France: Loire Valley

West of Tours and Saumur

The wines of Chinon, Bourgueil and Saumur
By Jim Budd

This Guide was last updated on 19 April 2011
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Main grape varieties


Cabernet Franc
This micro-region is indisputably the Kingdom of Cabernet Franc. Nowhere else in world are so many pure Cabernet Franc wines made and of such quality. With Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc is the parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. In the Loire is also known as the Breton probably because this Bordeaux variety arrived by sea through Nantes, which was then part of Brittany. As Cabernet Franc ripens earlier than Cabernet Sauvignon, it is better suited to the Loire than its more robust offspring. Flavours range from red fruits – raspberry and cherry – to black fruits, especially in hotter years. Notes of green pepper indicate that the grapes were not completely ripe.

Plays a very minor role here. May be used as part of the blend in Touraine Azay le Rideau otherwise its most likely appearance will be as a Vin de Pays.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Plays very much a secondary role here, occasionally blended in with Cabernet Franc in small quantities. 

Grolleau or Groslot
Generally used for rosé blends in the Loire, but not widely grown in Touraine. It works well in sparkling wine blends to provide fine, small bubbles.   

Pineau d’Aunis
Permitted for Saumur Rouge and also for Touraine red and rosé but rarely used in this micro-region.


Chenin Blanc
Wines from the Loire’s native-born, world-class variety demonstrate a true marriage of grape variety, soil and climate but in this micro-region the variety is only allowed to show flashes of brilliance, mainly in Saumur. Elsewhere it is the sole variety in Touraine Azay le Rideau and Chinon whites.

Sauvignon Blanc
Unlike its dominance in eastern Touraine, Sauvignon Blanc plays a very minor role here. It is permitted to make Touraine Sauvignon here and up to 20% of Sauvignon can go into Saumur Blanc as well as Saumur Brut.

Permitted as a complementary variety in Saumur Blanc, Chardonnay’s chief role here is in the sparkling wine Saumur Brut and Crémant de Loire. On its own, Chardonnay is often used for Vin de Pays du Val de Loire wines.

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