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Vallée de la Loire: Bringing freshness into the equation
Loire Valley: Bringing freshness into the equation
Stretching 1,012 kilometres from start to finish, the Loire is France’s longest river.
It rises in the Massif Central and cuts through myriad landscapes before flowing
into the Atlantic. Its catchment area covers an astounding 120,000 km2, giving
some idea of the variety of wine styles the Loire can produce: dry, medium dry or
sweet whites, sparkling wines, light rosés, smooth or robust reds suitable for
ageing… providing an endless choice for discerning wine lovers.
For the sake of simplicity, several different zones can be identified, starting
The Auvergne, Bourbonnais and Forez regions: vines grow here in and around
mountain valleys. This is Gamay and Pinot noir territory for the red wines. The
climate is continental or semi-continental and the winters are harsh. The wines
are light and fruity red and rosé, though Chardonnay, Sauvignon and a clutch of
local varieties such as Tressalier or Saint-Pierre Doré are also grown here. The
area is divided between four appellations: Côtes d’Auvergne, Côtes du Forez,
Côte Roannaise and Saint-Pourçain, with a balance of regional wines including Vin
de Pays d’Urfé.
The Berry, Nivernais and Orléanais regions: heading north from the Bourbonnais
(Allier), you enter the Nivernais where the Allier river flows into the Loire.
Between Nevers and Orléans (AC Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé, Coteaux du Giennois)
the winters are still cold and spring is fickle for wine growing. Berry is also home
to vineyards starting with Menetou-Salon, which extends out from Sancerre in the
east, then Quincy and Reuilly lining the banks of the Cher river and its tributary
the Arnon, south of Vierzon. The area is famed for its white wines, made primarily
from the Sauvignon grape, though the reds and rosés made from Pinot noir can
be appealing and in some instances, highly distinguished wines.
The Touraine region and surrounding areas: the vineyards of Touraine start in
Blois and stretch all the way to the outskirts of Saumur (which is actually part of
the Anjou wine region). The climate is milder here than in the Nivernais, as the
warm ocean breezes sweep this far up the valley, though it is still partly defined
by continental influences. Perhaps this subtle combination explains why Touraine
(just like neighbouring Anjou) is renowned for its relaxed lifestyle. The kings of
France certainly fell under its charm and chose the area to build their architectural
jewels, the Châteaux of the Loire. Vines flourish here too. In Chinon
and Bourgueil, Cabernet Franc, known locally as Breton, yields sterling red wines
which in good vintages will keep for twenty years. In Montlouis and Vouvray,
Chenin produces splendid still and sparkling white wines. Although these majestic
wines rule the roost in terms of notoriety, some of the lesser-known wines also
harbour some great surprises. There are nine true Touraine appellations: Touraine,
Touraine-Amboise, Touraine-Azay-le-Rideau, Touraine-Mesland, Bourgueil,
Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil, Chinon, Vouvray and Montlouis. In addition to these
are six peripheral appellations: Cheverny (which links Touraine to the Orléanais),
Valençay (the south-eastern extension of Touraine), Coteaux du Vendômois,
Jasnières, Coteaux du Loir (in the north) and Haut-Poitou (heading south-west).
The Anjou and Saumur regions: Anjou is reached by crossing the border of Maine
et Loire in the west. Initially, around Saumur, the landscape undergoes only minor
changes. Its predominant feature is the chalky soil (‘tuffeau’) - hence the name
‘white’ Anjou - from which thousands of kilometres of caves have been carved
out. The area is home to red wines, made primarily from Cabernet Franc, and
renowned sparkling wines. Heading west, the dividing line between the Paris and
Armorican basins marks the starting point of ‘black’ Anjou where the soil type is
predominantly shale (slate). The resultant red wines are more robust and Chenin
flourishes in some parts (the Layon valley) to produce superlative sweet wines.
The rosés also deserve a mention. They can be dry though are more often
medium sweet, making Anjou France’s leading producer of this style, ahead of
All of this provides the context for a wide variety of appellations and wine styles.
There are more than twenty appellations in all:
Reds: Anjou, Anjou-Villages, Anjou-Gamay, Saumur, Saumur-Champigny
Rosés: Rosé d’Anjou, Cabernet d’Anjou, Rosé de Loire, Cabernet de Saumur,
Coteaux de Saumur
Sweet whites: Coteaux de l’Aubance, Anjou-Coteaux de la Loire, Coteaux du
Layon, Chaume, Quarts de Chaume, Bonnezeaux.
Dry whites: Savennières (occasionally medium dry), Anjou
Sparkling: Anjou Mousseux, Saumur Mousseux, Crémant de Loire
Pays Nantais: the Pays Nantais region stretches west from Anjou, on the other
side of Ingrandes. With around 20,000 hectares under vine, it is the most
extensive area in the entire Loire valley. The Ocean type climate and cool soils
(this is the Armorican mountain range) make production of dry white wines the
natural choice. The summers are not hot enough to grow sweet wines and too
changeable to make reds. Some red wine is grown on the border with Anjou
(Coteaux d’Ancenis) and in Fiefs Vendéens around Les Sables d’Olonne, but only in diminutive quantities. The vast majority of the wines are white, made from
Folle Blanche (known as Gros Plant) though chiefly Melon de Bourgogne
(Muscadet). They yield dry, fragrant white wines (particularly the Muscadet)
which form the perfect partners for the fruits of the sea, both shellfish and fish.
