The Loire Valley in central France is home to numerous important appellations and sub-appellations. Its 185,000 vineyard acres include 87 appellations in Anjou, Samur, Touraine and Chinon, among other areas. The Loire River, which stretches from Nantes on the Atlantic Coast to Orleans, about 80 miles south of Paris, has been a boon to winemaking in the region ever since the Romans planted vineyards some 2,000 years ago. The river moderates the climate in the Loire Valley, which in the 11th and 12th centuries produced wine that was more prized than the wines of Bordeaux or Burgundy. Today the Loire Valley is best known for its white wines, though it actually produces as much red and white wine. The prestigious white wines of the region are Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, Muscadet and Vouvray. The white grapes most frequently grown are Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Melon de Bourgogne. The best red wines are typically Cabernet Franc or Gamay. Though Loire Valley wines are widely admired in France, outside of the country they suffer from a lack of recognition. In writing about Loire wines, Hugh Johnson has noted that the “classic word for them is charming; the classic mystery that they are not more appreciated outside of France.”
The Gamay grape produces a light, versatile and food-friendly wine. It is best known for making Beaujolais Nouveau, but it is also grown in Loire and Tours. Thankfully the 14th C. Duke of Burgundy’s degree to ban the grape did not spread through all of France.