Loire Valley (wine)
The Loire Valley wine region includes the French wine
French wine
French wine is produced in several regions throughout France, in quantities between 50 and 60 million hectolitres per year, or 7–8 billion bottles. France has the world's second-largest total vineyard area, behind Spain, and is in the position of being the world's largest wine producer...

 regions situated along the Loire River from the Muscadet
Muscadet is a white French wine. It is made at the western end of the Loire Valley, near the city of Nantes in the Pays de la Loire region neighboring the Brittany Region. More Muscadet is produced than any other Loire wine. It is made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape, often referred to simply as...

 region near the city of Nantes
Nantes is a city in western France, located on the Loire River, from the Atlantic coast. The city is the 6th largest in France, while its metropolitan area ranks 8th with over 800,000 inhabitants....

 on the Atlantic coast to the region of Sancerre
Sancerre (wine)
Sancerre is a French wine Appellation d'origine contrôlée for wine produced in the environs of Sancerre in the eastern part of the Loire valley, southeast of Orléans. Almost all of the appellation lies on the left bank of the Loire, opposite Pouilly-Fumé. It is well regarded for and primarily...

 and Pouilly-Fumé
Pouilly-Fumé is an Appellation d'origine contrôlée for dry white wine from the Loire Valley wine-producing region of France. Pouilly-Fumé is made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape variety. It is characterized by smoky flavors and minerality. The vineyards are located in the communes...

 just southeast of the city of Orléans
-Prehistory and Roman:Cenabum was a Gallic stronghold, one of the principal towns of the Carnutes tribe where the Druids held their annual assembly. It was conquered and destroyed by Julius Caesar in 52 BC, then rebuilt under the Roman Empire...

 in north central France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. In between are the regions of Anjou
Anjou is a former county , duchy and province centred on the city of Angers in the lower Loire Valley of western France. It corresponds largely to the present-day département of Maine-et-Loire...

, Saumur, Bourgueil
Bourgueil is a commune in the Indre-et-Loire department in central France.The inhabitants of the town of Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil are "Nicolaisiens St., San Nicolaisiennes."-Bourgueil wine:...

, Chinon, and Vouvray
Vouvray (wine)
Vouvray is a French region of the Loire Valley located in the Touraine district just east of the city of Tours in the commune of Vouvray. The Appellation d'origine contrôlée is dedicated almost exclusively to Chenin blanc though the obscure and minor grape Arbois is permitted but rarely used.Wine...

. The Loire Valley
Loire Valley
The Loire Valley , spanning , is located in the middle stretch of the Loire River in central France. Its area comprises approximately . It is referred to as the Cradle of the French Language, and the Garden of France due to the abundance of vineyards, fruit orchards, and artichoke, asparagus, and...

 itself follows the river through the Loire
Loire is an administrative department in the east-central part of France occupying the River Loire's upper reaches.-History:Loire was created in 1793 when after just 3½ years the young Rhône-et-Loire department was split into two. This was a response to counter-Revolutionary activities in Lyon...

 province to the river's origins in the Cévennes
The Cévennes are a range of mountains in south-central France, covering parts of the départements of Gard, Lozère, Ardèche, and Haute-Loire.The word Cévennes comes from the Gaulish Cebenna, which was Latinized by Julius Caesar to Cevenna...

 but the majority of the wine production takes place in the regions noted above. The area includes 87 appellation
An appellation is a legally defined and protected geographical indication used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown; other types of food often have appellations as well...

s under the Appellation d'origine contrôlée
Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée
Appellation d’origine contrôlée , which translates as "controlled designation of origin", is the French certification granted to certain French geographical indications for wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products, all under the auspices of the government bureau Institut National...

 (AOC), Vin Délimité de Qualité Superieure (VDQS) and Vin de pays
Vin de pays
Vin de pays is a French term meaning "country wine". Vins de pays are a step in the French wine classification which is above the table wine classification, but below the VDQS and Appellation d'origine contrôlée classifications...

 systems. While the majority of production is white wine from the Chenin blanc
Chenin Blanc
Chenin blanc , is a white wine grape variety from the Loire valley of France. Its high acidity means it can be used to make everything from sparkling wines to well-balanced dessert wines, although it can produce very bland, neutral wines if the vine's natural vigor is not controlled...