Pays Nantais boasts seven appellations: Coteaux d’Ancenis, Muscadet, Muscadet
Sèvre et Maine, Muscadet des Coteaux de la Loire, Muscadet des Côtes de
Grand-Lieu, Gros Plant du Pays Nantais and Fiefs Vendéens.
Review of latest vintages
2010: This northerly wine region experienced a harsh winter with low rainfall
promoting a disease-free crop. The wines are generally well-balanced, expressive
and crunchy. The light and supple wines and sparkling wines (Saumur-Touraine)
should be of a high standard. Good whites from Central France.
2011: like everywhere else, the vintage was challenging due to nature with a dry
summer, almost too dry, then heavy rainfall, again slightly too heavy and too late
in the season. However, the wines performed extremely well despite lower acidity
than in 2010. Due to its acreage and wide array of grape varieties and sites, this
favoured region always has something to offer.
2012: The volume is low, but the wines are mature thanks to a sunny August and
September. The Muscadets should be worthy of lying down, as well as the
late-harvest whites, which have good acidity. The reds are clean and mature, with
a nice fruity crunch. A vintage to enjoy!
THE LOIRE VALLEY APPELLATIONS
Overview: the appellation covers 188 towns and villages (southern half of the
Maine-et-Loire department, some of Vienne and Deux-Sèvres). This vast area can
be roughly divided into two different soil series: the first type, in the Armorican
mountain range, is clayey shale or Silurian slate, and the second, in the Paris
basin, is limestone and sandy clay. The various areas are referred to as ‘black’,
‘blue’ and ‘white’ Anjou.
Wine styles: the reds are made from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and
Pineau d’Aunis. They can vary from supple wines that are fresh, aromatic and
easy-drinking to wines with a pronounced tannic framework imparted by
prolonged maceration. Fragrances of raspberry, blackcurrant, green pepper and spices are present. Drink when young with cooked cold pork meats, white or red
The whites are blended from at least 80% Chenin (augmented with Chardonnay
and Sauvignon) and are dry, elegant, distinctive and fragrant. The best examples
hail from the shale soils. They proffer aromas of citrus fruit such as grapefruit as
well as apple, peach stone and vegetal tones. Try with hors d’ouvre or fish. A
small proportion of whites can be made as medium sweet or sweet. The rosés,
which are constantly on the wane, are supple and soft.
A.C. Anjou Mousseux
Nine villages in the department of Vienne (subsumed into the Anjou appellation)
are entitled to produce sparkling wines, including Pouancay, Berrie,
Saint-Léger-de-Montbrillais, Ternay and Ranton. The minimum percentage of
Chenin in the blend is 80%. Bottle fermentation takes place during a secondary
fermentation in the bottle. These wines are recommended as appetisers or with
A.C. Anjou Coteaux de la Loire
Overview: this sweet wine appellation area covers 11 villages in Maine-et-Loire
set on hillsides overlooking the Loire valley west of Angers. Production is centred
primarily on the villages of Pommeraye and Montjean. All the grapes are
handpicked and sorted in batches. The soil is shale and limestone. The grape
variety used is Chenin.
Wine styles: initially, they are drier than Coteaux du Layon though subsequently
become round and silky as they mature. The wines display a brilliant hue with
golden shades and greenish tints. They conjure up fragrances of ripe fruit such as
vine peach though also honey, linden and freshly-cut hay. The shale soil promotes
animal notes whilst the limestone imparts more mineral tones. Try as an
appetiser or with trout, pear tart or cheeses (Bresse, Fourme).
Overview: only Gamay is permitted for this appellation, hence the name. The
area covers the entire Anjou region, excluding the Saumur area.
Wine styles: these are round, supple, light and fruity wines. They are designed to
be drunk young and develop fragrances of red fruit such as red currant. Wines
released soon after the harvest (primeur) display exotic fruit aromas as well. Recommended food pairings are poultry, grilled red meat, white meat and soft
Overview: 46 towns and villages within the Anjou appellation area are entitled to
this red wine only appellation. Anjou-Villages differ from red Anjou both for their
varietal range and wine making practices: there is no Pineau d’Aunis and vatting
and ageing last longer. Another point of difference is that ‘Villages’ wines cannot
be released until September 15th a year after the harvest. The best sites are
located south of Angers, around Brissac, Thouarcé and Martigné-Briand…
Wine styles: made from Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, these wines are
fruity and well-structured, and improve with age. Their hue ranges from crimson
to garnet-red and they display fragrances of red fruit (blackberry, strawberry,
blackcurrant, cherry), undergrowth and spices, leading into leather and fruit
stone over time. Try with game, fish in a red wine sauce, roast or grilled red meat
Overview: Bonnezeaux is one of two Coteaux du Layon great growths in Anjou.
the vineyards are located south of the Loire, twenty or so kilometres from Angers
in the village of Thouarcé. Three south-south-west facing hillsides overlooking the
Layon – La Montagne, Beauregard and Fesles - are home to the vines. The
overripe grapes are harvested by hand and painstakingly sorted as they ripen.
