Montlouis-sur-Loire sits in the middle of the Loire Valley. The Loire Valley is a region in France, that stretches 600 miles along the Loire River. It is divided into 4 basic regions, The Pay Nantais which sits closest to the Atlantic Ocean, Anjou-Saumur, considered the Central Loire, Touraine which is east of Anjou-Saumur and the Upper Loire, which is the furthest east.
Over this immense distance is should be unsurprising that you find a wide variety of wines as you move from the ocean through the lush green valley and then curve around to head south into the foothills of the Massif Central, where the summers are hot and the winters very cold.
The area is in the north of France sitting near the 47th parallel. The city of Nantes, where the name Pays Nantais comes from has Seattle Washington as it’s sister city. Seattle is also on the 47th Parallel, to give you a bit of perspective on its northerliness. This is why the vineyards follow the river. The rive moderates the climate, keeping the areas nearby cooler in summer and warmer in winter than areas further away.
This vast region is where you will find the French #Winophiles virtually traveling this month. Jill Barth leads us from L’Occasion. She wrote a wonderful invitation piece on the region that you can read here. Scroll to the bottom of this post to find the other wonderful pieces on this region written by my colleagues in the French #Winophiles.
Touraine – The Garden of France
As I searched for a wine in this expansive and diverse region, I did my usual check at Garagiste, my favorite wine shop. They had quite a selection of Loire Valley wines. One caught my eye and it happened to be from Touraine.
This region has been called the “Garden of France”. The chateaux along the river here attest to the fact that it was a favorite idealic spot for kings and nobleman.
Montlouis-sur-Loire sitting between 2 Rivers
Within the Touraine, our wine comes from Montlouis-sur-Loire which sits between the Loire and Cher rivers. It tends to be overshadowed by its famous cousin across the Loire to the north, Vouvray. If you look at the map above, it is the area in orange just below Tours.
Here, as in Vouvray, the primary grape is Chenin Blanc often known locally as Pineau de Loire. A significant portion (around 1/3) of the Chenin Blanc here is used to make sparkling wines.
Sparkling Chenin Blanc and Vins Mousseaux a Fermentation Unique
Chenin Blanc has been used for Fine Bulles (sparkling wine) in the Loire Valley and Montlouis-sur-Loire for quite a while, but the regulations did not allow for wine made in the method ancestral. This is the method used to create Pet-nats, the Petillant Naturel wines that have become very popular recently. The idea is to bottle the wines before all the sugar has been fermented into alcohol, which causes carbon dioxide to be trapped in the bottle, giving us that fizz.
In June, 2020 the Montlouis-sur-Loire AOC updated their regulations to include “Vins Mousseaux a Fermentation Unique” (source) While these wines have been described as pét-nat, you will notice a difference if you are familiar with pét-nats. These wines, according to the rules of the Montlouis-sur-Loire AOC must be disgorged, so you will see no settled lees in the bottom of your bottle.
Our wine, which has been made in this method since the early 1990s, is now included in the Montlouis-sur-Loire AOC.
Domaine de la Taille aux Loups & Jacky Blot
Jacky Blot created Domaine de la Taille aux Loups in Montlouis-sur-Loire, in 1989. He tends to be meticulous and precise which has earned him the name “The watchman of Montlouis”. He is a fascinating individual. Skurnik Wines and Spirits, imports his wines and shared this wonderful video on their site that is well worth a watch.
Our wine is called Triple Zero. What does the name mean? It means: Zero chapitalization, Zero liqueur de tirage, and Zero dosage. Jacky Blot named this wine after spending 10 years labeling it “sparkling, natural, without sugar”. It’s kind of hard to market that on a label. Soon others started to make wines in this style. Some were good, some not so much. So to set his wine apart he registered the trademark Triple Zero in 2002.
Domaine de la Taille can make this Triple zero because Chenin blanc on this chalky soil in this climate can ripen enough to not need the addition of sugar and at the same time keep the freshness. They continue to refine this winemaking changes each vintage to make the wine better. Of course, they can’t see how that worked out for several years, when the wine is ready to drink.
The wine is 100% Chenin Blanc from 40+-year-old vines that are farmed organically. It is fermented and aged in 5-10 year oak barrels (so neutral), does not go through malolactic fermentation and is aged on the lees for 24 months. It is 12.5% abv and I picked it up for $45.
