The Remarkable Consistency and Value of Loire's Whites

Though we're still a couple of weeks away from the solstice, summer's warm weather is upon many of us already. Once again, the shifting seasons cause a change in what's fresh, and thereby affecting our menus and what we're drinking. If you find yourself longing for lighter, more refreshing whites as the mercury rises, the France's Loire Valley has much to offer.

Stretching along a 700 kilometer stretch of the Loire River from Saint Etienne in the Lower Loire to Orleans in the Upper, the valley then runs west all the way to where the river dumps into the Atlantic. Most of the wine is made (and almost all we see in the US) is from the Upper Loire. Given this geographic breadth, it's no surprise that the grapes and styles enjoy terrific diversity. Put another way, you can experiment with these wines without getting bored.  

Known best for the eastern sub-regions of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume, which produce notable (and pricey) sauvignon blancs, the other sub-appellations in the Loire Valley are overlooked havens of delightful whites. (Reds, too, though they are worthy of their own discussion.) In addition to sauvignon blanc, the chenin blanc and melon de Bourgogne varieties make up the bulk of white wine production in the region. 

Rather than try to commit those to memory, you're better off engaging in some exploration - this is a low risk area if you're willing to spend $15-ish on a bottle. And so that this isn't just some theoretical dive into abstract vinous navel-gazing, here are things to be on the lookout for:

  • Muscadet - usually in a tall skinny bottle - is fresh, flinty, crisp, and crunchy with acidity.
  • Anjou - this is home to many very good chenin producers, making a fuller, rounder, softer profile with ripe pear flavors and tree flower aromas. 
  • Saumur - Similar to Anjou
  • Touraine - ground zero for bargain hunting - versatile and friendly sauvignon blancs reign here
  • Cheverney - Similar to Touraine
  • Menetou-Salon - right next door to Sancerre - elegant, poised, slightly more expensive than other sub-regions, but still way cheaper than Sancerre or Pouilly Fume.
Following are a handful or so, all of which are available through WTSO.  Enjoy!