Wine Spectator wrote a piece about the world’s most underappreciated wines, and the Loire Valley was at the top of the list.
“Can there be any other area in the world — and I include whole nations such as Argentina and Chile in this — where wines are more underrated than in France’s Loire Valley?” Matt Kramer asked in the Wine Spectator article.
The truth is the wines are undervalued in terms of how much money is spent on the region and how familiar they are to inexperienced wine drinkers, Kramer said.
Ask a sommelier or wine connoisseur about Loire Valley, and you’ll get a list of regions in this French valley that extends from the center of the country to west all the way to the Atlantic Ocean: Chinon, Bourgueil, Muscadet, Sancerre and Vouvray.
Chris Putnam, who owns Putnam Wines, Ltd., in Oklahoma City, has the state’s largest inventory of Loire Valley wines, and he has been a fan for many years.
“The minerality of these wines really stands out,” he said. “The Sauvignon Blancs from Sancerre are famous for the minerality, crispness and their mouthwatering finish.”
One of the most widely available Sancerre wines is Domaine Hippolyte Reverdy. For Sauvignon Blancs, fans used to wines from New Zealand or California, this is a dramatic change. The Reverdy is bracing and crisp, with solid minerality and great citrus flavors. It is easily one of the most approachable of the Loire Valley wines available in the metro.
Reverdy can be purchased locally at Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse, 7 S. Mickey Mantle Drive; Bin 73, 7312 N. Western; Broadway Wine Merchants, 824 N. Broadway; Edmond Wine Shop, 1520 S. Boulevard, and Spirit Shop in Norman, 109 S. Berry.
Champalou Vouvray has been on wine lists in the metro for many years, and this 100 percent Chenin Blanc is rightly one of the most popular Loire Valley wines. By itself, it tastes much like lime custard, but paired with food, the acidity and minerality make it a great complement.
It is available by the glass at Rococo Restaurant & Fine Wine, 2824 N. Pennsylvania, and by the bottle widely throughout the metro, including Bin 73.
Loire Valley wines are distinctive because they overturn expectations for people who are used to a particular expression of a particular varietal. Think Napa Valley Chardonnay in the classic style: oak, butter, vanilla and toast. The Loire Valley makes Chardonnay that defies expectations.
The Eric Chevalier Chardonnay is available by the glass at The Lobby Cafe & Bar, 4322 N. Western, is the perfect Chardonnay for seafood and poultry. An arresting combination of citrus, minerality (almost wet stone, and yes, that’s a good thing) and acid, the Chevalier has beautiful balance.
Angel Stork, the bar manager at Lobby Bar, said, “The Chevalier is a completely honest expression of the Loire Valley: no oak, no winemaker interference. Just the grapes and the land.”
For fans of red wines, the Loire Valley’s Chinon region is world-famous for Cabernet Franc. La Baguette Bistro, 7408 N. May, carries the Charles Joguet Chinon by the bottle. Like all Chinon, the Joguet is earthy and green, with notes of bell pepper, dark fruit and tobacco.
The Loire Valley is also the source of one the metro’s most interesting wines: Clos de la Briderie Crémant de Loire Brut Pureté de Silex. The Silex is a creamy blend of several grapes.
Its flavor profile will be unfamiliar to fans of Champagne or American sparkling wines. Flavors of pear and apple are prominent, as is a slight yeastiness. The Silex works well on its own or with cheese, seafood, poultry or white meats.
Finally, Muscadet is one of the Loire Valley’s better-known regions. Made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape, more Muscadet is produced in the Loire Valley than any other wine. There may not be a better white food wine.
The minerality is dense but is relieved by the brisk acid and fruit zest. Look for Eric Chevalier Muscadet or Clos de la Senaigerie Muscadet. The Senaigerie is available at Freemans Liquor Mart, 4401 N. Western.