Weekend Wines

Weekend wines: Try Touraine for a classic summer white

Aug. 3, 2012 at 1:31 PM ET

Edward Deitch /
Sauvignon blanc from Touraine in France's Loire Valley is inexpensive and offers excellent value.

Fresh and lively sauvignon blanc is a classic summer wine, and perhaps no region offers better value right now than Touraine in France's Loire Valley. Of all the Loire appellations, Touraine is the biggest, with more than 850 producers, and also one of the most under-appreciated.

The region, which lies in the center of the Loire Valley, produces red, white, rosé and sparkling wines but is most notable for its sauvignons. If they don't have quite the complexity or refinement of Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé, the Loire's most famous sauvignon appellations, they more than make up for it in price.

Touraine sauvignons (the labels will say "Touraine" and perhaps "sauvignon" as well) sell for no more than$12 to $15 in the United States, half as much as many Sancerres and Pouillys. I knew of their quality and value from an occasional tasting of Touraine, and that sense was strengthened at a broad sampling of the wines during my visit to the Loire in June.

Most of the sauvingon blanc vineyards in Touraine are along the Cher River (a tributary of the Loire) and grow in sandy clay soils, some with flint. Most are aged without oak, tend to have a good deal of minerality and show a real sense of place, or terroir, making them easy to identify as being from Touraine. They are perfect for fish and shellfish, chicken and other lighter meals. Though most on the market now are from the 2011 vintage, I found that the wines become a bit rounder with age.

The following are some of my favorite Touraines from the tasting:

  • Chateau de la Roche 2011 Touraine. Well balanced with lime, orange and gooseberry notes, some green olive and a bit of cream.
  • Domaine du Pré Baron 2011 Touraine. Flinty aromas and a richer style with a good deal of orange and an unusual smoky quality.
  • Domaine Francois Cartier 2011 Touraine. Very lively, bursting with citrus, mainly orange, some cream and a subtle rosemary note.
  • Domaine Clos Roche Blanche 2011 Touraine. Outstanding sauvignon made from organic grapes. Subtle herb notes and minerals infuse the citrus, leading to a creamy finish.
  • Domaine Vincent Ricard 2010 Touraine "Les Trois Chénes." Lovely fruit with strawberry and  apricot tastes and some cream.    
  • Domaine des Pierrettes 2009 Touraine "Temporel." Meyer lemon tastes with a slightly candied quality and muted herb notes.

Edward Deitch is a James Beard Award-winning wine critic. Find many more of his wine reviews and commentary on his blog, Vint-ed.com, and follow him on Twitter.

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