Visiting the Loire Valley

A Land of Glorious Wines and Breathtaking Architecture

 


I love traveling to where a wine is made. The chance to experience life among the vines -- smelling the earth, meeting the makers, and visiting the cellars -- can make for a thrilling few hours. Of course, the people I may be travelling with are usually bored to tears after the first visit, and by the third visit are preparing to mutiny!

So what’s a wine lover to do? Find the world's greatest wine regions that truly offer something for everyone.  For example, a place where you can experience great wines of all stripes (whites, reds, bubbles, and sweeties) while visiting some of the most breathtaking sites the world has to offer.  There are only a few places that match that description, and the most exciting one to visit must be France’s Loire Valley.

The Loire Valley

While the Loire Valley really is a tourist destination (the Chateau du Chenonceau is second only to Versailles in annual visitors!), it remains a predominantly rural region dotted with small towns and few big cities. As such, visitors there should come prepared for an authentic French experience that will include country cuisine and stays in charming hotels and relaxing B&Bs. Travel along the Loire River, which links the region's major towns, is easy -- especially if one is using France's superbly efficient rail system.
The Loire Valley really does have something for everybody, starting of course with wine. This is the Jardin de la France, home of so many spectacular wines that I think it’s worth taking a meandering look at one of France’s greatest, and yet least well know, wine regions.

We can begin our journey on the west side of the Loire, some two hours southwest of Paris, since every visit to France should include some time in the City of Lights! This region of the Loire is famed for its chalky soils and brilliant Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. These are wonderfully expressive whites, and a visit to Lucien Crochet can expose you to the heights these wines can achieve.

After stopping off at Chez Lucien, be sure to make time for the stunning Chateau in Sully sur Loire. This medieval fortress surrounded by an extensive moat system is an intimately sized castle(!) outfitted with all the bells and whistles any self-respecting castle dweller would want!

As we move east, following the path of the Loire River, we enter the land of Chenin Blanc. While Sauvignon Blanc is all about crispness and minerality, Chenin is all about being everything. No, really -- from light, if rich, dry wines to sparklers to lightly sweet table wines and even some of the world’s most incredible dessert wines, Chenin Blanc has the bases covered.


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  • Snooth User: Carly Wray
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    196958 852

    If I'm not careful, I could lose the whole day reading more about Loire Valley castles. Château d'Ussé is incredible. Love this article!

    Mar 31, 2010 at 12:22 PM


  • Snooth User: sorciere
    170589 6

    Try the wines from Joseph Landron - he is amazing with his biodynamic vineyards in this beatiful Loire landscape.

    Mar 31, 2010 at 1:13 PM


  • Snooth User: Nicki Gig
    Hand of Snooth
    178306 4,201

    these pictures are gorgeous! Loire looks magical - oh if only it was a hop, skip, and a jump away

    Mar 31, 2010 at 1:24 PM


  • Snooth User: Pacifik
    439519 1

    If one could only travel in time-backwards that is

    Mar 31, 2010 at 1:46 PM


  • Snooth User: nferroni
    370787 3

    I'll have to agree with you Carly & Nicki!!

    Mar 31, 2010 at 2:05 PM


  • Love this article - I will be there in July.

    Mar 31, 2010 at 2:18 PM


  • Snooth User: markgg
    325640 16

    What about the wines from Domaine des Champs Fleuris?

    Mar 31, 2010 at 2:52 PM


  • Snooth User: pompyb
    435933 48

    I was there last month - visiting castles. The Chateau de Cheverny has their own winery and tasting room (which was closed but open now).
    A MUST visit!

    Mar 31, 2010 at 3:05 PM


  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 7,272

    Nice apperitif, Greg, but where are the muscadets, and where the tasting notes? ;-)

    Mar 31, 2010 at 3:21 PM


  • Oh whoops - you taken a massive leap from Chinon to Nantes and missed out some wonderful wines: Saumur, Saumur Champigny, Bourgueil, St. Nicholas de Bourgueil, and all the lovely wines from Anjou.

    The Loire is somewhere you just have to keep coming back to for more!

