When I think of the Loire Valley, I immediately think of Chenin Blanc and Rosé. I know that if there’s Rosé in the Loire Valley, there’s got to be red wine there too. But truth be told, I can’t think of what red wine grows there. Time to do a little Google research to figure things out. Thank you to LoireValleyWine.com, WineFolly.com and WineTraveler.com for their help with this article.
The Beauty of the Loire Valley
This writeup from Fodors is so beautiful that I had to share it. “A fairy-tale realm par excellence, the Loire Valley is studded with storybook villages, time-burnished towns, and—bien sûr—the famous châteaux de la Loire. These postcard staples, like Chenonceau and Chambord, seem to be strung like pearls across a countryside so serene it could win the Nobel peace prize.” Oh boy, do I want to go there!
When You Think of Loire Valley, Think of Fruity White Wines
The bulk of the wine produced in this region is white. The region is known for its fruity-style whites. According to WineTraveler.com, “Regardless of whether you’re sampling a sweet, botrytis derived dessert wine, or a classically produced dry Chenin Blanc from Vouvray, there’s no doubt that the dominant aroma and flavor on your tongue will be comprised of citrus, tree and or stone and tropical fruit. It’s this distinct fruity flavor and aroma that attracts hundreds of thousands of wine consumers vintage after vintage.”
More Details on Loire Valley Wine
The Loire Valley is in the northwest of France and is France’s most diverse wine region, actually containing five wine regions, each with many appellations (87 in total!):
- Pays Nantais, on the Atlantic cost of Brittany, is known for Muscadet, a bone-dry, light-bodied white wine not related to Muscat.
- Anjou, east of Pays Nantais, is celebrated for sweet wines made from Chenin Blanc.
- Saumar, a tiny region east of Anjou, is where you will find sparkling wine called Crémant (see below for additional information about Crémant) made from Chenin Blanc. In France, this region’s sparkling wine volume is second only to the Champagne region. Saumar also produces great Cabernet Franc.
- Touraine is east of Saumar and has a number of famous appellations, including Vouvray (see below for an interesting factoid). Touraine is best known for its Chenin Blanc, known to locals as as Pineau Blanc de la Loire. The region also produces Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Malbec.
- Centre-Loire is the tiniest Loire Valley region and the furthest east. Its name is derived from the fact that it is the center of France. Believe it or not, this region is the original home of Sauvignon Blanc. The region is also known for Pinot Noir.
An Interesting Factoid About Vouvray
The chenin blanc produced here is so high in acidity that some of the wines have been known to age as long as 100 years. Is that unbelievable? This past weekend, I got to taste a 52-year-old French wine that was well past its prime. Boy, would I love to try a 100-year-old wine that is still good. Wouldn’t you?
What Is Crémant?
After a lot of evolution, Crémant is now the term used to describe French Sparkling Wines not made in the Champagne region of France. At one point, Crémants were thought to be creamier than Champagne. But that isn’t the case any longer. Crémant is not restricted to the three Champagne grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.
I would love to hear about your experiences with Loire Valley wine, especially if you tasted it in France. Santé!
Chinon came to mind immediately, for me. I’ve found it a bit thin in the past, but it has improved in recent years — much the way that Spatburgunders have improved in Germany. (Before someone assumes that they’re made from the same grape varietal, they’re not. Chinon is made from Cabernet Franc and Spatburgunder is the German name for Pinot Noir.) Perhaps climate change accounts for some of the improvement. Try tasting near the town of Chinon; I think I last had it with dinner in Azay-le-Rideau. I don’t know that I’d call it a life-changing, cellar-worthy wine, yet, but it’s certainly nice to try.
Thank you so much for this suggestion. I will definitely be on the lookout for Chinon.