Loire Valley

An enormous amount of wine is created in this vast region, mostly white, but with a good deal of red too. Styles change as you follow the course of the river, according to the grape varieties planted and wine-making techniques practised. But the one thing all of these wines share is that they are made to display freshness and relatively high acidity, and rarely is oak used to ferment or age the wines.

 

The Loire, like Champagne, is close to the northern limits of commercial grape growing. Long, hot summers are the exception here rather than the rule, and the worry is always whether the grapes will ripen sufficiently. The relatively crisp style of most of these wines – white and red – contrast with the oaky, full-bodied whites and tannic, strong, fruit-driven reds from some other French and interntaional regions.

 

Geography and climate

 

The Loire valley covers a huge tract of land that follows the river from the Atlantic ocean near Nantes, all the way east and south almost to the Rhône. There is a huge variation in climate and soil. The Loire splits quite neatly into 3 separate sections: 

The western Loire, around Nantes, is the home of Muscadet. This is an area of low, sandy hills and the climate is cool.

 

In the middle Loirethings heat up a little, and the climate is mild with moderate rainfall. The west of this area has a tendency towards the noble rot, and is capable of making some great sweet wines.

The upper Loireis to the extreme northeast of the valley. A more continental climate, summers are hot but short. The soil is a mixture of limestone, sand and chalk, known as “Tufa”.

 

Grapes

 

    The Loire has a large number of different grape varieties, some of which dominate different parts of the region. They include: 

  • Melon de Bourgognedominates the western Loire, making Muscadet
  • Chenin Blanc which is the great grape of the middle Loire, with red wines made from Cabernet Franc
  • Sauvignon Blanc which is the star of the upper Loire. Reds are made from the Pinot Noir