France - Loire

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.