There’s not much that I adore more than wine, especially French wine. While living in Paris, I’ve not only broadened my palate, but also my knowledge of the country’s wine.

To further my education, I’ve traveled to most every wine-producing region in France and tasted more varieties and vintages than I can remember. This summer, I visited France’s garden and subsequently put together this beginner’s guide to Loire Valley wines.

 

All things French: 

Like all things French, there are many rules that come with the production of wine. Created in the 1930s by the French government, Appellation d’origine contrôlée {AOC} system is a designation that helps control the quality of products such as wine and cheese. To be classified as AOC, wines must be made from approved grapes in specific areas. Each AOC region sets forth their own rules regarding harvesting, vinification, and packaging. So, just because you know everything about wines in Provence, doesn’t mean anything when it comes to wines in Burgundy. And as if we needed another acronym to understand, the EU has created the AOP {Appellation d’Origine Protégée}, which is also meant to protect and ensure quality of traditional specialties throughout the European Union.

One of the most important things to remember about French wine is that it’s not identified by the grape, but rather by the area it is produced. Chablis is a town in Burgundy, not a type of grape. The wine from this AOC area is made with 100% Chardonnay grapes. Although mostly associated with red, Bordeaux also produces white wine. Foreigners aren’t the only ones who have a difficult time understanding French wine. At a Parisian café a few months ago, I asked the waiter if he had a red Sancerre.

He looked at me like I was stupid and said, “Sancerre is only white.” Au contraire, mon ami! The small town in the Loire Valley is famous for their white, but they also make nice red and rosé.

My wine education in the Loire Valley: 

In July, I had the opportunity to continue my vin education by exploring the Loire Valley as a French wine ambassador for Atout France, the country’s tourism board {see my itinerary}. For six full days, I drank my way across the 170-mile stretch known as the Garden of France, thanks to the fabulous planning of Loire Valley Wines, Wines of Centre-Loire, Loire Valley Tourism, and Pays de la Loire Tourism.

As the former playground of royalty, the Loire Valley is most known for its  remarkable châteaux, but what many people don’t know is that excellent wine is also produced. Sure, Sancerre white wines are world renowned, but those are just the tip of the iceberg for Loire Valley wines.

As France’s most diverse wine growing region, Loire Valley wines dot prestigious menus throughout the country and are respected among the French. Outside of France, wines from the Loire aren’t as readily available or known as those from Champagne, Burgundy, and Bordeaux. However, they deserve consideration from even the biggest wine snob. The Loire Valley is the third largest producer of AOC wines in France, and is the biggest producer of AOC white wines. Behind Champagne, France’s garden makes the most AOC sparkling wines and is the second leading maker of rosé, behind Provence.

But with 50 appellations and denominations, where does one begin? I took on the grueling task of tasting more than my fair share of wines from the Loire, and I’m happy to pass my research on to you, my wine-loving friends. Here’s just a taste of some of my favorites from the Pays Nantais, Anjou, Saumur, Touraine, and Centre-Loire regions of the Loire Valley.

Read the full story on my blog Leah Travels 

All credits go to Leah Walker from Leah Travels 

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