The Loire Valley sits near Nantes in western France and is one of the most beautiful winemaking areas in Europe. A narrow but wide region that follows the Loire river, it spans from Auvergne and the Massif Central mountains to the Atlantic coast.

Vines producing wine grapes have existed here since the Roman invasion into the Loire Valley and some historians believe that the vines could have been here since 380 AD when reds were made in the surrounding hills and whites were fermented on the river banks.

The climate varies over this wide region. In the west Atlantic weather and winter is the norm while the interior has cold winters and warm summers.

Unlike the Bordeaux where 75% of production is red, in the Loire 75% of the production goes to the creation of whites. The main grapes are Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon. Most of the remaining quarter of red is produced from Cabernet Franc, with some Gamay and Pinot Noir.

This area produces 400 million bottles which is the end product of grapes frown in clay-limestone, siliceous and chalky soils. Types range from dry whites to sweet; for red rose to fruity.

In the eastern part of the valley close to Pouilly and Sancerre, many of the grapes used for winemaking are Sauvignon Blanc. These produce the delicious dry, white Pouilly-Fume. The robust, dry eponymous white is produced on the other bank around Sancerre.

In the province of Touraine which is further west, one will find mostly Chenin Blanc, which produces the fruity Montlouis. The glorious red Loire wines, Bourgueil and Chinon, mostly from Cabernet Franc are also produced here.

On the right bank of the Loire river, near to Tours don't miss the lovely dry Vouvray. This product of Chenin Blanc is grown in clay infested with limestone and chalk. 13 million bottles are produced in this area that is comprised of 5,000 acres.

Anjou-Saumur neighbors Touraine to the west and produces a wonderful white from Chenin Blanc that is famed for its smooth quality. Since the 6th century winemakers have clustered around Angers. This area is famous for the Rose d'Anjou, which is reported to have been enjoyed by King Henry II of England. Any commoner will also enjoy the oak aged whites from this region. The land covers 22,000 acres and produces 55 million bottles.

The widest wine are of the Anjou region lies along the Layon river, where the vines are protected by the hills, is Coteasux du Layon. This area is best known for a sweet wine purported to be from a recipe that is 15 centuries old. The harvest in this area comes late because the growers choose to leave the grapes on the vines until they begin to over-ripen. This 4,450 acres of land produces nearly 7 million bottles.

The well-known Muscadet is also in the Loire Valley and sits in the far west of this region. This area produces a pale white wine with a dry, astringent taste. This is best when consumed fresh and young by connoisseurs of any age. Nearly 100 million bottles are produced from 31,000 acres of vines grown in granite soil.

Swirl the wine gently, sniff and taste.

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