Muscadet And More: A Quick Primer On Loire White Wines With Nicolas Bougrier

Nicolas Bougrier represents the sixth generation of the Famille Bougrier, which has been making wine in the Loire Valley since the 1880s. He also represents the region's new blood, which is undoubtedly why the Loire's marketing arm flew him over to New York City this spring to spread the word about whites, sparklers and rosés from the area about 200 kilometers south of Paris. Being a devout drinker of Cabernet Franc and the occasional Sancerre from the Loire, I listened carefully to Bougrier's counsel about the non-red options and found myself enjoying the Muscadet, rosé d'Anjou and Crémant that I sampled. More recently, I emailed Bougrier five questions to help explain the appeal of the Loire as he sees it.

How do you describe Loire white wines to an American who is unfamiliar with whites from the region?

The Loire Valley offers the largest diversity of styles for white wines: we produce dry, medium dry, sweet or "moelleux" still wines, not forgetting our "Fines Bulles" (sparkling wine) produced following the Méthode traditionnelle, the same one as Champagne. We are France's largest wine-growing region of AOC whites! In the Loire Valley, diversity can mean simplicity: our white wines are pressed from only three main grapes: Melon de Bourgogne (Muscadet grape), Chenin blanc and Sauvignon blanc. My father used to say that the common link between our wines is the 3 Fs

Freshness, Fruitiness and Friendliness.

What are the differences between rosés from the Loire and Provençal rosés?

Just as for our whites, the Loire Valley is home to a unique diversity of rosés that you can find nowhere else in France: we produce every style of rosé, from dry to sweet. We aim to extract the maximum fruit and aromas. That is why we use the skin maceration process, which offers more color and [makes for] an inimitable fresh and fruity style of wine.

Our terroir also gives us the acidity we need to product well-balanced wines. For instance, medium and off-dry rosés are a specialty of the Loire Valley, but thanks to the acidity, we have a perfect balance between fruitiness, acidity and sweetness. An example is our Famille Bougrier Rosé d'Anjou AOP, which is one of our best-sellers. Outside the Loire Valley, you can't find this incredible diversity. We are lucky.

Why should Americans try sparkling wines from the Loire when Champagne is a nearby region that's more well known?

I would say that the Loire Valley offers the possibility to enjoy a premium sparkling wine for all occasions. No need to wait for a birthday or a special event to enjoy a glass of Vouvray AOP or Crémant de Loire AOP. Our wines offer fantastic value — about half the price of a bottle of Champagne. It's important to note that the Loire is the first sparkling wine AOP producer outside Champagne. We have a large range of sparkling wines from brut to dry, all produced in the Méthode Traditionnelle, as in Champagne.

What excites you about these styles of Loire wines right now?

We are very proud of the expansion of Loire Valley wines around the world. Today, the U.S. is our number one market outside France and year after year, we keep on growing. Our diversity, our variety of food-friendly styles, the moderate alcohol levels (meaning you can enjoy more than one glass), and the value are all reasons that explain our success. The Loire Valley is very dynamic: many new winegrowers are coming and setting up and bringing with them new practices and techniques. It is very promising for the future.

Lastly, any general food pairings for whites and rosés from the Loire?

You can pair our wines with almost any meal thanks to the diversity of wines. As for me, I love a glass of Muscadet with seafood and especially with oysters (in Paris and everywhere in France, a glass of Muscadet with seafood second nature), a fresh Touraine Sauvignon with goat cheese or with a fish in sauce. Finally, for the aperitif or for a barbecue with friends, there is nothing better than a glass of Rosé d'Anjou AOP.