Travel & Wine Update

November 18, 2021

The Castles & Wines of the Loire Valley

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The Loire Valley is the heart of France, famous for its natural beauty, magnificent châteaux and great wine. The region is rich in history and culture: Renaissance writer Rabelais was born here; Joan of Arc led French troops to victory in the Hundred Years’ War in the Loire; and, as the Cradle of the French Language, its residents speak the purest French.

What Makes the Wines Unique?

The Loire Valley wine region includes the French wine regions situated along the Loire River from the Atlantic coast to just southeast of the city of Orléans in north central France. The majority of production is white wine from the Chenin blanc, Sauvignon blanc and Melon de Bourgogne grapes.

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Sauvignon Blanc

The Central Loire Valley, and more specifically the Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé wine regions, are the worldwide benchmark for Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc thrives in the cool continental climate of Centre-Loire. In Sancerre, flint gives the wine a mineral quality, gravel gives it citrus, chalk adds floral notes, and limestone and clay add an herbal richness to round out the flavor. These attributes make Sancerre one of the most ideal iterations of Sauvignon Blanc in the world. The Pouilly-Fumé name is composed of two parts. 'Pouilly' is short for Pouilly-sur-Loire, the village the wines come from. 'Fume' is short for Blanc Fumé, which is the local nickname for Sauvignon Blanc. The fumé in Blanc is French for 'smoky'. It denotes the struck gunflint aroma that characterizes the local Sauvignon Blanc wines. This distinctive smell is often referred to as pierre à fusil, which means 'flint' (literally 'rifle stone'). It is a key point of differentiation for Pouilly-Fumé's winemakers, and a source of great local pride.

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Chenin Blanc

Featured in Middle Loire Anjou, Vouvray, Saumur & Touraine, Chenin Blanc has zippy acidity, a manifest expression of terroir and an ability to age. It has floral, herbal and honeyed characteristics, aromas and flavors of ripe apple, pear, beeswax, occasionally tropical fruit, and often a lanolin or wooly note. An issue that has dogged Loire Chenin Blanc is its perceived sweetness and residual sugar, which is partly due its own historical success. The prestigious world-class sweet, often botrytized, wines of Bonnezeaux, Quarts-de-Chaume, Coteaux du Layon and Coteaux de l'Aubance have long had their following among enthusiasts and collectors. Chenin Blanc is also the basis for the success of Crémant de Loire sparkling wines. The Loire Valley is France's second largest producing region of sparkling wines.

There is a relatively recent influx of dry Chenin Blanc, led by a movement of younger producers, particularly in Anjou, which some have begun calling “the capital of natural wine.” There’s no denying the influence of natural winemaking in Loire, where so many top producers are now certified as organic or biodynamic.

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Melon de Bourgogne

Have you ever smelled the sea in your wine glass? Melon de Bourgogne, or just “Melon,” exudes the sea-like qualities of its maritime vineyards of the Lower Loire in the Pays Nantais wine region. The wine is also commonly known as “Muscadet,” the name of the regions where it grows. The briny citrus minerality on a creamy lees aged frame (sur lie) lends itself to a quaffable “glou-glou” (gulp it down) experience. Muscadet is one of the best wines that you can pair with seafood.

Parisians know that, and for this reason they always have a bottle of chilled Muscadet available on ice at the hundreds of wine bars around the city.

What about the Fantastic Castles of The Loire?

The Loire is rich with many beautiful with chateaux (castles), more than anywhere else in France. There are some 300 in the 175-mile stretch of the Loire Valley. The accident of geography, battles between armies and the patronage of royal families brought fantastic castles into the area of the Loire Valley.

Here are 3 of the Most Popular Castles


Château of Chambord

The Château of Chambord was built in 1519 by François I and features stunning French Renaissance architecture. Considered to be one the best chateaux in Loire Valley, this UNESCO site offers tours of its interior where you can view its intricate architecture and impressive tapestry collection.

When done exploring it, you can step outside into its formal garden to find native French plants. You can also explore the surrounding park which is filled with wild boars, roe deer, and bats as well as numerous walking trails. In addition to this, the castle has a restaurant and offers horse carriage rides around the grounds. There is also a Horse and Bird of Prey Show. 

Château de Chenonceau

The Château de Chenonceau towers over the nearby Cher River and features a stunning mixture of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Built in 1513, the castle is home to a large collection of 16th to 17th-century tapestries and numerous intricately decorated rooms you can tour.

The castle is known for its many gardens which include various species of plants, lakes, and bridges. You can also attend a unique event during the summer the castle hosts which allows you to take a night walk through the gardens which are illuminated by soft lanterns and candles.

This castle hosts floral workshops throughout the week and has a fine dining restaurant where you can grab a bite to eat.

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

The Château d’Azay-le-Rideau features early French Renaissance architecture and was built around 1518-1527 by King Francis I. Situated next to the Indre River, this castle is especially known for its façades and water mirror which has the castle brilliantly reflected in the river.

Tours can be taken of its interior where you can view many different rooms, including a Renaissance bedroom, which features various types of textiles and wall mattings.

There is also a surrounding park that is filled with foreign and native plant species including cedars and American tulip trees. It’s also home to numerous types of wildlife like dragonflies and bats.

Coggin Travels curates private Loire Valley excursions. With the central location of the Loire Valley, enthusiasts often plan excursions from Paris or combine a trip to the Loire Valley with another French region such as Normandy or Burgundy.

The city of Nantes and the Muscadet wines of the Lower Loire are less than a half day drive from Normandy. Coggin Travels can arrange private transportation, including a stop to take in Mont Saint-Michel, the magical island topped with a gravity defying Abbey.

Nantes, known as the Venice of the West, is regarded as an art and history city. Take in the spiritual surroundings of Cathedrale de Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul, enjoy some music at Le Lieu Unique, then walk around Arboretum Cimetiere Parc, take a stroll through Passage Pommeraye, and let Coggin Travels plan a private vineyard experience through the Pays Nantais wine region.

Coggin Travels can put you on France's fastest trains from Paris to be in, Orleans, Tours, Amboise, or Blois (the cities in the heart of the Loire Valley) in less than 2 hours. These cities are close in proximity and are a great starting point for your Coggin Travels guided Loire Valley excursion.


Coggin Travels can arrange a guided tour along the La Loire à Vélo (The Loire by Bike) cycle trail, one of the most attractive ways to discover the treasures of the Loire Valley. Along the way, take in the magical scenery of the peaceful countryside, vineyards that stretch as far as the eye can see, the sparkling waters of the Loire itself and even troglodyte dwellings. The terrain is mostly flat and well adapted to casual biking.


While Sancerre is a short drive from Burgundy, why not let Coggin Travels charter your private 90 foot luxury river barge with 2 king-size staterooms, modern en-suite bathrooms and a salon? The cruise sails along the the Nivernais Canal, from the city of Auxerre, which dates back to Gallo-Roman times.

The Canal du Nivernais links the Loire basin to that of the Seine, where the canal joins the Yonne river valley. Some sections are canal; some sections are river, with trees and willows at the water’s edge, cliffs and villages along the cruise route, passing thorough ancient lift bridges as you go. Enjoy a lungful of fresh air in beautiful natural surroundings, at the gentle pace of the waterways.

Contact Coggin Travels to start planning your French Travel and Wine Adventure

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See Previous Editions of the Wine & Travel Update

The Wild West of Wines - Paso Robles

The Valpolicella Wine Region of Italy

The Istria Wine Region of Croatia

Chenin Blanc in South Africa

The Ribera del Duero Wines of Spain

The Dalmatia Wine Region of Croatia

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