As regards to wine, the Loire Valley can be described as a long, thin region that produces crisp, dry whites on either end, but has fuller, fatter wines in the middle. This is the home of Sauvignon Blanc and is the only wine region in the world that specializes on Cabernet Franc.
The Loire River is the longest in France. From it's origins in the Cevennes Mountains flowing to the Atlantic through the city of Nantes, just south of Normandy, it is over 650KM long. The Loire River and its tributaries are the source for quality reds, whites, sparklings and dessert wines. Due to the size of the Loire Valley, There is a wide range of soil compositions, climates and grape varieties being represented by four major districts:
- Pays Nantais- Muscadet Country. Western most region and closest to the sea. Home to Sevre et Maine, its most important district.
- Anjou-Saumur-A micorcosm of the Loire Valley. You will find every style produced here from dry to sweet, red to rose to white and sparkling.
- Touraine- Surrounding the village of Tours, this region is known for its red wines (Chinon) and some great whites (Vouvray & Cheverny) Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc hold court here.
- The Central Vineyards (being toward the center of France, not the Loire Valley)- Sauvignon Blanc rules the roost and is home to appellations such as Sancerre.
To know the Loire is to know what grape comes from where since the French are more about putting the dirt on the label than the grape. It's a pride thing. The principal grapes are:
Used to make white wines, it is the Loire's most important grape due to its abundant natural acidity and high sugar content. Combined with the chalky soils of the Loire, Chenin Blancs acidity makes for great sparkling, still and dessert wines.
Aromas: Honeysuckle, Floral, White Flowers & Honey
Flavors: Orchard fruit, Quince, Melons (cantaloupe & honeydew)
Areas: Saumur, Quarts du Chaume (dessert), Savennieres, Touraine, Vouvray
Originally from Bordeaux, this grape is sometimes called Fume Blanc for it's slightly smoky aromas. This green-skinned grape has a high acidity and a light body that is used to make dry white wines as well as some dessert wines. Sauvignon Blanc is also one of the few grapes that pair well with asparagus.
Aromas: Grass, Hay, Grapefruit, Gooseberry, jalapeno or green pepper
Flavors: Grapefruit, Pears, Peaches, Bell pepper
Areas: Touraine, Cheverny, Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, Quincy
Cabernet Franc is the father of Cabernet Sauvignon...can you guess who the mom was?(hint: you just read about it). This red grape is an unsung hero of many blended wines. as Cab Franc (familiar form) is used as a smoothing agent for more difficult, tannic wines. A thin skinned red grape that has gained popularity as a single varietal in places like Chinon.
Aromas: Plum, Currant, Freshly snapped young branches
Flavors: Raspberry, Blueberry, Plum, Dusty Fruits
Areas: Chinon, Saumur- Champigny, Bourgueil, Monlouis
Muscadet (aka Melon de Bourgogne)
Muscadet is really the name of the region, but since this grape pretty much only grows here, it is synonymous with the grape 'Melon de Bourgogne'. This grape bears no resembelance with Muscat or any sweet wines, in fact this grape is almost completely the opposite, except for bearing white wine. This wine is traditionally vinified sur lie, on the lees: a term meaning aging on the deposit of dead yeast that enhances complexity, that impart a yeasty roundness to the wine while preserving the signature lively acidity.
Areas: Sevre et Maine (closest to the sea)
Thanks for listening.