A wine lover’s guide to the Loire Valley

Sancerre Loire Valley

 

Sean Millar of Pruno Wines discovers the delights of the Loire Valley, France’s most diverse wine region.

ONE OF THE FIRST VINEYARDS I ever visited was in the Loire Valley when I lived in the small town of Beaupréau, riding racehorses for a living.

 

Once the playground of kings, queens and aristocrats, the Loire Valley is a region steeped in history and its ancient towns, fairytale castles and beautiful landscapes make it one of the most enchanting winemaking regions to explore.

Widely known as ‘the Garden of France’, archaeological evidence suggests that the first vineyards in the Loire Valley were planted by the Romans in the 1st Century AD. At the very heart of the region is France’s longest river, the Loire, which runs from Muscadet, near the city of Nantes on the Atlantic coast, to Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé in north-central France.

Although the majority of wine produced in the Loire is white, mainly made from the Chenin blanc, sauvignon and melon de Bourgogne grapes, the region also produces some excellent red wines from the cabernet franc and pinot noir grapes.

The Loire is often divided into three sections; the upper Loire with sauvignon blanc dominated areas of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, the middle Loire with chenin blanc and cabernet franc regions such as Saumur and Chinon and the lower Loire with melon de Borgogne dominated areas in the Muscadet region.

One of my favourite wineries in the Loire is a small family run vineyard called Domaine Bonnet. The estate, which has 12 hectares in the heart of Sancerre, has been producing wine for over half a century with founders, Bernard and Pierrette Bonnard, still very much at the helm.

Their two daughters now also play an important role at the winery; Martine, who looks after viticulture, and Claire, who takes charge of the winemaking.

Another of the Loire’s notable wineries is Patrice Moreux, which produces an excellent Pouilly-Fumé. The small family estate, perfectly located in the Pouilly-Fumé region, is run by Patrice Moreux and his two sons, Arnaud and Julien.

Steeped in history, the winery’s first vines were planted in the 11th Century by Benedictine monks, who also gave shelter to pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostella.

Here are my six picks from the two wineries:

POUILLY-FUMÉ PATRICE MOREUX

A dry and crisp wine, made from 100% sauvignon blanc. Best to drink this wine young in order to appreciate its fruit and the smoky gun-flint characteristics, which are so indicative of the region.

SANCERRE BLANC, DOMAINE BONNARD

Aged in oak, this Sancerre has an intense straw yellow colour with fruity hints of pear, gooseberry and citrus with a pleasantly spicy finish. Made entirely from sauvignon blanc, harvested and selected by hand.

SANCERRE ROUGE, DOMAINE BONNARD

Sancerre is best known for its white wine but the region’s reds are pretty good too. This medium-bodied red, made from the pinot noir grape, features aromas of cherry with a chunk of acidity on the palate.

SANCERRE ROSÉ, DOMAINE BONNARD

Very aromatic and delightfully crisp, this rosé is light and elegant with succulent fresh flavours of raspberries and strawberries. Produced from the pinot noir grape, this is up there with the very best rosés around.

FILDEFERE MUSCADET DE SEVRE ET MAINE SUR LIE

Made from the melon de Bourgogne grape, this wine is pale in colour with a slight green tinge. Featuring wonderful intense floral notes with aromas of tropical fruit, it is tailor-made for shellfish but can be equally enjoyed as a pre-dinner drink.

MARCEL MARTIN CHINON LES BERNIERES

A fruity cabernet franc, where it excels in the Loire Valley around the historic town of Chinon. This wine has wonderful aromas of violets and spice with crushed berries, smooth and rounded.

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