Minimum alcohol content is 13.5%. The appellation is shared by around fifty
different growers. The vines are planted on decomposed shale rich in sandstone,
quartz and phtanite. The topsoil is shallow and littered with stones. Chenin is the
only white varietal grown.
Wine styles: Bonnezeaux are fresh, well-balanced, delicate sweet wines that are
complex and elegant. Bursting with fruit, they are opulent, fat and robust with a
well-balanced mellowness. As they mature, they become full, unctuous and
ample. Sporting a golden hue with greenish tints, they display fragrances of
stewed apricot, orange, quince, pineapple, verbena, vanilla, honey, acacia,
hawthorn and linden. Try with foie gras and grapes, fish in a sauce such as turbot,
Overview: the Bourgueil area is spread over a 15 kilometre strip of land running
perpendicular to the Loire, in Touraine. Eight villages are entitled to the
appellation (Bourgueil, Saint-Nicolas de Bourgueil, Benais, Chouzé-sur-Loire, Ingrandes de Touraine, La Chapelle sur Loire, Restigné and Saint-Patrice).
Historically, the wines were highly regarded by Louis XI, Rabelais and Ronsard.
The area can be divided into three zones: the banks of the Loire, where stony
patches provide suitable plots for vines, then a terrace which provides the focal
point for the area, and finally the chalk plateau (‘tuffeau’) through which a
tributary of the Loire – the Changeon – meanders.
Wine styles: Bourgueil produces mainly red wines from Cabernet Franc (Cabernet
Sauvignon content is restricted to a maximum 10%). The different ‘terroirs’ are
reflected in the wine styles. Gravely soils produce elegant, vigorous,
delicate, supple, fruity wines. Conversely, chalk type soils yield well-structured,
robust, tannic wines, which can be hard or firm when young. Bourgueil smells
sweetly of violet, bell pepper, spices, raspberry and red currant and often exhibits
gamey, earthy tones. Recommended food pairings include beef with morel
mushrooms, stew, jugged hare, roast red meats…
A.C. Cabernet d’Anjou
Overview: this rosé wine can be made in 188 towns and villages within the same
boundaries as the Anjou appellation area. Soil types are varied, ranging from
shale, to clay and limestone, very often covered in sand and gravel. The best
sites are located along the hillsides of the upper and middle Layon valley. The
area enjoys an ocean climate with mild winters, hot summers and low
temperature variations between daytime and nightime.
Wine styles: most of the wines are medium sweet made from Cabernet Franc
supported by a little Cabernet Sauvignon. They are fresh, light, soft and delicate
with good length and are intended to be drunk young. Their orange or grenadine
hue turns brick-red as they age. They display fragrances of raspberry, red
currant, strawberry, fruit in brandy, vanilla and menthol notes though also exhibit
floral nuances of iris, violet and rose. This charming wine can be served with
mushroom pie, quiche, cooked cold pork meats, poultry, exotic dishes or
fruit-based desserts (fruit mousse).
A.C. Cabernet de Saumur
Overview: these rosé wines, made from Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sau-vignon,
are grown in the same appellation area as Saumur, hence the name, on
Wine styles: these rosés are not only drier than Cabernet d’Anjou, they are also
more elegant. They are soft, fresh and round. Try with cooked cold pork meats,
Overview: the appellation is situated south-west of Saint-Amand-Montrond, 60 km
from Bourges, in Berry. It is spread over two departments (Indre and Cher). The
soils are silica with a predominant proportion of sand and sandy
clay on a metamorphosed subsoil. Gamay thrives here on stony sandstone soils
in a pre-mountain Limousin-type climate, though the area also grows Pinot noir
and Pinot gris.
Wine styles: the reds are fruity, light quaffing wines which are lively and intended
to be drunk young. Supple-menting them with a dash of Pinot noir and Pinot gris
bolsters their framework though at the same time mellows them.
Châteaumeillant exhibits a light hue and fragrances of wild strawberry and
pepper. The rosés, known as ‘vin gris’, are fresh. Try with mixed salads or fresh
goats cheese flavoured with herbs. Recom-mended pairings for the rosés are
exotic cuisine from China, the Caribbean or Thailand.
Overview: this appellation is situated in north-eastern Touraine, between the Loire
and the Sologne, near Blois. It embraces 24 towns and villages. The soils are
sandy clay, sandy silica and calcareous clay. The area is home to stone quarries
and the varietal range is comprised of Gamay, Cabernet, Pinot noir, Cot, Pineau
d’Aunis, Pinot gris (reds), though also Chenin, Menu Pineau, Chardonnay,
Romorantin and Sauvignon (whites).
