France: Loire Valley

East of Tours

Vouvray, Montlouis and Touraine wines
By Jim Budd

This Guide was last updated on 21 April 2011
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Main grape varieties


This grape variety is particularly widespread in eastern Touraine area used either as a single varietal wine or in a blend with Côt and Cabernet. A small amount of Gamay Primeur is made, although this fashion for drinking very young wine in November following the vintage is declining. It is also used to make rosé either by itself or in a blend.  Rain around harvest time can be disastrous for Gamay as the grapes quickly become bloated with water diluting the resulting wine.

Cabernet Franc
The Loire’s principal high-quality red grape variety, Eastern Touraine is its eastward limit for ripening successfully. Although it can produce attractive wines that are often drinkable young, wines can be aged a remarkable length of time. Can either be used for a single varietal wine or blended with Gamay and Côt to make what is called ‘Touraine Tradition’ or as a better option blended simply with Côt. Also used for rosé as well as sparkling wines.

Cabernet Sauvignon
As it is a late ripener, Cabernet Sauvignon is rarely seen in this part of the Loire and probably shouldn’t have been planted when it is found.

Grolleau or Groslot
Used as part of the blend for dry rosés such as Rosé de Loire and certain Touraine rosés. When yields are controlled it makes some charming rosés as well as a few reds. Gives a fine stream of bubbles when used as part of a sparkling wine blend.

Pinot Noir
A small amount is grown in Touraine, mainly used in blends. I cannot recall ever having tasted a memorable one.

Known elsewhere as Malbec or Auxerrois in Cahors, this grape variety grows very well in this micro-region and is potentially the area’s best grape variety. Unfortunately Côt lost popularity a few decades ago and old vines were ripped out and when later some was replanted over-productive clones were used. There remain a few small parcels of over 100-year-old Côt vines producing small amounts of concentrated juice and fortunately now Côt is more valued and appreciated. Best as a single varietal wine but works well blended with Cabernet Franc.

Pineau d’Aunis
Similar to Grolleau, Pineau d’Aunis is used both for rosés (often in a Vin Gris style) and in a small way in both varietal and blended reds, which can be charming when yields are controlled. It is especially used in Coteaux du Loir.


Chenin Blanc
The Loire’s native-born, world-class variety, Chenin produces a number of different styles, sparkling and still, in a range of sweetness depending on vintage. High acidity is a feature of the grape, but in good year it is prone to noble rot or can simply be left on the vine to dry and concentrate allowing very sweet wines to be made. It can be charming when young but can age for decades. Some of the best Loire Chenin comes from Montlouis and Vouvray. Amboise is the easterly limit for Chenin – it is rarely ripe further east. Much of the Chenin in the Cher Valley has been replaced with Sauvignon Blanc, that which remains is often used for sparkling wine.

Sauvignon Blanc
One of the main white grape varieties of the Touraine it gives an easy wine to like and to understand. In the Loire’s cool climate, Sauvignon has typically made a nervy, aggressive wine, often herbaceous. When unripe it is aggressively vegetal – reeking of cats’ pee. Increasingly, however, vintners are picking riper grapes, with resulting flavours more in the realm of grapefruit and fig.

By law, up to 20% Chardonnay may be used in basic Touraine 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. On its own, Chardonnay is often used for Vin de Pays du Val de Loire wines. Probably more used here in sparkling wines – AC Touraine and Crémant de Loire.

A high acid white grape variety grown in Cheverny where it is the sole permitted variety for the Cour-Cheverny AC. A little is grown elsewhere in the Touraine appellation and in Valençay. Has the potential to age well developing honeyed complexity.

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