I've fallen recently for loire wines, but only white ones. Can you recommend any reds? What are the varietals there? I've not had any, so I'd like to go with cheaper reds for now ($8-16), but wouldn't mind hearing about pricier bottles.
The Loire is best known --especially by "beginniners," but among many "old-timers" too -- for their whites (moving west-to-east, roughly): Muscadet (Melon de Bourgogne); Vouvray, Anjou Blanc, Savennieres, Coteaux du Layon and others (Chenin Blanc); Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, Quincy and Reuily (Sauvignon Blanc). The best known reds are predominantly/exclusively Cabernet Franc (in Anjou and Touraine: Anjou Rouge, Bourgeuil, St.-Nicholas de Bourgeuil, Chinon, Saumur, Saumur-Champigny) and Pinot Noir (Sancerre rouge).
Some appellations also permit grapes like Cot (aka Malbec), Cabernet Sauvingon, etc., etc., but many of these are vins de pays or minor AOC wines.
If I know where you live, I might be able to recommend some wines available in your area.
The reds are as fascinating as the whites. There are four main red grapes and several minor ones.
Cabernet Franc is king. Found alone (Chinon, Bourgueil, etc.) and in blends (Anjou, Touraine, Saumur, etc.).
Cot, elsewhere known as Malbec and Auxerrois, is often found in blends and sometimes made as a varietal.
Gamay, the Beaujolais grape, is often found in blends and sometimes made as a varietal (Gamay de Touraine).
Red Sancerre and Menetou-Salon are made from Pinot Noir (not all of it nasty), which grape also finds its way into some blends.
Other red grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon and obscurities like Pineau d'Aunis, Pinot Meunier and Grolleau. There's even some Merlot.
Since you appear to be in New York, head to Chambers Street Wines, which almost always has an interesting selection of Loire reds. www.chambersstwines.com Louis/Dressner is a leading importer of attention-worthy and often affordable Loire wines (many available through Chambers Street). www.louisdressner.com
Some of my favourite red Loire producers are Clos Roche Blanche (great QPR), Bernard Baudry, Charles Joguet, Domaine des Roches Neuves, Clos de Tue-Boeuf, Thierry Puzelat (also one of the brothers behind Tue-Boeuf), Clos Rougéard (expensive), Olga Raffault, Cathérine & Pierre Breton, Clos de la Briderie, Alphonse Mellot and Domaine de Bellivière.
The Loire is one of the most far-flung and diversified wine-growing regions in Europe if not the world. Impossible to do it justice in a few words. Better to get a good reference. Jacqueline Friedrich's *A Wine and Food Guide to the Loire* is invaluable, despite being in severe need of an update. The Loire chapter in *Hugh Johnson's Wine Companion* is also well done, if less in-depth than Friedrich's tome. Whatever you do, don't turn to Parker, who simply doesn't get the region's red wines.
I have been LOVING Loire cab francs lately, so fresh, light, fruity yet complex, with that green pepper accent and more earthy undertones, depending on the terroir. I think the Loire has some of the greatest food-friendly value in French wine (can't beat Muscadet with seafood). Here are the latest cab francs I have had, I have enjoyed all of them:
03 Joel Taluau Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil Vielles Vignes
no wood. This appellation is on south-facing slopes, a bit pricier than Chinon. From Moore Brothers (33 e 20th St), $23
04 Gasnier Chinon Cuvee Vielles Vignes
Large wood barrels. 50-year old vines. From Moore Brothers, $16.50
03 Domaine de la Petite Mairie Bourgueil Cuvee Ronsard, at Dumont restaurant in Williamsburg, for $38.
03 Olga Raffault Chinon la Popliniere, by the glass or bottle at Le Grainne Cafe, 21st St/9th Ave.
Finally, my favorite rose this summer was a Chinon:
05 Jean-Maurice Raffault Chinon Rose, $11 at PJWine, 204th/Bway
so refreshing and dry with touch of green peppery bitterness in the finish, everything I wanted from rose, especially NOT TOO SWEET!