Loire Valley: a region filled with amazing experiences, wine for everyone, castles, and terroir that will rock your world (literally).
Where do I even start? I spent 5 days in the Loire Valley, fell in love with the experiences, the people, the vast terroirs, and the food! I learned SO MUCH about this region since I had very little knowledge of the region before visiting! And I am hoping to share with you some of the things I learned from this amazing trip! I struggled with how I was going to write this blog post. So I decided that I would write two. The first one will be an overview of the region and how these wines have changed a lot of my perceptions and the second blog post will be some of my favorite Loire wines I tried while on the trip and after the trip.
A question I got A LOT was "where is Loire Valley?" Lets start with getting our bearings on a map and break down the valley.
The map below boxes the area that is Loire Valley. It is located Southwest of Paris (about a 2 hour train ride). It stretches across a few cities from Nantes and Tours. Angers is the city we took the train into and started our trip out at!
Now for a little bit more of a break out of the region. Below you will see the valley and the regions within in valley (use this as a reference throughout the rest of the blog post).
You will see that the valley is broken out into 4 primary regions: Nantes, Anjou/Samur, Touraine, and Centre-Loire.
I first want to discuss WHY Loire Valley completely shifted my perception of wine all together. Before I went to Loire I was very set in my wines that I "preferred." I would always say things like "My favorite wines are from Bordeaux and Napa". WOAH was I naive (And don't get me wrong some of my favorites are still from those regions but I have completely shifted how I approach wines from other regions now). Loire is an experience that I think every wine lover needs to partake in, no matter what level of wine drinking you are at. This region has SO many climates and different types of soils/rocks that these vines are working with that the grapes are INSANELY different. For instance, Sauvignon blanc, I had pretty much written sauvignon blanc off prior to this trip. That was until I had sauvignon blanc that was grown in Kimmeridgian Marl - which is basically limestone with seashells. And then another sauvignon blanc from a plot within Sancerre up on the hill known as Mont Damne (which has clay and limestone soils). So my perception of the super fruity SB was quickly changing to more savory and complex. Tried some sauv blanc from flint soil and literally had a wine maker smash two flint rocks together and then let us smell it and it was insane to see how that soil could be such an impact on the smokey flavors in the wine!
To touch a little more on Sancerre... I always knew Sancerre for their sauvignon blanc (which is definitely a crowd pleaser here in the US) and rightfully so as Sancerre has been known to produce some of the best white wines in France. But what I didn't know about was their Pinot Noirs. AND THESE PINOTS, oh my goodness they can give some Burgundy's a run for their money. Although, it wasn't until about 20 years or so ago this region really started focusing on their reds. So if you get a chance to find a Sancerre Rouge grab yourself a bottle of it and I promise you won't regret it! And obviously, if you are a white wine fan and haven't tried SB from this region its a MUST!
Muscadet (moose-ca-day), have you heard of it? Muscadet is the dominant grape variety in Nantes (the furthest west region of Loire that is situated close to the ocean). I had never had muscadet before my visit and I fell in LOVE when visiting Château de la Ragotière and tasting through 19 different wines. It blew my mind tasting various muscadet wines from the same region that tasted SO different based on the technique of the wine making and low long they left the wine on the lees during fermentation. These wines are made to drink young but can also age. When visiting Château de la Ragotiére and experiencing the wines we enjoyed an amazing lunch (prepared by Amélie, who now runs her family winery with her husband Vincent). Safe to say that muscadet is now my go to wine with various seafoods!
Okay now on to the sparkling wines. Prior to Loire Valley another thing I said was "I only really like champagne (like you know from Champagne)." And, again, don't get me wrong still love my champagnes but holy moly I was impressed by these bubbles. While in the region of Saumur (known for their sparkling wines using the traditional sparkling method) we went to Bouvet Ladubay. First, I was VERY impressed by their history and how much of the history has been preserved at this estate (one of the few that was not affected by the war). But when tasting the Bouvet Saphir, man was I impressed. It was a very well balanced and fresh sparkling wine that I will keep going back to!
And the last wine I will talk to you about was another one that took me by a HUGE surprise. Lets talk sweet wine. Me before Loire: "Um, no way am I drinking that sugar bomb of a dessert wine, I may as well be drinking syrup." Me now: "I had no idea a 'sweet' wine could be so balanced." Basically a complete 180 from my beginning thought process when stepping into Loire Valley and being skeptical about all of the "sweet" wines I was going to be trying. What I found out was that there are SO many complex sweet wines that do not leave residual sugar on your mouth. Basically, when the alcohol and sugar are balanced it is a more fresh and fruity wine that will have you wanting to come back for another glass! I found this out when visiting the region of Anjou and had the most amazing rosé of Anjou from Leduc- Frouin.
Case in point that I am trying to make from this blog post, is that we all need to get out there and really take the time to learn our palates a little more. Loire Valley COMPLETELY changed my thought process on how I approach wines. And most importantly it reminded me why I love wine so much - the community it brings together, the people it introduces you to, the complex wine making processes, and the love I have for all the different terroirs. I highly recommend you to add Loire Valley to your bucket list. The valley that stole my heart with all of the cute french towns, amazing people, great history, and incredible wine.