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An enormous chunk of north eastern France is occupied by the Loire Valley. A diverse range of styles are produced along its length, but it is best known for its white wines.
Loire wines are known for being fruit forward and not having much oak influence. Being so far north there are limits to how much red grapes can ripen well here, although rosé and red wines are not uncommon.
Starting in the west, just inland from the Atlantic coast in the cool and wet Pays Nantais, the most famous wine is Muscadet (especially de Sèvre et Maine), made from the unique-to-the-region Mélon de Bourgogne grape. It’s designed to be a wine for early drinking and refreshment, and is a fantastic match with seafood. The best Muscadets are aged and bottled sur lie, where the light wine of the Mélon is given extra depth and character by resting for a period on the wine’s lees.
Moving inwards we come to the second of the Loire’s four sub-regions, Anjou-Saumur, which has a mild climate and reasonable rainfall. Anjou is especially revered for sweet whites such as Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux, while Saumur is more focused on the production of sparkling wine made from Chenin Blanc and occasionally Chardonnay too.
Touraine is most famous for Vouvray, Chinon and Bourgueil. Vouvray can be anything from dry to very sweet (check the label carefully) and is made from the white grape Chenin Blanc, whereas Chinon and Bourgueil produce light-to-medium-weight red wines from Cabernet Franc. Touraine also produces quantities of very good value Sauvignon Blanc.
Loire’s most famous wine names come from the region furthest inland - the Upper Loire. Here pure, crisp and mineral Sauvignon Blancs are crafted in Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre, two AOCs that face each other across the Loire river.
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