The longest river in France, the Loire, winds for more than 630 miles (1,000 kilometers), northward then westward, through the heart of the country into the Atlantic. Loire Valley starts in the center of the French nation, in an area called Centre Loire, moving westward, and includes the Touraine area around the city of Tours, then Saumur, Anjou and the coastal district of Nantes. The historic grandeur of this region vividly strikes visitors of cities such as Orleans, Blois, Touraine, Amboise and Chinon. Along the way, smaller villages and townships dot the lush landscape.
The French nobility favored the Loire Valley, sometimes calling it the "Garden of France" for its natural beauty, fertile soil and mild weather conditions. There they built some of the most famous castles in France, which led to the Loire Valley region being recognized by the United Nation's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) World Heritage List in 2000. The list recognizes areas that encapsulate their cultural and natural heritages -- giving them "outstanding universal value" [source: UNESCO, Luxury Traveler]. Basically, that means Loire Valley is hot stuff.
Loire Valley is also famous as a wine-producing region with some 163,000 acres (66,000 hectares) devoted to grapes and vineyards [source: Daskal]. The tremendous diversity of its geology and climate conditions make the Loire Valley the only part of France that reliably produces world-class wines of every type: red, white, sweet, dry, still and sparkling.
The stamp of approval for French wine is known as the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC). The Loire Valley region encompasses more than 60 AOCs [source: Vins de Loire]. Whether you are a wine novice or you're looking to expand your cellar collection, the Loire Valley wine region may have something just for you.
Restaurants in France stock Loire Valley varieties on their wine lists more often than wines from any other region. These varieties - the Muscadets of Nantes, Chenin Blancs of Anjou-Saumur, Vouvrays of Touraine, and Sancerres and Pouilly-Fumes of the Loire Centre - are uniformly affordable, comfortable and easy to match with a variety of foods.