The rich and varied Loire Valley wines express a diversity of character that is quite incredible. The full range of grape varieties, wine styles, tastes and colours are as wide in personality as the rivers of the Loire Valley; with reds, roses and whites; either light or powerful, still or sparkling, bone dry or lusciously sweet, along with the potential of ageing for fifty years or so!
The extent of the region reflects the diversity of terroirs and resulting wine styles; for example Muscadet and Sancerre, at two extremes of the Loire, share the same river and its valley but little else and there’s a lot in between.
The River Loire extends for over 1,000km from the Atlantic coast at St Nazaire eastwards to Orleans before turning south to its source in the Massif Central passing through dozens of appellations along its course. The Loire valley is criss-crossed with numerous other rivers, each leaving their imprint on the local wines, the Layon is a great example.
The wines of the Loire aren’t well known celebrities like Bordeaux, Burgundies or Champagnes and don’t feature highly in the majority of restaurants or wine merchants. Yet the Loire produces wines as fine as any wines from anywhere and once you get to know them they really do grow on you.
A factor greatly affecting these wines is the relatively inconsistent climate clearly resulting in vintage variations. These can be viewed as tremendously exciting, frustrating or totally bewildering depending on the years weather conditions and your philosophy and expectations. These wines won’t be identical year in, year out, but will reflect the nature and climate within which they grow as well as the winemakers philosophy.
If you get the chance to learn which years produced the best vintages then you will be very pleasantly rewarded. For many of the Loire wines, especially the dry whites, 2003 was exceptional with buckets of mouth filling fruit, high alcohol and impeccably balanced acidity and is ready for drinking now although keeping for a few years, if you can resist, is also an option.
Two outstanding Saumur whites - Domaine Vieux Tuffeau ‘Canicule’ 2003 Chenin Blanc and Domaine Renieres Chenin Blanc 2003 both Domaines feature in our ‘Meet the Wine Maker’ section as well as in the Hachette Guide and Roger Voss’s book ‘The Wines of the Loire’. Incidentally, they are within easy strolling distance of the Vine Adventure base at La Grande Maison d’Arthenay.
The landscape also grows on you, it’s not spectacular with snow topped mountain backdrops but it is alluring. The light is beautiful, it never appears too harsh, there are watery reflections from the Loire with soft rolling hills and valleys and there is always a changing landscape of colour during and throughout the seasons. This is the Garden of France where vines grow alongside sunflowers, roses, maize, wheat, lettuce, cabbages and even hemp and tobacco! No wonder there were so many chateaux built here, the nobility would have dined and wined exceedingly well. A theme with which we will continue at La Grande Maison d’Arthenay.