, Sauvignon blanc
Sauvignon blanc
Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape variety which originates from the Bordeaux region of France. The grape most likely gets its name from the French word sauvage and blanc due to its early origins as an indigenous grape in South West France., a possible descendant of savagnin...

 and Melon de Bourgogne
Melon de Bourgogne
Melon de Bourgogne or Melon is a variety of white grape grown primarily in the Loire Valley region of France. It is also grown in North America. It is best known through its use in the white wine Muscadet....

 grapes, there are red wines made (especially around the Chinon
Chinon is a commune in the Indre-et-Loire department in central France well known for Château de Chinon.In the Middle Ages, Chinon developed especially during the reign of Henry II . The castle was rebuilt and extended, becoming one of his favorite residences...

 region) from Cabernet franc
Cabernet Franc
Cabernet Franc is one of the major black grape varieties worldwide. It is principally grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style, but can also be vinified alone - as in the Loire's Chinon...

. In addition to still wines, rosé
A rosé is a type of wine that has some of the color typical of a red wine, but only enough to turn it pink. The pink color can range from a pale orange to a vivid near-purple, depending on the grapes and wine making techniques.- Production techniques :There are three major ways to produce rosé...

, sparkling
Sparkling wine
Sparkling wine is a wine with significant levels of carbon dioxide in it making it fizzy. The carbon dioxide may result from natural fermentation, either in a bottle, as with the méthode champenoise, in a large tank designed to withstand the pressures involved , or as a result of carbon dioxide...

 and dessert wine
Dessert wine
Dessert wines are sweet wines typically served with dessert.There is no simple definition of a dessert wine. In the UK, a dessert wine is considered to be any sweet wine drunk with a meal, as opposed to the white fortified wines drunk before the meal, and the red fortified wines drunk after it...

s are also produced. With Crémant production throughout the Loire, it is the second largest sparkling wine producer in France after Champagne. Among these different wine styles, Loire wines tend to exhibit characteristic fruitiness with fresh, crisp flavors-especially in their youth. The Loire Valley has a long history of winemaking
Winemaking, or vinification, is the production of wine, starting with selection of the grapes or other produce and ending with bottling the finished wine. Although most wine is made from grapes, it may also be made from other fruit or non-toxic plant material...

 dating back to the 1st century. In the High Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages was the period of European history around the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries . The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages, which by convention end around 1500....

, the wines of the Loire Valley were the most esteemed wines in England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and France, even more prized than those from Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in the Gironde department in southwestern France.The Bordeaux-Arcachon-Libourne metropolitan area, has a population of 1,010,000 and constitutes the sixth-largest urban area in France. It is the capital of the Aquitaine region, as well as the prefecture...



Archaeological evidence suggest that the Romans
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 planted the first vineyards in the Loire Valley during their settlement of Gaul
Roman Gaul
Roman Gaul consisted of an area of provincial rule in the Roman Empire, in modern day France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and western Germany. Roman control of the area lasted for less than 500 years....

 in the 1st century AD. By the 5th century, the flourishing viticulture
Viticulture is the science, production and study of grapes which deals with the series of events that occur in the vineyard. When the grapes are used for winemaking, it is also known as viniculture...

 of the area was noted in a publication by the poet Sidonius Apollinaris
Sidonius Apollinaris
Gaius Sollius Apollinaris Sidonius or Saint Sidonius Apollinaris was a poet, diplomat, and bishop. Sidonius is "the single most important surviving author from fifth-century Gaul" according to Eric Goldberg...

. In his work the History of the Franks, Bishop Gregory of Tours
Gregory of Tours
Saint Gregory of Tours was a Gallo-Roman historian and Bishop of Tours, which made him a leading prelate of Gaul. He was born Georgius Florentius, later adding the name Gregorius in honour of his maternal great-grandfather...

 wrote of the frequent plundering by the Breton
Breton people
The Bretons are an ethnic group located in the region of Brittany in France. They trace much of their heritage to groups of Brythonic speakers who emigrated from southwestern Great Britain in waves from the 3rd to 6th century into the Armorican peninsula, subsequently named Brittany after them.The...

s of the area's wine stocks. By the 11th century the wines of Sancerre had a reputation across Europe for their high quality. In the High Middle Ages, the wines of the Loire Valley were the most esteemed wines in England and France, even more prized than those from Bordeaux.

Climate and geography

The Loire river has a significant effect on the mesoclimate of the region, adding the necessary extra few degree
Degree (temperature)
The term degree is used in several scales of temperature. The symbol ° is usually used, followed by the initial letter of the unit, for example “°C” for degree Celsius...

s of temperature that allows grapes to grow when the areas to the north and south of the Loire Valley have shown to be unfavorable to viticulture. In addition to finding vineyards along the Loire, several of the river's tributaries
A tributary or affluent is a stream or river that flows into a main stem river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean...

 are also well planted-including the Allier
Allier River
The Allier is a river in central France, and is the left tributary to the Loire River. Its source is in the Massif Central, in the Lozère département, east of Mende. It flows generally north...

