What we like best about the Saumur-Champigny is the fact that it is light on tannins. Wines containing too much tannin have a very unpleasant effect on me! It starts by a disturbing stinging feeling in my ears. Next my throat tightens and swallowing the wine becomes really painful. Then I get shivers down my spine, until the wine hits my stomach where it leaves a burning feeling. And if that wasn’t enough, an hour later a splitting headache starts creeping up from the bottom of my skull. Reasons enough to avoid tannic wines!
A slightly chilled Saumur-Champigny has the complete opposite effect. It makes my ears tingle, refreshes my throat, warms my body and caresses my stomach. It leaves me pleasantly light-headed and makes me sleep like a baby.
Although Belgium is the biggest consumer of Bordeaux wines, Saumur-Champigny has become increasingly popular over the last decade. The first ‘brands’ that conquered the Belgian restaurants and supermarkets were Château de Villeneuve and Les Perruches. The latter is a large winery on the Tours-Saumur road just outside the village of Montsoreau. The first is further up the road in the village of Souzay-Champigny.
In 2002 we were still novices when it came to Loire wines. We therefore decided to stick to the little we knew and build it up from there on. A visit to one of the two wineries we actually knew of and of which we liked the wines, seemed logical.
We went to the Château de Villeneuve. The steep and narrow village streets of Souzay-Champigny are lined with wineries. If you were to go from door to door and taste a glass at every house bearing a Saumur-Champigny sign, you would be very, very drunk by the time you leave the village.
Finding the Château de Villeneuve took a lot of skilful driving by my friend. At some point we thought we were completely lost. Moreover, there was not a soul in sight, so we couldn’t even ask for directions. Finally we found a small sign indicating the way to the château.
2002: Château de Villeneuve - Souzay-Champigny
The 18th century building sits on a plateau overlooking the Loire River. Besides the Saumur-Champigny the domain produces a white Saumur. We tasted several ‘cuvées’ of both wines and liked them. However, having set ourselves a ‘wine buying budget’, we didn’t get any Saumur, but only two dozen bottles of Saumur-Champigny. They ‘travelled’ well and we enjoyed them over Sunday lunch at home.
Since 2002 we’ve become far more knowledgeable about Loire Valley wines and we are more adventurous when it comes to tasting and buying. We’ve recently discovered a lovely bio-organic Saumur-Champigny called ‘Initiale’ by Agathe Vatan of the Château Hureau domain in Dampierre. Maybe we should pay her a visit this year!