Tasting the Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Triple Zero
This poured sparkling with bubbles that settled after a bit. It is pale lemon in color and clear (remember it has been disgorged). On the nose, I found white peach, biscuit, lime zest, and pear with subtle floral notes. Medium in body it had pronounce flavors of citrus, tart yellow apple, sourdough, and almond.
Sparkling Chenin and Cheese souffle
In looking for a pairing, I settled on a souffle. It’s warm out and the idea of “brunch for dinner” was appealing. It seemed so elegant and bright and perfect to go with a sparkling wine. I adapted a recipe to fit the ramekins I had. I substituted bacon for the mushrooms in her recipe, because I love my husband and he does not love mushrooms.
Sadly, it failed spectacularly. Some of this was my fault. Souffles are intimidating and I was a bit nervous. My roux was tight, I forgot to add the cheese, and I had the oven on convection bake. We ate them anyway and they were delicious, if not beautiful.
I had more ingredients so we decided to make a second attempt.
I did some extra research and found my recipe was also a little off, my bechamel proportions had been wrong. The thing to remember is equal amounts of butter and flour. My first recipe had less butter than flour and had me cooking it 3 minutes, this left me with a dry crumbly roux which is not at all what you want. In addition, my first recipe had me adding less milk, which meant the whole mixture seized up.
Second time around, more butter and milk, less cooking, and a smoother bechamel. I added my egg yolks to this then the grated gruyere, a mixture of crisped bacon and shallots and chopped sage. Now it was time to whip the egg whites into those firm peaks. A dollop of the whipped egg whites goes into the bechamel etc mixture to loosen it, then you take that and gently put it in the bowl with the egg whites. Now it is time to gently fold this together, so you don’t lose the air! This is what makes your souffle rise. The air pockets expand in the oven making your souffle tall, light, and fluffy.
Toss the mixture in your buttered and parmesan dusted ramekin(s) and bake, just not on Convection bake! I set mine at 375 degrees and baked for about 18 minutes. When they come out eat them immediately! I had Michael prep everything so we could quickly pour the wine and catch the bubbles in the wine with the soufflé. Within 5 minutes, your soufflé will collapse.
We added a simple arugula, almond and white peach salad on the side.
All over the Loire with the French #Winophiles
As I mentioned earlier, the French #Winophiles are gathering on Saturday August 15th to discuss wines from across the Loire Vallley. If you would like to join the conversation, find us at 8 am Pacific time or 11 am Eastern time on twitter by following the hashtage #Winophiles.
While I focused just on Montlouis-sur-Loire AOC and one specific wine, the rest of the Winophiles have traveled the entire span of the Loire Valley and will have some amazing regions and wines of the Loire to share.
- Muscadet is Not Muscat, Gabure Bigourdane, and (Our Version of) Faire Chabròl | Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Getting “Au Naturel” with Damien and Didier Richou ‘Les D en Bulles’ Méthode Ancestrale #Winophiles | Enofylz
- Savennières and Vouvray: Two Tastes of Loire Valley Chenin Blanc | The Swirling Dervish
- Sweet Wines from the Loire | Avvinare
- Made it to Dessert with a Vouvray | Keep the Peas
- A Visit to Loire with Thierry Puzelat of Organic Clos du Tue-Boeuf: Part 1 Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc paired with a savory summer squash tart | Wine Predator
- Turkey and Cabbage Skillet Recipe with Pouilly-Fumé | Cooking Chat
- Enjoying Summer Food with Chinon Wine and a Fun Book | A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Cooking to the Wine: “Brendan Stater-West Saumur Les Chapaudaises and Chicken Thighs with Apples and Onions | Somm’s Table
- Summer Sipping: B&G Chenin Blanc and Crispy Baked Pork Chops | Our Good Life
- Thierry Michon and Domaine Saint Nicolas – Biodynamic Loire Wines | Savor the Harvest
- Exploring the Loire Valley From My Balcony with #Winophiles! | The Quirky Cork
- Funky Loire Pet Nat was born for goat cheese pizza | My Full Wine Glass
- A Crémant de Loire, a Vouvray, and a Rosé D’anjou – I’m all set for the summer #Winophiles | Chinese Food and Wine Pairings
- Touraine Chenonceaux in the Loire Valley – Where Wine and History Reign | Grape Experiences
- Wine Thirsty? That’s No Problem in France’s Loire Valley | L’Occasion
More on the Loire Valley and its wines
- A Loire Rosé, a Bordeaux from Pommerol and cheese
- The Multiple Expressions of Vouvray
- Biodynamic French Wines
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.