, Cher
Cher River
The Cher is a river in central France, left tributary to the river Loire. Its source is in the Creuse département, north-east of Crocq. It joins the river Loire in Villandry, west of Tours....

, Indre
Indre River
The Indre is a river in central France, left tributary to the river Loire.Its source is in the département Cher, near Préveranges. It flows through the départements Cher, Indre and Indre-et-Loire...

, Loir
The Loir is a river in western France. It is a left tributary of the Sarthe River. Its source is in the Eure-et-Loir département, north of Illiers-Combray...

, Sèvre Nantaise
Sèvre Nantaise
The Sèvre Nantaise is a river in western France, left tributary to the river Loire. Its source is in the Deux-Sèvres département, near Secondigny.It flows through the following départements and towns:*Deux-Sèvres: Moncoutant, La Forêt-sur-Sèvre...

 and Vienne River
Vienne River
The Vienne is one of the most important rivers in south-western France, a significant left tributary of the lower Loire. It supports numerous hydro-electric dams, and it is the main river of the Limousin region and also of the eastern part of the Poitou-Charentes region.Two French départements are...

s. The area has a continental climate that is influenced heavily by the Loire River and the Atlantic ocean at the western edge of the region. The climate can be very cool with spring time frost
Frost is the solid deposition of water vapor from saturated air. It is formed when solid surfaces are cooled to below the dew point of the adjacent air as well as below the freezing point of water. Frost crystals' size differ depending on time and water vapour available. Frost is also usually...

 being a potential hazard for the vines. During the harvest
Harvest (wine)
The harvesting of wine grapes is one of the most crucial steps in the process of winemaking. The time of harvest is determined primarily by the ripeness of the grape as measured by sugar, acid and tannin levels with winemakers basing their decision to pick based on the style of wine they wish to...

 months rain can cause the grapes to be harvested under ripe but can also aid in the development of Botrytis cinerea
Botrytis cinerea
Botrytis cinerea is a necrotrophic fungus that affects many plant species, although its most notable hosts may be wine grapes. In viticulture, it is commonly known as botrytis bunch rot; in horticulture, it is usually called grey mould or gray mold.The fungus gives rise to two different kinds of...

 for the region's dessert wines.

Temperature, rainfall and average sunshine time in Angers
Angers is the main city in the Maine-et-Loire department in western France about south-west of Paris. Angers is located in the French region known by its pre-revolutionary, provincial name, Anjou, and its inhabitants are called Angevins....

Anjou is a former county , duchy and province centred on the city of Angers in the lower Loire Valley of western France. It corresponds largely to the present-day département of Maine-et-Loire...

Average minimum temperature (°C) 2,1 2,2 3,9 5,6 8,9 11,8 13,6 13,4 11,3 8,4 4,6 2,8 7,4
Average temperature (°C) 5 5,7 8,2 10.4 13,9 16,2 19,2 19,1 16,5 12,7 8 5,6 11,8
Average maximum temperature (°C) 7,9 9,2 12,6 15,3 19 22,6 24,9 24,7 21,8 17 11,4 8,4 16,2
Average monthly rainfall (mm) 62,1 50,8 51,7 44,6 54,4 41,2 43,8 44,9 52,2 59,6 64,5 63,4 633,4
Monthly hours of sunshine (hour/month) 70 92 141 179 201 234 248 237 191 129 89 65 1877
Source : Climatology from 1947 to 2008 - Angers, France

Viticulture and winemaking

With over 185000 acres (748.7 km²) planted under vine, the Loire Valley is about two-thirds the size of the Bordeaux wine
Bordeaux wine
A Bordeaux wine is any wine produced in the Bordeaux region of France. Average vintages produce over 700 million bottles of Bordeaux wine, ranging from large quantities of everyday table wine, to some of the most expensive and prestigious wines in the world...

 region. Due to its location and marginal climate, the overall quality of a vintage
Vintage, in wine-making, is the process of picking grapes and creating the finished product . A vintage wine is one made from grapes that were all, or primarily, grown and harvested in a single specified year. In certain wines, it can denote quality, as in Port wine, where Port houses make and...

 has a dramatic effect on the quality of the region's wines-more so than with other French wine regions. The most common hazard is that the cool climate will prevent the grapes from ripening fully and developing the sugar
Sugar is a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucrose, lactose, and fructose, characterized by a sweet flavor.Sucrose in its refined form primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet...

s needed to balance the naturally high acidity of the grapes. During these cool vintages the Sauvignon blanc based wines are lighter in color, less fruity and have more pronounced mineral
A mineral is a naturally occurring solid chemical substance formed through biogeochemical processes, having characteristic chemical composition, highly ordered atomic structure, and specific physical properties. By comparison, a rock is an aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids and does not...

 notes. The Cabernet franc based wines are also lighter in color with more vegetal or "weed
A weed in a general sense is a plant that is considered by the user of the term to be a nuisance, and normally applied to unwanted plants in human-controlled settings, especially farm fields and gardens, but also lawns, parks, woods, and other areas. More specifically, the term is often used to...

