The third largest wine growing region in France, Loire Valley spans across 43,000 hectares and has over 2,000 years of wine history. Grapes have been growing in the Loire Valley since the 5th century, but it wasn’t until the Augustine and Benedictine monks took over cultivating the vines around the 9th-12th century that the wine culture really took off. Spanning across vast terrains with varying climates, Loire Valley produces more white wine than any other French region, and is second to Champagne in sparkling wine production.
Despite it being one of the most well-known wine regions, Loire Valley has overcome many obstacles. In 1709, there were severe winter conditions that caused most barrels of wine to explode. The only grape that survived these circumstances was Melon de Bourgogne, the main grape of Muscadet. The French Revolution also played a part in hindering wine production near Anjou and Nantes. Vines suffered in the 19th century during the phylloxera crisis to the point where they were almost completely wiped out.
Loire Valley is split into four main appellations, - Pays Nantais, Anjou-Saumur, Touraine, and Central Vineyards - which mainly produce Melon de Bourgogne, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Franc, as well as smaller productions of Pinot Noir and Gamay.
Nearest to the Atlantic coast, sub-appellations within Pays Nantais have more of a wet, maritime climate with moderate temperatures. Home to sub-appellations like Muscadet, which is one of the largest appellations in Loire Valley, Pays Nantais’ climate lends itself to producing lean white wines.
A dynamic area that sweeps southward, Anjou-Saumur is a little over 15,000 hectares. While Anjou-Saumur is also influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, it is tempered by the vast forests in the southwest of Anjou. Considered Loire Valley’s largest appellation for wine production and area under vine, Anjou is known for producing stunning roses made with Cabernet Franc that is grown in schist soils, and Saumur produces fantastic sparkling wines from Chenin Blanc grown in tuffeau limestone soil. The sub-appellations Anjou, Bonnezeaux, Saumur, and Saumur-Champigny can be found here amongst others.
With 4,450 hectares that are nestled between the Loire and Basin rivers, Touraine’s climate becomes more continental the further east you go. The influence of consumers' demands is reflected in the 43% of hectares Sauvignon Blanc covers in Touraine. Meanwhile, Gamay makes up 21% and is often blended with other grapes, which isn’t done in any of the other appellations within Loire Valley. Some of the sub-appellations found here are Chinon, Loire Valley’s largest red producing appellation that uniquely allows white and rose production as well, Vouvray, and Cheverny.
The Central Vineyards within Loire Valley are home to some of the most well-known appellations like Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Likely the birthplace of Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre is made up of 3,000 hectares with 85% of its wine production being white wine. Sancerre’s three main soils are terres blanches, which consist of clay and limestone and looks white in the sun; caillottes, which are limestone pebbles of varying size; and silex, which is mostly found on eastern slopes and made up of flint. Considered the midpoint of the Loire River, Pouilly-Fumé’s 1,300 hectares mostly contains flinty soil, where they produce still, dry white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc, which is frequently blended with Chasselas.