France: Loire Valley

Central Vineyards of the Loire

The wines of Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and their neighbours
By Jim Budd

This Guide was last updated on 23 April 2011
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Main appellations


Sancerre in all its colours is easily the largest appellation of the Central Vineyards with 2,770ha planted with around 75% Sauvignon Blanc. The appellation has three different types of soil – les caillottes (limestone), silex (flint) and argilo-calcaire (clay and limestone) – giving three different styles of wines. Wines from the caillottes tend to be ready to drink early, while those from the argilo-calcaire take the longest to be ready but age well. Pinot Noir now occupies around 25% of the vineyard but in volume only about 20% as its yields are lower than Sauvignon Blanc.

Pouilly Fumé

Like Sancerre, there have probably been vineyards here since Roman times – the first historic evidence dates from the 5th century AD. The vineyards of Pouilly-sur-Loire cover 1,224ha across seven communes. Only white wines may be made. The vast majority is planted with Sauvignon Blanc for the production of Pouilly-Fumé. Some 33ha is planted with Chasselas – see Pouilly sur Loire below.

Pouilly sur Loire

Appellation for wines made from Chasselas. This was the variety that briefly dominated the Pouilly vineyard in the second half of the 19th century, now there are only 34ha in production as Sauvignon Blanc has taken over.


This is a junior version of Sancerre – same grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir – from rolling countryside to the southwest of Sancerre. Granted appellation status in 1959, there has been a considerable renaissance in Menetou-Salon over the last 25 years or so. There are now 465ha planted over ten communes, whereas even at the end of the 1980s, there were only 100ha in production.


Curiously Quincy in the Cher Valley, close to Vierzon, is one of the earliest French ACs and the first in the Central Vineyards – the necessary paperwork was signed in August 1936. Sauvignon Blanc is the sole variety here and is mainly planted on sand and gravel laid down by the Cher tributary of the Loire. The area is quite flat and there are now around 225ha planted – sharply up on the 60ha in production at the end of the 1980s.


Neighbouring appellation to Quincy based around the small town of Reuilly 10km to the west. Like its neighbour, Reuilly has seen a considerable renaissance over the last 15 years. Whereas there were only 30ha in production at the end of the 1980s there are now 186ha. All three colours are made: white from Sauvignon Blanc, rosés from Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir and reds from Pinot Noir.

Coteaux du Giennois

Made an AC in 1998 this rather scattered appellation stretches from Cosne northwards to Gien. There are 191ha planted across 14 communes. Of this 87ha is Sauvignon Blanc and 104ha is planted with Gamay and Pinot Noir. The appellation rules require that reds and rosés have to be a blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir. Previously it was possible to make single varietal reds and then some of the most interesting reds were pure Pinot Noir - possibly yet another example of unnecessary tinkering by the French wine authorities.

Châteaumeillant VDQS

Very much a small, isolated appellation in Georges Sand country (this French writer spent a considerable part of her life at Nohant near La Châtre, about 20km to the west.) Châteaumeillant now has 98ha planted with a mix of Gamay and Pinot Noir to make reds and rosés. It is currently applying for AC status. Spread across seven communes, there are six individual producers and a cooperative cellar.

IGP (Vin de Pays) de Coteaux Charitois

Small IGP (formerly Vin de Pays) area to the east of la Charité. There are some 40ha around the hamlets of Chasnay and Saint Lay. Mainly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay planted. The leading producer here is Alphonse Mellot, who bought the Cave des Hauts de Seyr in 2005 and renamed it Les Pénitents. The Mellots are intent on improving the quality – 2006 was already better than 2005, and 2008 looks very promising. This is certainly one to watch.

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