Sunday, July 25, 2010

Basking in the Vineyards of the Loire

Ever since I stepped into France to conduct my studies in Burgundy I had dreamt about visiting the Loire region and taste its great wines. Loire is one of the most interesting regions in France and is renowned mostly for its beautiful castles as well as for the vast portfolio of wines it offers. So, after browsing through the cascading vineyards of the Rhone I drove for 6 hours to taste Loire.

From bone dry Muscadet to sweet Bonnezeaux to sparkling Vouvray, Loire is truly a treasure to discover for any wine lover. I had the luck to stay in a refurbished 14th century house in Vouvray during my 4 day stay. I chose Vouvray because it logistically makes sense; close to Tours and in the centre between the great wines of Sancerre and Menetou-Selon to the East and the Anjou and Nantais to the West. Yet little did I know that to taste all these wines and visit all these sub regions I would need at least 15 days. So with my 3 days and a half I travelled and discovered as much as possible.

Loire is one of the most important sparkling wine regions in France production mostly around the villages of Saumur, Vouvray and Montlouis, particularly due to the tuffeau caves which are ideal for sparkling wine second fermentation in the bottle.

Travelling upriver towards the west of Loire reaching the village of Anjou, the well-known Rosé wines take the top place on wine lists in restaurants around the village. Of course most Rosé wines are not as sweet and unbalanced as many Rosé d’Anjou examples found on commercial markets, yet they are refreshing with some striking acidity which makes them perfect summer wines. Grolleau and Groslot varieties are used for the cheap, medium dry rosés whilst lately more Cabernet Franc and Gamay are used for the better quality wines.

Some of the best sweet wines in the world also come from this diverse region. The grape used for such heavenly wines is the Chenin Blanc, also known as Pineau de la Loire yet has no connections with the Pinot varieties of Burgundy. Giving a wide range of ripeness levels, this grape variety can produce more than 190 to 260 grams of sugar per litre. Bonnezeaux and Quarts de Chaume, the grand crus of Coteaux de Layon have the most favourable microclimates for botrytised Chenin Blanc grapes giving lusciously sweet wines. As these wines age they offer a rich bouquet with overtones of honey and apricot.

In between the towns of Tours and Anjou one can also admire the reds of this region coming from the village of Chinon. Here Cabernet Franc can also offer a variety of red wines depending from the soil composition the vineyards are planted on. The most important wines are endowed with a good portion of tannins which ensure a long life in the bottle and more complexities with age. I find it very hard to find good examples of Cabernet Franc yet with it green pepper nose its one of the most recognisable red wines of France.

Well, Loire has delivered all it promised; lovely castles reflecting their beauty along the Loire river and great long lived wines well-known for freshness and finesse.


  1. Hi Berenice,

    One of my favourite parts of France too and I have actually tasted some MARVELLOUS Cabernet Franc. Long fine tannins (which I love) and with brambly juicy fruit. Yum! It is 11am here and I'm getting thirsty just from the memory!

    I stayed in some wonderful old Chateaux and had a memorable visit to Gratien & Meyer, Saumur - from whom I ordered a container for my then employer, The Wine Society.

    Menetou-Salon is one of my all-time favourite whites, but alas, I have only been able to find it in Europe.



  2. Thanks for your great feedback Richard.. Always great to share similar wine experiences amongst friends!! :)))