The Loire Valley is more than just fancy châteaux. It is a region rich in culture and history, given all the famous royals and nobles who lived in the area. And where the nobility lived, delicious food and wine followed.
Which makes it the perfect destination for food lovers. Located about 50 miles (80 km) from Paris, the Loire Valley became in essence the “country house” for relaxing, hunting, and socializing in private luxury.
In 1577, there was a large push when a judgment of the Parliament of Paris forced wine merchants to stock up wines from nearby, making the Loire Valley and ideal as a place for developing vineyards.
And along with wine, other delicacies followed. Industries boomed in the area around cheeses and other local specialities. All of which makes for a wonderful experience for any visitor to the area.
The Loire Valley may not have the most famous wines compared to the other French wine regions, but that is not to say there are not some very good wines in this area.
The châteaux and the allure of French royalty (as well as British royals like Anne Boyelyn and Mary Queen of Scots who spent time here) that contributed an additional sheen to wines from the Loire Valley, beyond their actual taste and production.
Only about 2 hours from Paris, the biggest names from this area are the Sancerre and Chinon AOC, which both come in red, white, and rosé. If you are looking for day trips from Paris, a trip to a vineyard in the Loire is quite easy to arrange.
There is also the white wine Pouilly Fumé, which as mentioned above, is made from sauvignon blanc grape is often confused with Burgundy’s Pouilly Fuissé which is made from the Chardonnay grape. The Fumé has a very fresh dry taste, compared to the Fuissé’s floral nutty taste.
Other great wines from this area are the Anjou Rosé and the Muscadet blanc. You can read more about Loire Valley wines here.
2. Beurre Blanc sauce
The Beurre blanc is also sometimes called the Beurre nantais, after the city of Nantes on the Loire river. Ingredients in beurre blanc sauce include butter, vinegar or white while, and shallots.
This sauce is to be served warm as an accompaniment to seafood. It traditionally served with poached or grilled fish like pike, salmon, and codfish.
It also goes well with grilled shellfish like shrimp, crab and lobster. You can get the recipe for beurre blanc sauce here.
3. Tarte Tatin
Each region in France has its favorite tart. The tarte tatin comes from the Loire region, courtesy of sisters, Stephanie and Caroline Tatin who invented it at the end of the 19th century.
It is a variation of the tarte aux pommes (apple pie) where the apples are caramelized and often dough cooked on top.
Another variation is the Norman tart, which is an apple pie with a filling made of flour, eggs, cream, sugar and a little calvados.
In the Savoy (Alsace), there is the tarte aux myrtilles (meaning “blueberry pie”). A traditional dessert, blueberries grow bountiful in the Alps, making this pastry dish a popular treat after the September harvest.
You can find many varieties of tarts served as desserts in restaurants all over France, as well as local patisseries and boulangeries.
4. Goat cheeses
France is the land of cheese, and the Loire Valley is the land of the goat cheese. There are several famous types of goat cheese in the Loire valley including:
a) Bûche de chèvre
Originating from the Poitou-Charentes area near the Loire Valley, the bûche de chèvre is today produced all over France.
Sometimes called bûcheron, it has a soft white rind, and creamy white interior, and is great for adding into salads, etc. You can buy a bûcheron here.
b) Saint Maure
From Sainte-Maure-de-Touraine in the Loire Valley, comes the Saint Maure goat cheese. It is a very old cheese, believed to date back to the 8th century Bataille de Poitiers.
Legend has it that Ottoman women, who were left behind after the battle, taught the locals how to make the cheese based on the bacterial fermentation and the decomposition of plants in black manure.
It is usually aged at least 10 days and has a soft grey rind with a white interior. You can buy Saint Maure here.
c) Crottin de Chavignol
Another famous cheese from the Loire valley is the Crottin de Chavignol, from the town of Chavignol (which has a mere 200 residents).
The word “crot” is usually used for dung, but don’t be fooled, this cheese tends to be rather expensive per gram, since it is sold in such small quantities.
It can be sold as Chavignol jeune (young), or Chavignol bleuté (mid-maturity), or Chavignol affiné (full maturity). You can buy Crottin de Chavignol here.
With its distinctive pyramid shape, you can easily recognize the valençay from a distance. Named after the town of Valençay in the Loire Valley, this goat cheese is usually aged around 3 weeks.
According to folks’ tales, it has a pyramid shape with the tip cut off, because Napoleon Bonaparte stopped by the town after his defeat in Egypt and was so irritated by the sight of a pyramid, he chopped off the top with a sword. You can buy Valençay cheese here.
Rillettes are somewhat similar to pâté and terrines, in that they are the insides of meat shredded then slow-cooked and preserved in fat.
Common types of rillettes in France are duck, pork or goose rillettes. New varieties of crab and seafood rillettes are also available.
In the Loire Valley, there are a couple of types of rillettes that are quite famous. There is rillettes de Tours which is named after the city of Tours is one of the largest cities in the Centre-Val de Loire region.
Another is the rillettes du Mans that is named after Le Mans, the capital of the Sarthe department in the Pays de la Loire. Both rillettes are made from pork.
It is an orange-flavored triple sec (dry) liqueur that was created in 1875 in Saint-Barthélemy-d’Anjou in the Loire Valley by the Cointreau brothers.
It has 40% alcohol content and is made using a mix of sweet and bitter orange peels and sugar beet alcohol, giving it an orange flavor. You can buy cointreau here.
7. Biscuit Sablé
A small crumbly biscuit, the biscuit sablé is not a candy exactly, but is sold in boxes by French chocolatiers and confisieurs as such.
It originates from the town of Sablé-sur-Sarthe in the Loire region and is made from flour, butter, sugar and sometimes egg yolks, mixed quickly to obtain a “sandy” consistency. You can buy biscuit sablé here.
Chambord is a liqueur developed in the Loire Valley during the late 17th century. It is said to have been introduced to the Sun King Louis XIV (of Palais de Versailles fame) during one of his visits to one of his many country houses, the incredible Château de Chambord near Blois in the Loire.
If you have ever heard of Chambord Royale and wondering what that is, it is a variation of the classic Kir Royale. Instead of crème de cassis and champagne, the Kir Royale Chambord uses the chambord black raspberry liqueur in place of creme de cassis.
If you enjoyed that article, you may enjoy reading more about other traditional French foods and drinks. A bientôt!