Terroirs de Loire, at the heart of diversity
Imagine famous châteaux like Chenonceau or Chambord and a long river, the longest in France, where vines planted along its banks flourish. Welcome to France’s third-largest appellation wine-growing region: Loire wines. Let’s delve into the heart of the terroirs of these white, rosé and red nectars that beckon discovery.
And in the middle flows “a river”
The Loire is France’s longest river, meandering 1,000 kilometres from the centre of France to the Atlantic. Its sumptuous Renaissance châteaux and landscapes make it an exceptional place to visit. The Loire Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its vineyards cover almost 70,000 hectares and include more than 80 different appellations and denominations. France’s third-largest wine-growing region for appellation wines (after Bordeaux and Languedoc-Roussillon), it is also the leading producer of AOP (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) white wines and fine bubbles (excluding Champagne).
Most Loire wines are white and single varietal. They can be dry, sweet, syrupy or sparkling. Those involved in the Val de Loire wine industry have made it clear: “it's the most diverse wine-growing region in France”. In terms of wine styles, geography, geology and climate. With 24 main grape varieties, four of which are king: Cabernet Franc in red, Sauvignon, Chenin and Melon de Bourgogne in white.
There’s one thing that all Loire wines have in common: the freshness with which the whole vineyard evolves.
The Loire: Four specific areas
With its four territories and numerous terroirs, the range of wines on offer offers something for every palate.
The king of the Pays Nantais vineyards is Muscadet. This grape variety is Melon de Bourgogne, with citrus aromas of lemon and grapefruit and a lively bouquet. The micaschist and gneiss soils add a saline touch to the wines, reflecting the oceanic influence of the region.
The vineyards of Anjou-Saumur and Haut-Poitou have a semi-oceanic climate and soils composed of schist, clay and tuffeau. Tuffeau is the region’s signature limestone. It plays a major role in regulating soil moisture and giving wines a distinctive minerality. It’s in this stone that we find troglodytic cellars, veritable labyrinths, ideal for vinification and ageing wines.
The range of wines in this vineyard is 360°. You’ll enjoy dry, semi-dry, sweet and sparkling whites, made mainly from Chenin, the Loire Valley’s flagship grape variety. The king of reds is Cabernet Franc, with its notes of ripe red fruits such as strawberries, raspberries and redcurrants.
In Touraine , the climate is oceanic and continental, and the soils are flinty clay, limestone and sand. This is where you’ll find the majestic châteaux of Chambord, Azay-le-Rideau, Chenonceaux and Chaumont-sur-Loire, built from the stone of kings: the tuffeau! Nonetheless, white wines are mainly made from Sauvignon Blanc and red wines from Gamay. The fine bubbles dance mainly with chenin and chardonnay.
In the vineyards of the Centre Loire, the two stars are the Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé appellations, with their clay-limestone, chalk and flint soils and semi-continental climate. Their king is Sauvignon Blanc. In Sancerre, its aromatic palette is characterised by white fruit aromas such as pear, citrus and exotic fruit. Its pronounced minerality is an expression of the diversity of the soils in the appellation. For reds, pinot noir is the ambassador. In Pouilly Fumé, the bouquet gives off a hint of gunflint, typical of wines made from flinty soils.
In the wind
In this land of the kings of France and the adopted home of Leonardo da Vinci, the winegrowers of the Loire are innovating and turning to environmentally-friendly agriculture. In fact, the men and women here say that: “It was in the Loire Valley that biodynamic viticulture took its first steps”. One thing’s for sure: with such a wide variety of terroirs, the wines of this region are an invitation to enjoy some great tasting experiences.
Anne Schoendoerffer’s selection
A legendary red cuvée with an atypical and innovative viticulture method: growing vines through walls. Its terroir? The tuffeau. The grape variety: Cabernet Franc. An exceptional red fruit wine.
Pascal et Nicolas Reverdy - Sancerre - Terre de Maimbray
In this 100% Sauvignon Sancerre, everything is how it should be: finesse, texture and (good) character. Overall, it’s fruity and mineral.