    Mar 31, 2010 at 3:24 PM


  • Snooth User: amour
    Hand of Snooth
    218530 1,748

    Between CathyShore and this piece...what more can we ask you????
    Fly us out, perhaps???!!!!!
    And Time...give us an ounce or two extra!!

    Mar 31, 2010 at 3:33 PM


  • What a wonderful tour of Loire. Their wines pair nicely with Nova Scotia lobster!

    Mar 31, 2010 at 3:47 PM


  • Very nice. I'm a huge fan of Baumard's wines in Rochefort-sur-Loire.

    Mar 31, 2010 at 4:30 PM


  • Snooth User: Mark Angelillo
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    2 6,309

    Excellent read!

    Mar 31, 2010 at 6:06 PM


  • Snooth User: mwalchak
    168045 3

    Great area- beautiful hotels. Vouvray is one of my favorite summer wines. ( as a side note they manufacture Viagra in Amboise- not sure they need it there). I believe that Leonardo DaVinci also died in Amboise.

    Mar 31, 2010 at 6:06 PM


  • Great article!
    I lived most of my chilhood in Tours and know the region extremely well, obviously.
    One could start the wine journey even further up the river, with Sancerre and the less know Menetou-Salon, ans all the Gamays in and around Salbris in Sologne. Not far from Amboise is Blois, where Dad used to go regularly for work and had an open reservation at "Chez Leon" restaurant, where I guess I came across the first implementation of food "a volonte", meaning "all you can eat" with an endless cheese platter, and Leon himself would always "force" you to have another piece, and another glass of wine!
    That was a "loss leader" well before Jay Abraham's invention!
    Obviously, Leon has retired a while ago, so it is only for the (broken...) record!
    In the meantime, if you are interested in anything French, you can check my website at http://www.ourfrenchimpressions.com

    Mar 31, 2010 at 6:59 PM


  • Snooth User: vdeprez
    Hand of Snooth
    96021 3

    This article is superbly written; really make you want to get there; if you can't, you can always visit though the wines... One of the best selection in NY (if not the States) is at:
    http://www.bestwinevalues.com
    Happy trails!

    Mar 31, 2010 at 8:53 PM


  • Snooth User: BG422
    343567 19

    Great article. For me the Loire produces some of the greatest value wines France has to offer, and varietals not produced elsewhere in France. My personal favorites are the Chenin Blancs. They run the gamut from the ultra dry Savennieres through the Vouvrays at whatever level of sweetness you like (or don't like) to the exquisite Quarts de Chaume dessert wines. To my way of thinking, if you think you don't like Chenin Blanc and have never tasted Loire Chenin Blanc, you really don't know whether you like it. If you really like it dry, and have never tried a Savennieres, find of bottle of Domaine des Baumard (just about any vintage will be fine, but the 2005s are truly excellent). I recently had a bottle of Francois Childaine Montlouis (2008) Clos Halbert (just off-dry) and thought it was the best Montlouis I have ever tasted, and at $21/bottle a great value relative to comparable Vouvrays.

    Mar 31, 2010 at 10:20 PM


  • Snooth User: Juliensy
    386564 1

    Just participated in a tasting party and lecture about Loire River held by FTI. They introduced different grapes and features of the soil along the river,combining the taste of the wine they talked about.Two wines one red and one white beteween all the tasting wine really impressed me

    Apr 01, 2010 at 3:48 AM


  • Snooth User: xnermal
    332950 3

    Nice article, though 2 pages will NEVER be able to do the Loire Valley justice. I think however that you have to mention Les Caves Monmousseau and the local Cremant Sur Loire which is a very good sparkling wine that echoes the uniqueness of all of the wines that the region has to offer. On the Chateaux front I would say Chambord, Blois, and Villandry are among the must-visit destinations that you did not have space to list. I spent my honeymoon in Paris and Chenonceau and will remember vividly the beauty of the Loire Valley always.

    Apr 01, 2010 at 8:28 AM


  • Snooth User: Cathy Shore
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    375980 177

    Lovely to see an article about the Loire valley. You are right - it's a hidden gem. On the wine side it's far removed from Bordeaux and Burdundy - a great myriad of wine styles with something to suit every pocket and palate.