Wine styles: the reds are lively, clean, fruity, light quaffing wines. Red and black
fruit, blackcurrant and liquorice aromas are present. The whites, with their pale
hue, are dry, lively and fresh with fragrances of hazelnut and honey. The rosés
are supple and fresh. They display a salmon-pink colour and exude spicy,
occasionally toasted notes. Cheverny wines are well suited to grilled veal, roast
poultry, cheeses (reds), fish and shellfish (whites). The rosés are equally suitable
as appetisers or with barbecues.
Overview: the Chinon area sits at the point where Anjou, Saumur and Touraine
meet. The appellation embraces 19 towns and villages
(Beaumont-en-Véron, Avoine, Chinon, Cravant, Tavant, Avon les Roches…) set
either side of the Vienne. There are three different soil types: gravel and sand
along the banks of the Vienne, Senonian calcareous clay or silica clay hills and
plateaux. Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon (restricted to a maximum
10%) flourish on the south facing sites.
Wine styles: each ‘terroir’ produces a different style of wine. The reds grown on
the gravely soils are light, fruity and extremely aromatic. They reward early
drinking. Wines from the silica clay plateaux and hillside sites are
well-constituted, robust, tannic and elegant. They display rich, dense aromas and
are wines to keep which become full and deep down the years. With a ruby-red
hue, Chinon exhibits aromas of blackcurrant, violet, mineral and vegetal notes. Humus and truffle, empyreumatic fragrances and animal notes occur as they
Up until a few years ago, the character of Chinon wines was a result of blending
wines from various sites. Nowadays, however, growers tend to separate
site-specific wines and prefer old vines. Try with white and red meats (light
Chinon), meats served in a sauce, game and cheeses (robust Chinon). Chinon
also makes rosés with delicate, subtle aromas and limited edition whites from
Chenin, which are dry and fruity.
AC Côtes d’Auvergne
Overview: the Côtes d’Auvergne appellation is covering 54 towns and villages in
Puy de Dôme (Auvergne). It boasts five growths which are entitled to add their
name to the appellation: Corent, Boudes, Chanturgues, Châ-teaugay and
Madargues, underscoring the diversity of the wines, despite the fact that the
varietal range is restricted to Gamay for the reds and rosés and
Chardonnay for the whites (a tiny minority).
Wine styles: Corent, for instance, which surrounds the plateau of the same name,
boasts calcareous clay soils and produces mainly rosés (‘vin gris’). These are
pleasant, fruity wines which develop fragrances of apricot, yellow fruit, candied
fruit and peppery notes. Boudes, which also has a strong focus on rosé wines,
covers soils where the limestone content is higher and fragments of basalt occur.
The hillock at Châteaugay, north-west of Clermont-Ferrand, has soils with lower
clay content and more sand with a higher proportion of volcanic debris. This
particular ‘terroir’ yields firm, rustic wines with medium cellaring capacity that
pair with barbecues.
In Chanturgues, the hillside is protected from erosion by Miocene basalt flows and
calcareous clay soils show through on the slopes. This growth produces wines
which are both well-structured and supple with smoky, spicy aromas, black cherry
and violet. They show at their best after a few years’ ageing.
A.C. Côte Roannaise
Overview: the Côte Roannaise appellation stretches over 14 villages along the left
bank of the Loire. Gamay, known locally as Saint-Romain, is the only grape
variety grown here. The soils are predominantly granite and basalt covered with
sand and alluvium at the foot of the hills.
Wine styles: the red and rosé wines are made by the semi-carbonic maceration
process, hence their fresh, clean, lively, fresh and harmonious style and capacity
to be drunk young. With their ruby-red hue, they exhibit fragrances of red fruit
such as blackcurrant, raspberry, strawberry, red currant and bilberry. They pair
with chitterlings sausage, slicing sausage, tripe and white meat.
A.C. Coteaux d’Ancenis
Overview: the appellation is situated east of Nantes, either side of the Loire. It
embraces 27 towns and villages straddling Maine-et-Loire and Loire-Atlantique.
There are two different types of soil: micaschist and crimson schist north of the
Loire and gneiss and green schist south of the Loire. The wines often mention the
grape variety on the label: Chenin and Pinot gris for the whites and Cabernet
Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Gamay for the reds.
Wine styles: the reds and rosés are fruity, light, lively quaffing wines. They
display a brilliant colour and fragrances of red fruit. They are the perfect partner
for hors d’ouvre, cooked cold pork meats, duck with cherries, barbecues and
cheeses. The whites with their pale green hue and aromas of fruit and honey are
soft, round and rich and will cellar well. They pair with fish and white meat in a
A.C. Coteaux de l’Aubance
Overview: this appellation is located west of the river Aubance, east of Brissac
and north of the Loire in an area often described as ‘black’ Anjou because of the
dark colour of the shale or sandstone soils of the Armorican mountain range. Ten
villages are allowed to use the appellation. The region enjoys a particularly dry
late autumn, allowing the Chenin grapes to become overripe. Vines growing on
the hills overlooking the Aubance bask in plentiful sunshine.
