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 wine styles

Dry and Medium Whites

The multi-faceted Chenin Blanc can produce medium-bodied wines with elegance and finesse accompanied by bright acidity. The principal appellations of Vouvray and Montlouis give precise, bone-dry (sec) wines through off dry (sometimes called sec-tendre or simply tendre) to medium-dry (labelled demi-sec when indicated) are more usual. Most dry and medium wines are fermented in tank though wood may be used. New or fairly new demi-muid barrels (around 600 litres) are increasingly used here for both fermentation and maturation. In the Touraine and Cheverny ACs, where Sauvignon Blanc is the main grape variety, the wines are dry, crisp and fruity and offer very good value from the best producers.

Sweet Whites

Made from Chenin Blanc that has been left to ripen late on the vine, always dependent on the vintage of course, and often affected by noble rot. In warm dry autumn passerillage (concentration and sweetness from the sun drying out and shrivelling the grapes) is more common. Sweet Vouvray and Montlouis wines (often termed moelleux) can be really concentrated, honeyed, aromatic and rich the sweetest known as liquoreux. Some sweet wines are aged in cask adding to their complexity. With Chenin Blanc’s striking acidity these wines have a remarkable ability to age – even quite moderate vintages remain drinkable at 60-70 years old. In exceptional years a few Touraine producers make a small amount of sweet wine from Sauvignon Blanc.

Reds

Many Touraine reds are light-bodied, gently fruity, fresh wines to be consumed in their youth with flavours dependent on both their grape variety and soil. Gamays vary considerably from light easy summer wines to ones with more fruit and structure and which can be aged three or four years. The majority, however, are light and can be decidedly thin. There are, however, some more concentrated examples of reds especially those made from Côt – either pure or in a blend with Cabernet. Some are aged in oak. The best examples are deep-coloured with black fruit flavours including mulberry. It is a more rustic, tannic variety than Cabernet Franc and usually needs a couple of years to soften.

Rosés

Often pale pink wines frequently made from Pineau d’Aunis are generally dry in this micro-region showing good fruit. Those made from Cabernet or Gamay have a deeper hue. They are best drunk young within a year of the vintage. 

Sparkling and Semi-sparkling Wines

Vouvray and Montlouis sparkling wines, made in the Traditional Method, often have a dominant apple character from the Chenin Blanc, with vibrant acidity, making them age well. The best age for decades but unfortunately there are also many undistinguished bottles made to hit a low price point. They are usually made in brut style though there are some demi-secs made. Pétillant or semi-sparkling wines, which are very delicate, are also made. Crémant de Loire whites are mainly brut too and vary greatly according to the blend of grapes used in the base wine. Chardonnay may give an added elegance to the Chenin Blanc, and the addition of red grapes adds to the weight of the wines. The rosés are dry and fruity with a touch of tannin.

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