France is one of largest wine-producing countries in the world. Its stock amounts to as much as 7-8 billion bottles.Wine is grown throughout the country though France’s best-known wine-producing regions are Bordeaux, the Loire Valley, Alsace, the Rhone Valley and Burgundy.
The Loire Valley is a charming,picture-perfect region lining the central stretch of France’s longest river,the Loire. This lush valley is the third largest wine-producing region in France and produces 69 different appellations. The term ‘appellation’ refers to the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) system, a certification granted to wines and other food products by the French Ministry of Agriculture . The AOC classification is closely linked to the concept of ‘terroir’ and determines the grapes and wine making practices employed in the production of particular wines as well as the geographical regions limited to their output.
The Loire rises in the Cevennes Mountains near the Mediterranean region. It then traverses 625 miles (800 square km) past picturesque villages, verdant vineyards, fruit orchards, and stately castles before it reaches the Atlantic Ocean in the northwest. It is often said that were it not for the presence of the Loire River and its many tributaries, vines would not grow in the northern half of France.
16th-century writer Rabelais described the stunningly beautiful expanse of the Loire Valley as the ‘Garden of France’ and it remains until today the cultural and geographical heart of the country. In the year 2000, the Loire Valley was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not only Rabelais but also various other luminaries have expressed their love for this stunningly, beautiful wine producing region of France. For instance, celebrated Hollywood stars like Meryl Streep and Jude Law are huge fans of the wines of the Loire Valley, with Ms. Streep expressing her fondness for Sancerre. French cine legend Gerard Depardieu is a native of Loire Valley as he was born in Châteauroux, the capital of the Indre department in the central region of the Loire Valley. Today this renowned actor produces movies and plays along with wines in Anjou. Other famous people who associated with the Loire Valley include Joan of Arc, Leonardo Da Vinci, the doyenne of fashion, Coco Chanel and Jules Verne, renowned novelist and author of ‘Around the World in Eighty Days.’
Valley of the Kings
Aside from wine production another distinct feature of the Loire Valley is its abundance of magnificent chateaux, edifices, which have afforded it yet another moniker, the ‘Valley of Kings’.
These chateaux, which number more than three hundred, are imposing structures, and many of them are quite ancient as they date back to the medieval ages. The French royals constructed these chateaux as a form of protection during the Hundred Year’s War. During the Renaissance period and the Age of Enlightenment, the French nobility got into the chateaux building act as well as they constructed architecturally ornate palaces and hunting lodges adorned with opulent gardens and fountains. Many of these buildings stand tall until today as they enhance the magnificence and sightseeing quotient of the Loire Valley.
Wines of the Loire Valley
The wines of the Loire Valley were once referred to as the ‘wines of kings’ as from the 12th century until the 15th century the wines from the Loire Valley were the beverage of choice of the royal courts of France.
The abundant vineyards of the Loire Valley are located along a 300-mile long stretch of the river. The diversity in the climate, the soils and varieties of grape that grow along the river’s banks, account for the wide range of wines produced by the five main wine-producing regions of the Loire Valley. These districts are from east to west, Nantes, Anjou, Saumur, Touraine and the Central Vineyards. Further, the charming, port city of Nantes shares is designated as the sister city of Qingdao, home of Tsingtao beer and a major center of wine production in China.
The wines from the Loire Valley cover almost every kind of wine. The wines are made from a variety of grapes and include variations of Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Malbec amongst many others. In fact, the Loire Valley wines are highly ranked and count amongst the most affordable and popular wines served at restaurants in France.Crisp whites, full-flavored reds, rosés, dry wines, sparkling wines and sweet wines this lush valley produces them all and more.
The Loire Valley produces diverse white wines these wines are of various types, crisp and dry or then full-bodied and aromatic. Wines like Melon de Bourgogne, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Romorantin, are renowned for their fruity aromas and their freshness due to the absence of oak.
The luscious sweet wines of the Loire Valley like Chenin Blanc rank amongst the best in the world and are often referred to as ‘dessert in a bottle’.
The rosé wines of the Loire Valley like Cabernet Franc, Grolleau, and Pinot Gris are of dry and off-dry variations and they pair well with Asian cuisines and barbecues.
Fresh and fruity or then rich and earthy,the red wines of the Loire Valley like Gamay, Pineau d’Aunis, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Pinot Noir pair very well with hearty dishes.
The Sparkling wines of the Loire Valley include varieties of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Grolleau. These fresh,elegant wines are perfect for celebrations as well as casual occasions.