Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Whites To The Right Of Us, Whites To The Left Of Us

Standing in the gardens of Grand Luce, it is easy to think of the Loire Valley white region, Jasnieres, just directly south, but the Loire Valley extends almost the length of France from the Muscadet in the west to Sancerre and Quincy in the east. These dry whites are positioned like the rooks on a chessboard guarding the sweeter Coteaux de Layon and Vouvray placed like the knights. Back to dry whites, Jasnieres and Savennieres for the Bishops guarding Chinon, the King, and Bourgeuil, the Queen. Various lesser wines like Tavel, Saumur, and Touraine take up the positions of the pawns. St. Nicholas de Bourgeuil can be thought of the Queen's pawn as it is almost always a good first move at the table, but first, perhaps, it is better to start with one of the wonderful Sparking wines of Saumur, perhaps the Kings pawn


In any event, these are the hidden gems of France. Even wines from the south of France are better known, more widely circulated, and frequently more expensive. Corbieres, Languedoc, Minervois, Bandol are all easier to find than many Loire Valley wines with the exception of Muscadet, Sancerre and Vouvray. It is worth the search for Chinon and Bourgeuil. BTW, the quality of these is quite consistent and because they are not well known they are usually among the most reasonably priced wines in restaurants. If you like semi-sweet whites then the Chenin Blanc based Vouvray is the wine for you. Coteaux de Layon is even better, but very hard to find in the states. If you ever see Jasnieres ( Gigou might be the best) or Savennieres, grab it. They are also consistently good but almost non-existent in the U.S. Although Bourgeuil and Chinon are both made from the Cabernet Franc grape, Bourgeuil is the lightweight sib. Chinon is the big brother and can sometimes have a lot of muscle, though it is usually HWP. Search for these wines, they are usually consistently good and more reasonably priced than many others on the market. Kermit Lynch in Berkeley is a good place to start.

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