Loire Valley Wine Region

Close to Nantes in Western France is the Loire Valley wine region, which is one of the most picturesque winemaking regions in Europe. The narrow, but wide region follows the Loire River, as 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 affirm that as long ago as 380 AD reds were made in the adjacent hills and whites were fermented on the riverbanks.

The climate varies significantly over this wide region, with mild Atlantic winter and summer weather 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 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 Loire valley wine region, 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 Cabernet Franc.

And on the right bank of the Loire river, close to Tours do not 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 5,000 acres.

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 is reported to have been enjoyed by King Henry II of England. However, the commoner can also enjoy the oak aged whites. With fifty-five million bottles produced from land covering 22,000 acres, there is no fear of running out.

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. The 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. It is 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.