It’s a common travel fantasy: visit the Loire Valley (maybe on some sexy-fat-tire-bike), sip white wine, ogle the châteaux, ogle sunflowers, relax like royalty. If you bring a date, even better: ogle them too.
Let’s bust up that vision a bit, shall we?
I’m not arguing with tradition. I just want to snoop around a bit. I want to sneak off the tour and giggle with my husband in the barrel room. And who are you kidding? You do too… I’ve asked an unconventional but reliable friend to be the leader of our sneak, a renegade, boozy Rick Steves: a bottle of rosé.
The Bottle: Les Rochelles 2014 Cabernet d’Anjou from Domaine des Rochelles
In a region where Cabernet Franc stands tallest, the family-run Domaine des Rochelles cultivates & captures the essential environment for making slam-dunk Cabernet Sauvignon. This bottle is half-n-half; Cabs Franc and Sauvignon cooperate in harmony to create this demi-sec wine from 25-year-old wines (ha, fancy that…I used to be 25 once too). Jean-Yves and Anita Lebreton and their son and daughter-in-law, Jean-Hubert and Christelle manage their vineyards suitably, proudly continuing traditions started by Hubert Lebreton in the 1960’s.
This bottle bears a vigneron independant icon. This means that Domaine des Rochelles is a member of the wine-making organization that supports:
“An independent viticulture, rural dynamism engine and job creation;
An independent viticulture with operators who transmit their operations thus ensuring the renewal of generations of viable businesses;
Independent, sustainable and environmentally effective viticulture” ~Vignerons Indépendant de France (Translation is my own.)
The wine is demi-sec; many newly-savvy pink drinkers expect their rosé to be bone-dry (lest they appear out-of-date). But this isn’t necessarily a pool-sipper; it has structure and body enough to drink before and during the meal. This is the type of bottle I recommend for most people to enjoy on most evenings. A couple can enjoy this bottle in phases: during the after-work, let’s-make-dinner moments…right on through to another glass with the meal…if one pours conservatively, another glass before bed. In other words: a best-friend bottle. (Interpret: a bottle to share with your best friend OR a bottle that could be your best friend.) This wine wears a very attractive coral robe, smells delightful (the scent flowed the instant I opened the bottle) and has a tea and jam flavor profile.
My husband usually whips up something creative and delicious in the kitchen, but when we opened this bottle it was already late. The kiddos had eaten hours before, and after our taxi/fan-club/spa-night-tuck-in-routine (don’t ask about that one) we finally had time to relax together. We put together a simple charcuterie, fromage, pain and olive plate to share. This was so ideal, just what we needed. The next time we drink this wine I’d love to have a greens salad with a jalapeno vinaigrette and some grilled chicken. I’ll still take the cheese plate, of course…
This wine is AOC Anjou, an appellation with wine-growing history going back over 1,000 years (this is the general time frame when France became a kingdom).
According Loire Valley Wine:
Location: This appellation covers 128 communes in Maine-et-Loire, 14 in Deux Sèvres, and 9 in Vienne. It also includes a number of subregional and communal AOC.
- Red: 1,400 hectares / 3,459 acres (plus 320 hectares / 791 acres of Anjou Gamay)
- White: 900 hectares / 2,224 acres
- Anjou Pétillant/Anjou Mousseux Sparkling: 80 hectares / 198 acres
Soil: The appellation comprises two distinct regions: “Anjou Noir” on dark schist soil on the southeast edge of the Massif Armoricain that covers the wides area. “Anjou Blanc,” with white limestone chalk soils, covers a much smaller area.
Climate: Anjou has a temperate maritime climate that is mainly dry, with a narrow variation in temperature, known as the proverbial douceur angevine (Anjou sweetness).
- Red: 70,000 hl / 1,849,204 gallons
- White: 45,000 hl / 1,188,774 gallons
- Fine sparkling wines: 3,500 hl / 92,460 gallons
- 60 hl/ha
- Red: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pineau d’Aunis, Gamay
- White: Chenin Blanc (80% minimum), Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay
Growing/Production Practices: Density 4-5,000 vines/hectare. Single or double Guyot pruning is used.
Five Things I Learned about Loire Wines from a Bottle of Rosé
- Cabernet Franc is called Breton locally in the Loire Valley. This instantly makes me consider Brittany, the seaside region north of the Loire where no AOPs exist. Being a cooler climate region, the Loire use of the grape influenced winemakers in chilly, new-world settings, specifically New York, USA.
- Young Cabernet Franc wines can be light-bodied and are ideal for summer.Drink fresh and young is the traditional practice for rosé wines, such as the bottle I had (which happened to be last year’s vintage, 2014), as well as the lighter reds from the regional grape. Give some of these bottles (depends on the wine) a few years to rest and they’ll gain complexity and substance enough to sit at the table with big roasted meats. I’m on the search for a wine like this to add to my cellar. According to Loire Valley wines one area winemaker said that fine, old Cabernet Franc is “reminiscent of the aromas of a forest after a rainstorm”. That lights the imagination, particularly because that is so different from the taste of my rosé (which is to be expected).
- The Loire Valley has exquisitely versatile range. While the region contains a large number of appellations (over 90) the regulations are not as restrictive as other parts of France (Bourgogne, lookin’ at you.) and the area isn’t carved up into billions of wee, highly distinct micro-terroirs. Even so, it fosters variety to please everyone because it naturally has the environmental chops to support variety.
- The Loire Valley is approachable and global. For my Anglophone friends (where you at?), according to Decanter: “320 Caves Touristiques where English is spoken and there’s something extra to see, whether an atmospheric cellar or a nature trail through the vines.” This makes is quite simple to consider the Loire as a welcome center into French wine travel. Welcoming, beautiful and compelling, these caves are a flawless travel destination.
- Rosé from the Loire is unique and interesting. Though my bottle was a rosé from Anjou, it isn’t a Rosé d’Anjou, which is a regional specialty. Popular, drinkable and tasty, this wine is made from the grape Grolleau, which is exclusive to the Loire. The Loire Valley is the second largest producer of AOC rosé in France, coming in under Provence and just above the vignerons of the Rhône Valley:
Map Credit: Vins de Provence
This piece is in collaboration with the French #Winophiles. This month we feature the wines of Anjou-Saumur during our twitter chat on Saturday, April 16th at 10 a.m. central. Find us with the hashtag #Winophiles and join in the conversation featuring:
Christy (our host!) from Confessions of a Culinary Diva shares “The French #Winophiles: Chenin from Saumur, Cabernet Franc from Anjou”
David of Cooking Chat shares “Asparagus Chicken Bow Tie Pasta with Anjou Blanc Wine”
Jeff from Food Wine Click tempts us with “Seafood Brochettes with the Wines of Anjou & Saumur”
Here at L’Occasion I share “5 Things I learned about the Loire Wines from a Bottle of Rose”
Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog gives us “A Taste of Loire: Saumur-Champigny #Winophiles”
Michelle from Rockin Red Blog shares “Diving into Loire Valley #wine with #Winophiles: Anjou”
Join us for our upcoming tour of the Loire Valley:
May 21st – Touraine/Vouvray
June 18th – Upper Loire – Cheverny, Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume/Pouilly-Sur-Loire
Interested in joining The French Winophiles? Email email@example.com.