The Loire Valley is the heart of France, famous for its natural beauty, magnificent châteaux and great wine. It is also one of France’s most diverse wine regions, producing exemplary wines in every style. Popularity of Loire Valley wines with sommeliers and wine writers has been growing steadily for the last ten years because for all their variety, Loire Valley wines share important characteristics that make them perfect for contemporary taste.
The Loire Valley contains several distinct wine regions, each with its own characteristic grapes, appellations and styles Pays Nantais, Anjou, Saumur, Touraine and Centre-Loire. We set up tasting appointments in three famous Loire wine villages Cheverny, Vouvray, and Chinon to experience just a bit of the diversity the region has to offer.
Cheverny and Cour Cheverny AOC grape summary –
- Cheverny Blanc – Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay with most wines being heavy Sav Blanc.
- Cheverny Rouge – Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Malbec (Cot)
- Cour-Cheverny – Romorantin 100% (a white grape)
In Cheverny we visited with Domaine de Montcy a vineyard and producer of several varietals of the Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny AOC. I love when we start a tasting and are told we will taste a set number of wines, in this case 4, only to then taste a larger number, in this case….eight or nine maybe. We tasted through the complete selection and I was really impressed. The Cheverny Blanc and Cour Cheverny were wonderful, what I did not expect we’re just how good the red wines were. We tried both the Louis de la Saussaye and Plentitude (Fullness), which are blends of Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Malbec in some proportion. I did not think the first two bottle sof wine I would buy were reds, but I did purchase two of the Louis de la Saussaye, with one hopefully returning home to cellar for a few years.
Vouvray AOC grape summary –
- Almost exclusively Chenin Blanc, with dry (sec), demi sec (semi sweet) and sparkling wines being produced.
In Vouvray we visited Domaine Champalou, a high quality producer meeting with Catherine Champalou. While all the wines are the Chenin Blanc grape they have all been made very different. The three highlights are the Vouvray sec, the demi sec and Le Portail which is a oaked Chenin made from a small plot of grapes literally in the front yard of the domain.
Chinon AOC grape summary –
- Cabernet Franc with up to 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.
We had very little exposure to Chinon wines before this trip, and everyone I had tasted had a very similar flavor profile I would describe as very rustic, mineral, and pretty funky (which isn’t a bad thing) but not always the easiest drinking wines. We visited two excellent Chinon producers Domaine Charles Joguet and Bernard Baudry and got a great education on the terroir and the wines. In Chinon it is all about the soil type and composition and that is extremely varied over a fairly small area. Both of these producers many wines are single vineyard wines lending the differences to the soil in each vineyard.
Here is an overview of the various wines Domaine Joguet offers, all are Cab Franc, but note the vine age and most importantly soil type which gave each wine its unique character. (Image above shows actual soil composition for B. Baudry wines)
- Clos de la Dioterie – Planted in 1930 to 1940 White Limestone, Clay
- Clos du Chêne Vert – N/A Sliceous chalk & clay
- Les Charmes – 35 – 40 years Limestone, Clay
- Les Varennes du Grand Clos – Planted in 1962 to 1976 Siliceous chalk & clay
- “Cuvée de la Cure” – 35 years average Gravel, Clay
- “Cuvée Terroir” – 30 years average Siliceous alluvial sand
- “Les Petites Roches” – 35 years average Sliceous alluvial sand, Limestone
- Chinon Rosé – 30 years average Siliceous alluvial sand
Both producers had wines that were very well-balanced different from my earlier tastes of Chinon red wines. I would describe most of the wines as easy to drink with good balance between the fruit, earth, minerality and tannic structure.
If you enjoy rose I would highly suggest trying a Chinon rose at some point. Along with Provence these would be some real favorites.
We barely scratched the surface of the Loire, there is a lot to do, learn and taste. I look forward to a return to this fabulous French wine region.