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Just as the Loire Valley contains many chateaux, there are many wine varieties produced here. Each is unique and forms part of the tapestry that is the Loire wine region. The most common variety you will find are white wines, particularly from Saumur, Anjou, Chinon and Vouvray. A feature almost all wines in the region share is a slight ‘fruitiness’ in taste that carries with it a crisp and fresh experience. Read on to discover more about the Loire wine region and all it has to offer.
When the Romans planted the first vineyards in the area, they understood the importance of the Loire River. Creating a mesoclimate, the valley was a few degrees warmer on average than the surrounding areas, making it an oasis for winemaking. They found the grapes to grow wonderfully here where elsewhere they would not. This warmer temperature decreased the chances of a winemaker's worst fear: the dreaded frost. There is an excitement that stems from an unusually unpredictable climate for vineyards, with a delicious vintage being praised far more than any fair-weather cousin-wine. You can see the effect the climate has on Loire wines, with Sauvignon Blanc based wines appearing lighter in colour and less fruity in cooler years.
There are some 87 appellations in the valley, with a winemaking history that stretches back all the way to the 1st century AD. Much of this history has seen hundreds of royal eyes cast towards this region, seen in the castles and chateaux scattered throughout. Feasting nobility often results in very high demand for wine, and thus the vineyards and wine houses of the Loire flourished. As a result of this long history, thousands of years of inventiveness and evolving ideas have created a wine scene unlike any other; fit for royal tastes.
Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir grapes are the most common in the region, however, there are large amounts of variation as the river runs to the mouth. For most of the Loire’s history, Pinot Noir grapes reigned dominant, mostly due to the strong influence Burgundy had on the region. However, in the 19th century, an epidemic wiped out almost all Pinot vines in the region, resulting in the easier to grow Sauvignon variety being planted instead. Although mostly white wines are found here, around Chinon, the Loire’s most popular red can be found, created with Cabernet Franc grapes. Described as soft and rich, these truly stand out in the Loire wine scene.
With so many castles to visit in the Loire Valley, it can be hard to know which ones to see, and which ones have the best wine. Whilst on our Châteaux of the Loire holiday, you’ll cycle past the gorgeous Château de Brézé. This castle, believed to have been originally built to defend against Viking raids, has a wine culture that stretches back hundreds of years. The wines of Château de Brézé fell into bad luck with the revolutions, but have since had a resurgence, with some delicious whites made here.
Carrying on a tradition in the region of producing fruity wines, the whites of Château de Brézé are no exception. Boasting notes of citrus and passion fruit, these wines are made from the Chenin grape on sandy soil near the château. Pairings for this wine include gravlax salmon, oysters, and blue cheese. The citrus notes are perfect for cutting through the often salty nature of these dishes. Served cold, the whites of Château de Brézé are the best accessory for a sunny day in the Loire Valley.
Whilst on our Loire in Luxury cycling holiday, you’ll have the chance to experience the regal beauty of Saumur. This small town is dominated by the Château de Saumur, a castle rich in history and a key location for the Plantagenet kings of England. With stunning views wherever you turn your head, there’s nothing better than sitting down and enjoying a delicious glass of local wine. Unique amongst the Loire wine scene, sparkling wine is made here. The Saumur Brut is one of the most beautiful things about the area, especially during the summer. This sparkling white wine is second only to Champagne.
Maison Ackerman, founded in 1811, is the oldest producer of Saumur Brut in the Loire. They pride themselves on honouring tradition whilst bringing a modern inventiveness to their winemaking process. One such example is their organic range, showcasing a sparkling wine that is both vegan and free of sulphates. This is achieved without compromising on the classic taste of a Saumur Brut. The key feature of these is their aromatic blend, with that classic Loire fruitiness that so often varies with the temperature. We recommend you take the time to enjoy a tasting and tour when cycling in this region.
An oddity in the region, the wines found in Chinon are always soft reds made from Cabernet Franc. Grown on stony terraces, the most common notes found in these are of blackcurrant and anise, painting perfectly with the local food of the Loire. There is a slight variation between the wines made on the lower terraces, and those found in the hills separating the region from the River Vienne. These hilly reds are often more tannic, with a mineral and gamey profile that is perfect for hearty meat dishes. The variety in reds here means there is something for everyone’s preference.
On our Loire Valley Discovery tour, you’ll travel to Chinon, where tastings are bounteous. The Domaine Couly-Dutheil has been nurturing the flavours of its wines for years. A core belief of theirs is that the peppery notes found in Cabernet Franc wines are in fact due to a lack of ripening, so you can be sure the reds here are as fruity and bold as their white counterparts in the region. With a variety of vineyards under their management, a huge variety of wines is produced for any and every occasion that calls for them.
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