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James Sligh is a sommelier at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood. In addition to opening bottles for guests, Sligh teaches in the bar’s wine boot-camp program. Before he started at Compagnie, Sligh worked as a somm at such wine industry insider hotspots as Rouge Tomate—where he worked closely with Master Sommelier Pascaline Lepeltier at the restaurant’s Chelsea location, which earned World of Fine Wine magazine’s accolade for having the best long wine list in the world in 2017—and Pearl & Ash, where he was mentored by the owner, Patrick Cappiello. Earlier in his career, Sligh worked as a wine clerk at Vine Wine, a retail shop in Brooklyn, and as a server at Master Sommelier Laura Maniec Fiorvanti’s flagship Corkbuzz restaurant and wine bar in Manhattan.
Here, Sligh tastes a wine from our sponsor Loire Valley Wines. The Loire Valley is made up of five distinct wine regions—from east to west, they are Pays Nantais, Anjou, Saumur, Touraine, and the Centre-Loire. Each of these regions possesses its own characteristic grapes, appellations, and wine styles. The Loire’s offerings run the gamut from reds, rosés, and whites to still and sparkling wines, and comprise dry, semidry, and sweet wines. Known for their moderate alcohol levels, Loire wines also offer bright acidity and flinty minerality, making them ideal for pairing with an array of cuisines. Among France’s many wine-growing territories, the Loire Valley leads with its white AOC wines, including its AOC sparkling wines (excluding Champagne)—and ranks second for AOC rosés.
The Loire River is France’s longest, flowing 1,000 kilometers through the region, from Mont Gerbier de Jonc in Ardèche to the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brittany. The river and its tributaries play an important role in climate fluctuation, contributing to diverse terroir throughout the Loire Valley. Microclimates are common and highly favorable to the cultivation of various grape varieties, including Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Melon de Bourgogne, as well as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Gamay. There are 57,200 hectares of vineyards along the river’s banks, with 51 appellations of origin and 4 indication géographique protégée zones—and more than 4,000 wineries. The region as a whole exports 68 million bottles every year to 157 export markets. The U.S. is the Loire’s largest export market in terms of both value and volume. In recognition of all the contributions of the region to both French and global culture, the Loire Valley—from Sully-sur-Loire to Chalonnes-sur-Loire—was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2000.
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The wine Sligh tastes in this video is a blend of Gamay and Grolleau from the Rosé d’Anjou appellation. Along with the Cabernet d’Anjou appellation, Rosé d’Anjou is part of the appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) Anjou area, which spans 128 communes in Maine-et-Loire, 14 in Deux Sèvres, and 9 in Vienne. There are 1,890 hectares of vines in the Rosé d’Anjou appellation. Besides Gamay and Grolleau, varieties that are permitted in the AOC are Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pineau d’Aunis, and Côt. These grapes tend to thrive in the area’s schist-based soils and mild continental climate. The annual production of Rosé d’Anjou over the last five years has been 114,800 hectoliters. The style tends to be off-dry, with a minimum residual sugar level of 7 grams per liter. The color is typically a rosy raspberry pink. Classic Rosé d’Anjou yields such juicy red fruit notes as strawberries, raspberries, cherries, and red currants, light citrus flavors, and hints of pepper and menthol on the finish.