The Loire Valley wine region is a strategic economic player for the Centre-Val de Loire region and for France as a whole. It is the world’s most diverse wine region in terms of wines it produces (white, rosé, red, both still and sparkling) and – something somewhat unusual and therefore worth mentioning – one vineyard holding in five is managed by a woman!
ITS HISTORY OVER THE CENTURIES
As early as the 1st century A.D., Pliny the Elder wrote of the existence of vines on the banks of the Loire River. In the 4th century, the presence of vineyards was attested to in Saint-Pourçain, then throughout the Loire Valley as far as Nantes. Before the end of the 5th century, the entire Loire region was covered in vines.
In the Middle Ages, abbeys and monasteries were built along the routes of travel. Viticulture developed to meet the church’s liturgical needs and allow it to fulfil its duty of hospitality and care. Under the influence of the monks, a new viticultural geography took shape throughout the Loire Valley. The Loire River was the cornerstone of the economy and the kingdom’s main artery, facilitating wine trading.
In the 14th century, there were 200 toll stations along the river and the “communauté des marchands” (documented from 1402) had a monopoly on trade and navigation along the Loire River until 1772. It played a major role in the wine region’s activity.
In the 16th century, François I allowed the States of Brittany to impose a foreign trade tax. This tax helped to improve the quality of the wines produced upstream.
In the 17th century, Dutch traders had a major influence on the Nantes wine and brandy trade. White and sweet wines were highly sought after at that time.
In the 18th century, wine trading moved south and Bordeaux became the main port for overseas shipments. In 1736, however, there were still 6,000 boatmen plying their trade along the Loire River.
In the 19th century, the advent of the railway created a nationwide market for wine and brought the Loire Valley into direct competition with wines from the South of France.
In the 20th century, the creation of the French AOCs (Appellations d’Origine Contrôlées) represented a move towards quality. Quincy, Sancerre, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire, Cabernet d’Anjou, Rosé d’Anjou, Saumur and Vouvray were among the first winegrowing areas to be granted AOC status from 1936. After the Second World War, the wine industry was in crisis. Following the rural exodus, young people left the vineyards to work in the factories. The Loire Valley winegrowers therefore decided to join forces and work together as cooperatives, bottling their own wines and selling their wines themselves in Paris.
In the 1970s, technical advances (better vineyard management, rootstock selection) and the mechanisation of vineyard work led to a constant improvement in the wines’ quality.
The 1980s brought amazing technical progress in terms of vinification, with pneumatic pressing, temperature control, and analysis and control of the fermentation process. It was a period that saw an improvement in the quality of the wines and a greater consistency between vintages.
Since the end of the 1990s, the entire Loire Valley wine sector has been working to adopt better, more eco-friendly practices and ensure that human intervention in the vineyard is sustainable.
In 2021, 65% of the surface area of the Loire Valley wine region was being cultivated using either sustainable or organic methods. This figure is constantly on the rise.
Today, the Loire Valley wines assert their connection to the land and their inimitable qualities of fruit, freshness and finesse.
THE 3RD LARGEST FRENCH WINE REGION FOR AOC WINES
The Loire Valley wine region includes 65 AOCs covering a total of 42,000 hectares and 9 IGPs covering 62,100 hectares, i.e., 10.8% of the French AOC vineyards and 1% of the world’s vineyards.
In 2020, 44% of the surface area, the equivalent of 25,000 hectares, was being managed in a more eco-friendly manner with 1,400 growers holding HVE (High Environmental Value), Terra Vitis, organic or Demeter certifications…
Along with Alsace, the Loire Valley is the leading wine tourism region in France in terms of the quality of its hospitality offer. The region has 1,000 wine domaines open to the public and one-third of its visitors come from outside France. 360 wineries possess the “Caves Touristiques” label.
THE REGION IN NUMBERS
In 2021, there were 7,000 “déclarants” (wine producers declaring their production) in the region, of which 3,600 were producing AOC wines and the others IGP or Vin de France. There were also 410 négociants and 21 wine cooperatives.
1.3 billion euros in annual sales, 22% of which from exports.
Thanks to its exceptional cultural landscape, shaped in particular by its vineyards, the Loire Valley has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for 20 years.
The vineyards cover 4.5 times the surface area of Paris and are spread over 3 regions, 14 departments and 800 km of wine routes
9 bottles are produced every second…
315 million AOP/IGP bottles of wine sold and 2.5 million Hl were produced in 2020.
Over 55 million bottles are sold each year in 160 different countries and more than 200 million bottles are sold in France.
THE GRAPE VARIETIES
In the Loire Valley, there are 24 grape varieties used for the white, rosé, red, still and sparkling wines, most of which are used as a single varietal. There are 7 major varieties:
For the whites: Chenin, Chardonnay, Melon de Bourgogne and Sauvignon.
For the reds: Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Groleau.
Folle Blanche, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pineau d’Aunis, Pinot Noir, Côt (Malbec) and Merlot are also grown in the region.
Given the major changes taking place today, the focus is on the creation of added value for Loire Valley wines in all market segments, both in France and internationally. 18% of the Loire wine production is exported to the USA making this country one of the main drivers of the region’s exports.
The Top 3 countries in the E.U.:
- Germany (20%)
- Belgium (11%)
- The Netherlands (5%)
Other countries where Loire wines are sold include Australia, Canada and Japan, mature wine markets.
Information Source: Interloire
WINE BARRELS IN THE LOIRE REGION…
The duration of a wine’s barrel ageing can range from 1 month to over 36 months for the reds.
The market is essentially focused on barrels that will add complexity to the wines without overpowering them.
The Tonnellerie Saury range includes the Sélection Loire barrel (oak from the Centre region with 36 months seasoning) that has undergone what is known as a “lumière” toast, a long toast at low temperature, which produces very interesting and desirable ageing results.
Sales in the Loire region are primarily 400 and 500-litre barrels.
Claude Vidal (Agence Capaval), who has been Tonnellerie Saury’s agent in the Loire Valley for many years, is at your disposal should you require any further information: Tel: +33 (0)2 47 50 41 48 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copywriting: Juliette Herbreteau / Claude Vidal – Agence Capaval
Information source: Interloire, the interprofession des Vins du Val de Loire (Loire Valley Wine Board)