"-like aromas. In riper vintages, a Loire Cabernet franc will develop aromas of raspberries
The raspberry or hindberry is the edible fruit of a multitude of plant species in the genus Rubus, most of which are in the subgenus Idaeobatus; the name also applies to these plants themselves...

 and lead pencil
A pencil is a writing implement or art medium usually constructed of a narrow, solid pigment core inside a protective casing. The case prevents the core from breaking, and also from marking the user’s hand during use....


The Loire Valley has a high density
The mass density or density of a material is defined as its mass per unit volume. The symbol most often used for density is ρ . In some cases , density is also defined as its weight per unit volume; although, this quantity is more properly called specific weight...

 of vine plantings with an average of 1,600-2,000 vines per acre (4,000-5,000 per hectare
The hectare is a metric unit of area defined as 10,000 square metres , and primarily used in the measurement of land. In 1795, when the metric system was introduced, the are was defined as being 100 square metres and the hectare was thus 100 ares or 1/100 km2...

). Some Sancerre vineyards have as many as 10,000 plants per hectare. With more vines competing for the same limited resources in the soil, the density is designed to compensate for the excessive yield
Crop yield
In agriculture, crop yield is not only a measure of the yield of cereal per unit area of land under cultivation, yield is also the seed generation of the plant itself...

s that some of the grape varieties, like Chenin blanc, are prone to have. In recent times, pruning
Pruning is a horticultural practice involving the selective removal of parts of a plant, such as branches, buds, or roots. Reasons to prune plants include deadwood removal, shaping , improving or maintaining health, reducing risk from falling branches, preparing nursery specimens for...

 and canopy management have started to limit yields more effectively.

Winemaking in the Loire is characterized by a general avoidance of barrel aging and malolactic fermentation
Malolactic fermentation
Malolactic fermentation is a process in winemaking where tart-tasting malic acid, naturally present in grape must, is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid. Malolactic fermentation tends to create a rounder, fuller mouthfeel. It has been said that malic acid tastes of green apples...

. However some winemakers have begun experimenting with both. Chaptalization
Chaptalization is the process of adding sugar to unfermented grape must in order to increase the alcohol content after fermentation. The technique is named after its developer, the French chemist Jean-Antoine-Claude Chaptal...

 is permitted here and can help wine makers compensate for the under ripeness of the grapes in some years. For red wines there has been more emphasis on extending the maceration
Maceration (wine)
Maceration is the winemaking process where the phenolic materials of the grape— tannins, coloring agents and flavor compounds— are leached from the grape skins, seeds and stems into the must. Maceration is the process by which the red wine receives its red color, since 99% of all grape juice is...

 time of skin contact in order to bring out more color and tannins into the wine. Temperature control is also an important consideration with the cold autumn weather sometimes requiring that the must
Must is freshly pressed fruit juice that contains the skins, seeds, and stems of the fruit. The solid portion of the must is called pomace; it typically makes up 7%–23% of the total weight of the must. Making must is the first step in winemaking...

 be heated in order to complete fermentation
Fermentation (wine)
The process of fermentation in wine turns grape juice into an alcoholic beverage. During fermentation, yeast interact with sugars in the juice to create ethanol, commonly known as ethyl alcohol, and carbon dioxide...


Wine regions

The Loire Valley is often divided into three sections. The Upper Loire includes the Sauvignon blanc dominated areas of Sancerre
Sancerre is a medieval hilltop town , commune and canton in the Cher department of central France overlooking the Loire River. It is noted for its wine.-History:...

 and Pouilly-Fumé. The Middle Loire is dominated by more Chenin blanc and Cabernet franc wines found in the regions around Touraine
The Touraine is one of the traditional provinces of France. Its capital was Tours. During the political reorganization of French territory in 1790, the Touraine was divided between the departments of Indre-et-Loire, :Loir-et-Cher and Indre.-Geography:...

, Saumur
Saumur is a commune in the Maine-et-Loire department in western France.The historic town is located between the Loire and Thouet rivers, and is surrounded by the vineyards of Saumur itself, Chinon, Bourgueil, Coteaux du Layon, etc...

