|Castle in the Loire Valley|
The Loire Valley is about a 1.5 hour drive south of Paris and stretches 800 km (approx. 500 miles) from the east in Sancerre to the Atlantic Ocean. It is the longest wine region in France. With a continental climate, the vineyards are greatly influenced by the effect of the Loire River and the Atlantic. They have a special soil called “tufa”, which is a type of soft yellow limestone. Many of the castles and caves of Loire are made from this stone, and it can be found in many vineyards along with some clay and small pebbles.
Grape Varietals and AOC in the Loire Valley
The signature white grapes of the Loire Valley are Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc, whereas the signature red grape is Cabernet Franc. However, other varieties can be found here as well including Muscadet, Gamay, Grolleau, Chardonnay, Malbec, and others. The Loire Valley is the largest white wine producer in France, with 52% of their production being white and 26% red. At this time, there are 63 AOC’s in the Loire.
Number of Wineries and Vineyard Hectares
According to the Vins Val de Loire (http://www.vinsvaldeloire.fr/ there are 7000 winegrowers, with many of these being small family producers. In addition, the Loire Valley has around 100 negotiants and 24 coops. The wine industry here provides 33,000 direct jobs for France.
The Loire produces around 400 million bottles (33 million cases) of wine per year making it the 3rd largest producing wine region in France. They have 70,000 hectares of vineyards. Annual wine revenues are 1.2 billion euros, of which 220 million is received from exports.
|Map of Loire Valley Wine Regions|
Sparkling Production in the Loire – Pettillant Vs. Mousseaux
Interestingly, many people may not realize that the Loire Valley produces a large amount of sparkling wine (cremant), and is the 2nd largest producer behind Champagne. Cremant wines in the Loire can be made from chenin blanc, chardonnay, and even red grapes such as gamay and cabernet franc.
Loire cremants are differentiated by the terms “Pettillant” and “Mousseux.” Pettillant is sparkling wine produced with less bubbles because less yeast and sugar is added to the bottle; whereas “Mousseux, which has double the number of bubbles (more similar to Champagne) has more yeast and sugar added to the bottle.
Sweet Botrytised Chenin Blancs
The Loire Valley is famous for its late harvest and botrytised Chenin blancs from such famous areas as the Coteaux du Layon and Vouvray. These amazing sweet dessert wines have exquisite acidity and can be aged for years.
Unique Loire Valley Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc
|Garden in the Loire Valley|
Cabernet franc from the Loire Valley tends to be lighter in color with raspberry, violet, and earthy notes. They are distinctive and delicious. Some of the best come from the AOCs of Chinon and Bourgueil.
In the far Eastern section of the Loire lays the famous hill town of Sancerre where they create one the most exquisite sauvignon blancs in the world. The nose smells like a field of spring flowers and grass, while on the palate notes of grapefruit and mineral shine through. Other regions known for sauvignon blanc include Pouilly-Fume and Touraine.
Loire Rose & Muscadet
The Loire Valley also produces different types of delightful roses that range from bone dry to fruity and slightly sweet. These are primarily made from cabernet franc, gamay, and grolleau, or sometimes a blend of these. They make a wonderful drink as an aperitif or a refresher on a hot day, and are reasonably priced.
White wines from the Muscadet region of the Loire near the Atlantic are crisp and refreshing. Made of the Melon de Bourgogne grape, but generally referred to as Muscadet, they are great with oysters and other types of seafood.
Great Prices for Loire Wine
In general, wines from the Loire are a good value, often ranging from $5 to $7 euros per bottle. However, some of the more serious cabernet francs from Chinon and Bourgueil or late harvest Chenin Blancs from Cote de Layon or Vouvray may be more expensive, but they are still a great deal compared to comparable wines from other regions of France.