The Loire valley is the most diverse wine region in France. It stretches along the Loire (the longest river in France) – and its location is an important place to start as it helps us understand how this area of France is able to produce such varied styles of wine.
The Loire Valley is also known as the “Garden of France” – green landscape from central, inland France to estuary on the Atlantic Ocean.
Rosé de Loire
Rosé de Loire is one of those blanket appellations that cover a very large production area and, subsequently, a wide range of quality. In this case, Rosé de Loire can be made anywhere in the Loire Valley’s Anjou and Touraine wine regions, as long as permitted grape varieties are used. Varieties making the cut include: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, some Gamay and Pineau d’Aunis and Grolleau, which are varieties primarily used in the Loire region.
Most of the Rosé de Loire comes from Anjou, are generally easily enjoyed for their freshness and their affordable price points. They’re dry winesbut can sometimes be off-dry, and they’re perfect-for-summer wines meant to be served chilled.
Crémant de Loire
The Loire Valley is one of only seven regions entitled to use Crémant on its sparkling wine labels. "Méthode traditionelle" is now the accepted winemaking term for sparkling wines. It requires the secondary fermentation to take place inside the bottle. Crémants are the finest wines made in this way. The ones from the Loire Valley, the Crémant de Loire, are usually made to a brut level of dryness.
Any variety grown in the Loire is fair game, but most are made with Chenin Blanc. The center of Crémant de Loire production is Saumur within the Valley, but it’s also permitted in the Anjou and Touraine districts.
It isn’t a grape. It isn’t a place. Rather, Muscadet is the name of a dry white wine made in the Loire Valley’s westernmost region. The name of the grape variety from which the wine is made is Melon de Bourgogne.
This hardy, frost-resistant grape variety has been brought into the region by religious monks back on the 17th century.
Since then, it has flourished in the soil and climate of the Nantes region.
The Atlantic influence really reflects in the dry, crisp and salty Muscadet wines, which makes them an exceptionally delightful pairing with seafood.
Touraine Sauvignon Blanc
It’s no wonder that wine tourism is a big thing in Touraine. In this area of the Middle Loire, where the picturesque vineyards are nestled between storybook castles, wine lovers discover palate-pleasing wines of every color, style, and price point. Plus, it’s only a couple hours southwest of Paris by car or train.
White wines from the pocketbook-friendly Touraine Blanc are mostly produced from Sauvignon Blanc and to some extent from Sauvignon Gris.
The Touraine region includes sub-regions such as: Touraine-Amboise (some white Chenin as well as reds and rosés), Touraine-Azay-le-Rideau (50% of these whites are made from Chenin and are either dry, off-dry or sweets), Touraine Chenonceaux (predominantly dry whites from Sauvignon Blanc), Touraine-Mesland (mostly red wines, the whites are dry and made from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay) and Touraine-Oisly (Sauvignon blanc dry whites only).
As one of the most ancient and important varieties, Cabernet Franc often fades in the limelight of its offspring; Cabernet Sauvignon. In comparison Cabernet Franc is often lighter, less intense and more aromatic.
It is often tasted together with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot - this mix is said to utilize the grape’s attractiveness. When going solo, Cabernet Franc produces tasty wines in cool and challenging areas. Cabernet Franc is the only grape for the Chinon AOC. In Saumur-Champigny, it must represent a minimum of 85% of the grapes. In the warm valleys like Anjou, its ripening gives the wine a more silky touch.
Although widely planted in the United States and in South Africa, Chenin Blanc attains its highest and most characteristic expression only in a one hundred mile stretch of the Loire Valley. Unlike any other grape except Riesling, Chenin Blanc can be vinified in a range of styles from austere, mineral, and refreshing to rich, honeyed, and sweet, and its versatility surpasses Riesling in that it also makes excellent sparkling wine.
Sweet wines can only be produced in those exceptional vineyards where shelter from wind and exposure to the sun create very particular conditions, but in other vineyards Chenin Blanc produces dry wines of the first quality. The wines of Savennières and the dry wines of Vouvray possess all the rich pungency of their sweeter occasionally aged in oak, the taste of wood is always restrained, leaving the character of the grape intact. This fruitiness, paired with the natural acidity of Chenin Blanc make these superb table wines.
Finally, Chenin Blanc is the primary grape for many of the Fines Bulles (or fine bubbles), the sparkling wines of the Loire Valley. Although other grapes may be added (according to the standards of the individual appellation) Chenin Blanc is almost always dominant in these delightful wines.