While the Loire Valley is perhaps most-famous for its sublime, Romantic chateaux, it is also exceptional for its varied, prestigious winemaking areas. It may lack the glitz associated with Champagne and the global renown and familiarity of Bordeaux, but the wines of the Loire are among some of France’s most complex, sophisticated and delicious. Particularly lauded for excellent whites, from crisp Pouilly-Fumés to delicately sparkling cremants, the region also produces some distinctive and palate-opening reds, including from Anjou and Sancerre. For all these reasons, a private Loire Valley wine tour is certainly recommended as part of any luxury itinerary in the area. Read on to learn more about 4 key areas in the greater region that are essential to explore in more depth.
While we won’t deny that the famed wines of Champagne are entirely unique, the Saumur appellation (an official term for a French wine-making area) makes some equally distinctive, delicate, and entirely delicious sparkling whites as well. Dominated by a dramatic, turreted chateau that overlooks the Loire River, the medieval town of Saumur is full of prestigious vineyards and cellars, most producing sparkling whites and crémants– a delicate, dry and “creamy” variety– from Chenin Blanc grapes. The villages surrounding the town are intensively devoted to producing unique and distinctive regional favorites, warranting further exploration. Visitors can sample one of the area’s most sought-after red wines, Saumur-Champigny: appreciated for its intensely fruity, spicy notes and velvety tannins. For those with an affection for rosé wines, Cabernet Saumur wines are perfect for a summer evening, and are complex enough to enjoy accompanied with a gourmet meal.
On your private tour of the region, we’ll introduce you to some of our favourite and most-exclusive cellars, and even arrange meetings with renowned vintners in the area– many part of families who have operated wineries for many generations. You’ll learn firsthand all about the delicate process of making a typical crémant or other sparkling white, and if desired, sample a variety of whites, rosés and reds produced in the area.
Stay in Saumur: Our Suggestion
Saumur offers many luxurious and breathtaking places to stay, but one we especially love and recommend is the Chateau de Verrieres. This 5-star castle hotel offers the intimacy of a private mansion, with the uncompromising standards of palace accommodations. Enjoy the onsite spa and outdoor swimming pool, lush green grounds, and chic bar serving an excellent variety of local wines.
Located in the very centre of France (as its name suggests), the Centre-Loire region has been a winemaking area for some two millennia. White-wine lovers will find this area a living dream, as it’s home to world-treasured appellations such as Pouilly-Fumé– a crisp, dry white with a distinctively smoky note– and Sancerre, perhaps the gold standard for Sauvignon Blanc whites. Other lesser-known, but equally superb, whites include those made in the appellations of Reuilly, Menetou-Salon, and Quincy.
For those with a preference for reds, this region also produces wonderful examples of these from Pinot Noir grapes: while many have never tasted a red from Sancerre, it offers a wonderfully fresh, light robe with directly fruity notes. Other appellations that make excellent reds in the Centre-Loire include Coteaux-du-Giennois and Châteaumeillant.
Whatever your tastes and preferences, your visit to the Centre-Loire will focus on the area’s most well-respected vineyards and tasting rooms, offering you a full appreciation of the diversity that exists within this part of the Loire Valley alone. You can even opt to take a private cruise on the Loire River and enjoy local wines paired with a delicious meal prepared by an onboard chef, taking in the scenery of wild birds and other local fauna.
Stay in the Centre-Loire: Our Suggestion
Rising high above the rolling vineyards and countryside of the surrounding region, the ancient town of Sancerre offers a sublime and peaceful setting for a stay in the area. We especially recommend the Hotel Le Clos Saint-Martin. Elegant, comfortable and rustic, it’s not a palace hotel — but with its gorgeous views over the vineyards below, country charm and peaceful setting, it offers a more authentic and relaxed way to enjoy the area.
It’s now time to head to the noble lands of Touraine, home to some of the Loire’ most myth-steeped chateaux, and to some truly magnificent local wines. Frequently referred to as the “Jardin de France” in reference to the gorgeous gardens and castles that crown its hills and dominate over its winding rivers, the area produces wines that are lauded the world over.
These include varieties from the Vouvray appellation: Chenin Blanc whites particularly appreciated for their diversity and elegance. Covering only 2,000 hectares of vineyards, the Vouvray appellation nevertheless produces wines that range from dry to off-dry, sparkling to frankly sweet. They are noted for their distinctive, complex stony and floral qualities.
Bourgueil, Chinon, and St. Nicolas de Bourgueil are other prized whites made in the area, all produced from Cabernet Franc grapes and each offering their own distinctive character. These wines prove wrong the belief– common among some wine drinkers– that whites are less complex and “challenging” on the palate than reds are!
Finally, the Touraine region (home, as you may have guessed, to the lovely city of Tours), also produces its only lovely Cremant de Loire, perfect for any celebration or luxurious aperitif. This is an ideal wine to be enjoyed, for example, by a couple celebrating their honeymoon in France.
Stay in Touraine: Our Suggestion
For pure romance, relaxation, and proximity to some excellent wine-tasting opportunities, we recommend the Chateau d’Artigny, a sumptuous 5-star mansion hotel in Montbazon with breathtaking formal gardens, a gastronomic restaurant serving delicious cuisine paired with local wines, and relaxing spa situated in the property’s vaulted cellars.
Last but certainly not least, the region of Anjou is just as mythical as Touraine for its royal history. It once rivalled the central medieval French monarchy in Paris in terms of stature and wealth, and for anyone interested in exploring France’s centuries-old history and culture, it’s an ideal, authentic place to do so. Beyond its royal history, Anjou is also acclaimed for its own entirely unique wines.
Anyone with a taste for sweeter wines– not simply suited for dessert, but also to be enjoyed alone or even occasionally with select dishes– will enjoy tasting the many prestigious varieties produced in Anjou. The region is renowned for its Chenin Blanc-based sweet wines, including Quarts de Chaume, Coteaux de Layon and Bonnezeaux. These sweet wines are quite particular in that the grapes are often harvested after being affected by noble rot, a fungus that imparts a concentrated and intensely sweet quality on the resulting wines.
In addition to these lauded sweet varietals, the Anjou region is also prized for its Savennières, a dry Chenin Blanc with strong, pleasing mineral and tropical fruit notes, and for a local red made from Cabernet Franc grapes. The Rosé d’Anjou, meanwhile, is considered to be one of France’s most delicate and refined rosés.
Stay in Anjou: Our Suggestion
The aforementioned Chateau de Verrieres makes an excellent, and luxurious, place to call home while you explore the Anjou region, and will allow you to easily see the adjoining Saumur vintnering areas as well. Otherwise, we recommend you consider a stay at the 17th-century Chateau Colbert, a romantic and historic boutique hotel situated right at the edge of the largest Japanese gardens in Europe, the Maulevier Oriental Park.
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Have we succeeded in inspiring you to embark on your own private wine tour of the Loire Valley? If you’re ready to design a bespoke and luxurious tour of the region for your next trip to France, get in touch with us. We’ll personally ensure that every stop on your itinerary is unique and unforgettable, and unlock some of the region’s most exclusive cellars and tastings for you.
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