Monday, 7 October 2013

Explore the Local Wines of the Loire

France is, of course, internationally famous for its excellent wines and a cycling tour in France would not be complete without sampling some of its best wines in the place that they were grown. But although French wine is popular in Britain, we generally only see a limited selection of wines compared to the vast number of local wines on offer within France itself.

These local wines are not usually available in UK supermarkets for a number of reasons. Firstly, local appellations often do not produce wine in the volume necessary to be picked up by a national supermarket chain. Secondly, supermarkets tend to opt for grape varieties and names which a large proportion of customers will be familiar with, and this of course simply perpetuates the situation. Seeking out specialist wine merchants is one option of course, but requires some degree of knowledge or confidence to know what to look for and, most importantly, what you like. Our cycling tours in France offer a chance to try out some of these local wines and expand your tastes.

To get you started and perhaps help you select a cycling tour that involves a visit to a wine region that interests you, here are some Loire Valley locations associated with some of the most popular local wines.

Cycling Tours France – Find out about the wine producing regions you can visit on your cycling holidays in France.

Saumur is the starting point of our Châteaux, Abbeys & Vineyards tour and gives its name to a sparkling (or mousseaux) white wine which many rate as second only to its more famous cousin Champagne.  Saumur wine is based on the Chenin Blanc grape variety, rather than the Chardonnay/Pinot Noir grapes used for Champagne, which gives the wine a much crisper, lighter flavour. Saumur Mousseaux is sometimes available in British supermarkets, if you look for it, since 12 million bottles are produced each year, but the sparkling wine section will generally be dominated by Champagne and Prosecco. As you will be staying overnight in Saumur itself you can get your wine sampling off to a good start by asking for some Saumur Mousseaux  to accompany your dinner here.

On Day 4 of the Châteaux, Abbeys & Vineyards tour you will stay overnight in the town of Chinon, part of a major wine producing region which is home to the Chenin Blanc grape variety.

Most British wine enthusiasts will already be familiar with this grape, usually used to make white wines, but most of the wine from this region is actually red or rosé and based on the Cabernet franc grape. The red wines produced very locally in the Chinon area are generally on the soft and fruity side. If you prefer something more "tannic" ask for a wine from the nearby Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil area.

We visit the city of Angers on day 9 of our From Orléans to Angers tour, giving you a chance to sample the delights of the famous wine producing region of Anjou.

The region produces mainly rosé wines, based on the Cabernet franc grape and names to keep a look out for include Rosé d'Anjou and Cabernet d'Anjou.

This area can be a seen as a microcosm of the whole Loire Valley in wine terms as it produces wines of every grape, colour and sweetness, from dry reds through to rich dessert wines – giving you plenty of choice and scope to find a wine close to your personal tastes.

Day 5 of our Royal Châteaux of the Loire tour offers the adventurous wine-taster a (literally) rare treat as we will pass through the town of Cheverny, home to an impressive château as well as being the centre of a very special wine producing region.

Cour-Chaverny wine is a little known appellation made from the Romorantin grape, a relative of the Chardonnay grape, grown only in and around Chaverny. Wines made from this grape are intense and full flavoured, but crisp.


A liqueur is the traditional French way to end a meal and many wine enthusiasts will be just as eager to sample some local liqueurs. Day 7 of the Royal Châteaux of the Loire tour takes you to Chambord, with its stunning château. But this place is also famous for its delicious raspberry liqueur of the same name. Originally created for King Louis XIV, it is now in full production again and, despite becoming a global brand, is still produced locally within the Loire Valley. Based on red and black raspberries it could almost be a dessert by itself as it includes a number of other rich flavours including honey, vanilla, cognac and citrus peel.

Orléans is the starting point of our Orléans to Angers tour – and it is also an ideal location to try two new, local appellations awarded as recently as 2006.  The Orléans appellation includes a variety of grapes, with white wines based mostly on the Chardonnay grape, and red or rosé wines based on the Pinot Meunier grape. Red wine lovers should make sure to try something from the Orléans-Clery appellation, which produces only red wines, based primarily on the Cabernet franc grape, with some Cabernet Sauvignon also used. There are only a small number of growers for these wines and volumes are therefore quite small – in addition they are generally consumed within a year of production – so a visit to the area may be one of your few chances to try them out.

Cycling Holidays France – Interesting local wines are, of course, available on all our cycling tours in France, so be sure to check out our full range of tours.

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