Wines from Loire

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Loire-chenonceau-chateau

Val de Loire

 

Overview

Best known for its Sauvignon Blanc’s, from the appellations of the Central Loire. Sauvignon Blancs from Sancerre are known to be dry, racy and minerally while those from across the river in Pouilly-Fume are more full bodied and perfumed. Vouvray, near Touraine produces well respected wines from Chenin Blanc and fines-bulles, a sparkling wine made mainly from Chenin Blanc, is produced around Samur.

Location

Famous for its chateaux (actual castles rather than wine estates), the Loire Valley follows the Loire river, the longest river in France and has been designated a World Heritage area by UNESCO. The wine producing area stretches for 1,000kms, from central France 100km south of Paris, to the Brittany coast in the west. Again due to the size of the region, the geography and the wine styles are varied. It is the largest white wine region in France and the second largest region for Sparkling.

Climate

The northerly location of the Loire Valley means the weather can be cool, however the presence of the river and the Atlantic ocean to the west help to stabilise the climate. This results in milder winters  and warm but not hot summers. During harvest months the presence of rain can result in grapes being harvested early, meaning vintage can have a big impact on wine quality in the Loire. The rains can also aid in the development of Botrytis cinerea, needed for sweet wine production.

Major Varieties

Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc are among the most common white varietals, while Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are the most common reds. Different regions are famous for different varieties in the Loire.

Appellations

There are 63 appellations in the Loire, which can be best divided into three regions.

Central Loire

The Central Loire is the eastern most part of the region and contains some of its most famous appellations, such as Sancerre. Most Sancerre is white, 100% Sauvignon Blanc although there is a small amount of 100% Pinot Noir made. Across the Loire is Pouilly-Fume, also famous for 100% Sauvignon Blanc, where the clay soil is said to make the wines more full bodied than the lean, minerally Sancerres. Five lesser known appellations make up this region.

Anjou-Samur and Touraine

This area contains 49 AOC’s and produces the whole spectrum – white, red, rose, sparkling and sweet wines.

At the east of this region is Touraine, which yields red, white, rose and sparkling wines. Vouvray, the most well known appellation, produces both still and sparkling wine made from 100% Chenin Blanc. The appellations of Chinon, Bourgueil and St Nicolas de Bourgueil produce most of the Loire’s red wines, made from Cabernet Franc and considered a benchmark style.

West of Tours, the historic town of Samur is the centre for Fines-Bulles (fine bubbles), the sparkling wine of the Loire, made mainly from Chenin Blanc. Although six appellations within the Loire are entitled to use the designation, the Samur AOC accounts for nearly as much as the other appellations combined. Samur also produces still table wines, the whites made primarily from Chenin Blanc and the reds from Cabernet Franc.

Rose are the best know wines of the Anjou region, west of Samur, with appellations including Rose Anjou and Cabernet Anjou. Some of the best known sweet wines are also made in this area, such as Coteaux du Layon.

Pays Nantais

This region, abutting the west coast of France, is best known for Muscadet, the largest white wine appellation in France, made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape. Despite the appellation name, this wine has no relation or likeness to Muscat.