The Loire is loved for its whites, but it also makes excellent reds
Domaine Serge Laloue Rouge, Sancerre, Loire, France 2020 ( £22.82, Strictly Wine) The cluster of appellations that hug the bend in the River Loire between Nevers and Orléans are known for being the spiritual home of sauvignon blanc. Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre are the two most famous names here, although each village here provides its own quicksilver version of the grape variety. On a hot day, a glass of Loire sauvignon can be like lying down in a patch of grassy shade: that’s certainly the effect of a classic Sancerre variation on themes of green and cool stony riverbeds, such as Domaine André Vatan Les Perrières Sancerre 2021 (£19.95, yapp.co.uk). But this part of the Loire isn’t just about whites. The reds, made from pinot noir, can be just as distinctive, evocative and refreshing, with a red-fruited clarity that is so beautifully expressed in Domaine Serge Laloue’s Sancerre Rouge.
Domaine Chavet La Côte Rouge, Menetou-Salon, Loire, France 2020 (£16.99, Virgin Wines) You might occasionally hear people make noises about climate change improving things for vignerons in a region that was once thought to be on the northerly limit for red-wine production. But if it’s true that it might now be easier to ripen red grapes in more vintages in the Loire than it was even a decade ago, I’ve yet to meet anyone who believes that simple fact outweighs the winemaking downsides, such as devastating late-spring frosts. Strictly from a pinot-lover’s point of view, however, I’ve been finding the Loire an increasingly fruitful alternative to the expensive pinots of Burgundy. The fine-knit tannins of Domaine Chavet’s version from the Menetou-Salon appellation is a brilliantly expressive, distinctive summery red wine in its own right.
Denis Jamain Les Fossiles Pinot Noir, Reuilly, Loire, France 2020 (£18.50, Vintage Roots) The Reuilly appellation is nearer to the Cher tributary than the Loire, but its wines are a good-value match for those of the more famous addresses further east. One of the best producers here is Denis Jamain, who works his family’s 18-hectare estate biodynamically – a method of cosmic farming that, despite the fact many of its precepts are as scientifically robust as astrology, seems to be responsible for more than its share of the world’s finest wines. Jamain has a knack with both sauvignon and pinot, with the wines of both varieties showing the brightness and verve I associate with limestone soils. His pinot is especially charming, whether it’s being used to make a dark raspberry-juicy red or a very pale, very graceful, stone-fruited rosé (Les Chatillons 2020, £15.99, bbr.com).