Wine styles: although the Coteaux de l’Aubance appellation produces sweet
wines, its major focus is on medium sweet wines. They are rich, soft, delicate,
distinguished wines which are fruity, round, full and vigorous. They exhibit a
limpid hue with green gold and straw-yellow gold tints and fragrances of quince
paste, candied fruits, fig, lemon, honey, white flowers and mineral notes. They
make marvellous appetisers served with refined canapes though also accompany
fruit tarts, vol-au-vents…
A.C. Coteaux de Saumur
Overview: thirteen towns and villages in Maine-et-Loire and Vienne located north
of the Saumur appellation are entitled to this appellation which covers sweet
wines made from Chenin. The wines can only be made when the weather
conditions are suitable. The grapes are handpicked and painstakingly sorted as
they ripen. The soil type is ‘tuffeau’ chalk.
Wine styles: they are fruity, delicate, fat, lively and soft displaying a straw-yellow
gold hue with greenish tints. They develop fragrances of roasted grapes, toasted
almonds, honey, honeysuckle and hazelnut. They can be married with a whole array of foods: mushroom pie, foie gras, fish in a creamy sauce, cheeses (blue),
sweetbreads in a cream sauce, oven-baked chitterlings sausage…
A.C. Coteaux du Layon
Overview: this appellation isshared by 27 towns and villages on either side of the
Layon river, a left bank tributary of the Loire. Seven of these are entitled to
append their name to the Coteaux du Layon appellation (Beaulieu-sur-Layon,
Faye d’Anjou, Rablay-sur-Layon, Rochefort-sur-Loire, Saint-Aubin-sur-Luigné,
Saint-Lambert-du-Lattay and Chaume. The soils are stony with a predominant
proportion of shale, clay shale and silica, interspersed with gravely sand and
volcanic sediment. Chenin is the only grape variety grown here.
Wine styles: Coteaux du Layon are sweet white wines which are rich, intense,
round, unctuous and fat rounded off with a superb fruity freshness. They display
a green gold hue and develop fragrances of linden, acacia, honey, apricot and
citrus fruit, evolving into aromas of wax, quince and candied fruit as they mature.
They are delicious as appetisers or with foie gras, Roquefort, poultry in a cream
sauce, gizzards, goats cheeses or blue cheeses, fish such as pike-perch and
salmon, and of course desserts: apple pie and all nougatine-based gateaux.
Overview: this minute appellation area (70 hectares) within the Coteaux du Layon
is situated in the village of Rochefort-sur-Loire, north of the hamlet of Chaume
itself. The vast majority of the soils are carboniferous puddingstone though there
are occasional shale formations (spilite and phanite). The vines enjoy a
south-east aspect and are sheltered both from northerly winds and ocean
influences. Chenin is the sole varietal.
Wine styles: they are fat, rich, delicate, well-structured and full wines that are
fleshy, unctuous and elegant. They display a brilliant hue tinted with green and
fragrances of candied fruits (apricots), white flowers, white peaches and a
delicate bitterness. They are served with foie gras, fish in a hollandaise sauce,
cheeses (blue), melon…
A.C. Coteaux du Loir
Overview: this 80-hectare area, which is home to a varietal range comprised of
Gamay, Pinot noir, Chenin and Pineau d’Aunis, is set on the left bank of the Loir
(22 towns and villages in Sarthe and Indre-et-Loire). It is the most northerly of the
Loire appellations. Most of the wines are grown in and around
Lhomme, Ruillé-sur-Loir, Chahaines and Marçon. The soils are clay silica on a
bedrock of chalk (‘tuffeau’) with occurrences of limestone marl. The region enjoys
a mild climate defined by the Atlantic.
Wine styles: the reds are light, lively, fresh quaffing wines with a pleasant
bouquet. They are highly reminiscent of Touraine wines. They display a pale hue
and fragrances of morello cherry, cinnamon and spices (pepper). They can be
served with cooked cold pork meats (potted meat, Vire andouille), white meats,
grilled red meats, meat pie, black pudding with apples, poultry. The whites
(Pineau de la Loire) are dry, vigorous wines for cellaring. They develop vegetal
aromas. A good match for fish and seafood, cooked cold pork meats and white
meat served in a sauce.
A.C. Coteaux du Vendômois
Overview: with its 150 hectares under vine, this area is situated in the Loir valley
in Loir-et-Cher, between Vendôme and Montoire. The soils are formed of flint clay
on a bedrock of limestone. The red varietals used are Pineau d’Aunis, the main
grape which must account for at least 30% of the blend, Gamay (30% maximum),
Pinot noir and Cabernet. For the white wines, Chenin and Chardonnay (no more
than 20% of the blend).
Wine styles: the reds are intended to be drunk young and fresh, when they
develop aromas of red fruit, banana and vanilla. The rosés are pale in shade with
peppery notes. They are recommended with fried smelt.
A.C. Coteaux du Giennois
Overview: this 150-hectare area occupies undulating land between Gien and
Cosne-sur-Loire (16 villages in all). In the Nevers region, Aligny-Cosne, La
Celle-sur-Loire, Cosne-sur-Loire, Cours-lès-Cosnes, Myennes, Pougny-Saint-Loup
and Saint-Père are entitled to add the name Cosne-sur-Loire to the AC Côtes de
Gien appellation. The soils are limestone, gravel and silica along ancient terraces
of the Loire.
