About the Loire Valley Region
The Loire river is the longest in France, rising in the Cevennes mountains in the South East and running north then west to the Atlantic for over 1000km. The Valley is home to over 1000 chateaux, is known as the Garden of France and is home to some of the most exciting wine styles in the world.
The wine-growing regions of the Loire Valley are divided into four distinct areas. The most westerly region, closest to the Atlantic is called Pays Nantais, after the city of Nantes. As you head inland, you reach Angers and the Anjou-Saumur region before coming to the vineyards around Tours, unsurprisingly called Touraine. Beyond Orleans the river comes from the south and the region is known as the Centre, really being in the heart of France.
The Loire Valley runs almost as a dividing line between North and South France and until recently most of the wine-producing areas would have been described as having a Cool Continental climate. The warming influence of the river allowed vines to flourish, avoiding frost in the spring and allowing reasonably warm summers with enough rainfall to support grape ripening. The last 50 years however has seen average temperatures rise so that the region is now categorised as having a Temperate Continental climate. Higher temperatures and longer hours of sunshine have really benefitted what was once a marginal vine-growing area to one that regularly produces ripe grapes ideal for making a range of styles of wine.
The Loire Valley is rightly famed for its dry white wines, made (mainly) from:
Melon de Bourgogne in the Pays Nantais, the grape variety used to make the bone-dry, minerally citrusy and food-friendly wines of Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur lie.
Chenin Blanc, a grape that holds its acidity really well, is the darling of the Anjou-Saumur region, producing fabulous dry, off-dry, sweet and sparkling wines, from appellations like Anjou, Saumur, Savennieres, Quarts de Chaume and Coteaux du Layon. Chenin also reaches greatness in the Touraine region at Vouvray and Montlouis
Sauvignon Blanc is the white grape variety planted most widely in the Touraine and Centre regions and like Chenin Blanc is so highly regarded that it has been exported to wine regions all over the world. Its birthplace is in the Loire and this is where its famous flinty, crisp, elegant style is still best expressed. Most famous exponents of the style are Touraine, Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé, Menetous Salon, Reuilly and Quincy
Until recently, high-quality red wines were found in relatively few specific sites where full ripeness could be attained, but with climate change, the style and quality of red Loire wines have improved dramatically.
Cabernet Franc is king in the Anjou-Saumur and Touraine regions, and in fact is the parent to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenere varieties. It loves growing on limestone, where it can achieve ripeness and retain the essential acidity which makes it such an interesting component in ‘Bordeaux‘ blends. Cabernet Franc finds some of its most exciting manifestations in the vineyards of Chinon, Saumur-Champigny, Anjou and St Nicolas de Bourgueil.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Gamay are grown in the Nantais and Middle Loire region while Pinot noir is grown in the Centre Loire region and is really taking on Burgundy as a region of France to take seriously.
Mainly made from Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir and grown in the Middle and Centre regions.
Appellation wines like Vouvray, Montlouis, Saumur and Cremant de Loire are all bottle -fermented and aged wines, made to the same method as in Champagne, at a similar latitude. Made from a range of grape varieties, though mainly from Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay.
How we buy what we buy and why?
At Cambridge Wine Merchants we’ve benefitted from having colleagues and buyers who either come from the Loire Valley or just love the wines of the region, meaning we take a lot of care over our selection. We aim to work directly with family-owned, quality producers following our mantra of Real Wines made by Real People. We’re looking for producers who can bring out the wonderful energy so evident in great examples of Loire Valley wines, where fruitiness, freshness and moreishness are such hallmarks. As a result, we have a range of nearly 30 wines, from 20 different key appellations, made by 13 different producers. We believe there is great, great value to be found in the Loire if you look hard enough, so our wines range in price from £8 to £25 a bottle. We even source our own Cambridge Wine Merchants Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire!
Whatever style of wine you like we feel that the Loire Valley has examples you will love and we look forward to exploring the region’s treasures with you in the coming weeks.