What a difference one week makes in the wine country of France. A week ago we were in Burgundy. The weather was absolutely wonderful, warm with little, puffy clouds for a picture-perfect day. We are now in the Loire Valley, lodging in a very quaint country home near the village of Chitenay. The weather did an about-face on us. The weather has been overcast with off-and-on rain the entire week. Despite the gloomy weather, we are enjoying the wine country and the amazing Chateaux of the Loire Valley. The Loire Valley is huge compared to Burgundy. The Loire Valley runs west to east for some 250 miles. It is also much wider than the Burgundy region. In Burgundy we were surrounded by vineyards. In the Loire Valley wine country, the vineyards are spread out and in between are beautiful forests, grasslands, cornfields and sunflower fields. In Burgundy the rows of vines are very close together and short in height. In the Loire Valley the spacing is much wider between the rows and the vines grow taller. Only two grapes are grown in Burgundy, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In the Loire Valley, there are many grape varieties.
The Wine Grapes of the Loire
Most wine folks know about the delicious Sauvignon Blanc wines coming from Sancerre and the crisp Chenin Blanc wines from Vouvray. But you may not know the Loire Valley has vineyards of Pinot Noir, Gamay, Cabernet Franc and Cot. What is Cot? It is the local term used for Malbec. Malbec is one of the Bordeaux varieties mostly used in small amounts for blending purposes. In Argentina Malbec is king. In the Loire it is mostly used in blending, but we did try a 100% Cot (Domaine Baron Touraine 2013). It was so much different than the Malbecs we know from Argentina. It was lighter and more acidic, but still tasty.
Also very popular in the Loire Valley is Crémant. Crémant is a delicious and wonderfully-refreshing sparkling wine. In the Loire, and in each AOC of the Loire, a Cremant must be made to specific regulations. If not, Crémant cannot be put on the label.
Our country rental home is in the AOC of Cheverny. On our first day we took a trip into the village of Cheverny and visited the wine shop Maison Vins de Cheverny. This is a wonderful wine shop that is run by the producers of Cheverny wines. There are 32 producers total in Cheverny and the AOC Cour-Cheverny. What is cool about this wine shop is that they have set up three circular stations with wines of each of the producers. For 4 Euros you can taste to your delight white wines, Rosés, and red wines. In the AOC Cheverny, no 100% wines are produced. They are all blends. We had one wine we very much enjoyed, and it turned out to be a blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Chardonnay. In contrast to the Burgundy region, we found the prices to be very reasonable. We spurgled once paying 24 Euros ($30), but most of the wines we purchased were under 12 Euros. ($15).
Great wine bar in Blois
We stumbled on this wine bar just by accident in the city of Blois. We were visiting Chateaux, as most visitors do when in the Loire Valley. Blois is a busy city and this Chateau was one of our favorites. The wine bar and restaurant is Vinomania. What a great name for a cave (wine tasting room). The food was fantastic; check out our salads in the photo. Followng lunch we tasted a few red wines from the Chinon appellation and the Bourueil appellation. These reds were 100% Cabernet Franc.
When we return home, I will be more interested than before the trip in scanning the wine shelves for the wines from this region. On my list are Sancerre, Chenin Blanc, and Crémant wines. Although I did enjoy the Cabernet Franc wines of Chinon, I found them to be a bit acidic and floral for my taste. Oh yes, the Rosé wines are also very delightful and I will look for those as well.
For a very good overview of the wines of the Loire we recommend the Loire Valley Wine Bureau.
Our rental home in the Loire Valley is named La Menagerie. It is a very quaint and comfortable home in the country side of Cheverney.