France - Loire
The Loire, as a wine region, incorporates many different and geographically diverse AOCs; from the famous Sancerre, Pouilly Fume, Muscadet and Anjou spread out along the river valley, to Haut Pitou 40 miles south on its watershead, and onto Cotes d’Auvergne located in the Massif Central.
Muscadet is at the far western end of the Loire Valley, based around Nantes. Unusually, it is the name of the wine, not the region or grape. The Sèvre-et-Maine AOC is regarded as the best, producing 85% of Muscadet. Much is bottled ‘sur lie’ having been aged on the lees.
Anjou is a main region for dry Chenin Blanc wines – but is also noted for sweet versions, notable Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeau. The latter is located on a small parcel of land in a single commune on the right bank of the Layon and one of the highest in the Loire – at just 90m!
Saumur on the south bank of the Loire is noted for its fashionable red wines made from Cabernet Franc. Many producers have impressive natural cellars that have been carved out of the soft ‘tuffeau’ white limestone rock.
Sancerre & Pouilly-Fumé Sancerre to the west, Pouilly to the east lie either side of the Loire. Often difficult to distinguish between the two – though Sancerre can be slightly fuller, depending on producer, and Pouilly is said to be more perfumed or have a hint of gun-smoke.
Haut Poitou is geographically separate from the Loire Valley, lying several kilometres to the south, but shares the same climate, soils and typography. Sauvignon Blanc dominates the plantings, the style is similar to Sancerre.
Cotes d’Auvergne vineyards are planted on the volcanic slopes on both sides of the Allier River and the region has a truly continental climate.
Overall, balanced, classical styles flourish: from the bone dry Muscadet, medium-dry Chenin of Vouvray, to the subtle, minerally Sauvignon Blancs from Sancerre and Pouilly Fume.