the heart of France
magnificent châteaux and famous natural beauty
large area with several distinct wine regions
About This Wine Region:
The Loire Valley is the heart of France, famous for its natural beauty, magnificent châteaux and great wine. The region is rich in history and culture: Renaissance writer Rabelais was born here; Joan of Arc led French troops to victory in the Hundred Years’ War in the Loire; and, as the Cradle of the French Language, its residents speak the purest French.
The Loire Valley contains several distinct wine regions, each with its own characteristic grapes, appellations and styles
As a testament to all the region contributes to French and global culture, the Loire Valley (between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes-sur-Loire) was added to UNESCO’ World Heritage list in 2000.
The Loire Valley is home to over 4000 wineries that produce a dizzying array of elegant, quality wines. There are racy whites, refreshing rosés, reds that favor fruit over force, and sumptuous sweet and sparkling wines that even rival neighboring Champagne. It is here in the “Garden of France” that you can revel in beautiful summer days, stunning chateaux, and several of France’s most underrated wines.
You’ll find the Loire River Valley situated about 2 hours drive south of Paris. The region is next to many of France’s most famous drink regions: it’s directly north of Cognac, south of Normandy (cider!), and west of Burgundy. The Loire, as a whole, is very diverse in wine styles, in climate, in geography, and in geology. For this reason, it can be divided into three primary growing areas:
- Lower Loire Pays Nantais
- Middle Loire Anjou, Saumur, and Touraine
- Upper Loire Centre
Like most of the vineyards of France, we can thank the Romans for getting things started. When they conquered Gaul in the 1st Century AD, they recognized the climate and soil were perfect for vines and that the river made a convenient “roadway” to move goods throughout the empire.
By the Middle Ages, the Loire was at the heart of France. At the midpoint between the more Latin south and the Germanic north, this is where culture and language met. Monks of the Catholic Church tended the vineyards and the wines gained popularity, especially with the English and the Dutch.
The French aristocracy made the Loire a “summer retreat” in the 15th–17th centuries, building lavish chateaux and further popularizing the local wines.
The French Revolution caused big changes in 1789. Building the National Railroad brought both cheaper wines from the south and more exotic selections from Burgundy and Bordeaux, leaving the Loire behind. While the Loire was one of the last regions to be affected by phylloxera in France, it was also one of the last to recover…
But all was not lost. When the Appellation d’Origin Contrôlée was introduced in 1935 (the system for quality wines in France), the Loire Valley became recognized as a region of quality. Today it has 69 AOP’s (official designations), which make up 75% of the wine production.