Originating in France yet now grown in many parts of the New World, Chenin Blanc is one of the most versatile and highly regarded white wine grape varietals on earth. These green skinned grapes hold a relatively high acid content, and as such can be used for making still white wines of exceptional quality, as well as superb sparkling wines (such as the Crémant wines of the Loire Valley) and extremely aromatic dessert wines. Their natural transparency means that they are a fine grape for expressing their terroir in the bottle, and winemakers often experiment with this varietal to coax unusual and intense flavors from the grapes, such as allowing the development of noble rot on the fruit in order to make sweet and viscous wines of a unique character. Year in, year out, France enjoys its prestigious reputation as the producer of the finest wines in the world. With a wine making history which spans several thousand years and owes its expertise to the Romans, it comes as little surprise that this most highly esteemed of the Old World wine countries continues to impress and enchant both novices and experts to this day. Despite the rise in quality of wines from neighboring European countries, not to mention the New World, the French wine industry continues to boom, with up to eight billion bottles being produced in recent years. However, France prides itself on always putting quality before quantity, and the wide range in fine produce is a testament to the dedication and knowledge of the wineries across the country. Indeed, from rich and complex reds to light and aromatic white wines, French wines are as varied and interesting as they are enjoyable to drink, making this country a firm favorite for wine lovers across the globe. Within France, the one region most closely associated with fine white and rosé wines is surely the Loire Valley. With over eight controlled appellations, and a relatively large expanse of land covering this wide valley, the Loire Valley is an ideal location for wineries wishing to produce large quantities of excellent quality vines for their wine production. Indeed, this region has been associated with excellent white wines for over a thousand years, with it once being the favorite wine region for the crowned heads of England, France and beyond. Today, it produces a wide range of white wines, and several rosé and red varieties also. It is also widely celebrated for being home to some of France's most lively and fruity sparkling crémant wines, which more than match those produced in nearby Champagne. The river Loire, the longest river in France, flows north through the heart of France, then west where it empties into the Atlantic. For centuries it has provided an avenue for commerce and culture. No wonder, then, that the Loire Valley became a center for political power and wealth, ruled by an educated elite who built chateaux not as a base from which to tend their vineyards as in Bordeaux, but as a demonstration of their influence and prestige.
The Loire boasts a variety of soils and climate, from continental in the east to maritime in the west, and can produce any number of wines. The region is roughly divided into four areas: Pays Nantais, at the mouth of the river and home of Muscadet, Anjou, Touraine and the Central Vineyards. No special classification exists, although the AC system is in full swing--even the smallest areas with a distinctive style have their own appellations.