Wine styles: the Pinot noir reds exhibit a ruby-red hue and are lively, supple, fresh
and fragrant. They pair with ham in puff pastry, grilled or roast meats, veal, ox
tongue with gherkins and grilled black pudding. The whites with tell-tale
Sauvignon scents, should be tried with freshwater fish (perch).
A.C. Côtes du Forez
Overview: this appellation verges on the Massif Central, north of Saint-Etienne. It
embraces 21 towns and villages and roughly 200 hectares of vines. The soils
contain less limestone than in Auvergne, though when they are derived from
decomposed granite rocks they are 80% clay silica and 20% volcanic in origin. A
large share of the wines are vinted and sold by the co-operative winery. The
wines are made using the carbonic maceration or semi-carbonic maceration
Wine styles: the Gamay varietal reds are clean, aromatic, lively, supple and
harmonious, and designed to be drunk young. The wines grown on basalt hillside
sites are, however, more robust and richer in tannins and will keep for a few
years. Try with cooked cold pork meats, grilled meats or poultry.
A.C. Cour Cheverny
Overview: Cour Cheverny wines are grown in Touraine, south-east of Blois
(Loir-et-Cher department). The area covers a total 60 hectares spread over 11
villages in Sologne. Set north of the Cheverny area, this AC only produces white
wines from a single grape variety -Romorantin - occasionally known as Donnery.
Three rivers meander through the Cour Cheverny area: the Beuvron, the Cosson
and the Bièvre. The vines are planted on clay silica, with occasional occurrences
of calcareous clay.
Wine styles: with their straw-yellow hue, Cour Cheverny wines concentrate
aromas of apple, pear, acacia flower, honey and mineral notes. Delicate on the
palate, their attack conjures up empyreumatic fragrances. With a lively, long
mouthfeel, some of the wines can even prove to be elegant and age for a few
years. They can be served with cooked cold pork meats, freshwater fish, salmon,
seafood or grilled young cockerel.
AC Crémant de Loire
Overview: Crémant is a sparkling wine made in the traditional way (secondary
fermentation in the bottle). The appellation covers the Saumur, Anjou and
Touraine areas though most Crémants are made in the departments of
Maine-et-Loire and Indre-et-Loire. Crémant de Loire must be stored for at least a
year in growers’ cellars before it can be released.
Wine making process: all of the Loire grape varieties can be used, except for
Sauvignon. Chenin forms the backbone of the blend, which differentiates it from
Crémants from other regions which are often drawn from Chardonnay and Pinots.
The grapes are not only harvested by hand, they are also crushed in a chainless
press. Bottle fermentation takes place during a secondary fermentation in the
bottle after a blend of yeast and sugar has been added. The wines are aromatic,
lively, intense and clean with delicate, long-lasting bubbles. Try as appetisers, or
with shellfish, fish and goats cheese.
AC Fiefs Vendéens
Overview: the appellation stretches north of Les Sables d’Olonne between La
Roche-sur-Yon and Luçon and around Fontenay-le-Comte. Back in 1955, growers
began to replace hybrid varieties with noble grapes such as Pinot noir or Gamay. The current area under vine is around 500 hectares and most of the wines are
red. Soil types are varied, ranging from clay silica, calcareous clay or gravel to
sand. Four site-specific areas have been identified and are entitled to state the
name of their main village on the label: Brem, Mareuil, Pissote and Vix.
Wine styles: they are light, pleasant and fruity. The reds display a deep
garnet-red hue with fragrances of red fruits such as raspberry. Try pairing them
with red or white meats or soft cheeses. They whites are a pale yellow colour with
floral aromas and are the perfect partner for shellfish and fish.
AC Gros Plant du Pays Nantais
Overview: in the 17th century, the Charentes varietal Folle blanche was
introduced, courtesy of the Dutch. Local farmers dubbed it ‘gros plant’ because of
the thickness of the vine’s trunk. The area shares the same boundaries as
Muscadet, though also spills over into the Retz area, bringing the total number of
towns and villages up to around a hundred. Soil types are extremely varied,
ranging from shale, micaschist and gneiss to Armorican mountain granite and a
few pockets of Quaternary sand deposits.
The better quality wines come from Grand-Lieu lake where the soil is formed of
sand and gravel. The climate is ocean, with mild winters and hot summers. A
good deal of Gros Plant is vinted on the lees.
Wine styles: they are dry, light, vigorous, lively and fresh. They display a pale hue
with greenish tints and develop fragrances of dried fruit, a slightly salty touch
and mineral notes. Recommended food pairings include shellfish such as
mussels, cockles, prawns, oysters or freshwater fish.
Overview: 47 towns and villages in Vienne and Deux-Sèvres are entitled to use
this appellation. Virtually all the wines (95%) are made by the Neuville-de-Poitou
co-operative winery and they grow on around 750 hectares of Jurassic calcareous
clay and silica clay type soils.