, Chinon
Chinon is a commune in the Indre-et-Loire department in central France well known for Château de Chinon.In the Middle Ages, Chinon developed especially during the reign of Henry II . The castle was rebuilt and extended, becoming one of his favorite residences...

 and Vouvray
Vouvray is a commune in the Indre-et-Loire department in central France.It is best known for its production of white wine, among some of the best rated in France.-References:*...

. The Lower Loire that leads to the mouth of the river's entrance to the Atlantic goes through the Muscadet region which is dominated by wines of the Melon de Bourgogne grape. Spread out across the Loire Valley are 87 appellation under the AOC, VDQS and Vin de Pays systems. There are two generic designation that can be used across the whole of the Loire Valley. The Crémant de Loire which refers to any sparkling wine made according to the traditional method of Champagne. The Vin de Pays du Jardin de la France refers to any varietal
"Varietal" describes wines made primarily from a single named grape variety, and which typically displays the name of that variety on the wine label. Examples of grape varieties commonly used in varietal wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot...

ly labeled wine, such as Chardonnay
Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape variety used to make white wine. It is originated from the Burgundy wine region of eastern France but is now grown wherever wine is produced, from England to New Zealand...

, that is produced in the region outside of an AOC designation.

Sancerre & Pouilly-Fumé

Sauvignon blanc and Pinot noir are the principle grapes of this region that is centered around the appellation of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. The two towns of Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire (where Pouilly-Fumé is made) sit on opposite sides of the Loire river with Sancerre being about 10 miles (16.1 km) to the northwest of Pouilly. The Fumé is said to come from the silex flint
Flint is a hard, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, categorized as a variety of chert. It occurs chiefly as nodules and masses in sedimentary rocks, such as chalks and limestones. Inside the nodule, flint is usually dark grey, black, green, white, or brown in colour, and...

 interspersed with the limestone in the area that can give a smoky gunflint note to the wine. Another possibility for the name is the early morning fog
Fog is a collection of water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air at or near the Earth's surface. While fog is a type of stratus cloud, the term "fog" is typically distinguished from the more generic term "cloud" in that fog is low-lying, and the moisture in the fog is often generated...

 created by the Loire river that can blanket the vineyards. Wines labeled with just Pouilly or Pouilly-sur-Loire
Pouilly-sur-Loire AOC
Pouilly-sur-Loire is an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée for white wine in the Loire Valley region of France. It is specifically produced around Pouilly-sur-Loire in the Nièvre department and was awarded AOC status by a decree issued on July 31, 1937...

 are often made from the Chasselas
Chasselas or Chasselas Blanc is a wine grape variety grown in Switzerland, France, Germany, Portugal, Baja Norte, Mexico, Hungary and New Zealand.Theories of its origin vary. Pierre Galet believes it is a native Swiss variety....


Unlike many areas of France, the Sancerre region is heavily mechanized with the use of mechanical harvesting rather than hand pickers. One of the best known producers in the region is Didier Dageneau who, until his tragic death in 2008, was an influential voice in the area advocating the reduction of yields and the use of organic viticulture
Organic farming
Organic farming is the form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and control pests on a farm...

Pouilly-Fumé only produces white wines while Sancerre produces red, white and rosé wines. The white Sauvignon blanc based wines from this region has characteristic gooseberry
The gooseberry or ; Ribes uva-crispa, syn. R. grossularia) is a species of Ribes, native to Europe, northwestern Africa and southwestern Asia...

 and grapefruit
The grapefruit , is a subtropical citrus tree known for its sour fruit, an 18th-century hybrid first bred in Barbados. When found, it was named the "forbidden fruit"; it has also been misidentified with the pomelo or shaddock , one of the parents of this hybrid, the other being sweet orange The...

 flavors with the Pouilly-Fumé version typically being more full bodied and rich in texture. The red Pinot noir wines are very light in both body and color that are not very similar to other French expression of the grape like those in Burgundy
Burgundy wine
Burgundy wine is wine made in the Burgundy region in eastern France, in the valleys and slopes west of the Saône River, a tributary of the Rhône. The most famous wines produced here - those commonly referred to as "Burgundies" - are red wines made from Pinot Noir grapes or white wines made from...

. Smaller appellations in the region include-
  • Menetou-Salon
    Menetou-Salon is a commune in the Cher department in the Centre region of France. Inhabitants of the area are known as Monestrosaloniens.-Geography:The commune is located 16 kilometres North of Bourges on the RD11....

