An enormous chunk of north eastern France is occupied by the Loire Valley, which has undoubtedly made a name for itself with its white wines.
Loire wines are known for being fruit forward and not having much oak influence. Being so far north, there are limits to how much red grapes can ripen well here, although rosé and red wines are not exactly uncommon.
Starting in the west, in the sub-region of Pays Nantais, the most famous westerly Loire wine is Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, a wine that’s made from the Muscadet grape and is designed to be a wine for early drinking, refreshment and, unsurprisingly given its proximity to the sea, is a fantastic match with seafood. Muscadet sur Lie is also a hugely popular wine, where the light grape of Muscadet is given extra depth and character by resting for a period on the wine’s lees (the post fermentation yeast deposit).
Moving inwards we come to the second of Loire’s four sub-regions, Anjou-Saumur, which has a mild climate and reasonable rainfall. While Anjou is especially revered for sweet wines such as Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux, Saumur is more concerned with sparkling wine production, made from Chenin Blanc and occasionally Chardonnay too.
Touraine is most famous for Vouvray, Chinon and Bourgueil. Vouvray can be anything from dry to sweet (check the label carefully) and is made from the white grape Chenin Blanc, whereas Chinon and Bourgueil hang their hat on lighter red wines made from Cabernet Franc.
Loire’s most famous wine names come from the region furthest inland, known as the Upper Loire. Here, finely crafted, pure, crisp, mineral Sauvignon Blancs come out of the regions of Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre, two wine districts that occupy either side of the Loire river.