Interesting Facts about Loire Valley
by Youliana Veltcheva
March 14, 2020
Admired and loved by medieval kings, the Loire valley is a beautiful area of France that is famed for its dazzling chateaux but it has so much more to offer. From tasty food, rich and velvety wines, to serene lush scenery. While castle tours are a must see, it is worth spending a few more days to appreciate the wine, gastronomy, the amazing troglodytes and many more less-known areas of the Loire Valley.
If you are planning a day trip from Paris to the Loire Valley, here are a few interesting facts about the area, worth mentioning and exploring.
Underground City – Troglodyte Caves
Loire Valley has its very own underground villages complete with homes, wine cellars and even a chapel. With underground tunnels, dug into the slopes and rock faces, these dwellings are inexpensive to build and provide safety and shelter from both hot and cold weather as they maintain a fairly constant 12 degree temperature. The caves are still inhabited to this day. There are many fine examples of troglodytes in towns and villages of the region such as Saumur, and Doue la Fontaine. If it is not for the smoke coming from underground chimneys, you might not even know that there is an actual home below the surface. It is a unique opportunity to view some of these cave dwellings and see what it’s like to live there.
Loire Valley Wine and Spirit
Of all the places in France Loire Valley contributes some of the world’s finest and most sought after wine grapes with 87 appellations. It is known for its white wine varieties, such as Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Some grapes are exclusively grown in the Loire Valley and are used to produce rare wines, such as Melon de Bourgogne and Pineau d’Aunis.
Other than wine, Angers in the Loire Valley produces the famous Cointreau liqueur. You can visit the state of the art modern distillery, that produces 16 million litres per year.If you are interested you can visit a session making cocktails in the elegant cocktail bar after visiting the facility.
The Loire valley is also the second biggest producer of sparkling wine, after Champagne. Local grape varieties, such as Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are mostly used for making sparkling wine. The centre for sparkling production in the Loire Valley is Saumur. Different tours and tastings are offered if you are visiting the area.
Loire Valley Gastronomy
The Loire Valley offers many delicious gourmet treats. A big part of the enjoyment comes not only from the delectable tastes but also from the appealing presentation.
Traditional local specialties of the Loire Valley are rillettes and rillons. Both are made from pig’s neck fried in fat, and are usually spread on a slice of freshly baked baguette. The belly pork is cooked for a long time with herbs and spices. Then it is pulled apart to reveal delicious rich-tasting strands of meat that are then layered into pots and covered with the pork fat to preserve them. The locals often serve it with crusty traditional bread.
Some of the popular sweet treats of the Loire Valley are the nougat of Tours, which is similar to an apricot marmalade tart with candied fruit and topped with almond macaron batter, and the poire tapée (flattened pear). This dried pear is originally from Rivarennes, where it is flattened with a special tool. The pear could then be eaten dried or soaked in a dish or wine.
The Loire Valley is cheese lovers’ haven, featuring some great tasting goat cheese varieties, which come in a different shapes, sizes and textures. Sainte Maure, for example, is a long log-shaped cheese, which pairs perfectly with a red Chinon wine. Another great cheese is Selles-sur-Cher from the region of Blesois, which pairs well with white Muscadet.
Loire Valley Locally Grown Quinoa
The area of Anjou is where there are a lot of fields of quinoa. The locals take pride in growing this agricultural newcomer and supplying the needs of quinoa for the whole country. Deliciously prepared as a hot main meal or a cold summer salad with a perfect amount of fresh herbs and spices, quinoa is a great healthy choice.
The Loire cuisine utilizes the rich flavours of a lot of the fresh ingredients that are grown in the region. There a quite a few fruits and vegetables grown here include: white and green asparagus, Nantes lamb’s lettuce, leeks, radishes, artichokes, button mushrooms, cherries, strawberries (a star on the summer market stands is the Mara des Bois, small and juicy variety), apples and many more.
Longest river in the Loire Valley
Loire River is the longest river in France, which flows through the region with over 20 main tributaries, including Cher and Indre. It joins the Atlantic Ocean in Saint Nazaire. The river fluctuates in volume, as result of which it is not a reliable means of transportation, but it adds to the charm and serenity of the area.