An overview of the Loire Valley wine areas !!!

If you have read my posts, you know I am a wine enthusiast of many many years and have diplomas from both France and Spain on wine knowledge courses. I do not write enough on wines as it is a heavy duty task and with many subjective tones. I like to stick to the easy subjects. Let’s give you an overview of the Loire valley wine areas !

And here is something at you ! If you drank a new wine each night, it would take you 8 years to drink your way through France. Lol!! I know ::)

The Loire river is 1000 km , is the longest and most powerful river in France. Not only is the backdrop to some of the country’s most startling beautiful landscape and architecture, it is also, the source of the widest possible variety of fine wines of every color and style. The Loire Valley  has about 65 383 hectares of vineyards or about 161 561 acres. It is home to more than 4000 wineries!

The Loire rises as a small stream near Le Puy in the Massif Central, Almost linking with the Rhône river but at the last minute and after 10 km it suddenly alters its course, to a westerly, and then northerly direction !  It continues north of the City of Saint Etienne and by Roanne ,the first grape vines begin to appear, the small area of the Côte Roannaise is just west of the City, Not far pass the Allier river which follows the course of the Loire for 400 km until finally merging near Nevers. It is here that the Loire becomes a really powerful river, It then becomes calmer, low banks and wide bends thanks to its many tributaries such as the Allier, Cher, Indre, and Vienne, the Loire is well fed becoming wider broader while the silt turns the water brown. The Loire is more powerful from late Autumn to early Spring, which is why Henri II ordered in the 12C dykes built to protect the villages,

The first important wine area is at Pouilly-sur-Loire about 40 km north of Nevers and diagonally across is Sancerre, The Loire reaches its most northerly point at Orléans where it turns southwest into the glorious towns of Blois, Tours, Angers, and Nantes, and the vineyards of the Touraine, Anjou-Saumur, and finally Muscadet just before reaching the Atlantic ocean.  Unwelcome visitors such as the Vikings penetrated as far as Orléans using the Loire river in the 9C, Goods transported down the Loire was wine to England, and Holland, Even as late as the 19C wine was still carry out by boat on the Loire ; it has been confirmed that in 1834 as much as 19K flat bottom boats were in use,however, the locomotive put an end to this way and nowdays the cruises and pleasure boats prefered the use of side canals than the Loire often dangerous undercurrents.  The Loire valley is most vivid in May and June when the foliage is tinged a fresh green and the flowers are in bloom,however, despite the area natural beauty, the most important features of the Loire Valley is not the landscape nor even the wines but instead are the châteaux, The French have a saying, the Loire is a queen, and the kings have loved her,

It is about 350 km from Nantes to Pouilly-sur-Loire, following the course of the Loire the distance is much larger, In general, white grapes tend to ripen more easily than the red grapes, they are sometimes picked early for a light fresh style as in Muscadet but they can be picked late November to produce sweet wines such as Vouvray and parts of Anjou. Most of the estates in the Loire valley are small to medium sized, Some of the most important negociants are in Saint Hilaire Saint Florent a suburb of Saumur, Elsewhere, large companies are active such as in Muscadet and Touraine,In some production comes from cooperatives such as the Coteaux d’Arcenis and the Orléanais. In the red wine areas of Bourgueil, Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil, and Chinon , cooperatives rarely exist.

The Loire valley white grapes varieties are: Chenin blanc or Pineau de la Loire ; Sauvignon blanc ,Muscadet or Melon de Bourgogne , Chardonnay, Gros Plant or Folle Blanche, Pinot Gris or Malvoisie, and Romorantin,

The Loire valley red grapes varieties are :Cabernet Franc or Breton, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Malbec or Cot, Groslot or Grolleau, Pineau d’Aunis or Chenin noir,

The sections of the Loire valley for a road warrior ride with me are

The Pays Nantais ,until the 15C the dukes of Bretagne ruled here not the kings of France, as in Anjou and Touraine. The major difference is here they use Muscadet or aka Melon de Bourgogne , the second wine Gros Plant du Pays Nantais is produced from the Folle Blanche (also used for cognac and armagnac), The changeover from red to white here happened in 1709 when all the grape-vine were destroyed by severe frost, after one finally dominated called the Musqué de Bourgogne later called Muscadet , The region is like a broad fan south and east of Nantes with four districts Muscadet, Muscadet des Coteaux de la Loire, Muscadet de Sévre-et-Marne and the newest Muscadet Côtes de Grandlieu, Muscadet de Sévre-et-Marne is the largest with 85% of all vineyards,and best. To explore this area take the N249 south from Nantes, once over the Loire turn into the Haute Goulaine with an impressive castle (see post), Continue the journey along the D105 to Vertou, Then ,followed the D59 south you pass the point where the Sévre and the Maine converge and shortly after you reach Saint Fiacre. At La Haie Fouassiére you can stop by the Maison des Vins de Nantes.

