An Intro to Loire Valley Wines
Located in central France at the midsection of the Loire River, the Loire Valley is a world famous wine region, though often overshadowed by France’s prestigious wine meccas of Bordeaux and Burgundy. This cool-climate region produces wines from Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Melon de Bourgogne, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, though it is probably best known for its Chenin Blanc (ranging from dry to sweet, dessert wines), with Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Gamay also commonly associated with the region.
Let’s begin your Loire Valley 101:
- The Loire valley covers nearly 300km of central France, running from east to west, and is broken into 3 sections in terms of winemaking – the Upper, Middle and Muscadet
The Lower, Middle and Upper Loire Valley
- Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are the most recognised districts here (probably in the whole of the Loire), producing Sauvignon Blanc – these wines are sharp, zesty, minerally, aromatic and quite dry – and are (as French wines are) labelled according to their district rather than grape
- Includes Anjou (producing sweet rosés, whites mainly from Chenin Blanc and reds from Gamay), Saumur (dry sparklings including Crémant de Loire and coveted the Saumur-Champigny, Chinon and Bourgueil Cabernet Francs), Touraine (producing mostly Sauvignon Blanc and Gamay as well as Montlouis and Vouvray from Chenin Blanc)
- Muscadet, what you can think of as the Lower Loire, is at the mouth of river near the Atlantic, produces some Chardonnay and Gamay, but is best known for growing Melon de Bourgogne – these whites are dry, lean, drinkable and fresh
- There are nearly 90 AOCs across the Loire; wineries were once run by small families who bottled on estate, but these days most of them are run by négociants or under cooperative style vineyards – as a result the AOC and labelling focuses on regions and districts rather than vineyard or producer names (compared to Burgundy)
There are nuances and variations within each of these regions and subregions, and as such there is plenty more to dig into in terms of discovering which varietals and from which areas you prefer. This is merely a start.
I’m particularly fond of wines from these region as they are pretty reliably crisp, light and fruity. Here are a few of my favourites, one from each section of the Loire:
Vincent Pinard Sancerre Flores