Great French wines were made here more than fifteen centuries ago. With its 27 appellations the area around Anjou and Saumur has something for everyone. It is a true journey of discovery from which newcomers to wine drinking and connoisseurs will both experience pleasure. The underlying ground is extremely complex around Anjou. Crudely speaking there are two main types: the 'blue' of Anjou which is blue slate and eroded igneous rocks from the Massif Central, and the 'white' Anjou of Saumur, Vouvray, and Montlouis with underlying beds of chalk and tufa.
The most widely grown variety of grape is Chenin Blanc (Pineau de la Loire) for white French wines and both Cabernets for reds French wine. You will also encounter some Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc for white wines here and there and some Gamay for red wines.
The Loire is France’s longest river, flowing almost 650 miles from the foothills of the Massif Central in the Ardéche to the Atlantic Ocean west of Nantes. Fairy tale castles overlook the vineyards that flank most of the river and its tributaries. Near its source are the vineyards of Sancerre, Pouilly and the Coteaux du Giennois. Reuilly and Quincy mingle among the southern tributaries. To the east of Tours is Vouvray, and then Chinon, Bourgueil, Saumur, Muscadet and a scattering of smaller appellations as you near the sea.
The wine area in the centre of France has three isolated areas of vineyards: the Sancerrrois (Gien, Sancerre, Bourges, and Vierzon), Chateaumeillant (above Montluçon) and the Haute-Auvergne (between St-Pounçain and Roanne).
The appellations of the Sancerrois are Pouilly sur Loire, Pouilly Pume, Sancerre, Menetou-Salon, Quincy en Reuilly, and C6teaux du Giennois VDQS.
In comparison of the rest of France, the Loire has a cool climate. The area is capable of producing a wide range of wines, from light, dry, and crisp whites, to rosé, mediun-bodied reds, and luscious dessert wines.
It is also a region where extremely good sparking wines are made. It was not until the mid 1940s that the Loire’s wines began to gain a reputation outside their local markets but since then, the region’s white wines, in particular, have featured on many restaurant wine lists. The Loire is the longest river in France and provides an entry to four main wine areas which lie between the Atlantic and the cebtre of France. Around Nantes, the influence of the sea is evident, while inland, the so-called central vineyards, including Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, have a continental climate. Anjou-Saumur and Touraine lie between these two extremes. The vast size of the region means theat there are many different soil types, but chalk and clay are the most prominent for a good white wine.
The most important grape varieties are Muscadet, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc for the best white wines, and Cabernet Franc for red wines, with a little Pinot Noir grown in and aroud Sancerre. Muscadet, is a dry, fresh and crisp white wine, and a seafood wine ‘par excellence’. The term ‘sur lie’, usually assocuated with better-qualty Muscadet, indicates that the wine has spent time maturig on the lees and is bottled directly, to give added concentration and a faint pickle of carbon dioxide. In Anjou-Saumur, mostly dry or medium sweet white wines are produced form the Chenin Blanc grape. As well as having a bearing of the wines, the local chalk soil is evident in the extraordinary buildings typical of the area, where the white stone has a striking effect.
Many of the sweet wines come from the sheltered area around the river Layon, a tributary of the Loire and are affected by noble rot. They are some of the hidden gems of the wine world and, like many of the white wines made from the Chenin Blanc, can age amazingly well. The best red wines of the Loire are made from the Cabernet Franc grape, in the subdistrict of Touraine. Generally medium-bodied, these delicious and elegant wines are made to drink young, but can also surprise with mid-term cellaring. Chinon, Bourgueil, Saint Nicholas de Bourgueil and Saumur Champigny are four appellations to look out for. Frustratingly, there’s some variation with the quality of wines from Vouvray and Montlouis but the best white wines are magnificent expression of the Chenin Blanc grape.
Sancerre wine takes its name from the hilltop town of the area. The district’s wines are arguably the word’s most famous appellation connected to the tangy, piquant wines made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape. Across the river Loire and just a few miles away, is Pouilly Sur Loire, home to Pouilly-Fume, where the white wines are produced from Sauvignon. Tending to be a little sterner, they are very good with food. Due to its proximity to the central vineyards are made from the Pinot Noir grape. Look out too, for the wines of Quincy, Reyilly, and Menetou Salon.
France's longest river, the Loire, (approx. 1,012 km/632 long) has its source in the Ardeche. The wild mountain stream first flows northwards towards Orleans where it turns with a broad sweeping bend to the left into a majestic river as it then calmly proceeds towards the sea. The valley of the Loire displays a constantly changing face. The French vineyards are spread out from the flat land near the banks and on gently undulating hills alongside forests and every type of agriculture. Its nickname of 'Le jardin de la France' (the garden of France) comes from the colourful fields of flowers.