EVEN seasoned Loire gurus like Charles and Philippa Sydney – the power behind the inexpensive but reliable La Grille label – have not seen a year like 2015. In a reversal of normality, the hot, dry summer, and a long wait for rain, meant Sancerre in the east was finishing its harvest just as Muscadet (at the sea end) was beginning.

Although France’s longest river does indeed provide surprises, it is also the source of consistently good wines. So today I am looking at excellent – and well priced – examples from the 2014 vintage.
To do so, I have shamefully ignored the lovely Loire reds and rosés and made a (probably unforgiveable) over-simplification by dividing the whites into just three broad areas – east, west and central.

“I’ve divided the consistently good Loire whites into east, west and central.”

The best known Loire whites are the sauvignon blancs from the limestone hills and flinty clay soil around Pouilly and Sancerre. The Sydneys report exceptional quality there this year but with volumes about 15 per cent down. For a good example from last time, try 2014 Taste the Difference Pouilly Fumé (£12 at Sainsbury’s) with its mellow hints of tropical fruit to contrast with the restrained lemon and green apple acidity and mineral influenced depth.

Although the central area from Orléans to Angers provides exceptional chenin blanc, I focus today on its sauvignon and, in particular, on the grassy and vibrant 2014 Domaine Jacky Marteau Touraine Sauvignon Blanc (£9 at M&S) from near Amboise. This is a treasure with beautiful lime-centred, up-front, concentrated fruit and a textured tangerine centred finish.

Finally to Muscadet country around Nantes. Charles Sydney speaks of “lovely golden grapes” and good ripeness here during 2015. For an example of the style of wine created by fruit like this, seek out the perfumed freshness of 2014 Fief Guérin Muscadet Sur Lie (£7.99 at Waitrose) with its ripe apple flavours, balanced acidity and lees-induced savoury but slightly saline depth.

BEST BUYS

2013 Mission Estate Cabernet Merlot

Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, 13.5 per cent

This 85 per cent merlot blend from well drained, warm vineyards delivers intense and vibrant raspberry and cherry fruit with neat touches of spice. The cabernet contribution (from low-yielding vines) gives it only limited tannin, which suits the wine’s medium-bodied texture and attractive graphite savouriness rather well.
£9.95 at The Wine Society

2014 Billy Bosch Reserve Semillon Sauvignon Blanc

Stellenbosch, South Africa, 14 per cent

A management buy-out recently took Virgin wines out of the Laithwaite stable and the new team have introduced some interesting styles. This particular selection of theirs brings you crisp, very firm, Granny Smith apple acidic bite with the semillon component providing herbal, pear and quince centred texture.
£9.99 at Virgin Wines

• For regular recommendations on good value wines go to Brian’s new website www.midweekwines.co.uk

 

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Brian Elliott

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