Wine Routes of Loire - Grape Varietals - France's most diverse wine region. The Loire Vigerons welcome tourists and sell their classic wines at bargain prices.

WINE STYLES OF LOIRE VALLEY WINE TRAILS.

WHITE WINES of Loire Valley

The white wines of the Loire Valley are perfect wines for spring and summer and seafood meals. Their fruity aromas and refreshing acidity make them ideal for warm weather and occasions when bigger, oaky wines are not so suitable.. These wines include: Anjou Blanc –Cherverny-Chinon Blanc-Coteaux du Giennois-Cour Cheverny Jasnières-Menetou-Salon-Montlouis sur Loire-Muscadet Sur Lie-Pouilly Fumé Pouilly Sur Loire-Quincy-Reuilly-Sancerre-Saumur Blanc-Savennières - Touraine Blanc-Touraine Amboise-Touraine-Azay le Rideau-Touraine Mesland Vouvray

ROSE WINES of Loire Valley

The rosés of the Loire Valley are perfect wines for summer. They are refreshing, full of flavour and complement picnics and barbecues. Bourgueil-Cabernet d’Anjou-Cabernet de Saumur-Chinon-Rosé d’Anjou Rosé de Loire-Sancerre-St-Nicolas de Bourgueil-Touraine-Touraine-Amboise Touraine-Azay le Rideau-Touraine-Mesland-Touraine-Noble Joué .

RED WINES of Loire Valley

The red wines of the Loire Valley can be light or full-bodied, but they are never overpowering. The lighter ones (some Chinon, St Nicolas de Bourgueil, etc) can be served slightly chilled at a summer barbecue, and the more full-bodied ones (Chinon from hillside vineyards, Saumur Champigny, Anjou-Villages and Anjou-Villages Brissac, etc.) are excellent wines for autumn or as a slightly lighter alternative to more traditional winter wines. These wines include: Anjou Rouge-Anjou-Villages-Anjou-Villages Brissac-Bourgueil-Châteaumeillant Chinon-Coteaux du Giennois-Coteaux du Loir-Menetou Salon-Reuilly St Nicolas de Bourgueil-Saumur-Champigny-Sancerre Rouge-Saumur Rouge Touraine Rouge-Touraine-Amboise-Touraine-Mesland

SPARKLING WINE –CREMANTS AND “FINE BULLES” encountered during Loire Wine Touring.

Sparkling wines of the Loire Valley, or Fines Bulles (fine bubbles) are perfect for the holidays and celebrations... These wines include: Anjou Mousseux-Crémant de Loire-Montlouis sur Loire Saumur Brut-Touraine Mousseux-Vouvray

SWEET WINES from the Loire Valley

The Loire Valley produces some of the best dessert wines in the world. Some are Moelleux (moderately sweet)and others Liquoreux (very sweet), but all are made from Chenin Blanc.

They can be enjoyed as an aperitif at the beginning of a great meal or as the final glass of wine. They also complement foie gras preparations, blue cheeses and some desserts.Anjou-Coteaux de la Loire-Bonnezeaux-Coteaux de l’Aubance-Coteaux de Saumur Coteaux du Layon-Coteaux du Layon Chaume-Coteaux du Layon Villages Montlouis sur Loire-Quarts de Chaume-Vouvray


Red  Varieties of the Loire Valley Wine Routes

Cabernet Franc, the most important red grape of the Anjou-Saumur and Touraine region, isa close relative of Cabernet Sauvignon. It ripens earlier than its more famous cousin, making it better suited to the cooler climate of the Loire. It probably originated in Bordeaux, where it is mainly used for blending, but it is so well suited to conditions in the Loire Valley that it stands alone in such famous wines as Chinon, Bourgueil and Saumur-Champigny. Cabernet Franc, also called Breton locally, came to the region no later than the 14th century. It was praised by Rabelais, the great epicurean writer who was born near Chinon, and Cardinal Richelieu selected it for exclusive planting at St. Nicolas de Bourgueil, where it has been grown ever since. It is only in recent years, however, that its particular affinity for theclimate of the Loire Valley has been widely recognized and planting has increased markedly as a result. The success of Cabernet Franc in the Loire Valley has sparked interest elsewhere, and winemakers in cooler climates in the New World (notably in New York State) have planted the grape with very good results. However, as with Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc, international standards for Cabernet Franc are set in the Loire Valley.

