By Sasha Smith, New York City Correspondent
I used to get annoyed at wine writers who seemed to have a knee-jerk reaction against big, high-alcohol, ripe wines. I saw it as nothing more than a kind of elitist (to invoke the word of the week) pose against wines that were simply made to appeal to a broader audience.
And then I started taking this course. It’s not so much that my wine evaluation skills have improved (although I like to think that they have) as a question of volume. The more wine I taste/drink, the more I crave refreshment – or, at the very least, wine that doesn’t stain my lips and teeth dark purple after one sip.
This week’s class, then, was just what the doctor ordered. There are few regions that offer as much food-friendly refreshment as the Loire, and it’s always been one of my favorites. To my mind, acidity is the most underappreciated component of wine, especially for the casual drinker, and no place does acidity quite like the Loire. Sancerre, Savennières, Saumur-Champigny…the names alone are mouth-watering. Granted, in some vintages the acidity can be a little overbearing, and I have yet to fall in love with Pinot Noir-based wines from here, but overall, I’m a pretty big fan.
Tuesday’s tasting was one of the best we’ve had. The Domaine de la Pepière ‘Granite de Clisson’ Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie had some of that pretty creaminess that comes from lees contact but without any of the aggressive yeastiness. The Domaine François Chidaine ‘Les Argiles’ Vouvray was a great Chenin Blanc combo of apricot, honey, and wet wool. (Or, as our instructor Mollie Battenhouse – my favorite so far – charmingly put it, “did you notice any sheep leaping out at you?”) The Domaine du Closel ‘Clos du Papillon’ Savennières was young, but with a very promising future. My favorite though was the Charles Joguet ‘Cuvée de la Cure’ Chinon, which hit all the right Chinon notes: firm tannins, good acidity, wild strawberries, pencil lead, ash, earth, dried herbs, great balance…all for a whopping $22.
In fact, all of the wines we tasted were under $30, definitely a first. For all of my talk about acidity and refreshment, I am not ruling out the possibility that I love the Loire simply because I’m cheap.