FOOD & DRINK: White wines of the Loire Valley

David Clasy takes us on a trip to the Loire Valley to sample the best wines to come out of the region in recent years.

The news that the French wine harvest will be the worst since 1945, due to the bad spring frosts, and Beaujolais and the Rhone from an exceptionally dry summer got me looking again at some 2016 French whites and reds from Loire Valley.

The Loire Valley is a great place to visit with its castles, chateaux and lovely riverside towns.

Towards the eastern end of the Loire Valley are the Sauvignon Blanc wines of Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé.

I preferred the Sauvignon Blanc of Henri Pellé from the nearby village of Menetou-Salon unobtainable now locally.

I can recommend Yapp Brothers of Mere in Wiltshire who are specialists in Loire and Rhone wines, with very fast delivery.

I like their Menetou Salon Domaine Jean Teiller Blanc 2016 (£15.75).

I am now drinking whites from further down the Rhone, the terrifically improved sauvignons from the Touraine area, comparable with Sancerre and much cheaper, and chenin blanc from around Anjou-Saumur.

Try one of these.

Further west, Vouvray is made from the Chenin Blanc grape.

The current fashion is to drink those excellent South African Chenin Blancs.

However, Vouvray comes in many guises from dry to sweet.

Some can last for decades.

In the 1990s I took a coachload of Fitzwilliam Wine Club members to the Loire.

We had a tasting and meal in the cave of a Vouvray grower.

Over the years he had extended the cave in the hillside almost a hundred yards - this used to be common practice in the soft hillsides - to hold his increasing stock of wine at optimum temperature.

He gave me a bottle of 1970 Vouvray, which after well over 20 years, was delightful.

The third is Domaine de la Croix de Chaintres 2015 from Saumur-Champigny (£12.79) 13pc.

A lovely Cabernet Franc with raspberry and cherry flavours which goes great with fish and poultry dishes.

The Wine Society has several good Loire reds.

I particularly like Saumur Champigny Cuvee Tradition Domaine Ratron, Clos des Cordeliers 2014 (£10.50) 12.5pc with its charming fresh, bright fruit.

Goes well with steak.

Finally from, I believe, the top grower in the area, Saumur Champigny, Domaine Filiatreau Vieilles Vignes 2015 (£17.95) 13pc.

From vines some 85 years old this is big, rich and powerful with herbaceous aromas and ripe cassis flavours with fine tannins.

Terrific with beef or game but needs decanting first (Yapp Brothers, Mere, Wiltshire).

I hope you get to visit the Loire Valley, there's so much to see, eat and drink.

There's nothing better on a sunny day to drink Loire wines outside Joseph Mellot's Winery at the top of the village of Sancerre, looking out over the huge drop to the miles of lovely countryside beyond.

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