When dining in Paris, of course you will see names like Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy, but the wine lists of many Parisian restaurants are extensively comprised of wines from the Loire Valley. As the culinary world’s focus has more recently turned to lighter and fresher styles, it is in this realm that the fresh and vibrant wines of the Loire excel. Also known as the “Garden of France,” the Loire Valley is home to many things: fabulous wine (of course), prominent castle-filled countryside (the valley has almost 1000 castles built by French nobility, now recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site) (source: UNESCO), rolling pastoral valleys of fertile farms, mild weather, and the longest river in France that winds east to west for more than 1000 kilometres through the heart of France to the Atlantic Ocean.
Wines curiously named Sancerre, Vouvray, Pouilly-Fumé, and Chinon may seem daunting to the beginner, but with further exploration (and a little tasting!), transcend to wonderful, affordable, natural, comfortable and alluring with sudden movements to unpretentious. Our comfort levels relax when we find the wines are made from grapes we are accustomed to seeing: Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. Whew, what a relief!
The region speaks of diversity not only in grape type, but also in geology and climate. All of these factors contribute to the Loire being the only region in France that reliably produces world- class wines of every type and style including white, red, sweet, dry, still and sparkling, with more than 185,000 acres and more than 60 appellations devoted to wine (source: The Wine Bible).
But when was the last time you can honestly say you have enjoyed a wine from the Loire? If it is recently, you are one of the blessed. Even though the wines are often lauded as wonderfully expressive and satisfying, they are often not greatly in demand. The prices are unbelievably reasonable in comparison to the high quality of production, leaving us some of France’s best valued wines. Sooner or later, the wine world will catch on to what “The Garden” produces, but until they do, seize the opportunity to experience these fabulously stimulating and inspiring wines.
By Stuart Brown inside the 2014 Inspiration issue