10 Key Facts About France’s Loire Valley Wine Region
Last Updated on September 23, 2023.
Most of us know France as being one of the premier wine-growing countries in the world. Between world-renowned appellations such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and the Rhone Valley, it’s easy to forget that there are dozens of other amazingly flavorful and beautiful wine regions elsewhere. One of those is France’s Loire Valley Wine Region.
- There Are Over 87 Sub-appellations Within the Loire Valley
- The Loire Valley Region is Best Known for its Fruity-style White Wine
- Loire Valley Wine Quality is Regulated by France
- The Loire Valley is Well Known for its Sauvignon Blanc
- Chenin Blanc Production is Also Fantastic
- Crémant Production in the Loire Valley Makes it France's #2 Sparkling Wine Producing Region
- The Loire River is the Longest River in France
- The Loire is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- The Loire Valley Holds Over 100 Castles Across its Landscape
- The Loire's Cool Climate is Key to the Success of its Wine
- Book a Loire Valley Wine Tour or Castle Tour
- Frequently Asked Questions about Loire Valley Wine
It’s here that the second largest concentration of sparkling-wine producing vines in France lay under the crisp northcentral sun, yielding Crémant produced using the traditional method.
Let’s dive into a few amazing facts about the Loire Valley that will inspire you to visit and taste the wines that exemplify the terroir from which they became so beautiful…
There Are Over 87 Sub-appellations Within the Loire Valley
It’s a pretty big place, and each sub-appellation is unique in its own right and produces different styles of wine that resemble its terroir. The Loire is essentially divided into 4 different regional territories — Pays Nantais, Anjou, Touraine, and Centre. Within each of these 4 regions, a much larger number of sub-appellations exist.
Below, we’ll highlight some of the major and most beautiful wine-producing regions throughout the Loire.
Key Loire Valley Wine Subregions
Touraine, which also encompasses the sub-sub-appellation of Vouvray AOC, is perhaps best known for its Chenin Blanc production. Chenin Blanc in Touraine is known to locals as Pineau Blanc de la Loire. Sauvignon Blanc is also produced here and sometimes blended. The region has been an official AOC since 1939 and also produces a variety of red wines (especially Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Gamay). Rosé wines are also produced.
This is one of the most interesting wine regions to discuss when it comes to white wine. Why? Well, Vouvray is laser-focused on producing Chenin Blanc. But it’s not just the focus on the Blanc’ that makes it worth discussing. It’s the traditionally high acidity that’s present in most Vouvray wines. In some cases, Chenin Blanc from Vouvray has been known to age as long as 100 years. The acidity is so conducive to aging that this special white variety can outlive us in the bottle.
Muscadet on the western end of the Loire Valley plays host to 3 main regional sub-appellations that grow the Melon de Bourgogne grape variety. Initially described as Muscadet as early as 1939, wines produced from this grape were said to have had a musky aroma and or flavor associated with them, though many modern wine experts aren’t fans of this blanketing description.
Wines from the Muscadet region of the Loire are made of varying qualities. Muscadet AOC is the most general designation for wines from the region, and they are typically the most basic.
The 3 main regions of Muscadet are:
- Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine
- Muscadet-Coteaux de la Loire
- Muscadet-Côtes de Grandlieu
Winetraveler Tip: If you’re scouting wine from this region, premium producers label their wines with their vineyard or village designation. It’s best to look for wines labeled based on their specific village, as opposed to the entirety of the AOC. This ensures that you’re buying higher quality, more terroir-driven wines from the region.
Located southeast of Orléans, Sancerre is a well known Loire Valley appellation. It’s positioned across from the other noteworthy appellation of Pouilly-Fumé on the left bank of the Loire River.
Sancerre is best known for its Sauvignon Blanc production, with about 20% of the Loire’s Pinot Noir coming from the region as well.
A Winetraveler personal favorite from the Loire, Pouilly-Fumé wines are some of the most sought-after dry white wines in the world. Since France tends to label their wines after their regions, more so than grape variety, Pouilly-Fumé is actually Sauvignon Blanc that only compares to its regional rival, Sancerre, just across the Loire River. It’s traditionally dry wine and exhibits citrus, mineral and tree fruit tones in addition to a gun-smoke aromatic nuance (Hence: Pouilly-Fumé).