The other great area is on the N149 to Clisson also continue to Mouzillon and Vallet,  (see posts) considered the capital of Muscadet You can take the D37 where you can reach Le Louroux-Bottereau where one of the rare statues of Louis XVI stands in front of the church, You can end the ride at Champtoceaux and continue to Arcenis. This is where the red wines appear on the Coteaux d’Arcenis made from Gamay and Cabernet Franc and whites from Chenin blanc and Malvoisie (aka Pinot Gris), There is a castle in ruins here (see post)

And you come into the Anjou which includes the district of Saumur, produces about a quarter of all Loire wines in different styles,The most fashionable red is the Saumur-Champigny and the least popular Rosé d’Anjou, In Saumur is ,also, an important area of sparkling wines in France, In Anjou there are about 25 appellations ! This area comprises the dept of Maine et Loire with parts of Deux Sévres and Vianne, You can take the D15 here to La Pommeraye within the Coteaux de la Loire appellation, whites with Chenin Blanc (aka Pineau de la Loire) from there take the D751 to Châlonnes sur Loire one of the oldest villages in the Anjou, Here the finest Coteaux du Layon are done in villages such as Beaulieu, Chaume or Bonnezeaux, Also, great towns and wines here from Doue la Fontaine this is by the D84 and a good starting point for Montreuil Bellay or Saumur (see posts).  Along the D232 runs to Brissac-Quincé and more castle/wines (See post).

At Savenniéres just near Angers crossing the Loire near Rochefort sur Loire with excellent whites chenin blancs and the famous Coulée de Serrant, And onwards to the wines of Saumur as red been the more prestigious Saumur-Champigny with Cabernet Franc with or without Cabernet Sauvignon,Whites are best from Saumur Blanc and sweet from Coteaux de Saumur, And the most widely produced sparklers in France seek the Saumur Brut or Crémant de Loire, You come to Saint Hilaire Saint Florent where the Belgian Jean Ackerman became the first person to do sparklers the same way as Champagne,in 1811, Also, seek the Bouvet-Ladubay sparklers, Worth going to Montreuil-Bellay, Near at Le Puy Notre Dame see the church that houses a silk sash allegedly belonging to the Virgin Mary brought back from the first crusade, Continue into the Château de Brézé (see post) with great wines as well, Nice to visit is Candes Saint Martin (see post) ,and finally reach Fontevraud l’Abbaye founded in 1099 and its four tombstones of Plantagenet queens and Richard the Lion Hearted,

And you are now in the Touraine,the former province of Touraine is now made up of departments Indre-et-Loire along with parts of Loir et Cher and Indre. The large area extends from just west of Chinon where the Vienne river flows into the Loire to Blois 12 km east, The City of Tours formed the middle point, More than the Loire valley as a whole, the Touraine is referred as the garden of France because of its numerous forests , green valleys, orchards, and fertile agricultural land, Wine has been made here for centuries , a pioneering rôle was done by Martinus of Tours who later became Saint Martin, He took up winegrowing after his donkey cut off some grape leaves, the remaining bore more fruit and so the importance of pruning was discovered,Today, Touraine produces the most varied and fascinating array of wine of the entire Loire Valley.

Coming from Fontevraud l’Abbaye take the D751 to Chinon (see post) The wines of Chinon are mainly red from cabernet Franc, They rank among the best red wines of the entire Loire Valley,You can take the road D21 between Cravant and Penzoult the road is full of vineyards ! We love them and stayed as base in the Île Bouchard, (see posts). Along the D749 to La Diviniére you have the birthplace in 1494 of Rabelais his house is now a museum, You go my neighborhood in Bourgeuil on the D749 ,the cabernet franc is said to be planted here since 1100, here as the grape came from the port of Nantes it was called Breton while others claimed was brought to the Loire in 1631 by Cardinal Richelieu steward an abbot named Breton, The only other grape is the Cabernet Sauvignon, Next door Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil is smaller area but less tannin.

