The Loire Valley, near Nantes in western France,
is one of the most beautiful winemaking areas in Europe. A narrow, but wide
region following the Loire river, it meanders from Auvergne and the Massif
Central mountains to the Atlantic coast.
Vines producing wine grapes existed here as far back as the Roman invasion
into the Loire Valley. Historians assert that as long ago as 380 AD reds
were made in the surrounding hills and whites were fermented on the river
The climate varies considerably over this wide region, with mild Atlantic
weather winter and summer in the west, and cold winters and warm summers in
the interior area.
In contrast to Bordeaux where 75% of the production is red, in the Loire
three quarters goes to the creation of whites, with the main grapes being
Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon. Most of the remaining quarter of red is produced
from Cabernet Franc, with some Gamay and Pinot Noir.
Total production reaches 400 million bottles, the end product of grapes
grown in clay-limestone, siliceous and chalky soils. Types range from dry
whites to sweet, and rosé to fruity reds.
In the eastern part of the valley, around Pouilly and Sancerre, most of the
grapes used for winemaking are Sauvignon Blanc. These go into making the
delicious dry, white Pouilly-Fumé. The other bank around Sancerre produces
the robust, dry eponymous white.
Further west in the province of Touraine, one finds predominantly Chenin
Blanc, which forms the starting point of the fruity Montlouis. Also made
here are the glorious red Loire wines, Bourgueil and Chinon, mostly from
And on the right bank of the Loire river, close to Tours don't miss out on a
lovely dry Vouvray. The product of Chenin Blanc grown in clay infested
limestone and chalk, 13 million bottles are produced in the area on almost
Touraine's neighbor to the west, Anjou-Saumur, also produces a delectable
white from Chenin Blanc, famed for its smooth quality. Winemakers cluster
around Angers as they have since the 6th century. Famous for the Rosé
d'Anjou, it's reported to have been enjoyed by King Henry II of England. But
the commoner can also enjoy the oak aged whites. With fifty-five million
bottles produced from land covering 22,000 acres, there's no fear of running
Coteaux du Layon is the widest wine area of the Anjou region lying along the
Layon river where the vines are protected by the hills. Best known for a
sweet wine purported to be from a recipe 15 centuries old. Harvest here is
late, where the growers leave the grapes on the vines until they begin to
over-ripen. Nearly 7 million bottles are produced from 4,450 acres.
Last, but certainly far from least, we finish our tour with the well-known
Muscadet, which sits at the far west of the Loire Valley. Here is produced a
pale white, lovely in its dry, astringent taste. Best drunk when fresh and
young, by connoisseurs of any age. From its 31,000 acres of granite soil
rises vines which produce grapes that fill nearly 100 million bottles, so
take your time.
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