Wine styles: the Gamay or Cabernet reds are aromatic, fresh, soft and lively. They
sport a ruby-red hue and exude fragrances of cherry, morello cherry and
blackcurrant and are well-suited to dishes such as sauteed veal or duck. The
whites (Sauvignon, Chardonnay) are fresh, harmonious and expressive. Try with
Overview: the Jasnières appellation, which sits within the boundaries of AC
Coteaux du Loir, covers just two villages in Sarthe: Lhomme and Ruillé-sur-Loir,
over a total 65 hectares. The villages provide an ideal setting for vines with a
strip of land four kilometres long by just a few hundred metres wide with a due
south aspect. ‘Le Perche’ hill acts as a buffer against the northerly winds. The
soils are littered with stones and calcareous clay on a bedrock of ‘tuffeau’.
Frequent occurrences of flint are a feature of this area.
Wine styles: these white wines, made from Chenin, are extremely dry and
vigorous when young but are capable of maturing. As they age, they become
more full and silky, developing a pleasant bouquet. The wines display a deep
straw-yellow hue and exude fragrances of linden, hawthorn, honey, acacia,
broom, exotic fruits (pineapple) and peach. They boast a characteristic mineral
aspect (gunflint). Try them with white meat or fish.
Overview: this appellation is set in the upper reaches of the Loire, south of
Pouilly-sur-Loire and west of Sancerre, in Cher. It extends over 350 hectares
divided between 10 villages – Aubinges, Humbligny, Menetou-Salon, Morogues,
Parassy, Pigny, Quantilly, Saint Céols, Soulangis and Vignoux sous les Aix. The
soils are extremely consistent covering a single geological formation of the
Secondary era (Upper Cretaceous): light Saint-Doulchard marl (Kimmeridgian),
highly conducive to growing Sauvignon blanc.
Wine styles: 65% of the wines are fresh, vigorous, lively whites which are light,
full and aromatic with great length on the palate. They boast a yellow hue with
greenish tints and exude floral and balsamic aromas, citrus (lemon, grapefruit),
white peach, gunflint, pepper and mint. They are the perfect match for shellfish,
fish served on its own or in puff pastry, goats cheese or snails. The Pinot
noir-based reds and rosés are delicate, supple, pleasant, round, light and fruity.
They are intended to be drunk soon after release. Their relatively pale hue
exhibits ruby-red tints. On the nose, they reveal fragrances of cherry, raspberry
and red currant. Recommended food pairings include grilled meat, cheeses
(Beaufort) or rabbit terrine.
Overview: situated between Tours and Amboise, AC Montlouis produces still and
sparkling wines. Three villages feature within the appellation area (Montlouis,
Saint Martin le Beau and Lussault), between the Cher and the Loire, and total
area under vine is around 400 hectares. When the weather conditions are right,
Montlouis also produces some superlative sweet wines from Chenin grapes
harvested in batches as they ripen. The soils are sandy clay or clayey sand on
limestone plateaux and hillsides, on a bedrock of ‘tuffeau’. A south-facing aspect
provides maximum sunshine for hillside sites. The soils are lighter and sandier
than in Vouvray.
Wine styles: Montlouis sparkling wines, which account for 40% of the entire AC,
are light and pleasant. They undergo secondary fermentation in the bottle and
are aged on laths for at least nine months. Dry Montlouis is quite similar in style
to Vouvray. Less lively and perhaps more supple, it displays a more marked
mineral character and is also more enjoyable in its early years. The calling card of
sweet Montlouis is its aromatic complexity: verbena, bergamot, bitter almond,
leading into dried honey, wax, quince jelly and candied angelica down the years.
Try as an accompaniment to cooked cold pork meats, poultry, goats cheese, fish,
shellfish or as an appetiser.
Overview: the area stretches along the mouth of the Loire, from Anjou to the Retz
region. Despite the local ocean climate, Muscadet is one of the first regions in
France to start harvesting. A longer hang-time would jeopardise the wine’s
unique taste profile. Soils are extremely varied although two principal types can
be identified: granite and eruptive rock, shale and micaschist. Within this vast
area, three zones enjoy their own specific appellation: Muscadet de
Sèvre-et-Maine (the largest), Muscadet des Coteaux de la Loire and Muscadet des
Côtes de Grand-Lieu (see separate entries). The area covers a total 13,000
hectares under vine though only 2,000 are devoted to AC Muscadet.
Wine styles: made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape variety, Muscadet is a
light, fresh white wine with well-balanced acidity, which requires early drinking.
Often the wine is left on the lees for four to five months before bottling. This
leaves a tiny remnant of carbonic gas, imparting a slight fizz which bolsters the
wine’s freshness (Muscadet sur Lie). Muscadet displays a pale yellow hue with
greenish tints and develops floral (acacia, white flowers) and fruity fragrances
(apple) and mineral notes. Try with oysters, shellfish (moules marinières), pike or
A.C. Muscadet Coteaux de la Loire
Overview: this area extends over both banks of the Loire, in the localities of
Ancenis, Carquefou, Champtoceaux, Ligné, Saint-Florent-le-Vieil and Varades. On
the right bank of the Loire, the area overlaps Ancenis, whilst on the left bank it
spills over into Anjou. Coteaux de Loire grow over some 300 hectares.
