I had the great pleasure and opportunity to attend a Loire Valley inspired dinner and tasting at the restaurant Ortolan in Los Angeles. Where to begin…
Ortolan is an incredible restaurant, and was recognized as such by receiving a star from the Michelin Guide for 2008; one of only 16 restaurants in Los Angeles to enjoy such recognition. Ortolan chef Christophe Eme is a Loire Valley native himself, creating a menu specifically paired with the Loire Valley wines we tasted.
Wait a second, what is the Loire Valley? It is simply a region in France known for its wines. Loire Valley is often overlooked because it can be confusing at first glance and the wines are relatively hard to find in the states unless you go to a specialty wine shop. Remember that Loire Valley wines are named after their origin and not after the grape.
Here are some classic Loire Valley wines definitely worth checking out:
Savennieres: A white wine made from the Chenin Blanc grape, Savennieres wines are known for their ability to age, huge minerality, and their aptness to pair with shellfish.
Chinon: I’m talking about the red wine of Chinon made from the Cabernet Franc grape. This is a wine of dark, spicy raspberries and a racy acidity; lighter red wine bursting with character.
Vouvray: A white wine made from the Chenin Blanc grape. Vouvray is known for its wines of all sweetness levels, included the very sweet version made using grapes affected by the “noble rot” Botrytis Cinerea, which concentrates flavors and sugars by shriveling water out of a grape.
Sancerre: A white wine made from Sauvignon Blanc. If you like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, you should love Sancerre. If you like California Savignon Blanc, you should love Sancerre. I think of Sancerre as being somewhere in between the two, with less herbaceousness than a New Zealand and less fruit that California, replacing these flavors with a big, mineral flavor.
The Loire is also known for its sparkling wines, which are made using the same methods as Champagne but much less expensive. The sparkling wines of the Loire Valley are full of minerality and character and typically a great value. They can be made from various grapes, though Chenin Blanc is the most common.
Only sparkling wines were poured at the Ortolan dinner, all of which were very good.
Cremant de Loire Langlois Chateau Brut Rose
Touraine Monmousseau Cuvee JM Brut
Vouvray Brut Domaine d’Orfeuilles
Vouvray Brut Vincent Careme Cuvee Ancestrale 2005
Montlouis-Sur-Loire Domaine de la Taille aux Loups
Vouvray Brut Domaine Brisbarre 2000
Cremant de Loire Domaine des Baumard Tirage 2004
Touraine Monmousseau Cuvee Jm Brust Rose
My personal favorite was the Montlouis-Sur-Loire Domaine de la Taille aux Loups, which had a huge nose full of black licorice, dark berries, and pomegranate.