Although Anjou wines are best described as wines produced not far from the city of Angers, due to its proximity to Saumur the appellations tend to be described as one. Anjou is probably best known as being one of the most diverse sub-appellations in the Loire given that its lack of a laser focus on a particular grape variety might be its most noteworthy quality. Anjou dabbles in everything. From dry Chenin Blanc, to botrytis-infused sweet wine and Rosé, Ajou serves as a broad example of the potential styles of wine that can exist throughout the Loire Valley.
Located literally in the heart of the Loire, Chinon is adequately placed along the banks of the River Vienne, with the majority of its vine plantings situated along steep terraced vineyards. A tad bit of an anomaly, the best-known wines from this region are red. Cabernet Franc to be exact.
Chinon is home to a number of vineyards that produce Cabernet Franc in earnest along rocky, terraced plottings, in addition to Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Rosé wines are produced with Cabernet Franc and up to 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Chenin Blanc white wine is also produced in Chinon.
There are many more sub-appellations within the Loire Valley that are worth discussing but not mentioned here. These are the most critical to know. Have a question about somewhere else in the Loire? Please feel free to ask us in the comments.
The Loire Valley Region is Best Known for its Fruity-style White Wine
As we’ve already mentioned, grape varieties and styles of production vary widely across the Loire Valley. However, it’s perhaps the fruity-styled Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc that have caught the attention of the global wine consumer.
Regardless of whether you’re sampling a sweet, botrytis-derived dessert wine, or a classically produced dry Chenin Blanc from Vouvray, there’s no doubt that the dominant aroma and flavor on your tongue will be comprised of citrus, tree and/or stone and tropical fruit. It’s this distinct fruity flavor and aroma that attracts hundreds of thousands of wine consumers vintage after vintage.
Loire Valley Wine Quality is Regulated by France
So you know it’s good. Not unlike other famed appellations such as Alsace, Bordeaux, Beaujolais and Bourgogne (Burgundy), the Loire Valley adheres to the regulatory standards enforced by France’s Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC for short) enacted by the Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité (INAO for short).
While the AOC designation carries the most weight in terms of quality in the Loire Valley, wines may also be labeled as Vin Délimité de Qualité Superieure (VDQS) and Vin de Pays indicating slightly less restricted regional and Terroir-related production practices.
The Loire Valley is Well Known for its Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc production throughout the Loire holds no higher regard than that which is produced within Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Pouilly-Fumé is not only known for its citrus and tree fruit flavors, but the vines are famous for the characteristic fog that occurs in the mornings throughout the Spring, Summer and Fall.
Chenin Blanc Production is Also Fantastic
The Loire Valley is well-known for producing premium quality Chenin Blanc. Some of the best in the world — although new world regions within South Africa are becoming very competitive.
While there are a number of sub-appellations that produce Chenin Blanc in the Loire, it’s probably both Touraine and Vouvray that are the most noteworthy.
In Touraine, Chenin Blanc is traditionally medium-bodied, un-oaked and off-dry. Fruit flavors vary, but expect predominant tones of tree, citrus and tropic fruit touches with some herbal tones.
Heading northeast slightly, we land in Vouvray. It’s here where Chenin Blanc styles are even more varied. Premium-quality dry, medium and even sweet Chenin Blanc is produced throughout the entire appellation.
Crémant Production in the Loire Valley Makes it France’s #2 Sparkling Wine Producing Region
While everyone’s busy doting on their favorite, Prosecco, Champagne or even Cava, savvy U.S. wine consumers may be dabbling in Crémant. Perhaps one of the Loire’s most underappreciated Sparkling White Wines.
There’s a good chance you can find a nice quality Crémant not far from your home for under 20 bucks.
Premium Crémant is produced from the dominant white grape variety of the Loire: Chenin Blanc. Though smaller concentrations of Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay may be used. Sauvignon Blanc is rarely incorporated in Crémant blends.
Premium Crémant from the Loire exhibits autolytic characteristics (lee-based flavors and texture), as a result of the traditional method of sparkling wine production. In addition to the Chenin Blanc flavors we discussed above, you can expect honeyed characteristics and a softer, higher viscosity/creamy texture in many Crémant wines.
