When we were out riding around one day last week, CHM and I drove through the town of Amboise (my photos of the château are here) and ended up in the village called Limeray, the center for production of the wines that carry the Touraine-Amboise appellation.
We happened to drive past the wine cooperative just on the edge of Limeray. Walt and I have been there before to buy wine — the first time with our friends Jean and Nick, and then another time on our own. We didn't need to buy wine last week, but CHM asked if maybe we shouldn't stop in and buy a bottle to have with our supper. That's what we did.
Most of the wines made in the Loire Valley are not aged in oak barrels, but we noticed one, a Cuvée Léonard, that was barrel-aged, and we decided to buy that one. The Léonard in the name is, of course, Leonardo da Vinci, who spent the last few years of his life in Amboise as the guest of the Renaissance French king François 1er.
On the label you see the words « Vieilli en fût de Chêne » — that means "Aged in oak barrels". As I said, very few Loire Valley wines are aged that way.
Mostly, the wines are fermented and stored in huge stainless steel vats. Some say that process gives the grapes a more natural expression, so that the wine tastes of the grape rather than of wood and heavy tannins.
In fact, most Loire Valley wines are not « vins de garde », or wines you can "put down" to age for a long time. They are « vins de soif » — "thirst wines" — wines you drink young (and that keep you feeling young yourself, I'd say!)