The Loire Valley is home to thousands of individual producers and a number of Appellation d'origine contrôlée wine regions. It can be difficult to get to grips with. Regarded as the 'Garden of France', the region produces a great wealth of varied and versatile wines.
Home to the longest river in France (The Loire) the region is split into four key sub-regions, the climate is a mix from maritime in The Nantais, closest to the Atlantic, to continental in the Central Vineyards where the famous wines of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are made. This variety of climates and wine styles make it an exciting place for wine lovers to visit – we have picked out a few of our favourites from each key region!
At the eastern end of the Loire is Nantais where the main wine of the region is Muscadet, whose vineyards sprawl over the rolling slopes south of the city of Nates. Château du Cléray Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sue Lie is from one of the oldest estates in the heart of this region – a rich wine with great minerality, aromas of citrus and apple fruit and notes of lime blossom and mint.
To the west of Muscadet are the vineyards of Anjou-Saumur stretching 10km beyond the town of Saumur. Château de Fesles Chenin Blanc Sec Anjou is 100% Chenin Blanc from vineyards south of the Loire close to the River Layon. Just off-dry, with richness on the palate being balanced beautifully by the acidity.
Half way between Muscadet and Sancerre, some 200km from the sea is the region of Touraine. There are two main groups of vineyards; to the west is the red area of Chinon and Bourgueil, to the east the white wine vineyards of Vouvray. The most prestigious red wine of the Loire Valley is Chinon AC, produced around the town of the same name. The ancient vineyards of Chinon lie of slopes overlooking the Loire and are dominated by the medieval castle where Richard the Lionheart was once held captive on his return from the Crusades. Chinon, Les Morinières, Joseph Mellot is made from Cabernet Franc grapes, this chinon is medium-bodied with a vibrant fruity character and a delicate touch of vanilla-oak on the finish from brief barrel ageing.
Voucray AC is always white and is made from Chenin Blanc grapes. Vouvray, Domaine du Vieux Vauvert is medium-dry with a lively fresh finish and notes of lime & citrus blossom; made from Chenin Blanc grapes grown around the village of Vouvray. Touraine Sauvignon, Domaine Trotignon from close to the city of Touraine, is made from the most famous of Loire grapes (Sauvignon Blanc); it is zesty, gooseberry-scented with a dry, crisp finish.
And finally, at the eastern end of the Loire Valley, furthest in land are the Central Vineyards. The small appellation of Menetou-Salon is just under 500 hectares. It is adjacent to Sancerre and like its better-known neighbour, it too is planted with Sauvignon Blanc. Menetou-Salon, La Bardine, Joseph Mellot is planted on Kimmeridgian limestone soil, very similar to that of Chablis, and similar minerality notes can be detected in this wine. The villages of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé face each other across the Loire. The cool climate results in dry white wines with high acidity, medium body, with moderate or pronounced aromas. These wines are usually more restrained than Sauvignons from New Zealand, but still have varietal green fruit and herbaceous notes (gooseberry, grass, blackcurrant leaf, nettle), often with a hint of smokiness that many associate with the soils here, which in parts are similar to those of Chablis.
Sauvignon Blanc grapes from vineyards on the region’s three different soils – flint, chalk and pebbles (cailloux) are used to make Sancerre Blanc, Domaine Vacheron. Flowery, fragrant nose redolent of gooseberries; dry on the palate, light by firmly balanced. Patrick de Ladoucette is the sixth generation of the family associated with the well-known Pouilly-Fumé, de Ladoucette. It's still the benchmark by which all other producers are judged.