Did you know that the Loire is the longest river in France? Stretched along the mountains of central France right out to the Atlantic, it is a fascinating region for wine-making. The Loire Valley is split into four key sub-regions. Nantes is nearest the Atlantic and has a fully maritime climate with short, mild winters and warm summers. Anjou-Saumur is in the heartland of the Loire, where the climate becomes more continental. Temperatures can reach over 30 degrees in summer! Touraine is 200 km inland, and sees a mixture of maritime and continental climates and suffers less from the summer drought. Finally, the Central Vineyards, where the famous wines of Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé are made. The climate here is continental and somewhat similar to Burgundy, with severe winters and hot summers.
Here's a quick guide to the key grape varieties of the Loire Valley and some of our best wineries to visit there...
The key grape varieties of the Loire Valley
The key red grape varieties are Cabernet Franc and Gamay. Cabernet Franc comes into its own in the Loire Valley. It can vary in style from the light wines of Chinon to the medium-bodied, oak-aged reds from Bourgueil. The key white grape varieties are Melon de Bourgogne and Chenin Blanc. Melon de Bourgogne is the key grape of Muscadet, grown primarily in the Nantes region. The style is bone dry, with refreshing acidity. The region of Savennières produces some exceptional examples of Chenin Blanc. The wine often needs several years bottle ageing but develops intense fruit flavours and mineral complexity over time. Vouvray is also famous for its Chenin Blanc, where it is used to make dry and sparkling wines in cooler vintages. In warmer years, sweet wines are produced using grapes from noble rot, in a style similar to Sauternes.
The variety of climates and wine styles make it an exciting place for oenophiles to visit, but with it being such a vast region, it can be hard to narrow down your choice! To help you find the best tours in the Loire Valley, we’ve put together a list of our best wineries to visit whilst you are there.
Wineries to visit in the Loire Valley
Bouvet Ladubay, the producer of fine sparkling wines, is the most visited winery in Saumur, also known as the Garden of France, a region of peaceful lifestyle and harmony. The wines of Bouvet Ladubay have received over 500 medals and awards, over the past decades, confirming year after year the consistency of the quality of its wines. The winery welcomes visitors to discover its 8 kilometres of cellars dug into the local 'Tuffeau" stone. Wine lovers can visit the cellars on a vintage bike, discover the" underground cathedral", an ensemble of 35 monumental sculptures nestled in underground galleries, while learning about the bottle fermented "Méthode Traditionnelle" winemaking process.
Château des Vaults is situated in the heart of Anjou-Saumur in Savennières, a region renowned for its high-quality Chenin Blanc. The style of wine is full-bodied and dry with mineral complexity. Château de Vaults is an organic winery that forms part of a world heritage site. With its concerts, literature evenings, modern sculpture exhibitions and many other events, this winery is a popular destination for wine and art lovers. You can explore the beautiful biodiversity of the Loire Valley through a self-guided tour before enjoying a formal tasting of the wines. And if you’re bringing the kids, they won’t feel left out with their own grape juice tasting!
Le Domaine des Vallettes is a family-owned estate in Bourgueil in the Anjou-Saumur region. The winemaking technique has passed down from father to son for eight generations, so they have had time to perfect their wines! As in Chinon, the Cabernet Franc grape is the star variety, producing fresh and lively rosé wines and delicious fruity reds.
Based in the Anjou sub-region, Château Soucherie prides itself on producing wines which respect nature and the environment thanks to as little human intervention as possible. Thanks to a variety of different soil types, many varieties are grown. A speciality of the region, offered by the winery, is Anjou Blanc. This is made from fully ripe Chenin Blanc grapes and fermented and aged in new oak. The resulting wine is a refreshing blend of exotic fruits and white flowers. Many activities are offered at the Château; including tours and wine tastings. They even have a boutique hotel on site, where you can request your very own private chef to whip you up a gourmet meal!
Château de Minière was built in the 17th century and covers 18 hectares around the region on Bourgeuil. The vineyard is certified organic for all of its wines, which consist of rosé and red wines made from Cabernet Franc. Historically, it was women who took charge of the estate, a tradition that today is continued by Kathleen Van den Berghe who maintains the best practices in winemaking, which respect both the terroir and the environment. Guests can enjoy a vineyard and park tour with a cellar visit and wine tasting.
Located in Monthou-sur-Cher within the Touraine region, Domaine Sauvète offers a nature break for anyone who visits. The winery is the work of four generations from the same family who are truly passionate about producing natural, organic wines. They grow a number of varieties, from Sauvignon to Gamay, to produce many different styles of wine. Discover the vineyard and taste the amazing wines during themed workshop tastings and story-telling evenings.
Domaine Coirier is the most southerly of our Loire wineries, based in the region of Vendée, between Nantes and La Rochelle. The winery supports sustainable practices in viticulture and winemaking, using modern technology whilst retaining respect for tradition. The varieties grown are a mixture of local and international varieties, such as Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Discover the unique selection of wines at a free tasting with the winegrower himself!
Need more information on where to go and things to do in the Loire Valley? You can find some great ideas in this article on how to spend a weekend in the Loire!
Title photo: Sachitha Obeysekara