The Loire is a long storied, wine growing region that traces the Loire River which flows from east of Orleans out Angers and pours into the Atlantic Ocean. The valley has been occupied by humans for thousands of years with Roman Empire ruins and remains still visible today. The culture of the Loire toes the line between agricultural and high society. Who would have thought there was a line that would have connected the two? It is home to some of the most terroir driven wines in the world. With a somewhat unique trait of the valley being positioned east to west, the valley is able to offer a large range in microclimates. The region is essentially broken down into 4 different sub-regions.
The final sub-region is referred to as the Central Vineyards. It is here that you will find some of the greatest expressions of Sauvignon Blanc in the world. In the vineyards of Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre, Sauvignon Blanc is made in a bright refreshing style that will have you coming back for more, time and time again. In addition to these top-class white wines, Sancerre also allows for Pinot Noir to be grown. From Pinot, you see expressions of both red and rose wines. Typically there is a more ripe, fruit forward style that is more similar in style to the Pinot Noirs of Oregon than to those of Burgundy.
As you move westward and the temperatures start to rise, you see an explosion of diversity. As you get near the two largest growing areas of Anjous and Touraine the main focus is on Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc. That being said you will also find plantings of Gamay and Malbec (in the Loire it is called Côt). The diversity doesn’t just stem from the increase in varieties, you will also find wines made in just about every style as well. From Cabernet Franc and Gamay you will see red, and rose wines being made. From Chenin Blanc you will find dry, sweet, and sparkling wines, even within a single appellation such as Vouvray, you can find all three styles. These two sub-regions house a number of important appellations:
Touraine is sort of the wild west of wine in the Loire. You can find wines produced from almost any grape that is allowed in the entire Loire Valley. This gives producers a lot of room to play around with different varieties and styles of wine.
Possibly the most famous region in the world for Chenin Blanc production. They produce just about every style of wine from Chenin. From dry to sweet and even sparkling wines are allowed to use the Vouvray appellation on their labels. The best examples of sweet wines are known to be able to age for lifetimes.
The westernmost region in the Touraine region. This appellation is entirely dedicated to Cabernet Franc. Situated on the north bank of the Loire, these wines present a beautiful intensity that will provide years of potential cellarability.
Chinon is directly across the river from Bourgueil and is also largely focused on Cabernet Franc. There is a small amount of Chinon blanc that is produced from Chenin Blanc as well, this style is dry.
A very large growing region that houses mostly Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. The wines currently produced here are very quickly gaining international attention. A huge focus on organic grape growing and a general shift toward sustainability is proving successful for Anjou producers. These wines are almost always dry, even the few Chenins that do have a little bit of sugar still in them tend to be very food friendly.
Famous for its dry and off dry expressions of Chenin blanc, this region is home to a number of very important Monopoles formerly owned and maintained by Cistercian Monks
Sits directly across the Loire river from Savennieres. The climate here is significantly more humid allowing for Botrytis to grow more rampantly. They are famed for their dessert wines.
Finally there is the Atlantic coastal area that surrounds Nantes. It is here that Melon de Bourgogne finds its home in the Muscadet appellation. Melon does extremely well in the cold overcast climate that is local to the Atlantic shoreline. You can find extremely light and mineral wines meant for immediate consumption, and you can find wines that wineries have already aged in their cellars for the better part of a decade that show a richer fuller style of Melon. The one thing these two styles have in common, is their perfect pairing for shellfish. There isn’t much other representation of other varieties in this region, certainly nothing that has reached the acclaim that Melon has.
Of the highly regarded wine regions in France, it’s hard to find another that comes close to offering the diversity in wine styles that the Loire does. This may have to do with the East-West orientation of the valley, this may have to do with the long history of Agriculture in the region; the one thing that we can count on is that no matter what you are looking for in your personal adventure in wine, the Loire has something for you.
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