Cabernet Franc can make lighter bodied, less tannic wines than many other red grapes and they are generally ready to drink soon after bottling. Besides this , reputation for refreshing, youthful wines, there are full bodied wines made from Cabernet Franc that are capable of aging magnificently for years. In its youth Cabernet Franc has the aroma of red raspberries and cherries, but it develops more complex notes as it ages. Fine old Cabernet Franc wines have been describesd as reminiscent of the aromas of a forest after a rainstorm.
Young Cabernet Franc is an ideal red wine for summer. It is sufficiently fruity that it can bere freshing when served slightly chilled, yet it has enough structure to stand up to the flavorsof a barbecue. Older, bigger wines are delicious with roasted meats and are probably theideal accompaniment to the traditional roast leg of lamb with flageolet beans.

Cabernet Sauvignon, despite its international popularity, plays a secondary role in the Loire Valley. It is blended in quite a few red wines to add weight. It is used alone in some rosés as well.

Côt is the local name for Malbec, another red grape that makes excellent red wines in other areas, but which is used primarily for blending in the Loire Valley.

Gamay is used primarily to make rosé wines in Anjou and Saumur. It can also be used in the blended red wines of those areas. Touraine Gamay is red wine made entirely from Gamay. It can be made in a light, fruity style for consumption en primeur (with no aging at all) or in a fuller style for longer keeping.

Grolleau (or Groslot) is a red grape grown only in the Loire Valley. It is highly acidic and is used mainly for blending, especially in sparkling wines and rosé. In rare cases it is used by itself.

Menu Pineau is a red grape particular to the Loire Valley. Once widely planted, it is nowused only for blending.Pineau d’Aunis, like the Grolleau and the Menu Pineau, this grape is grown only in the Loire Valley and often used in blends in Touraine. It can also be used by itself to make light bodiedred Coteaux du Loir.

Pinot Gris is grown in the Centre Loire where it makes rosé wines, unlike its uses in other wine region.

Pinot Noir is the red grape of the Centre Loire, most famous in red Sancerre but also in Menetou-Salon and Châteaumeillant. These tend to be lighter wines that one often associates with this grape.

 GRAPE VARIETIES OF THE LOIRE

There is no single predominant grape variety in the Loire Valley. Fine wines are made from a large number of varieties, some well known and some particular to the region. This is in part tradition and in part because within such a large area, there are numerous soil types andmicro-climates where certain grapes are more successful than others. However, within the variety, all Loire Valley grapes have certain qualities in common. All of them can ripen fully in the relatively short growing season of the Loire Valley. The mild climate also insures relatively high acidity, which gives the wines, no matter how ripe, a refreshing leanness. Thus certain grapes (the Cabernet Franc and the Chenin Blanc, for example) that may not always make first-rate wines in a warmer climate, are at their best in the Loire Valley.

 WHITE GRAPES - LOIRE WINE TOURING

Chardonnay is the most popular white wine grape in the world, but in the Loire Valley it is used as a blending grape. It adds structure and richness to sparkling wines and can be used in Saumur Blanc and Anjou Blanc, but it never makes up more than 20% of the blend.

Chenin Blanc, also called Pineau de la Loire, may have come to the Loire Valley more than a thousand years ago. It was firmly established by the 15th century, and was praised by Rabelais. Although widely planted in the United States and in South Africa, it attains it's highest and most characteristic expression only in a one hundred mile stretch of the LoireValley between Blois and Savennières.

Like Riesling, Chenin Blanc can be vinified in a range of styles from austere, mineral, and refreshing to rich, honeyed, and sweet.    It has the added versatility in that it also makes excellent sparkling wine. Chenin Blanc buds early and ripens late. This presents an element of risk in the Loire Valley ,which is among the northernmost viticultural areas in France, but the grape compensates. In those years when the autumn is exceptionally warm, when there is no rain and when frost is late, Chenin Blanc is subject to botrytis cinerea. Also called “noble rot,”botrytis is the mold responsible for all great sweet wines. The vineyards of Quarts de Chaume, Bonnezeaux, Coteaux du Layon and Vouvray, for example, can produce long-lived sweet wines that are the equal of any.

