A confession that should not come as much as shock to the gentle reader – this writer’s expertise on fine wines is on a par with his comprehension of the internal combustion engine or why the BBC continues to broadcast Casualty. Yet, I do take an interest in this vast subject and in January of this year Lana Bortolot wrote an extremely interesting article for Forbes magazine. There she noted the ‘Loire Valley is France’s third largest producer, yet largely flies under the radar. Wine drinkers tend to know the two bookends of the vast valley’.
Yet, between Muscadet to the west and Sancerre to the east lies no fewer than 79 AOCs and over 3,000 producers. And in 2000, UNESCO the area between ‘Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes-sur-Loire was classed as a World Heritage Site. It also comes as surprise to the uninitiated (such as this scribe) to learn that viticulture in the region was established by the Romans and were mentioned by Pliny the Elder as long ago as the 1st century AD in his Natura Historica. The “Vitis biturica” was a ‘quality plant that stands the cold weather, storms and rain, and yields a wine that can be kept for a long time and improves over the years’.
Of course, to write a history of the wines in the Loire Valley would require several years, countless volumes, and great expertise, all of which I conspicuously lack – especially the last-named. Yet, any visitor to the Chateau de Bois Giraud cannot fail to be aware of how the economy and the traditions of the area are dominated by the vine. Robert Mondavi of Napa Valley once famously stated ‘Wine has been a part of civilized life for some seven thousand years. It is the only beverage that feeds the body, soul and spirit of man and at the same time stimulates the mind’. And perhaps some guests will feel the same way.