Enjoying
The Wines Of The Loire

Outside of France, the wines of the Loire Valley are frequently very underrated.  This is because their whites are primarily made with the Chenin Blanc (typically thought to be an average grape) and their reds are measured for greatness by their delicacy, rather than their intensity.  In addition, their reputation is based on the misconception that Loire Valley wines are all white and dry.  On the contrary, the Valley produces large quantities of reds, rosés, and sparkling wines in styles ranging from bone dry to sweet. 

White wine-makers in the Loire tend to follow a more Germanic style of wine making than the rest of France, preferring inert containers like stainless steel to new oak barreling.  The resulting wines tend to be more along the "light, fresh, and fruity" style.  Loire reds fall in that same style due to its cooler climate.  Red grapes are generally less ripe and less rich in sugar, resulting in wines having lighter body and alcohol. 

Stretching hundreds of miles from the Atlantic almost to Burgundy, the Loire Valley takes advantage of a wide variety of climates and terroir to create equally wide variety of wines.  These wines include the world famous Sancerre, the luscious sweet wines of Vouvray, the delicious Cabernet Franc and Rosés of Chinon and Anjou and the crisp wines of Muscadet, offering something for almost every palate.

The Grapes Of The Loire Valley

The White Grapes

The Red Grapes

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"Indigenous" to the Loire Valley, the Chenin Blanc can be made into any style of wine, from bone dry to seductively sweet.  It is the foundation grape of most white wines in the Central Loire Valley, including Anjou, Montlouis, Saumur, and Vouvray.  Well-made Chenin Blanc from a good vintage can age for years, even decades.



This grape epitomizes red wines from the Loire Valley.  Gentler than its Cabernet Sauvignon cousin, it has more aroma and carries more fruit.  Due to the cooler climate than that of Bordeaux, it typically has a lighter body, and is found to be more refreshing.  This grape is the base of the semi-dry rosé, Cabernet d'Anjou.  A wine that matures quickly, Cabernet Sauvignon from the Loire should be drunk young. 

The base grape for the Loire Valley's most famous wines, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé.  Unlike Sauvignon Blancs produced in the New World, the Loire Valley produces a wine that is more herbaceous or vegetal in flavor.



Transplanted to the Loire Valley from Beaujolais, the Gamay does very well here, producing a wine similar in style to those found in Beaujolais with an aroma and flavor of red berries like raspberry and cherry.  Very often, this grape is successfully blended with Cabernet Franc.  Frequently found in Anjou and Touraine.

The sole grape for wines from the region of the same name, the Muscadet is ideally suited for the Loire as it empties into the sea.  The grape is much more frost resistant than other whites, so it is therefore more adaptable to the ocean-influenced climate.  In addition, the dry wine with low acidity and alcohol is an ideal suit for the fruits de la mer that is found in many restaurants in the Lower Loire.

Although there are similarities to the Cabernet Sauvignons found to the south in Bordeaux, the climate in the Loire Valley does not permit the Loire Cab to develop the body and intensity that is found elsewhere.  These wines are best drunk while still young to enjoy the distinct black currants flavor.




Not typically associated with Loire Valley wines, Chardonnay is being planted more and more in the Valley.  Primarily, it is bottled as Vins de Pays du Jardin de la France (the Loire Valley's country wine).

With mixed success in the past, this Burgundian transplant is now thriving in the Loire, particularly in Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and Menetou-Salon where it is also made into a rosé.

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