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A Tale of Two Loire Valley Sauvignons
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
May 5, 2009
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Clos Roche Blanche Touraine Sauvignon 2007 ($18, Louis Dressner Selections); Lucien Crochet Sancerre La Croix du Roy 2006 ($28, Rosenthal Wine Merchant):  My plan was to review just one Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc-based wine, the very fine Sancerre of Lucien Crochet.  But just for fun, I also opened a wine from a lesser Loire appellation: a straw dog I suppose I considered it.  Rather than serving as a foil to the Sancerre's quality, however, that wine set up a fascinating and intriguing stylistic opposition.

Essentially, the pairing is that of a humbler wine whose charms are immediately available and a more elite wine whose quality is indisputable and whose style is extremely refined.  The common man and the aristocrat, as it were; both wonderful, depending on your taste, your mood and the food.

Clos Roche Blanche Sauvignon is from the Touraine, a large and diverse area around the city of Tours that includes the distinguished red wine appellations, Bourgueil and Chinon, as well as Vouvray, made from Chenin Blanc.  As an appellation itself, Touraine is one that you might normally overlook.

This Touraine Sauvignon is very minerally in its aromas and flavors, suggesting slate and wet stones and other earthy notes, along with ripe apple spritzed with lemon.  In the mouth it is broad and full.  Although the wine has fairly high acidity, the sensation of its taste goes wide in your mouth rather than being centered by acidity.  I'd describe the wine as smooth and ample rather than crisp, although it is not without crispness.  It is a natural-born wine, very satisfying and very easy to appreciate.  What it lacks in transcendence it makes up for in soul.

The 2006 Sancerre La Croix du Roy actually tastes younger than the 2007 Touraine Sauvignon because it is so fresh, so focused, and so tightly wound.  It has intense and concentrated aromas and flavors that suggest a chalky and slightly flinty minerality, along with fresh lemon and gentle herbal notes.  In your mouth, the wine's taste reverberates around high-tension acidity; it has depth, length, precision, excitement and similar virtues that spring from high acidity.  Part of its brilliance of course is the concentrated fruit character that forms a tight flesh around the acid backbone.

Of these wines, the Touraine Sauvignon is the more affordable option, but the prices of the two wines are close enough that style rather than price should dictate your choice.  Being broader and earthier, the Clos Roche Blanche Sauvignon is better with mushroom dishes, aged cheeses and simple poultry dishes.  The more stimulating, nervier Sancerre is a better choice with seafood, lemon-dressed fish and fresh cheeses.  Or look at it this way: the Touraine Sauvignon is the wine to drink when you want a friend, and the Sancerre is the wine to drink when you want to bring some bling to your evening.

I hesitate to state my scores at the bottom of the review as I normally do, because I would be sorry if you or another reader let your eyes fall to the shorthand of the score without considering the wines' stylistic differences.  For its soul and genuineness, 90 points to the Touraine Sauvignon; for its sheer brilliance and excitement, 92 points to the Sancerre.