Loire Valley

Loire ValleyThe Loire River is the longest river in France and flows for over 1000km. Its source is in the macif central region, south west of Lyon. It flows northwards before curving around to the west by the town of Orleans, then out into the Atlantic Ocean near the city of Nantes. The vineyards of this green and lush region, known also for its many Castl...

Loire ValleyThe Loire River is the longest river in France and flows for over 1000km. Its source is in the macif central region, south west of Lyon. It flows northwards before curving around to the west by the town of Orleans, then out into the Atlantic Ocean near the city of Nantes. The vineyards of this green and lush region, known also for its many Castles, follow the river from just before it curves westerly and across almost right up to the coast, and therefore just over half the length of the river. The 68 AOCs of the region produce a huge variety of wine. As France’s third largest wine region, the Loire is the biggest producer of appellation white wines, and second biggest producer of sparkling and rosé.

Climate

The great deal of tributary rivers that flow into the Loire, not to mention the Loire itself, create many different microclimates that are the key to variety of wine.

Another important facture that influences this variety, is the climate, or rather climates. The west is dominated by an oceanic climate, which is often mild and humid but can have harsh winters that drag on into spring and late frost on the vine can cause problems. Yet the generally milder conditions suit grape varieties like Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc and Muscadet. The eastern part of the region is mainly continental with rigid long winters and shorter hot summers, favouring grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.

The large variations in climate conditions year in year out, mean that in this region, the vintage is an extremely important factor that influences the quality of the wines.

Vins de pays Nantais.

Given the length of the region (over 500kms), it is often split into four main areas. The most western is Pays Nantais, referring to the wines produced around the city of Nantes. The main grape produced is Muscadet, also called Melon de Bourgogne, and here one of the few French wines that are named after the grape variety (rather than a geographical location) is made. One technique that characterises some Muscadet’s, is to age the wine with yeast deposits until the spring after the harvest: sur lie. The Muscadet appellation suffered somewhat of a bad reputation, but the last 15 years or so have seen greater investment by wine growers to make better balanced and richer wines.

Anjou-Saumur

Moving eastwards from Nantes, is the area around the towns of Anjou and Saumur. This area produces some of the finest late harvest dessert wines in the world with the remarkable Chenin Blanc grape, such as AOC Coteau de Layon, Chaume, Coteau-de-L’Aubance, Quarts-de-Chaume, Bonnezeaux. Chenin Blanc has all the right concentration and acidity levels in order to produce world class dessert wine that is rich in sugar yet perfectly balanced, and can easily age for more than fifty years. The area also produces a great deal of Rosé and Red wines from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grolleau and Gamay. The most reputed reds from the area are produced near Saumur with Cabernet Franc.

Touraine

Situated in the heart of the region, this area takes its name from the city of Tours. Here, the two major climates meet, creating conditions for a great variety of grapes. Some the more well-known regional red wines and white wines are produced here from the well-known Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc (Chinon, Bourgueil, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, Vouvray and Montlouis). As we move further east, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Malbec (locally known as Côt) start to dominate, as well as rarer grapes such as Romorantin (used only for the AOC Cour-Cheverny) and Pinot D’Aunis. This area is also known for wines that represent great value for money!

Vins du Centre

The far eastern zone of the region, produces a lot less wine than the others, yet it is home to two of the region’s, (not to mention the country’s) most famous wines: Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé. South of Orleans, the first on the left bank, the latter on the right, these two AOCs produce some of the world’s finest Sauvignon Blanc wines. They are both have different characteristics from each other, and the quality of either remains unequalled elsewhere. As well as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir is grown and used for red wines (yet rarely do they gain the same complexity as Burgundy Pinot Noirs) and rosé. Finally Pinot Gris is used in other AOCs of the area, such as Reuilly, to also make rosé.

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