• The Loire Valley

    Unlike the homogeneity of Bordeaux this second largest producing region is a wide diversity of soil and climate, wine form (reds, dry and sweet whites, rosés and sparkling wines) and grape varieties (Muscadet, Gros Plant, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay). The Loire Valley is generally divided to 5 sub-regions. The only commonality is that they are all found along the 1,000 km flow of the Loire River.
    The Atlantic Coast: The immediate surrounding areas of the city of Nantes produce a light dry refreshing white wine made from the grape Muscadet. The ‘freshness’ of the wine is a result of the method of production called ‘sur lie’. The ‘lie’ is the remains of the yeast used in the fermentation. It is being kept in the wine until bottling (in normal production the yeast is filtered out immediately after fermentation). The dying yeast continues to give out carbonic gas dissolved in the wine to give it the freshness. Muscadet wine should be drunk young and is considered a perfect companion to oysters (which are farmed along the Atlantic coast).

    Anjou and Saumur: This is a diversified sub-region with a great variety of sub-soil as well as mini-climates resulting in a prolific range of wines: light and full reds, dry sweet whites, dry and sweet rosés and sparkling wines too. The area is largely confined between the cities of Angers and Saumur. The top red is the excellent Saumur-Champigny issued of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Other reds come under AOC Saumur or Coteaux-de Saumur. The top whites come from Savenniéres just south of Angers. It is a white comparable to the best from Burgundy. Made from the grape distinct in the Loire Valley, the Chenin Blanc this dry honey and pear-scented wine is capable of aging. Other famous whites are the sweet wines of Bonnezeaux and Quarts-de-Chaume.

    Touraine: This sub-region is actually a continuation of Anjou-Saumur to the east up to the city of Blois. While Anjou-Saumur is under the influence of oceanic climates Touraine is torn between oceanic and continental climates. However the same varieties of wines and the varieties of grapes are found in these 2 sub-regions. The reds are mainly from Chinon and Bourgeuil. These wines are very similar as they are made majority from Cabernet Franc (unlike in Saumur). The wines are best drunk young but in a good vintage they can age up to 5 years. Touraine boasts 2 great names in white wines, those of Vouvray and Montlouis. These can be dry, sweet or even sparkling. The grape is again the Chenin Blanc.

    Central Loire: Up-river from the city of Blois to Orleans there are clusters of less important vine growing areas. Then after Orleans the vineyards give way to fields of cereals and animals until we arrive at Central Loire. Here we find a different landscape of limestone soil and micro-climates (continental) which is most favourable to express the infinite complexities of the grape variety Sauvignon Blanc which forms the basis of the great white wines of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé (some claim that they are the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world). There are some good red wines too made from Pinot Noir.

    Upper Loire: Centered round the city of Clermont-Ferrand the wines produced here are rarely found outside because the production is small and the quality middling. There are 4 appellations of which Côte-Roannaise and Côtes-d’Auvergne are better known. The reds are mainly made from Gamay and the whites from Chardonnay.

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