5-minute guide to the wines of the Loire Valley

The Loire Valley is best known for its castles, formidable witnesses to the history of France. But the banks of the River Loire have a second claim to fame – they are home to some of the most important vineyards of France. France.fr reveals the secrets of the Loire Valley’s wines…

The longest vineyard in France

With more than 55,000 hectares of vineyards and some 800 kilometres of wine routes, the Loire Valley is France's longest vineyard and the third largest wine region in France with an annual turnover of some 320 million bottles, sold worldwide. If you need an excuse to visit this beautiful part of France, then the vineyards which stretch along the banks of the longest river in France with their superb and diverse range of wines, will surely do the trick.

A multi-faceted vineyard

The vineyards of the Loire Valley are very productive because of the diversity of soil and climates in the area and the influence of the tides of the River Loire. There are five types of vineyard along the river, and each have their own characteristics. The oceanic climate of the Nantes vineyards at the western end of the river gradually gives way to a more continental climate as you cross the vineyards of Anjou, Saumur and Touraine, then finally the Centre-Loire, which enjoys the warmest summers. The vines are nourished by soil which features volcanic rock, limestone, clay… These combinations create great diversity in the wines of the Loire Valley.

A palette of colours

Red, white, rosé... The wines of the Loire Valley have a palette of colours. The whites include greeny-yellow, lemon, straw and golden hues. The rosés include pinky-grey, orange, salmon pink and even raspberry tones whilst the reds go from purple-red to dark chocolatey-brown. And of course, there are the effervescent crémants - white and rosé, fizzing with excitement.

Cabernet franc, chenin, sauvignon...

There really is a wide variety of wine from the Loire Valley thanks to more than 20 types of grapes grown. Some are from the Loire Valley, some from French territories and others from the east or south-west of France. For example, there’s the Burgundy Melon, a white grape, and one of the four main vines, introduced to the region by monks in the sixteenth century. Cabernet Franc established in the 11th century is the most popular red grape in the Loire Valley. There’s also Chenin, a regional variety which until the 16th century was known as "Plant of Anjou"… and of course there is sauvignon.

Bourgueil or Chinon?

The vineyards of the Loire Valley are justifiably proud of their star wines. Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil, grown in the town of the same name, and produced with Cabernet franc, is known for its aromas of red fruits, raspberry, cherry and blackberry. The Chenin-based Vouvray wines, produced in Touraine, recognisable by their brilliant golden colour, are made in both still and sparkling form. Then there’s Chinon, produced between Saumur and Tours, and Muscadet sur lie, the star of the vineyards of Nantes.

Wine and castles

In the Loire Valley, wine and castles unite. When King Francis built the Chateau of Chambord 500 years ago, he also introduced Romorantin vines from Burgundy. Today, these vines continue to be grown in Chambord. Chenonceau, the legendary castle which sits across the River Loire, gave its name to Touraine-Chenonceaux wines, lively whites and intense reds with aromas of black fruits. In Azay-le-Rideau sip Touraine-Azay-le-Rideau wines, either the fresh whites with citrus notes or pale rosés. And in Amboise enjoy the Touraine-Amboise wines. Some castles even produce their own wines, such as Rivau, Brézé and Brissac.