Wines of the Loire Valley

The Loire Valley lies southwest of Paris, along the Loire River and bordering the Atlantic Ocean. Featuring ancient cities like Tours and Anjou, the scenic countryside is filled with old castles. It also makes good wine.

What's Grown

The Loire Valley is known primarily for white wine, especially Sancerre, Vouvray, Muscadet, and Pouilly-Fume. The primary grapes grown are:

Chenin Blanc
Used for Cremant de Loire (sparkling) and Vouvray.
Sauvignon Blanc
Used for Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume, and is often made in a style that accentuates the grassy and herbal notes of the grape.
Cabernet Franc
Used to make (red) Chinon
Used to make... Muscadet! A light and dry white wine. Technically the name of the grape is "Melon de Bourgogne" but it is more commonly known as Muscadet.

Other grapes are grown in small amounts.

The Regions of the Loire Valley

The westernmost region is the Pays Nantais, at the mouth of the Loire, centered on the city of Nantes. The Muscadet grape is grown in the Muscadet district to make a light and dry white wine. Do not confuse it with the similar-sounding Muscat, which is a grape used in dessert wines.

Further upstream, around the ancient city of Anjou, are the Savennieres, Bonnezeaux, Coteaux du Layon, and Quarts de Chaume. Most production is based on the Chenin Blanc grape, ranging from the sweet honey dessert style of Quarts de Chaume and Coteaux du Layon to the dry and acidic style of Savennieres.

In Saumur, immediately adjacant to Anjou, the sparkling Cremant de Loire is made from Chenin Blanc. It is considered by many to be a great bargain in sparkling wine.

Around the city of Tours are the Vouvray and Chinon districts. Vouvray makes excellent semi-sweet or off-dry white table wine from Chenin Blanc. Chinon makes merlot-like red wine from Cabernet Franc. The Vouvray district is one of the best known in the Loire and makes some of the finest Chenin Blanc.

Finally, in the upper Loire, are Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume. Both make white wine from the Sauvignon Blanc grape. Sancerre in particular is usually made to accentuate the grassy and herbal tones of the grape, resulting in an extremely lively, flavorful, and pungent wine. Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume are also well-known around the world.

What's Good

I have grown fond of Vouvray as an excellent crisp white wine to go with food. You may see the modifiers sec and demi-sec on Vouvray. The former is dry to off-dry and the latter is off-dry to semi-sweet. On the higher end of the price range, you will see the modifiers moelleux and doux, which signify sweet wines. Domaine Bourillon D'Orleans is one of the better known producers and can make excellent wine.

Sancerre is also worth a look, especially if you enjoy Sauvignon Blanc. Sancerre is made much more herbal and pungent than most other Sauvignon Blancs, so be prepared to face a wild cacophony of strong flavors. They provide a welcome change of pace from the more stately Chardonnay grape.

Wine Comments

Red Charles Joguet, "Les Petites Roches" Chinon 2000 (AOC Chinon)
13 February 2002 Light and fruity, very similar to merlot, with fruity and strong smoky/spicy flavors. Unimpressive.
$19 / bottle
White Clos de la Senaigerie, Muscadet Cotes de Grandlieu Sur Lie 2000 (AOC Muscadet Cotes de Grandlieu)
13 February 2002 Extremely crisp, strong acid, medium to long finish, simple grape/citrus flavors.
$11 / bottle
White Domaine Bourillon-Dorleans, "La Bourdonneire" Vouvray Demi-Sec 2000 (AOC Vouvray)
13 February 2002 Sweet, light grape/peach flavor, enjoyable but lacks depth.
$15 / bottle
White Barton and Guestier, Vouvray 2008 (AOC Vouvray)
30 September 2011 Bright honey and pears with a mineral mouthfeel. Extremely crisp. Very tart and sour apples on the finish.
$10 / bottle
White Barton and Guestier, Vouvray 2005 (AOC Vouvray)
15 July 2007 Bright tropical nose with a crisp and high acid finish.
$8 / bottle
White Domaine Pichot / Domaine Le Peu de la Moriette, Vouvray 2006 (AOC Vouvray)
3 July 2008 Citrus and honeydew on the palate with a crisp and smooth finish. Tasty.
$12 / bottle
White Michel Picard, Vouvray 2001 (AOC Vouvray)
?? Very light honeysuckle and acid flavor. Creamy and short finish.
$10 / bottle
White Domaine Bourillon-Dorleans "La Coulee d'Argent" Vouvray Vielles Vignes Sec 1999 (AOC Vouvray)
?? Off-dry, very fruity and crisp, with citrus flavors, especially grapefruit, with honey/nectar textures and excellent melon undertones. Superb.
$15 / bottle
White Chateau Moncontour, Vouvray Demi-Sec 2000 (AOC Vouvray)
?? Sweet citrus and apricot, very wet and buttery mouthfeel. Slightly earthy nose.
$11 / bottle
White Domaine Michel Brock, "Le Cocteau" Sancerre 2000 (AOC Sancerre)
?? Light citrus/melon flavors with some grassy and herbal notes. Very crisp and refreshing, closer to New Zealand style than the typical pungent Sancerre.
$8 / bottle
White Hippolyte Reverdy, Sancerre 2000 (AOC Sancerre)
13 February 2002 Very bold, strong grassy and herbal flavors, like green peppers, with slight citrus. Very complex, long finish, with slight metallic aftertaste. Pungent as cheese. Good.
$19 / bottle