Historic, verdant, vibrant and beautiful, the Loire Valley is one of the most emblematic regions of France and French wine country. Populated with pretty chateaux and staunch castles that speak of both the gentility of the region but also its historic importance for trade and commerce, the Loire is a banquet of experiences for the visitor. There are dozens of wine appellations divided between five overarching larger areas (Pays Nantais, Anjou, Saumur, Touraine and Centre-Loire) and there are, get this, more than 4,000 wineries. The breadth and depth of winemaking in the Loire is truly astounding. And the wine producers of the Loire have all of the history, experience and high-quality terroir to produce magnificent wines in a range of styles, whether white, red, rosé, sparkling or sweet.
One of the most fascinating appellations in the Loire is Crémant de Loire. Crémant de Loire is not defined by a precise geographical area but rather includes vineyards from the larger areas of Anjou, Touraine and Cheverney. What knits these producers and regions together for Crémant de Loire is the very strict rules for the production of sparkling wine in the traditional method. And thus, super high-quality bubbly wines can be anticipated when you try the Crémants. This is the second largest sparkling wine producing area outside of Champagne and the winemakers here feel that they have the sparkling wines to rival Champagne – as well as the scenery to beat it!
Why Crémant de Loire For Wine?
The makers of Crémant de Loire not only share the long winemaking history and know-how of the Loire region but, thanks to the Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité (INAO) – the French organization charged with regulating Protected Designations of Origin – the rules for producing Crémant sparkling wines have been standardized across the various Crémant regions of France. This means that they share the exacting standards that have been developed to ensure top-quality sparkling wines. These are “Méthode Traditionelle” wines so they undertake a secondary fermentation in bottle as is the case with Champagne. The combination of the Loire Valley’s wonderful wine growing terroirs, the very demanding Crémant specifications and the deep knowledge of the winemakers results in a bubbly of a very high order indeed. The primary grapes involved are Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc among others and the wines are known for their fine and persistent effervescence and delicate fruit aromas.
Where Is Crémant de Loire?
One of the wonderful things about a road trip in search of Crémant de Loire is that there is no single place where these wines are made. Rather, you can tour through significant portions of the Loire to sample them. The rules provide that Crémant can be made in Anjou, Touraine and Cheverney – so a significant portion of the best parts of the central Loire wine growing region.
Who Are The Winemakers
Because Crémant de Loire is made across a number of regions and because there are so many wine producers in the Loire generally, it is difficult to say exactly how many producers are out there. The popularity of Crémant de Loire is growing quickly and there is not enough supply for the demand, especially since by far the most is consumed in France. Here are a few producers to get started:
Visiting The Loire Valley and Crémant de Loire
The wine roads of the Loire Valley are close to Paris, just over an hour by car will get you to Orleans and from here you can follow the Loire river to Tours and onwards into the heart of the wine country. The roads meander along the river or branch outward into the pretty farms, orchards, vineyards and village of the countryside. There are wine routes within wine routes, enough for almost a lifetime. Take in some of the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc in Sancerre, the spectacular Chenin Blanc that characterizes the region, Saumur at the very heart of both the region and the Loire winemaking business and, of course, try the signature Cabernet Franc from this cool climate region. But make sure you try the Crémant as you go. Come to the Loire in the spring or the fall for the best experience and to enjoy the hospitality of the winemakers outside of the busy summer season.
Useful Links For Planning Your Wine Tour
Map and photo credits: www.loirevalleywine.com; www.vinsvaldeloire.fr; www.allianceloire.com; Chateau Monmousseau