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  • The Loire Valley - French Wine

       In comparison of the rest of France, the Loire has a cool climate. The area is capable of producing a wide range of wines, from light, dry, and crisp whites, to rosé, mediun-bodied reds, and luscious dessert wines.

      It is also a region where extremely good sparking wines are made. It was not until the mid 1940s that the Loire’s wines began to gain a reputation outside their local markets but since then, the region’s white wines, in particular, have featured on many restaurant wine lists. The Loire is the longest river in France and provides an entry to four main wine areas which lie between the Atlantic and the cebtre of France. Around Nantes, the influence of the sea is evident, while inland, the so-called central vineyards, including Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, have a continental climate. Anjou-Saumur and Touraine lie between these two extremes. The vast size of the region means theat there are many different soil types, but chalk and clay are the most prominent for a good white wine.

     Loire Valley WineThe most important grape varieties are Muscadet, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc for the best white wines, and Cabernet Franc for red wines, with a little Pinot Noir grown in and aroud Sancerre. Muscadet, is a dry, fresh and crisp white wine, and a seafood wine ‘par excellence’. The term ‘sur lie’, usually assocuated with better-qualty Muscadet, indicates that the wine has spent time maturig on the lees and is bottled directly, to give added concentration and a faint pickle of carbon dioxide. In Anjou-Saumur, mostly dry or medium sweet white wines are produced form the Chenin Blanc grape. As well as having a bearing of the wines, the local chalk soil is evident in the extraordinary buildings typical of the area, where the white stone has a striking effect.

     Many of the sweet wines come from the sheltered area around the river Layon, a tributary of the Loire and are affected by noble rot. They are some of the hidden gems of the wine world and, like many of the white wines made from the Chenin Blanc, can age amazingly well. The best red wines of the Loire are made from the Cabernet Franc grape, in the subdistrict of Touraine. Generally medium-bodied, these delicious and elegant wines are made to drink young, but can also surprise with mid-term cellaring. Chinon, Bourgueil, Saint Nicholas de Bourgueil and Saumur Champigny are four appellations to look out for. Frustratingly, there’s some variation with the quality of wines from Vouvray and Montlouis but the best white wines are magnificent expression of the Chenin Blanc grape.

    Wine Loire Valley Sancerre wine takes its name from the hilltop town of the area. The district’s wines are arguably the word’s most famous appellation connected to the tangy, piquant wines made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape. Across the river Loire and just a few miles away, is Pouilly Sur Loire, home to Pouilly-Fume, where the white wines are produced from Sauvignon. Tending to be a little sterner, they are very good with food. Due to its proximity to the central vineyards are made from the Pinot Noir grape. Look out too, for the wines of Quincy, Reyilly, and Menetou Salon.

      Many of the white wines of the Loire Valley age remarkably well, changing in character from the mineral, flintlike flavours of youth to an almost honey-and-apricot textured complexity. Even 50-60-year-old wines can be in perfect shape.    Read more about Valley of the Loire here...

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  • The Rhône

       The Rhône Vally is one of the oldest wine-producing regions of France. There is evidence of wine production taking place here as long ago as 600 BC.

     The wine region of the Rhône Vally starts just south of Vienne, the gateway to the northern Rhône, where the only permitted black grape variety in Syah. The southern Rhône, where the Grenache grape variety takes centre stage, lies south of Montelimar and extends to Avignon. More often than not, the Grenache will be blended with other grapes, such as Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvédre.

    Hand harvesting takes place in many of the terraced vineyards in the narrow northern Rhône Vally. Vines are often trained on ingeniuos supports, so that they can withstand the powerful Mistral wind which blows down the valley. Planted on mostly granite and sandstone slils, Syrah produces full-bodied wines, ehich have high tannin content when young and therefore age very well. Côte Rôtie, one of the great wines of France, can mix power and elegance and os often a blend of Syrah and the white grape Viognier.

     

    Hermitage

    Hermitage is not only the most rexognised name associated with Syrah, but also an appellation making wines of great depth, concentration and structure which are capable of ageing over decades in bottle. Crozes-Hermitage and St. Joseph are generally lighter, while the very best vineyards from Cronas, with their attractive ‘rustic’ edge, make wines which at best rival those from Hermitage.

    The white wines of the northern Rhône are predominantly made from Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. In Condrieu, Viognier is used to make distinctive peach and apricot-flavoured wines, with high alcohol and ample body. Marsanne and Roussanne are often blended together to make the dramatic white wine of Hermitage and other neighbouring appellations.

