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The Loire is France’s longest river. The variations in climate, soil and grape varieties along its banks are reflected in the wide range of Loire Valley wines grown in the region’s four major wine districts. Bright white table wines, luscious dessert wines, acclaimed sparkling wines and easy-drinking red wines are all produced in historic locations along the Loire River.

From west to east, the Loire Valley’s wine regions are Pays Nantais, which specializes in lively white Muscadet wines made from Melon de Bourgogne, a relative of the Chardonnay grape; Anjou-Saumur, where Chenin Blanc grapes are made into dry, sweet and sparkling white wines; Touraine, where light- to medium-bodied reds are made from Cabernet Franc and other grapes in towns such as Chinon and Bourgeuil; and the eastern, or upper, Loire, where some of France’s greatest white wines, including Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, are made from Sauvignon Blanc.

The Loire Valley wine map can be visualized as a long ribbon with crisp white wines at either end, and fuller-flavored wines of all types in the middle (where slightly warmer climes allow full ripening of red and richly flavored white grapes). The valley, which is at the northern limits of French viticulture, can be cool, but the river helps moderate temperatures. Vineyards are planted to take maximum advantage of exposure to the sun and warmth rising off the river.

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