Twin Peeks

POSTED ON 11/07/2015

One of the bonuses of this summer press tastings has been the quality of aromatic Loire whites based on sauvignon blanc. The major white grape of the central Loire can be one-dimensional and difficult to match with food. Yet because the restraint, finesse, balance and flinty dryness of the better examples are generally not as in-your-face as their Kiwi counterparts, they can often work satisfyingly not just as dry whites on their own but with salads, goat’s cheese and white fish.

Literally not a million miles from sancerre, Domaine Jacky Marteau’s 2014 Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, £9, Marks & Spencer, is an example of the distinctive, fresh, nettley and fragrant style, in which herb and nettle characters etch the gooseberry flavours of this exhilarating, zingy dry white with juicily tongue-tingling herbaceous borders.

Equally the 2014 Le Grand Ballon Sauvignon Blanc, Val de Loire, £8.49, Waitrose, shows that energising sancerre-alike gooseberry weight and citrusy crispness. Down the road, Cheverny is an appellation which, unusually, allows the interloper chardonnay, mingling, in the 2013 Cheverny, Emmanuel Delaille, Loire Valley. £9.49, Bargain Booze, Wine Rack, herb and nettle aromatics with zip and zing and fuller-bodied ripeness of the chardonnay.

The Loire Valley’s twin sauvignon peaks are Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé. Sainsbury’s 2014 Taste the Difference Sancerre, £13, is a quality example of the appellation from the excellent producer Florian Mollet, an elegant dry white with smoky herbal aromatics and richness of gooseberry fruit with a fine tension between sweet fruit and tensile, grapefruit pithy freshness. Thierry Merlin-Cherrier’s 2014 Sancerre, £16, Morrisons, is another fine blend of elderflower and herb with delightfully juicy gooseberry fruit etched with the refreshingly zingy acidity of the new vintage.

The minerally aspects of the variety are exploited by Domaine Hubert Brochard whose 2013 Sancerre Silex , £16, Marks & Spencer, shows not just floral elderflower and herbal basil in its aromatic profile, but that salty dryness that has you licking your lips before, during and after. For the ultimate in serious Sancerre, Alphonse Mellot’s 2013 Le Manoir, £21.99, Waitrose, with herbal intensity, spicy oak and rich concentration, chimes beautifully with grilled cod, sea bream and halibut.

Returning to the freshness and verve of the 2014 vintage, the 2014 Fontenille Pouilly Fumé, £10.99, Wine Rack, is benchmark stuff in which the purity of the sauvignon blanc grape is expressively transmitted through fresh, herbal and nettle aromas, a crisply refreshing prickle and plenty of juicy nettle and elderflower-infused juiciness. Jonathan Pabiot’s 2014 Pouilly Fumé, £19.99, buy two = £13.32, Majestic, displays the classic nettle aromatic zing of the best Pouilly Fumé with nervy, tartly mouthwatering gooseberry and grapefruit crispness. Equally, Florian Mollet’s 2014 Pouilly Fumé Antique, £17, Sainsbury’s, is a super-elegant style, all nettle and herb, gooseberry notes and zesty, mineral intensity.

Something for the WeekendSomething for the Weekend

Night In

Hilltop Cserzegi Fuszeres Premium

Despite the tongue-twisting name of this Hungarian grape variety once dubbed The Unpronounceable Grape (try chair-siggy foo-jeress), this non-vintage white (we presume from 2014) is ginger spicy and tongue-tingling with an energising, sappy snap on a balanced, dry finish. £7, Asda.

Dinner Party

2012 Vacqueyras, Seigneur de Fontimple, Rhône.

Aristocratic alter ego of The Scarlet Pimpernel or not, this aromatically pepper-spicy southern Rhône blend based on grenache is succulently moreish in raspberry jam and dark loganberry fruit while a deceptive spine of acidity adds verve. £13.99, Wine Rack.

Splash Out

2013 Martinborough Vineyards Te Tera Pinot Noir

This polished pinot noir from North Island’s ‘little Burgundy’, Martinborough, displays aromatic fresh mulberries and loganberries pepped up with a spicy veneer of toasty oak and seductively textured, long and juicy aftertaste. £19.99, buy 2 = £14.99, Majestic.


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