Wine styles: they are dry, fresh, elegant, supple, harmonious and fruity. They are
more robust and well-constituted than Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine and can be
cellared. Their hue is pale yellow with greenish tints and they develop mineral
and gunflint notes due to the granite in the soil, though also fruity and floral
aromas. Pair with oysters and seafood, grilled fish or fish served in a sauce (pike)
A.C. Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine
Overview: two-thirds of Muscadet are grown in this area. The appellation is
named after the Nantes branch of the Sèvre river and its tributary, the Petite
Maine. 23 towns and villages with a combined area under vine of 10,000 hectares
are entitled to the appellation. The soil, underpinned by an Armorican base, is
varied: granite, shale, gabbro (dark brown soils) and gneiss, which promotes a
certain diversity in wine styles within the appellation.
Wine styles: they are racy, elegant, fresh, supple, zippy and delicate, often with a
slight sparkle. Muscadet sur Lie denotes a wine that has spent the winter in tanks
on its lees allowing it to gain in complexity, finesse and bouquet. Muscadet de
Sèvre-et-Maine displays a pale golden hue and reveals floral (acacia), fruity
(unripe fruit, citronella, fresh grapes) and mineral fragrances. It is the perfect
match for oysters, scallops, pike in a hot butter sauce, sole or crayfish fricassee.
A.C. Muscadet Côtes de Grand-Lieu
Overview: this appellation is located not far from Grand-Lieu lake, south-west of
Nantes. It covers 250 hectares under vine, spread over 19 villages extending
down to the tip of Vendée. Soil types are varied: micaschist, gneiss, sand with
pebbles and even clayey sand south of the lake. The area enjoys a sunny, mild
climate with plentiful rainfall which offsets the drying effect of the wind over the
Wine styles: they are delicate and relatively powerful. With their pale yellow hue,
they exhibit a slightly salty taste, floral (acacia, white flowers), fruity
(apple) and mineral fragrances. Recommended food pairings include oysters,
seafood, grilled fish or fish served in a sauce.
Overview: the appellation is named after the village of Pouilly-sur-Loire which sits
on the right bank of the Loire. Although vines have grown here since at least the
7th century, in the 19th century the area chose to specialise in dessert grapes
with a particular focus on the traditional varietal, Chasselas. Things have
definitely moved on since then because nowadays Sauvignon (also know as
Fumé) rules the roost here. Seven villages are entitled to the appellation
including Pouilly, Saint-Andelain and Tracy. Soil types are varied: Kimmeridgian
marl (white earth), hard limestone, flint interspersed with clay, and sandy or
gravely terraces. The climate is temperate with a strong continental influence.
Wine styles: Pouilly-Fumé are fresh, lively fruity white wines which are powerful
and elegant with a full mouthfeel. Their style does vary however depending on
individual ‘terroirs’. When they grow on limestone soils, blackcurrant bud and
boxwood rise to the fore, whilst on flint, gunflint is the principal aroma. Marl soils coax floral fragrances out of the wines (tuberous, daffodils…). Try with shellfish,
fish (pike, pike-perch, salmon) or white meat. An outstanding match for goats
Overview: the appellation area is the same as Pouilly-Fumé, on the right bank of
the Loire in Nièvre, down-river from Nevers. Chasselas has been grown here since
the 19th century and was shipped off to supply the Parisian market. The soils are
clay silica and calcareous clay.
Wine styles: now in extremely short supply, these wines have low acidity, are dry,
light supple, smooth, delicate and easy to drink. They are intended to be drunk
young. The wines display a light golden hue and smoky, peppery fragrances with
raisins and dried fruit, hazelnut, fresh almond, walnut and linden. They pair with
trout mariniere, fried fish and goats cheeses.
A.C. Quarts de Chaume
Overview: this area is located in Rochefort sur Loire and in Chaume, around the
Layon river. The name of the appellation is a throwback to Mediaeval times when
a lord would rent his land to an abbey in exchange for a quarter of the harvest.
The noble-rotted grapes are picked in batches as they ripen. The vines are
planted on shale soils covering 50 hectares on a south-facing hillside.
Wine styles: the wines are sweet, racy, firm, silky, delicate and rich. They have a
full mouthfeel and are long on the palate, with a great propensity for ageing.
Their well-defined structure and a certain austerity in their early years sets them
apart from other Layons. They display a golden hue and reveal fragrances of wax,
linden, candied fruits, honey, verbena and quince. Try with Roquefort in puff
pastry, fish served with a sauce, poached poultry or turbot in a hollandaise sauce.
Overview: the appellation is situated in the villages of Quincy and Brinay (the left
bank of the Cher). Sauvignon is the only permitted varietal. The vines occupy a
plateau which is home to three different soil types: sandy gravel, sand, and sandy
loam with sand and gravel. Silica and poor soils promote the ripening process.
The area enjoys a hot, dry microclimate.
Wine styles: the wines are delicate, fruity, light, fresh and dry. These are elegant,
distinguished wines that are also firm and vigorous. They can be drunk young
though will also keep. They display a pale golden hue with the occasional