From Bordeaux to Rhône, France is overflowing with fascinating wine regions with iconic recipes. Loire Valley steps off the beaten path a little by favoring white wines over red.
Loire Valley was nicknamed the ‘Garden Of France’ for its lush trees and bountiful vineyards. Such a romantic result is thanks to the gentle climate of this region, as well as its proximity to Europe’s longest river.
Having earned its reputation centuries ago, Loire Valley wines today remain a compelling destination for wine drinkers due to their long history and commitment to drier white wine varieties.
Which wines of the Loire Valley should you try? We have a breakdown of the wines of the Loire Valley below along with winery and vintage suggestions to get you started.
An Overview of Loire Valley, France
Nestled in Central France, Loire Valley is named after the beautiful Loire river winding through it. Loire Valley is a broad designation that oversees two regions: Pays de la Loire and Centre-Val de Loire.
These two regions are further divided into subregions with different towns, communes, and wineries, which we’ll explore further below.
Loire Valley is home to so much history it can be overwhelming, right up to its protected historical towns such as Chinon and Tours. These locales are beloved tourist destinations for their connection to France’s roots, so consider adding a few to your travel list.
Loire Valley wines are frequently browsed by wine fans with a penchant for white varieties. Nonetheless, red and rosé fans will have a spectacle of wine portfolios to choose from.
Saumur-Champigny and Saumur are especially well known for growing Cabernet Franc, the Loire Valley’s most beloved red wine grape.
What is Loire Valley Famous For?
Loire Valley is the location of several historical sites. The Castle Of Chambord is the former hunting lodge for Francis the First, now a carefully maintained historical relic and popular tourist destination.
Then, of course, are Loire Valley’s hundreds of wineries and ancient wine cellars! The Troglodyte Wine Cellar was established back in the 16th century and can be browsed today by visitors.
What Wine is Loire Valley Known For?
The iconic wines of Loire Valley are white wines, particularly dry and acidic varieties. Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc are particularly popular, though the most recognizable is Pouilly-Fumé.
Pouilly-Fumé is an extra dry Sauvignon Blanc regularly produced in Loire Valley. This style is so respected it has earned the AOC label (short for Appellation D’origine Contrôlée).
What Kind of Wine is Pouilly-Fumé?
Pouilly-Fumé is not a wine grape, but a single origin Sauvignon Blanc made in Pouilly-sur-Loire in Loire Valley.
These wines often have very mineral and earthy aromas due to the unique soil and climate of the subregion. Terroir isn’t just a side detail: it’s the literal foundation of your drink!
The Subregions of Loire Valley
As stated above, Loire Valley is a pretty big location that doesn’t get into the nitty gritty of towns or districts. Below are the regions of Loire Valley you should know about before checking out wineries.
These regions are further divided into characteristic subregions with their own unique blends, winemaking styles, and histories.
Let’s get started with the Lower Loire, a maritime region characterized by its brisk winds and sandy soil. White wine fans will be in heaven with all the fresh seafood and delectable white wine pairings available here.
Lower Loire is fond of producing Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, though you can also find quite a lot of Chenin Blanc.
Famed for its robust forests and classical vineyards, Middle Loire is a dream destination for wine lovers. Sparkling wines and still reds are quite popular in Middle Loire due to the warmer weather.
Expect plenty of Gamay, Pinot Noir, and Malbec produced here.
While Sauvignon Blanc originated in Bordeaux, this grape is commonly associated with Central Loire for its sheer production volume. Sancerre is a subregion of Center Loire, with ancient roots in Roman viticulture.
Alongside brilliant Sauvignon Blanc vintages, you’ll also find a hefty volume of Pinot Gris and the rarer Sauvignon Gris.
Wineries of Loire Valley
With over a thousand wineries to choose from, Loire Valley is a deep dive that’ll keep even the most studious drinkers busy.
Below are a few wineries that create highly representative wines of this region.
