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The Lure of the Loire

The Loire Valley is my favorite wine region in France.  It’s first on my list of regions to visit because of the wide range of climates, grapes, and landscapes.  The region may not be as famous as Burgundy or Bordeaux to the regular wine drinker, but that’s why I love it- the wines are approachable to everyone. The valley is named after the Loire river, which is France’s longest river.  It’s the last section of the river where viticulture is important and where the four main subregions are located- Centre, Touraine, Anjou-Saumur and the Nantais.

Centre:

Ever heard of Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume?  Yah baby, this is where these wines are from.  The Central Vineyards region is located at the Eastern edge of the valley and is the smallest of the sub-regions.  However, I would say Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume are the most famous wines from the region.

The Sancerre AC is made up of 15 villages and the wine is made from Sauvignon Blanc.  Most Sancerre is high in acid and due to the high mineral content of the chalky, stony soil, the wine can contain notes of minerality and gunflint.  The vineyard area is small and so their can be a shortage in certain markets which can drive up prices up for Sancerre.  However, I think it’s totally worth it!

Pouilly-Fume AC is also made up of Sauvignon Blanc but with more gunflint notes and is very dry in style.  Unlike Sancerre where Pinot Noir is permitted for production, red wine production is not permitted in Pouilly-Fume.

Menetou-Salon AC is located Southwest of Sancerre and is not directly on the Loire river like Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume.  The area is gaining traction but is not as popular as the other two.

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Touraine:

Touraine is my favorite region in the Loire Valley because I love Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc.  Touraine is located pretty much in the center of the wine growing region of the valley.  Between the Centre and Anjou-Saumur, the weather here gives way to an early spring but the summers aren’t super hot or dry.  In the generic appelation of Touraine, you’ll find wines made from Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, and Malbec.

Vouvray is what I’m all about.  If you see a bottle of Vouvray, it must be made 100% of Chenin Blanc; no red wines are permitted. The thing I love about Vouvray (and Chenin Blanc in general) is its ability to be made in all different styles and to be delicious no matter what.  From slightly sparkling to full on sparkling to sweet or to dry, Vouvray (and all Chenin Blanc) is a go to white wine with food.  The tuffeau soils in Vouvray are full of marine fossils and very chalky giving rise to a wine high in acidity with nice minerality to it.

Chinon and Bourgueil is where you’ll find Cabernet Franc and at times some Cabernet Sauvignon.  You’ll almost always fine red wine although rosé is gaining momentum.  Depending on where the grapes are grown in this appellation will determine wether you get a lighter style wine or a bigger bodied wine.  If someone asks me if I’d like a Chinon, don’t be offended if I push you out of the way to get to it first.

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Anjou Saumur:

Moving west closer to the Atlantic Ocean, this sub-region has a maritime climate- warmer wet winters and dry hot summers.  You’ll find reds, whites, and rose produced here still with Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc.

If you like sweet wines, then you’ll want to check out the Coteaux du Layon.  Botrytis is present on the grapes adding body and texture to these sweet wines made of Chenin Blanc.  Don’t be fooled though, there is enough acid in these wines to be sweet and yet cleanse your palate so it’s not overly sweet like syrup.  In Savennieres you’ll also find late harvest Chenin Blanc without the presence of botrytis.  These wines have flavors of honey and minerals but still with high acidity.

In Anjou, you’ll find rose, still or sparkling.  Made mostly of Cabernet France and Cabernet Sauvignon and some Grolleau, the wines here are dry and refreshing.  You’ll also want to check out Anjou Blanc made from Chenin Blanc and having a reputation as some of the finest wine in the Loire Valley.

The Nantais:

I love oysters on the half shell.  Therefore, I love Nantais.  With close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, the climate here is maritime with short and mild winters and warm summers.  Melon Blanc or also called Melon de Bourgogne, is the grape used here and is often known around the world only as Muscadet, after the Muscadet AC.  The grape has an interesting history worth reading- read it here.  It’s the little grape that could in my opinion.  The wines have a briney quality with crisp acidity and minerality which make them the perfect pairing for oysters or any seafood.

The wines of the Loire Valley are some of my favorites and I hope you seek them out.  They are perfect for the spring and summer season with endless options of styles to choose from.  Pick up a Chinon for the Easter lamb, a Sancerre for Mother’s Day brunch, a Vouvray or Muscadet for a summer crab boil picnic.  Give us a shout, and we will get you a menu of wines to choose from.  You won’t be dissapointed!

For more information about the Loire Valley or for planning a trip to visit, click HERE.