One of France’s longest rivers, although the main vineyard areas only start just south of Orleans, continuing along its length until it runs out into the Atlantic at Nantes. The climate is continental with the Gulf Stream warming the lower end; much north of here it becomes near impossible to make wine although English growers might dispute this. View our range.
Loire’s Great Variety Of Wine Style
There are a few delicate, fragrant, red wines produced along the Loire, but the area is best known for its whites. At the upper end, Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé (together with their less illustrious neighbours, Quincy and Reuilly) are made from Sauvignon Blanc.
Near Tours, Vouvray and Montlouis, where the tufa chalk soil gives the wines exceptional longevity, make their wines from Chenin Blanc. Close by, some of the finest red wines in the region are to be found, Bourgeuil, St Nicolas de Bourgeuil, and Chinon, all from Cabernet Franc. Saumur has a long tradition of making sparkling wines from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but has one classy red, Saumur Champigny, made from Cabernet Franc. There are some gentle dry whites and easy rosé wines (‘Cabernet d’Anjou’) made in Anjou, but its most original wines are the sweet Coteaux du Layon, Quarts-de Chaume, and Bonnezeaux, all produced from Chenin Blanc. Just across the river lies Savennières where long-lived generous white wines are made.
In the Loire Atlantique, the best Muscadet comes from the Sèvre-et-Maine region, and is often left ‘sur-lie’ (on the lees) in order to extract as much flavour as possible from the residue of the fermentation. Melon de Bourgogne, possibly a very distant relation of Chardonnay, is the grape variety used. Other, more commercial, Muscadet comes from vineyard land that carries the lesser appellation of Coteaux de La Loire.
Loire’s Grape Varieties
Sauvignon Blanc: a classic French white grape well liked for its aromatic, ripe gooseberry style freshness. Planted widely throughout France. It makes some of the best dry white Loire Valley wines, in Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé; and in Bordeaux, in combination with Semillon and Muscadelle, it produces the fine wines of Sauternes. Has found fame in New Zealand, especially in Marlborough. It is grown widely in the New World, notably in California and Chile although in warmer climates, the varietal character becomes less pronounced. Generally a much sought after variety.
Chenin Blanc: an important wine grape grown extensively throughout the world. In the central Loire Valley this is the main white variety, making dry, sweet (conditions permitting) and sparkling wines. Especially successful in South Africa, where it was once called ‘Steen’. Thrives in California. Has a good acidity, making fresh, elegant, wines. Can also have a capacity for ageing.
Cabernet Franc: a fine variety which is an essential component in countless Bordeaux red wines, especially so on the right bank in St Émilion. Also grown in the Loire Valley where it has an attractive, lighter style. Much admired for its adaptability and class, it can be found in almost every red wine region in the world, often as part of the so styled ‘Bordeaux Blends’. Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, it is seldom seen as a single varietal. Has the dark, spicy, green peppery character of Cabernet Sauvignon but is a touch less austere.
Melon de Bourgogne: the variety used to make Muscadet in the Loire region of France. Thought to be a very distant cousin of Chardonnay although it demonstrates few, if any, of its characteristics. Now cultivated in the USA in Oregon. Produces zesty fresh wines.
Pinot Noir: the grape used to make the great red wines of Burgundy, which are some of the most sought after in the world. Also an important constituent of Champagne. Has been exported all over the world with varying results, but is having much success in New Zealand, especially in South Island. The Casablanca Valley in Chile makes increasingly good wines from Pinot Noir, and there some fine examples being produced in Tasmania. At best, this variety has pungency and delicacy with fine aromas. The finest wines benefit from ageing in oak and keep well.
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