The Loire River is the Longest River in France
The Loire River, which runs through much of the heart of the Loire Valley and helps deliver the wines of the region a unique minerality, stretches for more than 629 miles. While it may be the longest river in France, it’s only the 171st longest river in the world.
The Loire is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Yeah, so you weren’t sold on the Loire Valley yet? Maybe UNESCO can help you out.
Given the unique architectural heritage associated with the Loire Valley over the centuries, in conjunction with the location of the Loire River and its interconnectivity with the surrounding human culture and landscape, the region between two hillsides that border the river between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes-sur-Loire were designated UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2000.
The Loire Valley Holds Over 100 Castles Across its Landscape
Aside from the beautiful and quaint villages, sprawling vine acreage and healthy landscape, the Loire Valley also hosts upwards of 100 castles. A large portion of these “Chateaux” are located within the Touraine district of the Loire.
Both Clos Lucé and Ussé hold special historical significance given that the former happens to be the Chateaux where Leonardo de Vinci lived out the last 3 years of his life. Usse is said to be the inspiration for Charles Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty.
Other famous Chateaux’s include Châteaux d’Amboise, de Villandry, Chateau de Chambord and Chenonceau.
The Loire’s Cool Climate is Key to the Success of its Wine
Given the unique Northerly location of the Loire Valley, in addition to the substance and vitality afforded by the Loire River, the climate throughout the region is conducive to producing beautifully refined and concentrated Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc and regional plots of Chardonnay.
The climate in the region, in conjunction with its soil composition, allows grapes the ability to ripen slowly, uniformly and efficiently. Thus enhancing the ultimate flavor and aromatic concentration of wines produced throughout the region.
Book a Loire Valley Wine Tour or Castle Tour
Honestly, for a taste of luxury, exceptional wine, dramatic landscapes and architecture, #Winetravelers are encouraged to add the Loire Valley to their bucket lists. Below, you can schedule some of our top-rated tours this year. We’re currently offering 15% off any bookings through our website using code WINETRAVELER15.
Loire Valley Day Tour Chambord and Chenonceau plus Lunch at a Private Castle
Embark on an unforgettable journey to the heart of French château country, as you explore two of the most renowned castles in the Loire Valley on a day trip from Tours. Operated by À La Française, this tour will take you to the magnificent Château de Chenonceau and the awe-inspiring Château de Chambord, both celebrated for their exquisite Renaissance architecture and picturesque riverside settings.
Under the guidance of a knowledgeable and engaging guide, you’ll marvel at the ornate details of these iconic structures while hearing historical facts and amusing anecdotes about the French kings and other nobles who once called these castles home. What’s more, your guide will also reveal some little-known panoramic spots, offering you breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes.
As a bonus, this tour includes a relaxing lunch at a private, family-owned château tucked away from the crowds, providing you with an authentic and serene dining experience. Throughout the day, your guide will share insider tips and information, ensuring a truly memorable adventure in the enchanting Loire Valley.
Picnic in the Vines – A Unique Loire Wine Experience
Discover the splendor of the Loire Valley, renowned for its stunning châteaux and historic wineries, on a memorable tour from Chinon that perfectly blends the best of both worlds into an unforgettable lunch experience. Begin your journey with a guided tour and wine tasting at the charming Château du Petit Thouars, where you’ll delve into the secrets of Loire Valley wines.
After immersing yourself in the world of viticulture, choose your favorite wine to accompany a romantic picnic lunch, set amidst the idyllic backdrop of the lush Loire Valley vineyards. Vegetarian options are also thoughtfully included, ensuring everyone can savor this enchanting meal.
With a selection of departure times available throughout the day, this unique tour offers the ultimate combination of romance, history, and indulgence, providing you with a truly unforgettable Loire Valley experience.
Additional Recommended Loire Valley Wine Tours
- Loire Valley Wine Tour in Vouvray and Montlouis
- Day Tour of Chateaux of Chenonceau, Chambord & Caves Ambacia from Tours/Amboise
- Loire Valley Half Day Wine Tour from City of Tours : 2 wine tastings in Vouvray
- Loire Valley Day from Amboise : Azay le Rideau, Villandry and 2 Vouvray Wineries
Frequently Asked Questions about Loire Valley Wine
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