     - White, red and rosé
  • Quincy
    Quincy, Cher
    Quincy is a commune in the Cher department in the Centre region of France.-Geography:Quincy is a small village with around 825 inhabitants located at 10 km of Vierzon and Bourges, in the Cher , region Centre. Mehun sur Yèvre is a medium-size town located near Quincy.It is famous for it castle,...

     - White wine
  • Reuilly
    Reuilly, Indre
    Reuilly is a commune in the Indre department in central France. It is around 15 km south of Vierzon, and around 30 km west of Bourges. The area around Reuilly is noted for its wine — there is a designated Reuilly AOC.-References:*...

     - White, red and rosé

The region was under the influence of the Duchy of Burgundy
Duchy of Burgundy
The Duchy of Burgundy , was heir to an ancient and prestigious reputation and a large division of the lands of the Second Kingdom of Burgundy and in its own right was one of the geographically larger ducal territories in the emergence of Early Modern Europe from Medieval Europe.Even in that...

 for most of its history which partly the reason why plantings were once heavily dominated by the Pinot noir grape. The Phylloxera epidemic
Great French Wine Blight
The Great French Wine Blight was a severe blight of the mid-19th century that destroyed many of the vineyards in France and laid to waste the wine industry...

 of the 19th century altered that dynamic when many of the Pinot noir vineyards were wiped out by the louse
Lice is the common name for over 3,000 species of wingless insects of the order Phthiraptera; three of which are classified as human disease agents...

. In their place, plantings of the easier to cultivate Sauvignon blanc vine began to increase. While there are still isolated batches of Pinot noir in the region, Sauvignon blanc is now the most heavily planted.


The Anjou region of the Middle Loire is situated around the town of Angers
Angers is the main city in the Maine-et-Loire department in western France about south-west of Paris. Angers is located in the French region known by its pre-revolutionary, provincial name, Anjou, and its inhabitants are called Angevins....

 and is known primarily for the rosé wines based on the Cabernet franc grape-including the Rosé d'Anjou and the Cabernet d'Anjou. White wine made from the Chenin blanc is known as Anjou Blanc while Anjou Rouge is often made from Gamay
Gamay is a purple-colored grape variety used to make red wines, most notably grown in Beaujolais and in the Loire Valley around Tours. Its full name is Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc. It is a very old cultivar, mentioned as long ago as the 15th century...

. Some of the higher quality wines are often labeled with the AOC designation Anjou-Villages. The Chenin blanc grape has been planted in the region since at least 845 AD when it was planted at the Abbey of Glanfeuil. Throughout the years it was known in the region under a variety of synonyms including Pineau de la Loire and Franc-blanc.

The area around Saumur is the third largest sparkling wine appellation in France after the Champagne region and the Crémant d'Alsace AOC with more than 12 million bottles of Saumur Mousseux produced each year. Unlike Champagne which is made with Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier
Pinot meunier
Pinot Meunier, , also known as Meunier or Black Riesling, is a variety of black wine grape most noted for being one of the three main grapes used in the production of champagne...

, Saumur sparkling wine is based on the Chenin blanc grape. The area around Saumur-Champigny produces red wine based on the Cabernet franc grape that is similar in profile to the wines produced in St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil.

Vouvray and Touraine

The region around Vouvray, Montlouis-sur-Loire
Montlouis-sur-Loire is a commune in the Indre-et-Loire department in central France. Ancient name was Laudiacum mons under Roman Province Lugdunensis III. -See also:*Communes of the Indre-et-Loire department...

 and Touraine has some of the most diverse plantings of all the Loire region and makes a wide variety of white, red and rosé wines. For white wines the main grape is Chenin blanc but Sauvignon blanc and (to a smaller extent) Chardonnay is also planted. For red wines the main grape is Cabernet franc with some smaller plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world's most widely recognized red wine grape varieties. It is grown in nearly every major wine producing country among a diverse spectrum of climates from Canada's Okanagan Valley to Lebanon's Beqaa Valley...

, Gamay and Malbec
Malbec is a purple grape variety used in making red wine. The grapes tend to have an inky dark color and robust tannins, and are long known as one of the six grapes allowed in the blend of red Bordeaux wine. The French plantations of Malbec are now found primarily in Cahors in the South West...

. The rosé wines are made from an assortment of Gamay, Pineau d'aunis
Pineau d'Aunis
Pineau d'Aunis, also known as Chenin noir is a red wine grape variety that is grown primarily in the Loire Valley around Anjou and Touraine. A favorite of Henry Plantagenet, wine made from the grape was first exported to England in the thirteenth century. Today the grape is blended with the white...

