We also find a huge variety of quality wines in the core of the Loire Valley, extending on an exceptional cultural landscape, registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stemming from two thousand years of history, the Loire Valley vineyard is made up of a mosaic of climates, soils and orientations, which naturally offer a great diversity of wines.
Following the creation in 1936 of the concept of Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) and the National Institute of Designations of Origin (INAO) which formalized the AOC, the Loire river and its numerous tributaries play an appreciable moderating role in the actual vineyards (photo credits: Mélanie Denizot / Vins de Loire).
For example, by promoting the existence of a multitude of microclimates favorable to the cultivation of vines, from the oceanic influence attenuating seasonal variations in the Nantes and Anjou vineyards, along the semi-oceanic and its naturally more marked seasonal variations in the Saumur vineyards, without forgetting that Touraine vineyard is located at the crossroads of oceanic and continental influences. We would try then to offer you an overview of this grape panorama, starting from East to West.By Alex Plato
Not far from from Paris, with a reasonable distance about 200 km, in the south-east of the Paris basin, the Pouilly-Fumé production area is located around the generous hills close to the Loire river. Also baptized the “river of the Kings” greatly influences this local mild climate dedicated to only one grape variety, baptized Sauvignon blanc. A specific taste that distinguishes Pouilly-Fumé from the sister appellation of Pouilly-sur-Loire, since this Pouilly-Fumé appellation is exclusively marked with white wines that are distinguished by various characteristic flinty aromas. A rich sensation of lively minerality and fruity citrus notes, especially if you remind that the main part of these Pouilly-Fumé wines need to be appreciated in their youth. However some vintages have a strong aging potential, and we encourage you to explore them in the quality selection of the products offered by the Château de Tracy, the Domaine Didier Dagueneau or the Domaine Michel Redde et Fils.
In a way, that’s a logical fact for this terroir steeped in history, since it’s perhaps one of the oldest French vintages with apparently first historical traces visible already back in the 5th century. Thus, in the Middle Ages, the local Benedictines promoted the benefits of this fine wine, but it was at the end of the 18th century that a real commercial success began, supported by its ability to match with many dishes of French gastronomy (photo credits: Pouilly-Fumé).
In fact, it’s a worth representative asset to start discovering these dry white wines, notably full of aromas enhanced by the variety of a surprising surrounding terroir. Proud of a cellaring potential of around 5 years among many wines, this Pouilly-Fumé philosophy would then naturally and logically vary following its inner tasting qualities and its maturity potential. As far as we know, most of the Pouilly-Fumé wines easily match with your delicious seafood and fish diners, but also with fine goat cheeses.
In the heart of Bouchot, an old Pouillyssois wine-growing village, Gilles Chollet took over from his father in 1986. Joined by his son Séverin in 2010, this Domaine Chollet cultivates nowadays a vineyard covering 11.5 ha. Pursuing the Chollet family adventure initiated by Roland Chollet and his wife Simone, who started from nothing, their own domain to produce their premium wine range in Pouilly-sur-Loire, in the Nièvre department (photo credits: Domaine Chollet).
For information, from the Chasselas grape variety, these fresh wines from Pouilly-sur-Loire perfectly match with any kind of occasion. Made from the authentic Sauvignon grape, this dry and fruity white wine of Pouilly Fumé produced there, is muchly regarded generous. Restoring the inimitable taste of the Pouilly terroir, thanks to its regular and explicit aromas of citrus and exotic fruits, all melt into a typical minerality!
As far as we know, it is in Pouilly-sur-Loire that the Sauvignon grape variety develops as much as possible this unparalleled complexity and aromatic palette, leading to a first nectar appearing in 1960, in Bouchot for the Chollet family. Produced with the greatest respect for their ancestral terroir, it succeeded to obtain no less than 15 medals (5 Gold, 10 Silver, 5 Bronze) at the Concours Général de Paris and Macon, in about 20 years.
Then in 1980, Gilles Chollet acquired new vines and extended the wine estate, by perpetuating this family spirit, covering nowadays approximately 12 and a half hectares over 2 municipalities and for an annual production of nearly 800 hectoliters of wine. Still granted here by the illustrious Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée and since 1937, let’s get into their range of white wines from the Nièvre, all in perfect harmony with their native vines, while promoting sustainable practices that respect soils, the balance of the plants and above all their surrounding environment.
This is naturally why their vineyard has been certified High Environmental Value (HVE3) in 2020, orienting towards a certain responsible and organic farming. By the way, one of the peculiarities of their estate is to vinify their terroirs separately, still in the respect of the inner characteristics of their juices plus their various tasting assets. Indeed, their vinification is operated in a similar way, as naturally as possible, and in identical containers.
It’s not a mystery that for more than 60 years, this Domaine Chollet has succeeded to develop of the most famous wines of the Loire Valley, with the support of 3 main types of terroir and soils, those are argilo-siliceous (the siliceous clay that initiates early and gourmet wines, ready to be tasted early), clay-limestone (Caillottes, which gives birth to fresh and fruity cuvées) and Kimmeridgian Marls (Terres Blanches, memories of some fossilized Jurassic shells, which generate intense flavors of exotic fruits, a beautiful minerality and even a superb structure).
