Americans have surpassed all other countries in wine consumption. We clearly like our wine, but like most people I find myself in a rut.
I tend to gravitate to the same wines, so I thought it would be fun to explore a region and inspire you to try something new this summer.
I want to introduce you to the breadbasket of France, the Loire Valley. This area is a fertile cornucopia filled with abundant agriculture, livestock and a diversity of vines.
As with many wine regions around the world, this area takes its name from a geographical feature, and in this case it's the Loire river which cuts through the valley. It is the longest river in France, extending 628 miles. That's five times the distance from Atlantic City to New York! With that much land to cover you'll see why there are so many different styles of wine made here.
Near the coast, where the river flows into the Atlantic Ocean, the wines are light whites made from Melon de Bourgogne.
The French nameof the wines based on the region, not the grape, so it's known as Muscadet. This style of wine is light with good minerality and acidity, which makes it a natural pairing for shellfish. Passion Vines in Somers Point has Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet de Sevre-Et-Maine Granite de Clisson for $29.99. This is a perfect example of wine from this area and one of my favorites.
Moving to the west, the next few areas we come to grow Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc.
Chenin Blanc is a white wine that is aromatic and produces several styles of wine. Wines from the Savennieres appellation are a drier expression, while wines from Vouvray are unctuous in texture and flavor. They can be Sec, which are drier to heavenly sweet whites and also sparkling.
One of my favorites is Domaine Huet Le Haut-Lieu. It has aromas and favors of bruised apples, dried white tea roses, honeycomb and a touch of citrus. Visit Joe Canal's in Egg Harbor Township to pick up your bottle for $24.99. Cabernet Franc is the parent grape to Cabernet Sauvignon. It typically shows aromas and favors of red currants, blue plum, cedar and a touch of pink peppercorn.
This is a wonderful food wine, and I really enjoy Bernard Baudry Les Granges with ribs. Come see us at Vintage, A Wine Boutique at Borgata to pick up your bottle for just $23.
As we continue to follow the Loire River west, we arrive in the Central Vineyards region where there are a few villages you may recognize: Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume.
Remember that the French put the name of the village on the label instead of the grape. These two villages are known for making bright, mouthwatering wines from the Sauvignon Blanc grape. Circle Liquor in Somers point has Domaine du Carrou Sancerre "La Jouline" Vieilles Vignes for $28.99. This wine has zesty citrus aromas and favors, with a touch of fresh picked green herbs and salty minerality. It is a great summer sipper.
There are so many more styles and brands that come from this diverse area, so I invite you to spend the summer exploring the Loire Valley right here at home.
Anjoleena Griffin-Holst has been Wine Director at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa since March 2006 and is the only female wine director at a casino-resort in the United States. She helped establish Borgata's reputation for its impressive wine selection, which includes more than 40,000 bottles and recently received four separate Best of Award of Excellence and two Award of Excellence by Wine Spectators 2011 Restaurant Awards. Her column runs every other week.