The Loire Valley is one of the largest wine regions in France, producing quality wines in many different varietals. Learn all about the fantastic wines and interesting history stemming from one of France’s most picturesque wine regions.
What is the Loire Valley?
The Loire Valley is one of France’s many wine regions. It’s also one of its largest as it runs along the banks of the Loire, the longest river in France. Running from the Massif Central in the East all the way to the Atlantic at Saint-Nazaire, The banks of the Loire and its tributaries are dotted with vineyards along the way. Due to its immense size, this wine region is home to 87 different appellations that are each also known for their distinct qualities.
Loire Valley Wine History
The Loire Valley boasts wine history dating back two millennia, with the first reported viniculture in the area coming from the Romans 2000 years ago. Since this time, wine has played an important role in both the culture and economy. While the French Revolution had devastating impacts on wine production in the region, it has long since bounced back, establishing a name for itself thanks to the production of a diverse variety of high-quality wines. In 2000, the Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes-sur-Loire was classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Noted for the quality of its historic towns and world-famous Châteaux, the Loire Valley is a place of special cultural significance for both France and all of Europe, thanks in no small part to the viniculture that has become intertwined with the region.
What Kind of Wines are Grown in the Loire Valley?
While the Loire Valley is home to an extremely diverse array of different types of grapes, wine production in the region is primarily dominated by four different varietals. Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne and Cabernet Franc comprise much of the production amongst the many appelations of the Loire Valley.
Sauvignon Blanc is likely the most famous and world-renowned varietal to come from the Loire Valley. Loire Valley Sauvignon Blancs are exuberant, bright, fruity, and clean. While flavor profiles might vary slightly depending on the appellation from which they come, the Loire Valley could be considered the home of Sauvignon Blanc, and the bottles produced in this region ring true to the citrus, acidity, and minerality for which Sauvignon Blanc is known.
Chenin Blanc is the most versatile grape used in the region and can be found used to produce sweet, dry, and even sparkling wines. Depending on the appellation, as well as the impacts of the growing season, you might find any one of these expressions from a given vintage.
Melon de Bourgogne
Melon de Bourgogne comes primarily from the region of muscadet and can scarcely be found elsewhere in the Loire Valley, Melon de Bourgogne is well known throughout France. Muscadet is located not too far from where the Loire meets the Atlantic, and you’ll find that a glass of this wine shares many similarities with the sea; both are crisp, lively, fresh, and stimulating. Look for vibrant notes of citrus amongst an otherwise dry expression.
Cabernet Franc tends to ripen early in the year, leaving it well suited to the slightly cooler climate of the Loire Valley. Cabernet Franc makes for an excellent counterpart to the wines noted above. Look for notes of tobacco, earth, spice, and berry in your next glass.
These are only the most popular varieties produced in the region; visitors will find countless different varietals growing along the river's banks and rolling hills, including Pinot Noir, Malbec, Gamay, and Romorantin.
Rich in history, culture, and viniculture, the Loire Valley needs to be experienced firsthand to truly appreciate the vintages that herald from the region. If you don’t expect to visit any time soon, a bottle of authentic Loire Valley wine might be the next best thing; one sip and you’ll find yourself immersed in the French countryside, Chateaus, and vineyards rolling over the hillside on the horizon. To find the best Loire Valley wine selection on this side of the Atlantic, visit our selection of Loire Valley wine.