perfect wine with a goat cheese: “The sweetness offsets the tartness of the cheese,” she says.

Sancerre, made from one hundred percent Sauvignon Blanc, is a standard at Paris bistros. These wines from the northeast section of the Loire have appealing citrus flavors with a grassy and flinty edge from the chalky limestone soil in the vineyards. Sauvignon Blancs are a summer favorite and there are so many on store shelves from California, Chile, South Africa, and New Zealand, that Sancerre may also be overlooked. But they’re worth revisiting because they are unlike sauvignon blancs from other wine regions.

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Ann Trieger is a freelance writer living in the Boston area.

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