One of the pleasures of any visit to the Loire Valley is the opportunity to sample the region’s superb wines. Some of them are widely available, notably Muscadet and Sancerre, while others rarely leave the region or are exported only in very small quantities. So keep an eye out for these bottles on local wine lists and also when browsing the shelves of your wine merchant back home.
Domaine de la Chevalerie Galichets
Fourteen generations of the Caslot family have been making wine on this magnificent estate in the heart of the Bourgueil AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée). The grapevines here average 75 years old, which means that they produce small mineral-rich fruit that gives the wines exceptional depth and elegance. One of the best Bourgueils in France, this wine is a truly poetic expression of the Cabernet Franc grape. The winery offers cellar visits and tastings, along with a unique activity: hoeing, where guests work in the vineyards breaking up the soil around the feet of the vines.
14 Route du Peu-Muleau, Restigné. Tel. (33) 2-47-97-46-32
La Grange Tiphaine Clef de Sol Blanc 2018
We love the lushness of this wine, which offers a magnificent expression of Chenin Blanc grapes. The “Sol de Clef,” which means “treble clef” in French, is made from biodynamically grown grapes and aged in oak casks for 12 months before being released. With a nose of honey and florals, it puts forward a vivid acidity and a fat texture that lingers into a beautiful finish. This vineyard is one of the natural-wine world’s best producers.
1407 Rue du Clos Chauffour, Amboise. Tel. (33) 2-47-30-53-80
Domaine Philippe Gilbert Menetou-Salon 2019
We first discovered this delicious white wine at a Paris dinner party and subsequently visited the vineyards on a previous trip to the Loire Valley. This delightful good-value Sauvignon Blanc, from one of the more confidential appellations in the Loire, is a great food wine and an original expression of the grape, with a nose of green apple and green pepper. The winery also produces some lovely rosé wines.
9 Les Faucards, Route des Aix, Menetou-Salon. Tel. (33) 2-48-66-65-90
Domaine Vincent Gaudry “Constellation Du Scorpion
Sancerre is perhaps the best-known Loire Valley wine, and white Sancerre is an enduring favorite in the United States (red Sancerres are also excellent). For a fresh, sophisticated take on this popular wine at its very best, Gaudry’s bottlings are reliably vivid and citrusy.
14 Rue des Champs-des-Près, Sury en Vaux. Tel. (33) 2-48-79-49-25
Domaine des Roches Neuves
Saumur-Champigny, which is made from Cabernet Franc grapes, is popular in the United States because it’s a food-friendly medium-bodied red that works well with things like grilled beef and pork, roast chicken and cheese. Some of the best are made by Domaine des Roches Neuves, notably its organic and biodynamic cuvée Terres Chaudes, which is imported in the United States by Kermit Lynch in Berkeley, California.
56 Boulevard Saint-Vincent, Varrains. Tel. (33) 2-41-52-94-02
La Coulée de Serrant
Keep your eyes peeled for Nicolas Joly Coulée de Serrant Savennières on restaurant wine lists in the Loire, because very little of it leaves France. These vineyards were originally planted by Cistercian monks in 1130, and they were converted to biodynamic agriculture in 1984 by Nicolas Joly, one of the fathers of biodynamic wine production in France. Joly’s Savennières is one of the country’s most elegant white wines, with earthy-mineral, honey, citrus and tree-fruit notes. Note: The winery occasionally holds lovely concerts in the vineyards, so check the website to see if one might be scheduled during your trip to the Loire.
7 Chemin de la Roche aux Moines, Savennières. Tel. (33) 2-41-72-22-32
Domaine Huet’s Pétillant has become one of our favorite French sparkling wines ever since we first sampled it many years ago at Benoit, Alain Ducasse’s Paris bistro. That night, the sommelier described this wine as being “more playful” than Champagne, and he was absolutely right. Ever since its founding in 1928, this celebrated wine producer has showcased the magnificent possibilities of the Chenin Blanc grape, one of the three signature varieties of Loire Valley white wines (Melon de Bourgogne and Sauvignon Blanc are the others). Domaine Huet wines are excellent across the winemaker’s entire range, which includes sparkling, dry, semi-dry and dessert-style wines.
11 Rue de la Croix Buisée, Vouvray. Tel. (33) 2-47-52-78-87