Birmingham may not have châteaux or the country’s longest river nor a coastline or vineyards as can boast the Loire region of France. But it does have canals and is the country’s second city, it has interesting modern buildings and well, there are vineyards not too far away even if they don’t yet reach the standard of production that Loire wine makers, such as Famille Bougrier, do. This Loire producer last week hosted a wine dinner here in Birmingham for members of the local wine trade and I must say I was proud to be involved.
Marco Pierre White’s in The Cube hosted the event with a free-pour tasting followed by dinner to explore how food-friendly the wines are. The views from 25 storeys up in the glass roof are truly amazing (Birmingham can be beautiful, believe me. Especially at night!!) and distracted a tad from the purpose of the evening – to taste and enjoy the wines of Famille Bougrier. During dinner Sarah Ahmed, aka The Wine Detective, expertly brought our attention back to the wines which were matched with carefully chosen dishes.
Many Loire wines are often under-rated or even sometimes forgotten about completely – perhaps that’s just me. I do tend to pick wines from either areas I know well or from very much more obscure regions, but when was the last time you drank a Muscadet or a Vouvray? I suspect you’ll have had Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, the region’s big shots, much more recently which, with the trend for Sauvignon Blanc still going strong, continue to sell well in the UK, and justifiably so. But put Muscadet on your shopping list for a crisp, clean, refreshing mouthful to go with oysters if you’re posh or fish and chips if you’re not. Vouvray, if it’s medium sweet (and check which style you’re after because it can also be very dry or indeed very sweet), is lovely on its own, with cheese, with chicken or pork, with apple and pear desserts. These are rounded wines with acidity and balance and don’t be put off by the sweetness or honeyed aromas, there’s nothing tacky about enjoying sweeter wines. Touraine reds from Gamay are light, easy, pleasant but for something with more weight and complexity try a Chinon, from Cabernet Franc. Anjou Rosés are a little precarious but Bougrier’s was sound – no surprise then that it is being sold by The Wine Society for £6.95.
My wine of the night was the great value Touraine Sauvignon 2012 (£9.99 from Laithwaites) which was beautifully open and aromatic, zingy, fresh with complexity and just great fruit. The Wine Society I note, also do a Touraine by Bougrier called Les Haut Lieux – I don’t know exactly how similar or otherwise it is to the one I tasted, but at £7.50, I know I shall be buying some!