France’s Loire Valley has been, for many years, an underrepresented and underappreciated producer of some of France’s most unique wines. With the notable exception of Sancerre on the high end of the scale and Muscadet on the arguably, lower end, demand for wines from the Loire has never quite hit the peaks of Bordeaux, the Rhone or even the value driven Languedoc. That being said, with a bit of digging, you can discover some fantastic wines available from these northern French vineyards and really celebrate wine from the Loire Valley.
With over 185,000 acres under vine, the Loire Valley is about two-thirds the size of Bordeaux. The main grapes grown in the Loire Valley are Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Melon De Bourgogne for whites, and Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Gamay for reds.
Due to its location and climate, the vintage has a massive impact on quality, with vintage variation being more problematic in the Loire than other French regions, including famous Bordeaux and Burgundy.
The most common hazard is that the cool climate will prevent the grapes from ripening fully. This means that the wines can become unbalanced, as the grapes don’t possess enough sugar to produce sufficient alcohol to balance the natural acidity within the wines.
During cool vintages, Sauvignon Blanc wines can be light in colour and less fruity, while Cabernet franc can develop vegetal aromas.
That being said, in riper vintages, a Loire Cabernet franc will develop aromas of strawberries, raspberries and pencil lead, while the top Sauvignon Blanc’s will show a plethora of flavours and aromas, including but not limited to grass, anise, lemon, pink grapefruit, quince, green apple, pear, melon, white peach, flint, straw, and brioche.
With this in mind, when delving into the Loire, it is important to ensure that you are either picking wines from top producers, who are reliable even in challenging vintages, or wines from the best vintages currently available. The rise in global temperature has been an advantage to producers in the Loire, with less frequency of cool vintages in recent years.
To celebrate the region to its full potential we have put together our Loire Valley Case to include a range of red, rose, white and sparkling wine.