Saturday, March 14, 2015

Saumur Champigny (2011)

Saumur Champigny.  According to some, the name is derived from Latin, campus igni, or "fields of fire." Those "fields" are nestled in the Loire Valley of France, between the cities of Angers and Tours.  The terrain in this region is a low plateau of tuffeau, which is a yellow, sandy and porous metamorphic rock that is ideal for the cultivation of grapes in this appellation.

The principal grape grown in the Saumur appellation is Cabernet Franc, although Cabernet Sauvignon and Pineau d'Aunis (a rare varietal) are also cultivated there.  The wine - Saumur - is made from Cabernet Franc grapes.  Indeed, the rules require that at least 90% of the grapes used to make Saumur wine must be Cabernet Franc, allowing for the use of the Cabernet Sauvignon or, more rarely, the Pineau d'Aunis grapes. Those Saumur wines of the highest quality are given the designation of "Champigny."

The Saumur Champigny pours a garnet to crimson red color.  The aroma of this wine provides hint of some cherry and other ripe berries.  However, what makes this wine remarkable is its mouthfeel and taste.  On the one hand, the Saumur Champigny has what seems like a relatively light body.  This lightness is somewhat deceiving, because the taste of the wine is full of ripe cherry and even a little cranberry.  These elements suggest a darker, bolder wine.  There is also a minerality to the wine, along with well balanced tannins.  The result is a full bodied wine with a deceptive lightness, encased in tannins that frame the entire experience.  

All of these features would seem to suggest more Cabernet Sauvignon than Cabernet Franc. Nevertheless, the rules of the appellation clearly say that it is much more Cabernet Franc than Cabernet Sauvignon in the production of this wine.  For this reason, I find the Saumur Champigny to be a very interesting and enjoyable wine.

When  it comes to pairing, the Saurmur Champigny is best paired with grilled or roasted beef or poultry.  I paired this wine with a Steak Marchand de Vin and the pairing was perfect.  The wine also pairs well with roasted chicken or fig-stuffed rabbit.  (I need to find a recipe for that rabbit, because it sounds interesting).

As for the wine, I purchased a bottle a couple of years ago from Le Bistro du Beaujolais, which is my favorite French restaurant. The owner recommended the wine and I have to say that he was right.  I can't recall what I paid for the wine, but if you see a bottle, it is definitely worth trying.  


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