My Totally Racous, Très French, Super Wine-Soaked Weekend in the Loire

At an epic gathering of natural winemakers in France’s verdant river valley, I slurped oysters and downed magnums and got a sense of what makes this community, and its wine, so special.

Let’s get one thing straight: I know very little about wine. I drink a lot of it,
sure—the natural stuff more specifically, which as far as I understand it is a loose, poorly defined term that more or less refers to wine made by small producers without the addition of weird chemicals and with the addition of eye-catching labels. But compared with the friends and sommeliers whose oenological ramblings I excitedly nod along to, I often feel like a poseur. I know my way around a wine list, but at the end of the day, I’m a sucker for bottle art. I will always order the hypebeast wine I recognize from Instagram. I use the word funky too often. My wife, Lauren, and I went to a hip wine fair once and bought a poster we had seen in hip wine bars and hip wine stores because we thought it looked cool, not because we knew anything about “Catherine et Pierre Breton,” the French winemakers whose names were scrawled across the bottom. It hangs above our dining room table, and when we’re having our Wine Friends over, I’m always nervous someone will ask me about it, the same way 13-year-old me prayed older kids wouldn’t see my Sex Pistols T-shirt and ask questions about a song that wasn’t on the greatest hits album.

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A fantastic French red for just $15 a bottle 

RECOMMENDED | It’s from the Anjou, a region not usually associated with quality, but it is great.

We usually don’t expect red wines from Anjou, a small subregion of France’s Loire Valley, to be any good, but here’s an example that will persuade even the most cynical wine skeptic to scour store shelves for obscure wines. I also recommend a refreshing New Zealand sauvignon blanc, a Tavel rosé to enjoy year-round, a lively California chardonnay and a second label from a popular Bordeaux chateau.

Musset-Roullier Les Neuf Vingt “La Maturité de la Passion” Anjou Rouge 2014/2015

Loire Valley, France, $15

I’m on my soapbox here. There are some wines we simply refuse to believe in because they don’t come from high-profile regions with pedigrees and points. Anjou, in France’s Loire Valley, is known for light, insipid reds or rosés. But this wine should grab our attention. It’s 100 percent cabernet franc, the main red grape of the Loire, and yes, lighter in depth and body than more famous Loire appellations such as Chinon, Saumur or Bourgeuil. Aromatic with spicy white pepper and Bing cherry notes, it develops more complexity about 30 minutes after you pull the cork. The distributor is moving to the 2015 vintage; more stores, restaurants and wine bars should take a chance on it. ABV: 14 percent.

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More: A fantastic French red for just $15 a bottle – The Washington Post

Let’s Talk Wine: Lovely Loire Valley reds

The Loire Valley, referred to as the Garden of France, is known for its magnificent chateaux and rich history, and runs at the heart of France with five distinct wine regions – Pays Nantais, Anjou, Saumur, Touraine, Centre-Loire – each with its own characteristics of grapes, appellations and styles. The wine-growing regions dotting the Loire’s banks feature about 4,000 wineries, 170,000 acres of vineyards and 61 appellations of origin, making the Loire Valley the third largest French wine-making region, producing [ . . . ]

More: Let’s Talk Wine: Lovely Loire Valley reds