    The world-famous wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are produced in the southern Rhône, where up to thirteen different grape vatieties are permited in the blend. The wines of Gigondas and Vacqueryas often represent great value and possess similar characteristics to the best Chateauneufs, while Tavel is home to the dry and full-bedied rosé. Most generic Côtes du Rhône, along with Côtes du Rhône Villages, come from the Southern Rhône. The latter, which can include the name of the village, such as Viscan, can be another source of well-priced wines.

     Chateau Grillet is a single estate appellation, making wines from Viognier. Pope John XXII died in 1334, only a year after his new palace was complete.

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  • Trentino DOC

       This is generic area wine. It is difficult to give an overview because each of the growers and winemakers uses their own blends and methods.

      The Trentino Bianco is made from Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco. It is pale golden yellow and a pleasant but unobtrusive. Drink at 46.4-50°F (8-10°C).

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    The better whites are of the single grape variety with their name alongside Trentino DOC on the label. The best are usually the Chardonnay Trentino wines but there are also some excellent wines made with Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Riesling Italico, Riesling Renano, Traminer Aromatico, and Miiller-Thurgau.

    Drink Pinot Grigio, Traminer, Miiller-Thurgau, and Chardonnay at 50-53.6°F (10-12°C) and 46.4-50°F (8-10°C) for the rest. The subtle wine from the native Nosiola is worth considering though do not expect great miracles, rather the discovering of a very different grape. The wine is fine and delicate, pleasingly fruity in bouquet and taste with a slight bitterness in finish. Drink at 46.4-50°F (8-10°C).

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    Pinally there is an excellent sweet white wine made with Moscato Giallo. There is also a liquorous version of this wine, identified by the name Liquoroso.

    This is a first class after-dinner liqueur if well chilled to around 42.8-46.4°F (6-8°C). Pirst class sparkling wines are made with Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco. This Spumante is a remarkably fine aperitif. Drink at 46.4-50°F (8-10°C).

    Trentino Rosso DOC is made from Cabernet and Merlot and is almost always cask aged. Depending on the wine's origins it may be light and approachable or fullbodied and powerful. The full bodied type keeps well. Drink the light and amenable type while it is still fruity at about 53.6°F (12°C) and the fuller version at 57.2-60.8°F (14-16°C).

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    The other type of Trentino red is made from one or two types of grape and is very characteristic of its grape and terroir. You will encounter wines made with the Cabernets (Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Cabernet Pranc) , Merlot, Marzemino, Pinot Nero, and Lagrein.

      These are all excellent but the best are the Riservas, which had at least two year's additional maturing. Drink at 57.2-60.8°F (14-16°C).

    There is also a full-bodied Spumante made with Pinot Nero. Drink at 50-53.6°F (10-12°C).

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  • Trentino Wines

    The southern part of Trentino-Alto Adige also makes fine white wines of course but generally produces better and more red wines than the northern (Alto Adige) part of the region.

    Most of the vineyards are sited in the hills in the valleys of the Adige, Cembra, Lagarina, or the slopes above Lake Garda. 

    The only exception are the vineyards of the Rotaliana valley where they are on the valley floor. The giant trellis along which the vines are trained is a typical scene in Trentino. The trellis keeps the vines off the ground so that fewer leaves are formed, enabling the sun to penetrate better in order to ripen the grapes. This also allows air to circulate freely through the vines to reduce the risk of autumn night frosts. Considerable development work is underway in this area, not just in the field of wine-making itself but also in respect of cultivation and pruning techniques and the introduction of experimental grape varieties. Large scale trials are underway with the Rebo grape, which is a cross between Merlot and Marzemino. Most Trentino wines are single varietals made with just one sort of grape. Por the whites the most popular is the Chardonnay (50% of the white grapes and 15% of total production).

    Chardonnay is used for making both Chardonnay Trentino DOC and the excellent Spumante Trento Classico. An exceptional white grape can be found amid the others here which is a native of Trentino: the Nosiola. This highly aromatic grape imparts its Nosiola-Trentino wine with a delicate and fruity character but even more so in the magnificent Vino Santo Trentino DOC.

      Schiava holds sway here as the leading red wine grape accounting for at least 30% of all the vines planted.

    Por those who like Grappa (eaux-de-vie), Trentino perhaps makes the finest in all Italy.{jcomments on}