The Loire Valley is one of the most important regions of France. Situated in the central part of the country, it spans the middle of the Loire River. The region is very important historically, culturally and agriculturally to the French speaking people and shows evidence of being occupied by humans since the Middle Palaeolithic period.
Climate and Geography of the Region
The Loire Valley faces the Loire River which acts as a demarcation line for the weather of the southern and northern regions of France. The river itself has a substantial effect on the climate of the region. The climate there tends to be cool with frosts during winter, but summers tend to be hot while the breeze coming in from the Atlantic Ocean tends to cool things down a bit.
UNESCO has declared the Loire Valley to be culturally significant not just for France but to the whole world by adding it to the list of World Heritage Sites. UNESCO has named the area between Maine and Sully-sur-Loire to significant in particular. The UNESCO committee has pointed out that area is made up of historic villages and towns with amazing monuments of architecture.
The region has been dubbed as the “Garden of France” and is filled with some of the most beautiful gardens in the country. Parks and gardens that date back to the medieval times and the renaissance can be found all over the Loire Valley. It is also agriculturally significant mainly because of the wine-making regions that can be found there. The region is also filled with cities of historical importance. These historic cities include Orleans, Tours, Chartres, Amboise and Bourges.
Castles of the Loire Valley
One of the reasons why the region has been declared to be culturally significant is because it is filled with châteaux or castles. The region has more than a thousand of these fine architectural marvels. Though these castles were home to the rich and powerful in the past, more than a hundred of them are now open to the public. These castles are some of the grandest architectural monuments that you can find in all of France.
The significant châteaux in the Loire Valley include Cathedrale de Chartres which has the finest example of stained glass artistry in the world, Château de Chambord which is the largest castle in the region and Château d’Ussé which was used as a model for the story of sleeping Beauty.
Winemaking in the Loire Valley
The Loire Valley is also significant for another reason. It is one of the most important wine producing areas in France. Within the Loire Valley are the regions of Anjou, Chinon, Vouvray, Saumur and Bourgueil where some of the best wines in the world are produced. The majority of what is produced in the Loire Valley is white wine, but there is also significant red wine production there. Winemaking has a long history in the valley which dates back to the 1st Century AD. During the Middle Ages, wine produced in the Loire Valley was considered to be more valuable than those from other regions in France, even those from Bordeaux.
Wine Regions of the Loire Valley
Here are some details regarding some of the most important wine regions that can be found in the Loire Valley:
The winemaking region of Anjou is centered on the town of Angers. It is known for the various styles of wine that it produces. About 20% of the total wine production of the region is for white wines, the rest of the production is for roses. Touring this region requires more than a day because of the large area that it covers.
Chinon has the distinction of being the most famous red wine region in the whole Loire Valley. Its Cabernet Franc can rival the St-Emilion of Bordeaux. There are more than 1800 hectares being cultivated in the different vineyards in the Chinon region. There are two types of red wine that are produced in the Chinon region. Those produced in Cravant-les-Coteaux are fuller while those that grow on the floodplains of the Loire and Vienne are generally lighter.
The Vouvray region is known for producing sweet wines. This region is located on the northern banks of the Loire River. Wines produced in Vouvray are bottled early in order to have a balance between acidity and sweetness. The best Vouvrays can be aged for a century.
The town of Samur is surrounded by three distinct appellations. These are Saumur, Saumur Mousseux and Saumur-Champigny. The soil in Saumur has similarities to those in Chinon that’s why it is a good destination for lovers of red wine.
There are 1200 hectares of vineyard in the appellations of St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil and Bourgueil. This winemaking region relies heavily on Cabernet Franc. The wines produced in Bourgueil are medium bodied and are generally light.
There are other wine-making regions in the Loire Valley. It is easy to see why this valley is so important not just to France but to the wine drinking population of the world.