 Chenin Blanc produces dry wines of the first quality. The wines of Savennières and the dry wines of Vouvray possess all the rich pungency of their sweeter counterparts. Although some of these wines are occasionally aged in oak, the taste of wood is restrained, leaving the character of the grape/ This fruitiness, paired with the natural acidity of Chenin Blanc make these superb table wines.

Finally, Chenin Blanc is the primary grape for many of the Fines Bulles (or fine bubbles), the sparkling wines of the Loire Valley. Although other grapes may be added (according to standards of the individual appellation) Chenin Blanc is almost always dominant in these exceptional sparkling wines.

 Melon de Bourgogne is better known as Muscadet, the name of the wine that it produces. This is the dominant grape of the area around Nantes on the coast of Brittany, where the Loire meets the Atlantic Ocean. Muscadet has  a bracing sea tang, and an affinity for the shellfish of the Breton coast – especially the superlative Belon oysters of the region. Originally from Burgundy. the ability of the vines to withstand frost made it attractive to winemakers in Anjou, where it was also eventually edged out by other varieties. At the same time it caught the attention of Dutch distillers further downstream,who needed large quantities of wine with which to make brandy. The Dutch started planting Melon in vineyards near Nantes, the most convenient port from which to ship the wine to Holland, in the 17th century. . Although it was originally a rather neutral wine, Muscadet producers have refined their techniques in order to make wines with their own distinctive attributes. In particular, the wine can be designated as Muscadet Sur Lie, indicating that it has been left on the lees for the winter between fermentation in autumn and bottling in spring. This allows the wine to developa fuller flavour and a slight carbonation that gives the wine additional freshness. For the most part, these wines are best drunk young, but in exceptional vintages certain Muscadet Sur Lie can be kept for several years and, in rare cases, decades .To an even greater degree than the Sauvignon Blanc and the Chenin Blanc, the Melon de Bourgogne, despite its name, is a grape that achieves its best expression in the Loire. It is rarely planted elsewhere. As Muscadet, however, it produces one of the friendliest, most refreshing wines in the world. .

Romorantin – Unique to the Loire, this little known white grape is used in the refreshing,fragrant white wines made in and around Cheverny. The appellation Cour-Cheverny was created as a designation for wines made completely from Romorantin.

Sauvignon Blanc probably originated in Bordeaux, but it is in the limestone soil of the Centre Loire, that it shows its best, most characteristic qualities. Although widely planted the world over, and highly successful in such different climates as California, New Zealand and Chile,                 all Sauvignon Blanc aspire to standards set in the Centre Loire. Sauvignon Blanc buds late and ripens early, making it ideal for a region prone to severe frosts and harsh winds. Sauvignon Blanc is rarely blended with other grapes in the Loire Valley and it is responsible for the distinctive characters of Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé, Reuilly, Menetou-Salon, Quincy andTouraine Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc is almost always dry, yet there is diversity within the refreshing, fruity, tart style that predominates these wines, On your travels you can get a vivid demonstrations of the ways in which different soils can determine the character of wines made from the same grape, by tasting the great wines of the Centre Loire side by side.

Much Sauvignon Blanc is made for early drinking. With their distinctive aroma, which reminds some people of gooseberries and other of grapefruit and their fresh, lively acidity, these are ideal wines to drink with the famous goat cheeses of the Loire  ( Crottin de Chavignol comes from the same village as some of the best Sancerre), or try with cold shrimp or lobster. The high acidity of Sauvignon Blanc means that the wines can be kept, and a few producers have experimented with aging exceptionally ripe vintages in oak. These wines are richer and take longer to show their best qualities. With time, however, they develop a remarkably fragrant complexity that makes them seem almost sweet, better paired with aged cheeses, and even with foie gras, rather than with shellfish.


Both Dk  Books  and Penguin have great wine travel guides, travel guides in general and wine books. 


 

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