Diversity is what defines Loire Valley red wines

French flavors: Loire Valley wines are diverse

Today is the finale of the 2011 summer rosé trilogy. Rioja was first, back in June, then came domestic pink wines in July, and before we head into real fall weather, let’s go to the Loire Valley.

Known for its white wines, with Sancerre, the topic of last week’s column, being the most popular, the Loire has also become famous for its red wines. No one would dare to argue that Chinon and Bourgueil in Touraine received a divine blessing by the god (no gender being implied here) of cabernet franc, and there are some stunning examples of pinot noir found further east in Sancerre and Menetou Salon.

Anjou, which is west of Touraine, has a hodgepodge of red grapes — cab franc, gamay, cabernet sauvignon — that are used to make wines, and some more obscure native varietals like pineau d’aunis are also en vogue. All of these grapes and appellations can and do make rosé. Like California, the diversity is refreshing.

Unlike California, the wines are usually much more minerally, generally having more acidity, less alcohol and not as much upfront fruit. These three wines are a great representation of the spectrum.

Couly Dutheil Chinon Rosé, René Couly, 2010: This wine took me by surprise. With hints of tobacco, red peppers and cherry and strawberry fruit, it revels in the terroir that has made Chinon famous. Clean and uncomplicated, it is nonetheless a refreshing treat. Suggested retail: $14.99

Chateau Soucherie Rosé de Loire, 2010: Chateau Soucherie has been a personal Loire Valley favorite for many, many years. The domaine was sold in 2008, and while it may be premature to say, it seems like the wines are continuing along the path of greatness set forth by the Tijou family, which bought it from the previous owner in 1952. Made from 70 percent grolleau and 30 percent gamay, this is a fresh, lively wine with subtle, red-berry fruit, minerals and a hint of almonds. Suggested retail: $17.99

Domaine de Montrieux Coteaux du Vendomois Rosé, 2009: The Coteaux de Vendomois in the north of Touraine is pineau d’aunis country. Emile Heredia, the mastermind behind Domaine de Montrieux, has championed pineau d’aunis in a big way and is one of a handful of producers who is giving the grape more of a name. Though not certified organic, his wines go way beyond the qualifications. Composed entirely of pineau d’aunis, this wine has tremendous character — it can be quaffed but also pondered — with tobacco, grapefruit, peach and spice playing off one another in the glass. Suggested retail: $19.99

Pamela S. Busch is the owner of Skrewcap.com, founder of CAV Wine Bar and a Bay Area wine consultant. Please submit questions to Pamela@Skrewcap.com.

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