I’ve spent the last two days at the Salon des Vins de Loire, tasting many terrific wines. Although I didn’t come here with the intention of seeking out sparkling wines, several intriguing examples have crossed my path. Sparkling Savennières from the Domaine du Closel? Jean-François Mérieau’s pétillant naturel made from chenin blanc, chardonnay and pineau d’aunis, aged for 36 months on the lees? How about a gamay rosé pétillant from François Chidaine with 80 grams/litre of residual sugar? Toto, we’re not in Champagne anymore.
Those wines were all excellent, as were other, less uncommon wines. Perhaps the finest sparkler I’ve tasted in the last few days has been Vincent Carême’s chalky, racy 2006 Vouvray Brut, although coming close was Huet's 2001 Vouvray Pétillant. Another delicious wine was Domaine des Baumard’s new Brut Rosé (pictured), which possesses a rare elegance and delicacy for a sparkling wine made entirely from cabernet franc. These are never going to take the place of champagne (nor should they), but they are entirely compelling in their own right, and very, very tasty.