, Pinot gris
Pinot gris
Pinot gris is a white wine grape variety of the species Vitis vinifera. Thought to be a mutant clone of the Pinot noir grape, it normally has a grayish-blue fruit, accounting for its name but the grape can have a brownish pink to black and even white appearance...

 and Pinot noir
Pinot Noir
Pinot noir is a black wine grape variety of the species Vitis vinifera. The name may also refer to wines created predominantly from Pinot noir grapes...

. The villages of Vouvray and Montlouis are the largest appellations in the region and make only white wines from Chenin blanc. The wines can vary in sweetness
Sweetness of wine
The subjective sweetness of a wine is determined by the interaction of several factors, including the amount of sugar in the wine to be sure, but also the relative levels of alcohol, acids, and tannins. Briefly: sugars and alcohol enhance a wine's sweetness; acids and bitter tannins counteract it...

 from bone dry (often appearing as sec on the wine label
Wine label
Wine labels are important sources of information for consumers since they tell the type and origin of the wine. The label is often the only resource a buyer has for evaluating the wine before purchasing it...

) to very sweet moelleux wines that are often infected by noble rot
Noble rot
Noble rot is the benevolent form of a grey fungus, Botrytis cinerea, affecting wine grapes. Infestation by Botrytis requires moist conditions, and if the weather stays wet, the malevolent form, "grey rot", can destroy crops of grapes...


For years the Touraine region would compete with the Beaujolais
Beaujolais (province)
Beaujolais is a historical province and a wine-producing region in France. It is located north of Lyon, and covers parts of the north of the Rhône département and parts of the south of the Saône-et-Loire département...

 region for the release of an early bottling of Gamay that would rival the Beaujolais nouveau
Beaujolais nouveau
Beaujolais nouveau is a red wine made from Gamay grapes produced in the Beaujolais region of France. It is the most popular vin de primeur, fermented for just a few weeks before being released for sale on the third Thursday of November...

. While the competition is not so much of a focal point now, there are still some producers who release early bottlings of the wine around the same time as Beaujolais. The soil around the Touraine area is a variety of limestone
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate . Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral or foraminifera....

 with excellent drainage that is known as tuffeau which is the same material used to build many of the famous Loire Valley Château
A château is a manor house or residence of the lord of the manor or a country house of nobility or gentry, with or without fortifications, originally—and still most frequently—in French-speaking regions...



The area around Chinon, Bourgueil
Bourgueil AOC
Bourgueil is an Appellation d'origine contrôlée for wine in the Loire Valley region, and produces primarily red wine from the grape variety Cabernet Franc, located in the commune of Bourgueil and surrounding communes...

 and Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil
Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil AOC
Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil is a French wine Appellation d'origine contrôlée in the Loire valley that may be used for red or rosé wines...

 produces the majority of the Loire Valley's red wine based on the Cabernet franc grape-known in this areas as Breton. The wines of the Chinon area are the softest and rich expression of the grape while the Bourgueil area produces more tannic and firm wines. The St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil area produces the lightest colored wines. In the 19th century, the wines of the Chinon area were compared favorably by critics to the wines of Château Margaux
Château Margaux
Château Margaux, archaically La Mothe de Margaux, is a wine estate of Bordeaux wine, and was one of four wines to achieve Premier cru status in the Bordeaux Classification of 1855. The estate's best wines are very expensive...

 and even today is considered some of the best expression of the Cabernet franc grape. The wines from this region can achieve a nice purple color with notes of raspberry fruit and graphite
The mineral graphite is one of the allotropes of carbon. It was named by Abraham Gottlob Werner in 1789 from the Ancient Greek γράφω , "to draw/write", for its use in pencils, where it is commonly called lead . Unlike diamond , graphite is an electrical conductor, a semimetal...

. Unlike Cabernet franc from warmer climates, Chinon are typically served slightly cooler than most red wine.


The Muscadet region is located at the westernmost edge of the Loire Valley near the city of Nantes. In the 17th century, Dutch wine merchants laid the foundation for the Muscadet style by encouraging the villagers of Nantes to plant the early ripening Melon de Bourgogne grape to use in the production of their brandewijn-distilled wine with brandy
Brandy is a spirit produced by distilling wine. Brandy generally contains 35%–60% alcohol by volume and is typically taken as an after-dinner drink...

 added to it. Following the devastation in 1709 of winter frost to many of the vineyards in the Loire-Atlantique
Loire-Atlantique is a department on the west coast of France named after the Loire River and the Atlantic Ocean.-History:...

