"La vie en rosé" in Val de Loire
The first edition of Sélection rosé of Concours Mondial de Bruxelles* just release the results (the results are here). So I propose a journey to discover these wines synonymous of summer, terrace, barbecue while they are much more.
When we say rosé, we first think about Provence, of course, Bandol or rosé Champagne as well and we are right because we taste such beautiful bottles fromthese regions. But we sometimes forget the Loire Valley which has a very strong image of white wines (which is logical) but which we often ignore that it is the second producing region of AOC rosé wines in France (representing nearly a quarter of the production).
So welcome on board on the Loire boat to meet these lovely wines.
Nantes region: not only white wines!
All the vineyards of the Pays Nantais produce only white wines. All? No really. If we speak about AOC, Coteaux d'Ancenis, from Gamay, and Fiefs Vendéens, with a blend in which, among others, you can find Cabernet Franc, Négrette and Pinot noir, make the whites under 100%.
Anjou-Saumur: the specialist
With 50% of its production in rosé (still, without bubbles), Anjou-Saumur is the « Rosé » specialist with, in addition, a regional specificity : semi-dry rosés. Cabernet d'Anjou and Rosé d'Anjou in fact keep some residual sugars after stopping the fermentation before wines become dry.
I admit, a few years back, these rosés were really not my favourite (basically I am not a sugar lover). But the use of cold to stop fermentation (instead of SO2) and much more reasonable sugar levels brought a very good freshness to the balance in these wines. The development of "world" food, salty-sweet, Tex-Mex, among others, gave these wines their interest back and they now take their full place as an aperitif or for lunch.
If we speak about Fines Bulles (sparkling), another very important production in the region, Anjou, Saumur and Crémant de Loire of course have their rosé version made from a blend of the region's emblematic grape varieties.
In dry still wines, we note a small production in Haut-Poitou, Saumur and of course Rosé de Loire. Like the Crémant which bear the same name, this dry rosé, resulting from a blend where we find Cabernet Franc, Grolleau or Pineau d'Aunis to name a few, makes the link between Anjou-Saumur and Touraine the two regions where it can be produced.
Touraine and the diversity of its rosés
In this region, mainly dedicated to red wines, rosé have a small place with cabernets in St Nicolas de Bourgueil, Bourgueil and Chinon in the west and blended rosés in Touraine, Touraine-Amboise, Touraine Azay-le- Rideau, Touraine Mesland and Cheverny. You can find Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Côt (Malbec) or even Grolleau. Touraine Noble-Joué which only produces rosé from the three Pinots (meunier, gris and noir) is to discover. In the same style of undiscovered yet, the Coteaux du Loir, Coteaux du Vendômois and Valençay invite Pineau d'Aunis in the blend of their rosés.
Centre-Loire: kingdom of rosés from pinot noir… and gris
We start with a curiosity in Reuilly which produces rosés made essentially or even 100% from Pinot Gris. Historically present in the region, this very pale rosé is a delight for lovers of the Berry (old province name) vineyard.
Sancerre and Menetou-Salon produce rosé wines from only Pinot Noir, which is quite rare. Some estates have clients who come only for their rosés which, it’s true today, can be wines for gastronomy.
Châteaumeillant, the most central vineyard in France, is one of the few, in the Loire Valley, to officially produce « vins gris », direct pressing being specified in its regulation text.
Coteaux du Giennois, Côtes de la Charité and Coteaux de Tannay produce rare rosés with blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay.
Volcanic Loire and its gamays
St Pourçain, Côtes du Forez and Côte Roannaise produce rosés from the only Gamay, the region's flagship grape. The Côtes d´Auvergne can blen it with pinot noir.
As we can see, in this very long and varied list, the Loire Valley is so rich in rosé wines, tender, dry, sparkling, large productions and tiny gems, almost from the estuary to the source.
It’s very close of what all the rosés we can find in France and you really have to write this word in plural. Regions, terroirs, grape varieties and winegrowers style allow the creation of a multitude of wines for all taste, from the simple pleasure of opening a chilled bottle as an aperitif or for culinary match from the very classic to the most surprising.
As Spring approaches, and even if we can enjoy rosé wines during all the year, I write it very loudly: Vive le Rosé !
* with whom I am happy to collaborate since last december