Crossing over to Touraine Azay le Rideau over the Loire river on the D751 from Chinon, the smallest of the Touraine village appellation,Here is dry rosé and white wines, Reaching Tours is for administrative reasons not much wine here me think , But do gamay and Cabernet Franc and the Touraine tradition blend of Cot (aka Malbec), and white wines from sauvignon Blanc or Chinon Blanc (aka Pineau de la Loire), and there is some sparklers, Take it at Chenonceaux the town (see post) and a bit further Montrichard where the Church Sainte Croix married Louis XII to Joan of France in 1476 later to leave her for Anne of Brittany, Later taking the D114 you passed by Chaumont sur Loire (see post) where both Catherine de Médicis and Diane de Poitiers lived, By this area on the road D7 you can reach the remarkable Château of Villandry (see post) About 20 km and you reach Rigny-Ussé and the fairy tale castle which inspired Charles Perrault to write The Sleeping Beauty in 1697 (see post), Back towards Tours you can reach Langeais (see post) following the Loire river you reach Luynes and its castle and along the D17 you reach Montbazon along the Indre river, Here was made the Le Noble Joue originally made as far back as the 15C comprising Pinot Meunier Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir that king Louis XI drank !

We reach Vouvray this is best for sparklers but some good whites can be found,The only grape is Chenin Blanc, You reach the little known but good Montlouis until 1937 they were included with Vouvray now apart they produce good sparklers too as picturesque as the town of Montlouis sur Loire, Coming into the small area of Touraine Amboise (one of my house wines) wines a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cot (aka Malbec) and Gamay, the whites are similar to Montlouis and Vouvray, The main cuvée are often referred as François I, You come over to Amboise of course but also across the Loire into Limeray where my winemaker is located,Domaine Dutertre, (museum in property too) as well as ruins of a Cistercian abbey dating from 1209,(see post).  The area of Touraine Mesland is bigger but less atractive me think.

We reach the Orléanais (Orléans) less wines more history and architecture as you are in the northern parts of the Loire river, You have a succession of wonderful towns like Blois, Cheverny and finally Chambord,(see posts) The whites of Cheverny are not bad at all and good quality/price ratio, If you continue on the N460 and D60 you reach the Upper Loire and Berry areas, a very large wine area with Gien, Sancerre,(see post) and Pouilly, and onwards into Quincy, and Reuilly, Around here you have the nice town of Bourges (see post), Not far from Gien you have the Coteaux du Giennois the Loire’s smallest wine area mainly reds from Gamay and some Pinot Noir better quality the whites from Sauvingon Blanc and Chenin Blanc, Better go on along the D955 to Sancerre , the best known wine and most produced of the Upper Loire, The main grape here is Sauvignon Blanc, and the only other grape is Pinot Noir for reds and rosés, If you go on the road D923 you go to Chavignol and try one wonderful goat cheese the Crottin de Chavignol, Finally, reach Pouilly-Fume facing Sancerre over the Loire river and another Sauvignon Blanc stronghold, Pouilly-Fume is usually fuller and firmer than Sancerre, Pouilly sur Loire is made from Chasselas grapes planted from the 19C starting as table grapes.

At Menetou-Salon on the D955 between Sancerre and Bourges you have this small wine area using Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir similar to Sancerre in whites but cheaper, You arrive at majestic Bourges on the D11 and then D940 from Menetou-Salon, Bourges has the largest cathedral and crypt in France (Saint Etienne or St Stephens), Leave Bourges on the D27 along the Cher river to Quincy, famous in the 14C not so much today, The only wine is of Sauvignon Blanc and good price/quality ratio, Along the D20 from Quincy you reach Reuilly not much to see but the wine is pretty good, An exquisite rosé made from Pinot Gris also a white from Sauvignon Blanc and a red from Pinot Noir, And did I told you about Valençay (see post) from Reuilly go on the road D28 cross the autoroute A20 and continue on the D68 to Graçay, stay on the road to Orville, where it becomes the D16 and follow it to Poulaines, here turn into the D960 to Valençay,The wines are mainly reds from Gamay aside other add on such as Cot (aka Malbec), Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc./Sauvignon,The whites can have Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc,The main wine area is at Meusnes not far from a good goat cheese we like Selles sur Cher.

There you go folks, this is done over a period of time and sometimes repeated, my way of out into the wonders of my belle France. Wine is it, and the Loire Valley close to me has abundant wonderful liquids to satisfy the most picky drinker in the world. You ought it to yourselves to rent a car or drive your car into this heaven , that is the Loire Valley and its wines. Hope you have enjoy the post and the ride and see you around these vineyards Salut !

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all !!!

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