Wine 101: Loire

March 11, 2018 3 min read

You may have tasted the crisp, mineral flavors of a bottle of Sancerre before, but the Loire Valley, also known as the “Garden of France”, produces some of the most refreshing, easy-going wines in France. They are characteristically light, airy, mineral, and fresh—influenced by the region’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.

The region is dominated by several grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne (Muscadet), and Cabernet Franc.

Sauvignon Blanc


Sancerre is typically mineral, grassy, and citrusy. The area is notable for its Kimmeridgian limestone soil (also known as Terre Blanche), Silex (flinty soil), and caillotes (Oxfordian limestone)—all of which imprint character on the wine.

Pouilly-Fume/Pouilly sur Loire

Pouilly Fume is a product of the region’s flinty soil, imparting a smokiness to balance its bright and perfumed flavor. It can be aged quite well, gaining body in years.

Pouilly sur Loire is primarily made from the Chasselas grape, supplemented with Sauvignon Blanc, which makes it softer and lighter than Pouilly Fume.


Sauvignon Blanc from Touraine is often very fruity, light, and fresh. It is quite affordable and should be tasted young.

Chenin Blanc


Vouvray is one of the two core regions of Chenin Blanc, the other being Anjou. Chenin Blanc from Vouvray usually has a very robust minerality, whereas Chenin Blanc from Anjou is known to be smokier, full-bodied, and mineral. Pear, honeysuckle, beeswax, and apple are often prominent notes found in a bottle of Vouvray, depending on the style.

Sweet wines made from Chenin Blanc can be found in Coteaux du Layon, and ultra-sweet wines made from botrytis (the “noble rot”, causes grapes to produce concentrated sweet wines) can be found in Bonnezeaux and Quarts de Chaume.


This region is known for sparkling wines with bright acidity, made with the traditional method. Tuffeau rests under the soil and is vital to the production of this style. Most wines labeled Cremant de Loire are produced in the Saumur region.


Chenin Blanc from Savennieres is often austere, bone-dry, with an extreme minerality. Ages well. Oxidative winemaking reduces its floral characteristics and enhances a nutty, ripe stone fruit flavor to the wines.

Melon de Bourgogne

Melon de Bourgogne (Muscadet) can be described as dry, lean, crisp, floral, citrusy, mineral, and very easy to drink. The maritime climate—remember: the Atlantic Ocean is very close!—contributes to the minerality in these wines. Imagine pairing a bottle with oysters! The most famous muscadet would be Muscadet Sevre et Mains, bottled sur lie (on lees) which gives it a spritzy, creamier texture.

Cabernet Franc

Loire’s signature red grape, Cabernet Franc, is often expressed in this region with notes of red berries, spice, violets, tobacco and is quite tannic when young—better to age and decant!


Cabernet Franc from this region typically have a light to medium body and carries notes of slight spice, berries, light oak, green peppers, and herbs. crisp acidity. Best consumed within five to ten years.

Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil

Firmly tannic when young, but opens up to a complex red. On the nose, you may smell currant, cherry, leather, and spice notes as it ages. Let the wine rest, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.


Due to the variation in soil, the Cabernet Franc grape can express itself very differently depending on the vineyard. Chinon is typically characterized by dark berries, spice, and herbaceous notes with moderate acidity and rich tannins.

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