One never knows one’s luck. A couple of months ago I had been assigned to lecture on a cruise sailing from Dover to Lisbon to cover ‘en route’ the wines of the Loire, Bordeaux, and Portugal. Accompanying my trip as a fellow lecturer was Prof. Brian Williams (first and foremost a Welshman), a geologist whose deep knowledge of and sheer passion for his subject was quite infectious, particularly in respect of the bedrock of vineyards and ultimately the implications of geology to the overall stylistic ‘build’ of wine itself. Consequently, when I next give comparative tasting sessions, I’m duty bound to refer more closely to the sub-structure of the relevant wine-lands I cover when offering a general picture of each specific region as a relevant element of its ‘terroir’. There are different schools of thought on what the word ‘terroir’ encompasses but it is now generally accepted to cover everything including climate and microclimate, vagaries of weather, vineyard exposures, soils and drainage, grape varieties, potential yields etc. etc., in fact any natural circumstance affecting the wine we eventually come to taste in bottle. My shipboard journey took me from the cool, trim, orderly vine rows of the Loire smallholdings right through to the precipitous, well-nigh unworkable terraces of the summer-baked Douro Valley where in both cases ‘terroir’ certainly makes its individual mark.
My choice of summer drinking for August hails from a 40-grower strong co-operative winery on the Loire, upstream of Anjou, which produces a range of local wines including Saumur Rouge AC ‘Les Plantagenets’ 2014.
The wine is 100% Cabernet Franc, crafted in a cool and relatively straightforward style untroubled by oak treatment. Freshness and purity are the keys here, with ‘black cherry’ on the nose, a well-fruited yet lightweight palate and a classic sappy finish that marries perfectly with charcuterie or soft cheeses or that can graduate effortlessly to match simple roasts of poultry or lamb. Although a red wine this Loire example is probably best appreciated served at cellar temperature, simply to emphasize its inherently ‘cool’ style. I know it met with favour both when being shown at one of my onboard talks and also at dinner when a wider number of passengers remarked on its quality and individuality – and, back home again, I was delighted to see it also featured as a summer recommendation in a recent copy of ‘The Guardian Weekend’ – so get some in while stocks – and what we have left of the summer – last!
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN France (Loire Valley)
NAME OF WINE Saumur AoC ‘Les Plantagenets’ 2014
STYLE Juicy, fresh, classic Loire red
PRODUCER la Cave de Saumur
RETAILER The Wine Society
PRICE £ 6. 95