Souvenirs From France: Loire Valley Wine

While just about every part of France is beautiful, the Loire Valley region is perhaps the most incredible of them all.  Flower covered hills and valleys are home to over a thousand chateaux which magically weave the ancient past with the present and create an air of enchantment not found anywhere else on earth.  The area is perhaps best known for the exquisite fine wines that come from the countless vineyards which grow along a 300 mile stretch of the Loire River.  The Valley is divided into 5 regions, each with its own distinct climate and soils, providing an extensive 65 appellations that include every style of wine, from red, white and rosé to still, sparkling, sweet and dry.  There is no better way to experience and enjoy a little piece of the Loire Valley than through its wines.

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Wine regions

The Loire Valley is divided into five distinct regions:

  • Pays Nantais – Located near the city of Nantes along the Atlantic coast of Brittany, wine has been produced here since the Roman era.  The most popular variety produced here is Muscadet, a delicious seaside wine and the largest white wine appellation in France.
  • Anjou – Most of the wines produced in this region are of the sweet variety, including Coteaux du Layon, Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux which are made from Chenin Blanc.  It is also home to the dry Savennières, the delicious off-dry Rosé d’Anjou and the red Anjou, which is made from Cabernet Franc.
  • Saumur – This picturesque city is home to one of the most famous castles in France which was constructed with the same tuffeau limestone found in many of the vineyards throughout the region.  The underground tunnels that were produced as a result of the building of area castles and palaces are now used as cellars for the region’s Chenin Blanc based sparkling wines and the fantastic Cabernet Franc red wine Saumur-Champigny.
  • Touraine – Known as the “Garden of France” and famous for being the place where Joan of Arc persuaded King Charles VII to accept the French crown and defy the English, this region undoubtedly holds a place of significance in French history.  The wines produced here include such famous names as Bourgueil, Chinon and St Nicolas de Bourgeuil, made from Cabernet Franc, and Vouvray, made from Chenin Blanc.
  • The Centre-Loire – Named for its location as the exact geographical center of France, this region has been growing grapes for more than 2,000 years.  It is the original home of some of the most famous Sauvignon Blanc varieties of the Loire Valley including Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre as well as a superb Pinot Noir.

Styles of wines

The Loire Valley is by far the country’s most diverse wine region, producing wines of every known style, including:

  • White wine (crisp and dry or rich and aromatic)
  • Rose wine (dry or off-dry)
  • Red wine (fresh and fruity or rich and earthy)
  • Fines Bulles (“Fine Bubbles” – sparkling wines)
  • Sweet wine (“dessert in a bottle”)

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Each style of wine provides its own distinct flavors and can be paired with a variety of different foods to bring out their body and essence even more.

Largest appellation: Muscadet

The largest white wine appellation in France, Muscadet includes three of its own regional appellations:  Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire, Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu, and Muscadet Sèvre et Maine.  Unlike the other appellations that are named after their place of origin, Muscadet is named after the grape from which it is made.  It is another name for the Melon de Bourgogne grape, which was brought to the region from Burgundy centuries ago.

Each winery must have its wines approved by an official tasting board before it can use the Muscadet appellation and only wines which are produced and aged in accordance with the strict guidelines, may be designated Muscadet Sur Lie.  Additionally, only wines that are produced from the best vineyards are permitted to use the Sur Lie designation.   Muscadet wines are absolutely exquisite and are widely known for their excellent pairing with shellfish, oysters, and aperitif.

muscGiven its ideal location, right at the heart of France, the Loire Valley is one of the most beautiful and unforgettable places on earth.  Situated amidst rolling green hills and lying peacefully along the coast of the mighty Loire River, it provides the perfect environment for wine production.  With some 65 appellations which include every known style of wine and more than a dozen different varieties of grapes, the Loire Valley is perhaps the most diverse wine region in the world.  From breathtaking landscape to rich history to some of the finest wines the world over, the Loire Valley is beckoning.  So what are you waiting for?  Grab your glass and drink up.  Cheers!