The mighty Loire River – the longest in France – stretches over 1,000 kilometres from the volcanic area in the centre of the country, passing through numerous magnificent castles and wine regions, before finally reaching the Atlantic Ocean. This region attracts countless tourists and is also a paradise for oenophiles. From familiar grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Gamay, to the little-known Tressallier and Genouillet, here are six wine bars along the Loire that will allow you to taste your way through the region like an insider.
Barco Vino, Angers
Upstream on the Loire, you are in the territory of Anjou-Saumur. Here the vineyards are dominated by Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc, both producing wines in a wide range of styles. But increasingly indigenous grape varieties such as Grolleau and Pineau d’Aunis are also getting attention.
When in Angers, one of the main local cities, visiting Barco Vino is a must. This bar on a boat was inaugurated in 2019 by a young couple Mathilde Batardière and Wolfgang Castellanos. Mathilde is a trained sommelier from the region and Wolfgang, originally from Colombia, is hospitality veteran. The couple met in Colombia and moved to Bordeaux before settling in Angers.
Barco Vino only offers organic wines, mainly from Anjou-Saumur, with the remainder from further afield – Spain, Italy, and Argentina. Homemade seasonal sharing platters are made in the boat's small kitchen. At present he most popular dish is ceviche using local raw fish, drizzled with lemon juice and topped up with crunchy corn. It goes extremely well with the Crémant de Loire (sparkling wine).
The double-decker boat has an indoor cabin with a cozy corner which is perfect for a catch-up with friends. It's hard to think of a more pleasant way to wile away the hours than enjoying the stunning river view while drinking a few glasses of local wines al fresco.
Le Jéroboam, Nantes
The Pays Nantais is the westernmost sub-region of the Loire Valley . Close to the Atlantic Ocean, it is most famous for its Muscadet white wine made with Melon de Bourgogne grapes that the locals typically pair with seafood platters. But the red wines are also exciting. Wine lovers should look out for wines from the Coteaux d’Ancenis appellation, where delicious red or rosé wines are made from Gamay. Or try a local favourite, the semi-sweet white wine, Malvoisie (Pinot Gris).
Le Jéroboam and its sister site, Le Jéroboam Côté Jardin wine bar, are in the city of Nantes. They were opened by Julien Blanc in 2009 and 2019 respectively. After working in marketing, Julien decided to quit everything to travel around the world. Opening Le Jéroboam was an idea born during the trip.
Both bars specialise in organic and biodynamic wines, and have 85 wines (20 from the Loire region) on their regularly changing list. The tapas-style menu is simple but appetising. Try the homemade duck rillettes and terrine, both specialties of the region.
Moving east from Anjou-Saumur, the Touraine sub-region is still primarily the territory of Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. Famous regions such as Chinon and Vouvray spring to mind when it comes to wines. But the main city is Tours and TuTu is currently the hottest wine bar in town.
TuTu is led by Olivier Arlot, a well-known figure in the Touraine gastronomy scene. Together with a young, dynamic sommelier team, TuTu boasts over 200 Loire wines on its list ranging from the “volcanoes to the sea.”
The French tapas-style food menu is impressive and the ingredients are mainly sourced locally. Opened in 2021, TuTu has attracted trendy clientele through its doors who are eager to explore what the mighty river has to offer.
La Banque, Sancerre
Here we enter the Loire region’s hall of fame. Sancerre perhaps needs very little introduction. This magical mediaeval hilltop town and neighbouring Pouilly-Fumé, are famous for their outstanding Sauvignon Blanc, which is popular all over the world. Located in the Centre-Val de Loire, there are a few other appellations nearby also worth knowing, such as Coteau de Giennois, Menetou-Salon, Quincy, Reuilly and Chateaumeillant, where grapes such as Pinot Noir, Gamay and Pinot Gris can also be found.
Sancerre undoubtedly is the most renowned of them all. In a town built around wine exporting it is perhaps surprising that there was no wine bar until June 2020 when La Banque was opened. Clément Berthier, from Vignobles Berthier in Coteau de Giennois is the brains behind the bar, buying the building after a few years of negotiations with the site owner, the Crédit Agricole bank.
La Banque has a massive wine list, with over 500 wines from all over the world plus runs weekly events pranging from cheese parties to sushi festivals. It has become the coolest place to go to in Sancerre so next time you're in town, if you hear someone saying “Je suis à La Banque,” you know they are having the time of their life!
Qui L’eut Cru, Saint-Pourçain
From Sancerre going south, there are four hidden gems of the Loire wine region, now collectively known as the “Loire Volconique” as the vineyards are mostly planted on volcanic soil. Saint-Pourçain and Côtes d’Auvergne are both on the tributaries of the Loire. To their east, Côte Roannaise and Côtes du Forez are by the river. Many exciting wines are made in those four appellations mainly from Gamay, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Saint-Pourçain might be a small town, but the wine bar Qui L’eut Cru, located in its heart, has a big wine list. Owner Stéphane Bourdin is from Clermont-Ferrand and was a wrestler and maths teacher in Paris. In 2017, the wine lover decided to give up city life and settled in Saint-Pourçain Sur Sioule. The same year he opened the wine bar, stocking all the wines he likes to drink from producers he knows personally. The list has some 500 wines yet he feels it is still too small! Most are organic, biodynamic and natural wines, with 15% from Loire Volconique and the rest from different parts of France, Italy and South Africa. If you like wine, sports and maths, Stéphane will be someone worth chatting to – and don’t forget to try the wines made with the local grape Tressallier.
Pampille, Saint Etienne
Saint Etienne is about 60 kilometres southwest of Lyon, which is quite close to the source of the Loire river. This city, known for its coal mining in the 19th century, has now transformed into the design capital of the southeast.
Amandine Mermet, a young female entrepreneur, who used to work at the three Michelin-starred restaurant Troisgros, opened her wine bar Pampille in 2017. There are around 250 artisanal wines on the list and many are from the four Loire Volconique appellations. It is also a favourite hangout spot for wine producers from the nearby Côte Roannaise and Côtes du Forez regions so you might overhear some geeky talk.
Next door, Pampille’s deli shop sells local products and wines at retail prices to take home.
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