, King Louis XIV
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

 ordered that the frost resistant Muscadet grape be given preferential treatment in the replanting of the area. Despite the inference of "Muskiness" in its name, Muscadet is a neutral flavor wine and the Melon de Bourgogne grape has no relation to the Muscat
Muscat (grape and wine)
The Muscat variety of grapes of the species Vitis vinifera is widely grown for wine, raisins and table grapes. Their color ranges from white to near black. Muscat almost always has a pronounced sweet floral aroma. Muscat grapes are grown around the world...

 family of grapes. The area's four appellation all produces white wine made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape. The appellations are-
  • Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine
  • Muscadet-Côtes de Grand Lieu
  • Muscadet-Coteaux de la Loire
  • Muscadet- A generic appellation covering the whole of the Loire-Atlantique department.

The wines of the Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine and Muscadet-Côtes de Grand Lieu appellation are often bottled sur lie straight from the tank that they are fermented in without any racking or filtering. This create wines that can be very cloudy and require decanting
A decanter is a vessel that is used to hold the decantation of a liquid which may contain sediment. Decanters are normally used as serving vessels for wine. Decanters vary in shape and design. They are usually made of an inert material and will hold at least one standard bottle of wine...

 to remove sediments but also produces wines that can be fuller bodied and show extra dimensions of freshness.

Grapes and wines

The white wines of the Coteaux du Layon
Coteaux du Layon
Coteaux du Layon is an Appellation d'origine contrôlée for sweet white wine in the Loire Valley wine region of France. Coteaux du Layon is situated in the Anjou district of the region, along the river Layon, which is a tributary of the Loire River...

, Montlouis-sur-Loire, Savennières
Savennières wine
Savennières wine is produced around Savennières in Loire Valley wine region, and the production region is situated on the north bank of the Loire River, in the Anjou-Saumur subregion...

, and Vouvray are based on Chenin blanc and are known for their high acidity when young and ability to develop and age well. The villages of Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire
Pouilly-sur-Loire is a commune in the Nièvre department in central France.Pouilly-sur-Loire is a picturesque town famous for the white wine known as Pouilly-Fumé. There are numerous domaines that the wine tourist can visit and where he can sample the wines produced by that domaine. Two of those...

 are known for their crisp and herbaceous Sauvignon blancs. Some producers in the area are experimenting with oak aging their Sauvignon blanc to give them more rounder and softer appeal. The villages of Bourgueil, Chinon and Saumur are known for their Cabernet franc based wines that range from light and fruity in Saumur to rich and velvety in Chinon. The Muscadet wines from the Pays de la Loire
Pays de la Loire
Pays de la Loire is one of the 27 regions of France. It is one of the regions created in the late 20th century to serve as a zone of influence for its capital, Nantes, one of a handful so-called "balancing metropolises" ¹...

 are made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape and are known for their citrus and mineral notes.

In addition to the main production grapes, several local grapes are also used to make wine in smaller quantities. These include the Tressallier grape of Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule
Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule is a commune in the Allier department in central France.-Geography:The commune is located north of Vichy and south of Moulins on the Route nationale 9....

, the Romorantin
Romorantin is a traditional French variety of white wine grape, that is a sibling of Chardonnay. Once quite widely grown in the Loire, it has now only seen in the Cour-Cheverny AOC. It produces intense, minerally wines somewhat reminiscent of Chablis....

 of Cheverny
Cheverny is a commune in the Loir-et-Cher département in central France.It lies in the Loire Valley, about southeast of Blois.The commune is the site of the Château de Cheverny....

, the Pineau menu and Groslot of Touraine and the Gros Plant of Nantes. There is also some plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gamay, Malbec, Pineau d'aunis, and Pinot gris, Pinot noir.

A characteristic of many Loire wines (both red and white) is the high acidity which highlights the fresh, crisp flavors of their youth only to go through a "dumb phase" between 2 to 5 years of age when the wines flavors are drastically toned down. Many of the better made examples come out of this period with their full palate of flavors and can continue to age well into 20 years. Some of the Sauvignon blanc based wines like Sancerre buck this trend and instead stay more low key till their third year when they mature and develop their full assortment of flavors before they eventually fade around their 7-10th year. However the best made examples in top vintages can often live much longer. Some classic examples of Vouvray can even reach the levels of longevity commonly associated with Port
Port wine
Port wine is a Portuguese fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. It is typically a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine, and comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties...



Historically the wineries of the Loire Valley have been small, family owned operations that do a lot of estate bottling. The mid 1990s saw an increase in the number of négociant
A négociant is the French term for a wine merchant who assembles the produce of smaller growers and winemakers and sells the result under its own name....

 and co-operative to where now about half of Sancerre and almost 80% of Muscadet is bottled by a négociant or co-op.

External links

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