HIGHLIGHT OF THE LOIRE VALLEY AND ITS CHATEAUX
Loire Valley Chateaux
The Loire Valley was listed in 2000 in the UNESCO World's Heritage. It stands for the part of the Valley located between Sully sur Loire (in the Loiret) and Chalonnes sur Loire (in the Maine et Loire). It constitutes an exceptional site for its biological diversity as well as for its historical and cultural wealth (castles, gardens, towns, wines).
This part of the river flows through two regions, Centre and Pays de la Loire, and four departments (le Loiret, le Loir et Cher, l'Indre et Loire et le Maine et Loire). In the Loire Valley, the biggest tributaries are the Vienne, the Cher and the Indre. A low limestone and tuff stone cliff is often to be found on either side of the valley between Orleans and Angers.
A lot of small islands and sand or gravel banks are visible all along the river, which has an extremely changeable width and depth according to the season and the year. The Loire floods usually happen in winter and are most of the time without any consequence, thanks to dykes built on its sides. Downstream from Orleans, the main cities are Blois, Amboise, Tours, Saumur and Angers, the main castles being Sully sur Loire, Blois, Chaumont Sur Loire, Amboise, Saumur, others being located at a distance from the Loire, on its tributaries, such as Chambord, Chenonceau, Azay le Rideau, Chinon. In the middle Ages, the Loire Valley was marked by continuous fights from the X to the XV. They first dealt with the succession for the crown of England, then the fights between Capetians and Plantagenets for the kingdom of France.
The last chapter of those fights being the 100 years war, in which Joan of Arc played a big part, delivering Orleans on May 8th 1429. The Renaissance sees the golden age of the Loire Valley, from Louis XI who made of Tours the French capital city in 1461 until Henry IV who took power back to Paris in 1594. The Valois kept on importing into the Loire Valley new aesthetics and a new lifestyle they had discovered in Italy, inviting artists and craftsmen, the most famous being Leonardo da Vinci. Then started the first French Renaissance, during which the royal castles of Amboise and Blois were renovated. Then were built Les Chateaux de Court, such as Chambord, aimed at pleasure. In the XVII and XVII, the region saw the increase of communication axis thanks to the creation of canals (canal de Briare, canal d'Orleans), which led to a very prosperous era for the Loire mariners. The French revolution did lot lead to severe turmoil in the region, except for the farmers' riot in Les Mauges in the south of Anjou.
The Loire Valley offers diverse terroirs which, for the soil, hills, orientation, give wines which, though made from the same grape variety, are very different. Nevertheless, all are marked by their freshness, vivacity and elegance. The most important Appellations are the Muscadet, Anjou, Saumur, Saumur Champigny, Chinon, Bourgueil, Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil, Touraine. Vouvray, Montlouis, Cheverny, Orléanais and Sancerre. The most frequently used grape varieties are the Chenin and Sauvignon for the whites, and Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Pinot Noir for the reds. The great diversity of biotopes on the river and its banks (sandbanks and islands, gravel islands covered with vegetation, floodable woody banks, levies, forests) produce a great amount of natural environments which attract an important flora and fauna. In the Saint Mesmin Natural Reserve near Orléans, we numbered 558 species of plants, of which 8 are protected (ex: fleabane). We numbered as well as 325 types of mushrooms.
List of pages in Loire Valley Chateaux:
Loire Valley Wines
The Loire Valley total wine production is the third-largest AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée) area in France. It is the largest white wine region in France and the second largest for sparkling wine. The length of the river and the diversity in soils and climates make the Loire Valley the only region in France to produce excellent wines of every variety. Red, white or rosé, still or sparkling, dry or sweet. The Loire Valley wine region includes the French wine regions located along the Loire River from the Muscadet region near the city of Nantes on the Atlantic coast to the region of Sancerre in north-central France. In between are the regions of Anjou, Saumur, Bourgueil, Chinon, and Vouvray.
The area includes 87 appellations. While the majority of production is white wine from the Chenin blanc, Sauvignon blanc and Melon de Bourgogne grapes, there are red wines made (especially around the Chinon and Bourgueil region) from Cabernet franc.
In addition to still wines, rosé, sparkling and dessert wines are also produced. It is as well the second largest sparkling wine producer in France after Champagne. The white wines of the Coteaux du Layon, Montlouis-Sur-Loire, Savennières, and Vouvray are based on Chenin blanc and are known for their high acidity when young and ability to develop and age well.
The villages of Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire are known for their crisp and herbaceous Sauvignon Blancs. Some producers in the area are experimenting with oak ageing their Sauvignon blanc to give them rounder and softer appeal. However, the large majority of the winemakers stick to "non-oaky wines" to preserve a maximum for fruitiness. The villages of Bourgueil, Chinon and Saumur are known for their Cabernet franc based wines that range from light and fruity in Saumur to rich and velvety in Chinon. The Muscadet wines from the Pays de la Loire are made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape and are known for their citrus and mineral notes.
List of pages in Loire Valley Wines:
- Anjou / Saumur
- Bourgueil wines
- Chinon wines
- Cour Cheverny
- Sancerre / Pouilly
- Vouvray / Touraine