Loire Valley is a vast region in France that is situated along the Loire River. At 629 miles, it is the longest river in France. The Loire River rises in the southern Massif Central and flowing north and then west into the Atlantic Ocean. This region is diverse in wine, rich in history and culture. Many regions here are classified as UNESCO World Heritage sites. From the Atlantic ocean to the East the regions are split into Pays Nantais, Anjou, Saumur, Touraine and Centre-Loire. Each region has its own characteristic grapes, appellations and styles.
As a wine lover, the Loire Valley is a treasure box offering all styles of wines from Red, White, Rosé, Sparkling to Sweet. The Loire Valley produces more White wine than any other French region and is second only to Champagne in sparkling wine production. While the Whites can overshadow the Reds, the region is well known for lighter-bodied Red wines such as Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec (Cot), Pineau d'Aunis and Grolleau.
The area near the city of Nantes along the Atlantic coast of Brittany has been producing wines since the Roman times. The entire area benefits from maritime climate, rainfall and cool conditions in the winter. The most famous is Muscadet made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape (Not related to Muscat). Muscadet is light, crisp, dry and refreshing. Perfect for shellfish and salads. Sometimes you will see the words Sevre-et-Maine Sur Lie on the label. That means the Muscadet must be from the 23 communes near the confluence of Sevre and Maine River. Sur Lie wines are aged on their lees over the winter and then bottled directly with out filtering. The process adds complexity, richness, and a slight sparkle to the finished wines.
Vineyards of Anjou-Brissac
Chenin Blanc is the rising star in Anjou. This area produces both sweet and dry versions. Well known sweet wines are from the higher quality appellations called Coteaux du Lyon, Bonnexeaux and Quartz de Chaume. Here the Chenin Blanc is harvested later as producers wait for botrytis. The sweet wines of this region is similar to Sauternes. In addition, one third of Anjou's plantings are Cabernet Franc, resulting with red wines that are 100% Cabernt Franc grown in the northerly cooler climates. Rosé d' Anjou is also growing in popularity. Unlike other French Rosés, it is slightly off-dry.
Saumur appellation can produce dry White, Red and Sparkling. Over half of Saumur's grapes are produced into sparkling wines called Cremant de Loire. Made using the traditional method (same as Champagne). The region is dominated by a famous castle that is built with the same tuffeau limestone that the vineyards grown on. Underneath the tuffeau soil, tunnels and caves form the perfect wine cellars. Chateau Saumur located in the town of the same name still retains some vineyards that grown around the castle. Saumur-Champigny and Cabernet de Saumur are Cabernet Franc producing appellations, known to have a special earthy, spice, violet and silky tannins.
We suggest Tresors de Loire Cremant de Loire, bottled in Saumur.
This is the "Garden of France" where the kings and nobles resided in picturesque chateaux that are dotted along the river. The region's famous appellation includes Vouray made from Chenin Blanc, Chinon, Bourgeuil and St. Nicolas de Bourgeuil made from Cabernet Franc. Touraine appellation itself also includes world class examples of Sauvignon Blanc. Some smaller amounts of Pinot Noir, Gamay and Malbec are also grown here. The tuffeau limestone here also offers an impressive network of caves and tunnels.
The Cabernet Franc's from Chinon and Bourgueil are classic Loire Valley style, typically with raspberry green tobacco aromas with silky tannins. Chinon's soils are typically tuffeau, clay and varennes. Wines of tuffeau origin on the south facing slopes have more depth and ageworthiness. We suggest Clos de la Niverdiere Chinon 2016.
Village of Chinon
An area of vineyards where the Loire river curves and starts to bend south. The climate here is different from the other regions of the Loire. It is more continental with cold winters and short summers. However, some of the best Sauvignon Blanc vineyards can be found here. Famous appellations such as Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume are synonymous with Sauvignon Blanc. One on each side of the Loire river. These Sauvignon blanc have complexity, focus and length. Soil in Sancerre tends to be more Kimmeridgian clay (which extends to Chalis), and fossilized soil. Pouilly-Fume has more proportion of flint, or "gunflint" character in the wine. Other appellations include Menetou-Salon, Reuilly, Quincy and Orleans.
We suggest Tresors de Loire Sancere.
With thousands of wineries and a dizzying array of quality wines, we encourage you to check out France's most underrated regions.
Photographs Courtesy of Ken Zimmerman.
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