We just attended a Loire Valley wine tasting held at The Park in NYC. We had spent some time last year driving through this area of France. There is so much to see, do, taste and discover. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000, it is famous for all the historic Châteaux and wine. What could be better! We spent a week in a lovely rental house in Amboise that was not only the perfect location for exploring the surrounding wineries but came with a bonus – a neighbor’s cat that we called Suzette.
The Loire is the third largest French wine producing region after Bordeaux and the Languedoc. It has many top producers of AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) white wines and is also the second largest producer of AOC rosé wines. Second, of course, to no one’s surprise Provence. You will find a total mixed bag of high quality sparkling, red, white, rosé and sweet wines. The Loire is comprised of 79 appellations each with its own micro-climate. The area extends from Nantes in the west and follows the Loire River east through the center of France for more than 600 miles. It’s an enormous wine producing area encompassing many different soil types and climates.The summers can be hot and the winters can be cold. The far western region known as the Pays Nantais is influenced by the effects of the Atlantic Ocean. Muscadet is produced here from the Melon de Bourgogne grape. Not surprisingly, Muscadet is the perfect wine to accompany seafood. Muscadet is mouth-watering, crisp and refreshing. The eastern end of the Loire is where white Sancerre wines are crafted from 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc grapes. If there is a single wine most people recognize from the Loire that wine is Sancerre. A common misconception is that all Sancerre is white but Sancerre may also be red or rosé in which case the grapes used are Pinot Noir and to a lesser extent Gamay There are also many other high quality wines from this area made with Sauvignon Blanc such as Pouilly-Fumé and Menetou-Salon. In the midsection of the Loire are the Saumur, Anjou and Touraine areas. Saumur is a very fine sparkling wine region.
At this tasting we concentrated on the wines of Touraine. This is a very popular tourist destination and it also has some of the best Chenin Blanc wines including Vouvray. It has the largest number of single varietal wines made including: Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay, Malbec (Côt).The red wines of Chinon and St Nicolas de Bourgueil are made from Cabernet Franc. You will notice that unlike most US wineries that label by varietal i.e. Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay etc., Loire wines are labeled by the place the wine comes from.
The soil in this area is very variable and diverse from flinty clay, limestone, chalk beds, gravel and stone to sand. So you taste the terroir in these wines. Nowhere else will you find such rich Vouvray and in so many styles from sec to demi-sec, moelleux to sparkling. There is always something new to try in the ever fascinating world of wine. Enjoy!!