Pierre et Bertrand Couly wants its visitors to know right off the bat how important terroir is to their creations. While all wine is made with respect to the soil and climate, this winery is eager to dive hard into the what and why.
Their wine portfolio is bolstered by a blend of sandy, limestone, and clay soil to give each grape its chance to shine.
Cabernet Franc is their favorite red grape, coming from several vineyards with different aging potential. You’ll also find Chenin Blanc and an unconventional red and white sparkling wine blend.
Sustainable winemaking is an ongoing process in a world largely reliant on pesticides and herbicides.
Domaine de Rocheville is keen on committing to traditional viticulture to protect the land and keep it viable for future generations.
With less reliance on chemicals and a focus on old-fashioned farming methods, Domaine de Rocheville is a winemaker with an eye on the future. Their portfolio has a particular emphasis on French staples like Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc.
Alongside bottling and selling wine, these winemakers commit to wine tourism and seminars to educate the world on their craft.
With a history stretching back to the 19th century, Domaine de l’Enchantoir is a step back in time. This wine estate focuses on Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and Chardonnay.
Domaine de l’Enchantoir received a rare distinction back in 2008 for its unique limestone and clay soil. Such commitment to specialized growing environments is a great first impression for wine tasting.
If you want a mixture of wine types, enjoy their range of still reds and whites alongside their natural sparkling wines.
The Best Wines of Loire Valley
Loire Valley is characterized by bone dry and highly acidic white wines. Due to their proximity to the ocean, they’re a prime location to bring out the best in French classics like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
If you want to indulge in your love of seafood and cheese, the following wines will be fantastic pairings. Likewise, their tendency toward tart and airy flavors makes these recommendations tasty aperitifs.
Chinon Blanc AOP Les Blancs Closeaux
Get started with Loire Valley wines by trying this 100% Chenin Blanc, a highly acidic wine that can lean more sweet or dry depending on the technique.
This wine has great aging potential and already comes with a few years on the bottle. Consider pairing it with grilled chicken or your favourite block of soft cheese.
Domaine de Rocheville Crémant de Loire
Do you crave a more celebratory wine? This extra-brut Chenin Blanc is fizzy and delicate, fantastic for those nights you want to enjoy the finer things in life.
Expect a nutty flavour and yellow fruit aromas from this vintage. Charcuteries, grilled meats, and fresh salads all pair well here.
Domaine de l’Enchantoir Chavannes Refuge 2017
If you want to try a Chenin Blanc with an aged, oaky flavor, consider this 2017 vintage from Domaine de l’Enchantoir.
Chilling white wine is a reliable way to bring out the more subtle flavors of pale fruit, flowers, and honeyed flavor notes. Try pairing this bottle with flaky white fish or an alfredo pasta dish.
Famille Bougrier Bougrier Pure Loire Rosé D’Anjou
If extremely dry white wines aren’t quite your thing, try this gentle and airy rosé from Famille Bougrier. With strawberry and floral flavor notes, this wine goes down easy on a hot day.
Like white wine, rosé tastes even brighter when chilled. Consider sticking your bottle in an ice bucket before serving.
Olema Sparkling Brut
A popular wine brand you may have seen from time to time is Olema, a signature California winery that also produces vintages from France.
This sparkling wine is crafted from Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay for a surprisingly candied result. With a creamy mouthfeel and sweet (but not sugary) flavour, save this wine for dessert.
Why Should I Try Wines of the Loire Valley?
Loire Valley is a never-ending sensation of history, artistry, and flavor. When you’re unable to see France for yourself, grabbing a few bottles from this legendary region is a solid replacement.
Loire Valley wines are unique for favoring dry white wines compared to the red wine-focused Bordeaux and Rhône regions.
Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and Chenin Blanc are popular white grape varieties grown throughout this area, though you’ll also find plenty of Chardonnay and white wine blends.
Trying wines from Loire Valley will expose you to pungent aromas and powerful flavors you literally can’t find anywhere else.
Want to learn more about French wine regions? Read our pieces about Bordeaux and Rhône.
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