Cool Loire reds for warm summer days

Don’t be afraid to chill these red wines – it brings out their fresh fruit flavours

Like Beaujolais, Loire cabernet franc is one of the most food-friendly wines of all.

Like Beaujolais, Loire cabernet franc is one of the most food-friendly wines of all.

 

Alongside Beaujolais, the red wines of the Loire rate as my favourite summer reds. During lockdown I had these recurring fantasies while sipping a glass of wine. Instead of my back garden, I am sitting by a river bank somewhere in rural France, under the shade of an oak tree, nibbling at charcuterie, cheese and a baguette. The sun is shining, the heat tempered by a light breeze.

In my hand is a glass of cool, but not chilled, red wine from the Loire valley. It could be a pinot noir, but more likely a cabernet franc. It is light in alcohol, with bright refreshing aromas, vivid red summer fruits, wild strawberries, red cherries, redcurrants, sometimes with a touch of pencil shavings or a herbal touch. The lively acidity and lightly grippy tannins on the finish bring a welcome edge that goes so well with fatty pork and other charcuterie. 

Were I drinking a pinot it would share that same brightness but the fruit would be more dark cherries and maybe strawberries. Loire pinot noir, from Sancerre in particular, can be sublime. I really enjoyed the elegant Sancerre rouge from Domaine Sautereau (€28.99, independents) recently.

Loire cabernet franc reaches its apogee in the wines of Saumur-Champigny, Chinon, St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil and Bourgueil. Depending on the soils and ambitions of the producer, they vary from fragrant and racy to some seriously good, structured wines that will repay ageing a few years. 

Cabernet franc is grown elsewhere, most notably in Bordeaux and Saint Émilion in particular where it is a central part of the blend in some world-class wines. Argentina produces some excellent examples too, as does Tuscany (at a price) and it is widely grown the northeast of Italy.  

I have featured the wines of Filliatreau, one of my favourite producers in Saumur and Saumur-Champigny before; they are now imported exclusively by Whelehan’s and well worth trying out. For this week’s column, I also enjoyed the Amirault La Source and the elegant Chinon Les Barnabes 2018, Olga Raffault (€22.95, JNwine). Otherwise Terroirs in Donnybrook has an excellent selection, as does Le Caveau in Kilkenny.

Like Beaujolais, Loire cab franc is one of the most food-friendly wines of all. The lighter styles go perfectly with milder cheeses and all manner of cold meats, including salamis, and patés as well as salmon, tuna and green spring vegetables.

Over several evenings, I tried the wines featured here with grilled black sole, pork chops, barbecued whole chicken, chickpeas with spinach, pasta with fresh tomatoes and masses of fresh herbs, as well as lamb chops. All worked very well. Loire pinot, which tends to be light also goes really well with trout, salmon and tuna, or try it with risotto primavera. 

La Roncière pinot noir 2020, Arielle Vatan 13.5 per cent, €18

A delicious fresh red with unfussy succulent dark cherry fruits; grilled tuna with a tomato salad.  Stockists: Whelehans Wines, Loughlinstown, whelehanswines.ie.

St Nicolas de Bourgueil 2019, Langlois Chateau 13 per cent, €17.95

Supple and smooth with raspberry and blackcurrant fruits; for the full experience try this with a plate of mixed charcuterie, including rillettes or paté and good crusty baguette.

Stockists: O’Briens, obrienswine.ie.

Tuffe 2018, Ch du Hureau, Saumur-Champigny, biodynamic 13.5 per cent, €20.95

A classic Loire cab with wonderful lip-smacking ripe blackcurrant and redcurrant fruits on nose and palate; medium-bodied with some tannins on the finish. An exercise in balance. Try it with lamb cutlets or a herby roast chicken.

Stockists: JNwine.com; Grape & Bean, Portlaoise, grapeandbean.ie

Glouglou 2020, Domaine des Sables Verts, Saumur-Champigny 13.5 per cent, €25.99

This is a perfect expression of Loire cabernet franc; fragrant and limpid with free-flowing juicy pure red summer fruits, an appetising acidity and very light ripe tannins. Partner it with an onion tart, herby young goat’s cheese or a slab of cold pork terrine. 

Stockists: Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; Clontarf Wines, D3, clontarfwines.ie; Bradley’s Off-licence, Cork, bradleysofflicence.ie; 1601 Off-licence, Kinsale; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth, elywinebar.ie; Redmonds, D6, redmonds.ie; Whelehans Wines, Loughlinstown, whelehanswines.ie; wineonline.ie.   

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