What is the Loire?
The Loire is a vast wine-producing region that broadly follows the river of the same name on its course to the south and west of Paris. The pastoral countryside is often referred to as the garden of France. There are several distinct sub-regions of the Loire, each producing a unique specialty. Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre are regions well known for producing snappy, clean, refreshing white wines from the Sauvignon Blanc grape. These wines tend to have a fresh herbal pungency, though some examples are now aged in oak.
Chinon produces one of the Loires few red wines. Made from the Cabernet Franc of Bordeaux fame, Chinon can tend to be on the green and herbal side. In a ripe vintage (such as 1989, 1990, 1995, or 1996) from a good producer, however, the wine will be exotically aromatic and firm with a racy edge of acidity. Muscadet is another clean and snappy white that is renowned for its ability to go with shellfish. Very rarely oaked, it makes an excellent aperitif and should be consumed within a year or two of the vintage.
Finally, there are the great Loire wines made from the rich and aromatic Chenin BlancSavennieres, Vouvray, and Coteaux-du-Layon. Savennieres is well known for its dry to off-dry whites, which achieve amazing levels of richness and flavor intensity. The best have the ability to age for years. Vouvray on the other hand, is often made in a semi-sparkling or sparkling style, a sort of semi-sweet "French Moscato," if you will. Some Vouvray producers will also produce a special and exotic dessert wine when the conditions are right. Finally, Coteaux-du-Layon is well known for producing one of the worlds great late harvest sweet wines, with the ability to age for decades. These appellations go a long way to showing the amazing versatility of the much under appreciated Chenin. In the end, no matter what your tastes, the Loire is likely to have a wine that can meet at least some of them.
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