    Predictably, I'm a little disappointed that you stop so far East before jumping over to Nantes. Being located 20 minutes west of Saumur - how can any real wine lover ignore the merits of Savennières and the luscious sweet wines from the Coteaux du Layon, Bonnezeaux, Quarts de Chaume. And don't forget to call in on Anjou on the way past for some robust chunky reds blending Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

    Around 50 of the appellations of the Loire valley are in the Anjou/Saumur region - you just have to come and visit them.

    Incidentally I was at Chateau Baumard last week - great wines. Clean, precisely made and with zero oak influence, all bottled under screwcap.

    On Saturday I'm taking clients to see Charles Joguet so am delighted to see you mentioning them too. We had an excellent vertical tasting recently of Clos de Chene Vert - 07,06,05,04,02,00. A clear illustration of the influence of vintage and ageing when it comes to classic Cabernet Franc.

    Francois Chidaine's wines were tasting superb at the Renaissance des Appellations tasting in Angers in February as well.

    Come and see us - we're a 10 minute walk from the beautiful river Loire and you can spend the day discovering its wonderful wines and appellations in relaxed company with like-minded people.

    Cathy
    http://www.letastingroom.com

    Apr 01, 2010 at 10:01 AM


  • I agree, the only way to truly learn about any wine is to visit its place of origin, be it the Loire Valley, Tuscany, Napa & Sonoma or even McLaren Vale in Southeast Australia. My wife and I have been limited to the U.S., but would fancy a trip to experience Old World and Aussie wines in their native land. So many incredible wine producing regions, so little time...

    Apr 01, 2010 at 10:40 AM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 207,984

    I think we should all go to the Loire together!

    I would not be going via river tour, simply due to the fact that my travels would really be from domaine to domaine, but I thought about including it in the email. Only reason I did not was a simple space consideration.

    It's a magical place, a real land of fairy tales, and one that should be on everyone's agenda, whether for the wine, or everything else the region has to offer.

    Apr 01, 2010 at 11:10 AM


  • Snooth User: LaSeud
    124515 6

    Stayed in Chinon as a base for Chateau'ing. Loved the cabernet franc and met a wonderful vintner with leaves in his hair and hair growing out of his ears - bought 3 bottles from him and had one at the top of Mont St Michelle!

    Apr 01, 2010 at 9:34 PM


  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 7,272

    So Greg, will we see a Part II and even III, with more regions (esp. Savennières and Muscadet for dry whites, and several for sweet; as well as more on the cab franc and malbecs/cot areas), and tasting notes for the wines from them?

    Apr 02, 2010 at 3:41 AM


  • Snooth User: Philip James
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    1 12,549

    My parents used to take me and my sister camping in the Loire - beautiful place. Of course i was too young to drink wines back then.

    Apr 02, 2010 at 7:56 AM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 207,984

    DM,

    Could be, right now I'm focusing on a few regional overviews to get things started. Bordeaux most likely will be next, though i might wait until my return in late june to write it up. As far as tasting more wines from the reion, something I am excited to do, that may have to wait until the fall, due to simple logistics.

    Apr 02, 2010 at 10:48 AM


  • Snooth User: BG422
    343567 19

    DM, I didn't want to go on and on, but since you mentioned the Muscadets...where can you find a more consistently enjoyable light white for +/- $10? I can't think of any place else.

    Apr 02, 2010 at 10:46 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 207,984

    Nor can I. One of the greatest things about most Loire valley wines is that they remain affordable, and some down right cheap! Let's hope that doesn't change.

    Apr 03, 2010 at 11:32 AM


  • Snooth User: les south
    417415 15

    old buck,love hot sexy woman ' forget the wine. my darling 'i love you so ' my darling 'don't you know 'my baby they all say i'm crazy-just for loving you .if i had a wish 'my wishes would be only of you -there are thing's in life that i care for 'like the little baby bear 'like the little baby fond'i care for the killer whale 'there are thing's that i care for 'it's you and only you .-------you like it - if not i'm going to get me a hot sexy woman 'again and again.

    Apr 06, 2010 at 11:19 PM


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