Loire Valley red wine is made (especially around the Chinon region) from Cabernet Franc. The villages of Bourgueil, Saumur and Chinon are known for their Cabernet Franc based wines that range from light and fruity in Saumur to rich and velvety in Chinon.
The majority of production of Loire Valley white wines involves Chenin blanc, Sauvignon blanc and Muscadet (Melon de Bourgogne) grapes. The white wines of the Coteaux du Layon, Montlouis-sur-Loire, Savennières, and Vouvray are based on Chenin blanc and are known for their high acidity when young and ability to develop and age well. The villages of Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire are known for their crisp and herbaceous Sauvignon Blancs. Some producers here use oak to age their Sauvignon Blanc to give them a rounder and softer appeal. Muscadet wines are made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape and are known for their citrus and mineral notes.
With Crémant production throughout the Loire, it is the second largest sparkling wine area in France after Champagne.
Winemaking in the Loire is characterized by a general avoidance of barrel ageing and malolactic fermentation. However some winemakers have begun experimenting with both. Chaptalization is permitted here and can assist wine makers compensate for under-ripe grapes in some years. For red wines there has been more emphasis on extending the maceration time of skin contact to bring out more colour and tannin into the wine. Temperature control is also an important consideration with the cold autumn weather sometimes requiring that they must be heated in order to complete fermentation fully. In addition to still wines, rosé, sparkling and dessert wines are also produced and among these different styles, Loire wines tend to show a characteristic fruitiness with fresh, crisp flavours, especially when young.
In addition to the main grape varieties, several local grapes are also used to make wine in smaller quantities. These include the Tressallier grape of Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule, the Pineau and Groslot of Touraine and the Gros Plant of Nantes. There are also some plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Malbec, Chardonnay, Pineau d’aunis and Pinot Noir, which is used in red Sancerre wines.