The Loire Valley, which is part of Unesco’s World Heritage list, is an exceptional cultural landscape that bears witness to the harmonious interaction between man and his environment throughout two thousand years of history. It is a region that showcases par excellence a variety of terroirs. The vineyards of the Loire Valley have blossomed thanks to the diversity of its soils, topographies and exposures. The differences in the terroirs are therefore fully expressed in the wide variety of wines produced, despite the fact that they use the same grape varieties.
This immense winemaking richness is an invitation for demanding epicureans to explore these great terroirs and to experience for themselves the influence of natural factors on the structure and aromas of the wines.
Origin of the concept
Vines and wine represent an historical and cultural model of the application of the notion of terroir. The first references to terroir appear in mythological writings, but the recognition of terroir as including a notion of authenticity only really became clearly apparent in Ancient Egyptian times. The practice of identifying a wine’s origins in European vineyards (using seals with precise indications on the jars) has persisted across the centuries in one form or another.
The phylloxera crisis, which hit the Loire Valley vineyards at the end of the 19th century, turned these notions upside down and it wasn’t until 1935 when, driven by pressure from vineyard owners (particularly Baron Leroy), the notion of Controlled Place of Origin (AOC) (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) was developed. The following year, the creation of the National Institute of AOC Wines (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine,INAO) made the AOC official in France.
The AOC is the practical embodiment of the notion of terroir.
The notion of the AOC is based on the association of one territory with one or several grape varieties and one know-how. This original combination gives each AOC wine characteristics that cannot be reproduced elsewhere, because they cannot be transported to a different site.
The logical consequence of this is that the winegrower is at the service of his terroir and that the choice of grape variety, just like the oenological practices used, must reinforce the expression of that terroir through the wine.