We just finished our outstanding tour of the Loire Valley wine country and came away with a much better appreciation of the high quality of the wines from one end to the other.

The Loire is the longest river in France and indeed I learned on this trip that the eastern most wine regions of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are actually in Burgundy!

The entire Loire Valley is underrated and if we know of any wines from that region, it’s usually Sancerre from the east  and Muscadet from the west. Maybe wine lovers know about Vouvray in the middle, but the rest is one big blur.

lunch with Baron Ladoucette

lunch with Baron de Ladoucette

That needs to change because the middle section is the king of the Chenin Blanc grape. That’s the biggest lesson I learned from this visit. And in particular I want to focus on the area just west of Saumur for truly outstanding versions of the Chenin Blanc: dry full-bodied wines that are great food accompaniments.

The good news is that many of these wines are available in the States. You just have to ask because they’re probably not on the shelves of most stores nor the wine lists of most restaurants. But ask and ye shall receive!

So here they are: the top 5 Winery Visits of our Loire Valley tour:

#5

Gratien et Meyer: one of the largest sparkling wine producers in the Loire, and in France, we were the first to experience their new enotourism program. If you like Champagne but not the prices, you have to try a sparkling wine from the Loire. I especially like the Crémant de Loire.

#4

Marc Brédif Vouvray- if you only visit one Vouvray producer, it should be Gaston Huet, but because of a change in ownership, we were not able to schedule a visit. So that’s where Marc Brédif comes in: right on the main road facing the Loire, you’ll love visiting the centuries’ old caves dug out of the tufa, and you’ll absolutely love their wines, from the bone-dry versions to the luscious sweet Vouvrays that rival Sauternes.

#3

FL Savennières, named after the last names of the two owners, this winery is the epitome of the new wave of winemakers in the Loire, with a state of the art facility and enotourist center, and outstanding wines featuring the Chenon Blanc.

#2

Domaine Du Closel Savennières, this is a great contrasting winery to FL since it represents the best traditions of the Loire Valley, primarily because of its dynamic female owner, Evelyn de Pontbriand, aka Mrs. Chenin Blanc.

#1

Chateau de Nozet Pouilly-Fumé- this was hands down our best most outstanding visit of the entire tour. OK, it didn’t hurt that we had lunch in the Chateau dining room with Baron and Mrs.  de Ladoucette, but their Pouilly-Fumés are superb.

Savennières

Evelyne de Pontbriand, Mrs. Chenin Blanc

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