Wine and Food of the Loire Valley
Kirra Barnes Tasting & Trends
Much has been written about the beautiful Loire Valley, well known as “the garden of France.” The wine region follows the meandering Loire River more than 600 miles through the gently rolling hills of a picturesque countryside. There is an abundance of vines and food crops in this fertile stretch of France. The Loire produces the largest amount of white wines of any French region, and it is the world’s largest mushroom producer. As the old adage says, “If it grows together, it goes together,” and this is perhaps nowhere as evident as it is in the Loire Valley.
Closest to the ocean, the Pays Nantais sub-region is known for crisp, mineral white wines made from grapes grown in volcanic soils. Muscadet, the area’s most famous wine, is a famed partner for local oysters, but it also pairs wonderfully with other ocean fare such as mussels, fish and shrimp. The elegant wines of the Muscadet Sèvre et Maine AOC crus (Clisson, Gorges and Le Pallet) age sur lie quite a bit longer than the regular appellation. The extra aging adds significant body and an autolytic creaminess, making these wines able to match wits with butter-based sauces and heavier proteins. The concentrated flavors of Muscadet cru complement quite a bit more than just seafood, try them with your next roasted bird or plate of greens.
The middle Loire, especially around Touraine, is the classic garden section of the region. Famed for the lush flower gardens of France’s aristocratic past, the area is also known for abundant food crops. Asparagus, black truffles, artichokes, saffron and all kinds of fruit crowd the baskets of local farmer’s markets.
There is an earthy, savory character to both the white and red wines of Touraine, making them a natural match for the region’s mushrooms. A dry, chiseled Chenin Blanc is one of the easiest wines to pair with food—its bright acidity cuts through the richest sauces, while its textured palate holds its weight against roasted game. Cabernet Franc, with its dark fruits and restrained tannin is a perfect summer red with grilled meats or bean-based salads.
Sauvignon Blanc and goat cheese is perhaps the Loire’s most famous wine and food pairing, and for good reason. The region boasts five AOPs for distinctive regional specialties such as Sainte Maure de Touraine and Selles sur Cher. Sauvignon Blanc is also ideal match for the notoriously difficult to pair asparagus and artichoke, and is surprisingly appealing with dishes spiced with saffron.
From top to bottom, the Loire valley has the perfect fill for both glass and plate. Few regions offer such easy go-to pairings, but you just can’t go wrong when serving wine and food that could have grown up together!