The birthplace of Chenin Blanc
By Jim Budd
This Guide was last updated on 19 April 2011
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Widely planted in Anjou where it grows well on the clay and granite soils, it is used for both reds (usually as a single variety) and as part of the blend for Anjou Rosé. Although Gamay is known as a juicy, low tannin red giving attractive flavours and early drinking wines, here in Anjou it can surprise with some rich, structured and long-lived examples. A part of the production is released as Anjou Gamay Primeur on third Thursday of November, the same date as for Beaujolais Nouveau.
This is Loire’s principal red grape variety, well suited to limestone soils and generally preferred over Cabernet Sauvignon because it ripens earlier. Quite often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon in Anjou. It also has an important role in the production of rosé wine blends, and is used with Cabernet Sauvignon for Cabernet d’Anjou. It is capable of giving well-structured wines with flavours of raspberry, cherry and black fruits when properly ripe. If not properly ripe it tends to green pepper flavours.
In the Loire, only Anjou has a sufficiently long growing season to allow Cabernet Sauvignon to ripen properly and then only on very well exposed sites or warm soils, especially schist. Mostly used as a junior blending partner in reds with Cabernet Franc. However, there are a few impressive examples of pure Cabernet Sauvignon reds from very special sites. Also used in Cabernet d’Anjou.
Grolleau or Groslot
Responsible for one sixth of the Loire’s total production and the third most cultivated red grape variety (after Cabernet Franc and Gamay) it is principally used for Rosé d’Anjou, but also in blends to give drier rosés such as the Rosé de Loire. When yields are controlled it makes some charming rosés as well as a few reds. Also used in the production of sparkling wine for its ability to produce fine bubbles.
Similar to Grolleau, Pineau d'Aunis is used both for rosés (often in a Vin Gris style) and in a small way in blended reds, which can be charming when yields are controlled. Although it is a permitted grape variety in Anjou Rouge its use is becoming increasingly rare.
Anjou is the birthplace of this remarkable and versatile grape. The first record of Chenin Blanc, sometimes called Pineau de la Loire, is in the 9th century near Bouchemaine probably in the appellation area now known as Savennières. In Anjou the styles vary from sparkling to still, in a range of sweetness levels: sec (dry to off-dry), demi-sec (medium sweet), moelleux (fully sweet) and doux or liquoreux (profoundly sweet, almost syrupy). Charming in the first two years of it life, Chenin can go through a closed period, before emerging with the ability to age, seemingly forever.
By law, up to 20% may be used in basic Anjou whites, though these days it is used less and less. It may round out and soften a Chenin, especially when the latter is used at high yields. It may also be used in some sparkling wine blends for Anjou Mousseaux or Crémant de Loire. On its own, Chardonnay is often used for Vin de Pays du Val de Loire wines.
A small amount is grown in Anjou, mainly used in blends of Anjou Blanc or on its own as a varietal Vin de Pays wines. Tends to be softer and rounder than the Sauvignons of Touraine or the Central Vineyards.
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