Sips: A visit to the Loire Valley and some first notable wines

For the next week, I’ll be traveling through France’s Loire Valley, trying to deepen my understanding of this large and highly diverse region along with four other American wine writers. As I customarily do on such trips, I’ll begin with a word about how I got here. I was invited to the region by two of its trade organizations, Interprofession Vins de Loire and Interprofession des Vins du Centre Loire, which are paying for my travel to and accommodations in the region. The arrangements were made by a U.S. public relations and marketing company, Benson Marketing Group. There was no agreement with these organizations about my coverage of the wines or the region for either this blog or for my weekly column for MSNBC.com, although I have no doubt that I will have plenty to say about my tastings and travels.

Now, on to some of the first wines I tasted after arriving here. At our first dinner at the Brasserie du Theatre in Angers, we decided to order two very different white wines, as most of us were ordering fish or shellfish. And both were outstanding in their own ways. Domaine Pellé’s 2010 Menetou-Salon “Morogues” is quintessential sauvignon blanc and was wonderful at both the beginning and end of my dinner – with a variety of oysters on the half shell and then with a little goat cheese. There’s lots of gooseberry here, some lime, a bit of cream and a nice smooth texture. I found a briny note as the wine opened up. A balanced, refreshing and fairly complex sauvignon with alcohol at 13 percent. It retails in the U.S. for about $25 or so.

The second white was almost a world away in taste, Eric Morgat’s 2008 Savennières “L’Enclos,” a chenin blanc from this small appellation famous for the variety. I was happy to see at least a few years of age on this one. On first tasting, there was a good deal of wood in the mix, but as it breathed over the next couple of hours and its temperature warmed up, the oak influence receded nicely and its considerable complexity and opulence emerged (alcohol is 14 percent). It had a core of rich pear and apple, some orange and a beautiful (but not cloying) creamy quality. Later in the evening I detected a little licorice on the nose. It had enough backbone to hold up to my main course, an assemblage of salmon and two other local fish, one of them smoked, served with boiled potatoes on the side and over a bed of sauerkraut. Somehow it all worked quite well together. From what I gather, the wine sells for about $40 in the United States.

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