Hi there, I’m the new wine-talking guy. The best way for you to get to know me is by reading this column over time, but a few words of introduction may help.

My intention for this column is to make it desperately relevant to you – whether “you” is a can’t-relate-to-humans-because-wine-is-more-interesting geek, a mildly interested food-lover unfamiliar with the world of wine, or somewhere in between.

I try hard to keep an open mind and treat every aspect of the wine world as an opportunity to learn something new. Still, here’s what really excites me: reasonably priced, locally available, food-friendly wines that honestly reflect the character of the land that bred them, the true nature of the grapes that died for them, and the spirits of the farmers and winemakers who labored over them.

I don’t care about wines whose clear purpose is point scores, or somebody-somewhere-saw-dollar-signs. And I know that “people like what they like,” but to quote that old wino Bob Dylan, “He not busy being born is busy dying.” Just because that supermarket powerhouse with a cuddly animal label that you’ve been drinking for years gives you pleasure doesn’t mean I won’t try to present some alternatives. (Nothing against cuddly animals.)

For today, all that brings me to the Loire Valley. The Loire River leads directly from the Atlantic to some of France’s northernmost wine regions. The riverbed and surrounding land are built on layers of crushed seashells compacted over eons. The wines are pure and racy. Alcohol levels tend to the low side, amplifying harmony with food.

Today I’ll mention just two whites and two reds – each is brimming with personality, perfect for summer, a shocking value – and joyously tasty. All four are imported by Jon David Headrick Selections, which focuses on small wineries and handmade wines from organic or close-to-it grapes.

Domaine de la Fruitiere “Petit M” Muscadet 2008, $12. First stop eastward on the Loire express, Muscadet is often the most minerally and marine of Loire whites, but this is a touch rounder than most. A little almond and honeysuckle on the nose, then a blast of tongue-tingle. Salt. Iron. Lean, sinewy structure. Yes to oysters, but also flounder and sole.

Jean-Francois Merieau Arpents des Vaudons, Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2009, $13. A friend rightly calls the Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc’s “spiritual home.” Some Sauv Blanc can be too sleek and acerbic; this is soft, though, with great textural balance. It avoids the two enormous contemporary Sauv Blanc pitfalls: overly grapefruity and mean, or artificially inflated. Instead, it privileges harmony. Bring on the mussels and garlic!

Jean-Francois Merieau Le Bois Jacou, Touraine Gamay 2007, $13. A balance of delicacy and intricacy so poetic you’d think you were in an Oscar Wilde comedy. Stony (in more than once sense of the word, I gotta say), feral and funked out, its low alcohol and medium body mesh seamlessly with grilled veggies and steak, blackened fish, or a lentil salad. Buy a few bottles and try one five years from now – moderately aged gamay made this well will repay patience with compound interest.

Domaine de la Noblaie Les Chiens-Chiens Chinon 2006, Loire, France $20. For 99.99 percent of your grilling this summer, this will beat the pants off any Zin or Malbec around. Made exclusively from the sorely under-appreciated Cabernet Franc grape, this is spicy but just … elegant. Violets, herbs, cocoa, and so much more! Tremendous length, chewy and dense.

 

Joe Appel’s day job is doing a lot of different things at Rosemont Market and Bakery. He can be reached at: [email protected]