“Be in harmony with your vines and promote practices that respect the life of the soil, the balance of the plant and the environment. Organic farming is the key. Developping a wine is a nice way to be creative, respectful of the environment, only in the generosity of the aromas of the cuvées which will nourish convivial moments of tasting. By letting the terroir express itself as naturally as possible, we maintain the reputation of creating the best Sauvignon in the world.” admits Séverin Chollet.
At first sight, let’s start with the tasting of AOP Pouilly Fumé Tradition 2020cuvée , which may be easily regarded as a loyal illustration of the expression of Sauvignon Blanc. Cautiously fed with organic fertilizers, those pulpy grapes (of average age of 35 years) are then mechanically harvested on their native clay-limestone and siliceous subsoils, essentially starring marl with small oysters, limestone from Villiers and sands from the nearby Loire river. Thus, this framework offers some minerality and a vinification in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats, before an aging between 3 to 5 months on fine lees, supported a with regular stirring. Once you open this flacon, enjoy its brilliant golden robe, displaying its fragrance of fresh citrus fruits (grapefruit, lemon), completed with a mineral and exotic touch. Then, admire the frank sensation developing inside your palate, sharing generous and fresh aromas of grapefruit with a peppery touch.
We recommend to store this wine 4 years and offer it within a serving temperature between 11 and 13°C, as an aperitif or to accompany any kind of seafood dishes or a goat cheese platter.
For instance, have a look at the Pouilly Fumé untitled Les Terres Blanches 2020, a cuvée coming from these previous Kimmeridgian Marls, recognizable by the thousands of small comma-shaped oyster shells (ostrea virgula), and enjoying a very beautiful Eastern/Northern East exposure. Following the prestigious example of a Grand Cru, the aging potential of this wine may undoubtedly be from 8 to 10 years, then to be discovered over the years, due to a huge potential of evolution.
In the first years, it is above all the fruit of Sauvignon Blanc which expresses itself with a more discreet terroir aspect. Time after time, this charming ensemble becomes more homogeneous, through the real expression of the true personality of its related terroir expresses due to the rich aromatic palette of Sauvignon. A great wedding with scallops in risotto, and obviously seafood dishes.
Adding to this, we shall focus on Les Sables, where the sunny grapes of Sauvignon happily grow on a very small plot mostly composed of sands. A territory composed of a fine sandy soil, South-Eastern oriented, able to quickly heat up at the slightest rays of sunshine and is then, particularly precocious.
A terroir able to offer to this charming Pouilly-Fumé juice a balanced tenderness between minerality and freshness to this 2020 cuvée, to appreciate between 2021 and 2025. A perfect period to feel its refined palate, full of acacia, honeysuckle, pear and peach notes. An ideal combination to marry with green asparagus, snacked scallops and even some aged goat cheese. Icing on the cake, this wine was recently granted by a SilverMedal at the Concours Mondial du Sauvignon.
Last but not least, another SilverMedal of the Concours Mondial du Sauvignon, discover Les Caillottes 2020 which evolve on some limestone slopes, located on the Vaurigny hills, on the northern part of Pouilly-sur-Loire. Naturally enriched with a really accomplished aromatic and complexpalette, this wine offers very fine aromas, especially made of white and citrus fruits.
A lovely ensemble that shares a seductive and subtle intensity for this premium Pouilly-Fumé that stands out with its high expression of Sauvignon Blanc. This delicious nectar, embodied of sensuality, would exactly marry with some fried dishes from the Loire river and all grilledfish in general, including gambas and of course Crottin de Chavignol. We recommend it to store it between 5 and 7 years at maximum.
Owned by the Assay family, the enigmatic Château de Tracy is one of the emblems of the Pouilly-Fumé appellation in the heart of the Loire Valley wines. Therefore, overlooking the endless Loire river, the 33 hectares of this vineyard are exclusively devoted to the majestic Sauvignon Blanc grape, of which the domain has made its specialty.
In order to develop a rich and complex nectar, the production stands on different types of soils, between a slight flavor of blackcurrant emerging from the limestone Champs du Cri territory. Therefore, a vegetal touch present in the flint spirit of the Butte de Tracy, along clay and even marl both display a narcissus touch. This unexpected alloy allows a selection of several impregnated cuvées representing each of these different terroirs full of various expressions, which are regarded as fine classics of this famous appellation (photos credits: Tracy).
For your information, the Château de Tracy stands on 33 hectares, spread on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Valley. The sustainable commitment of the domain lead to an honorable HVE (High Environmental Value) label, granted in 2014, recognizing the virtuous philosophy and cultivation methods respectful of natural balances.
To better illustrate this feeling of this bucolic Château de Tracy, why don’t you try as soon as possible the relatively dry vintage of 2019? This elegant golden juice, as well adorned with silvery reflections, would offer you an harmonious, floral but complex texture inherent to these delicious Sauvignon Blanc flavors. Starting from a fresh fragrance, a fruity aromatic touch would then eventually dominate in terms of gustative sensations.
If you have a fine one, you would surely feel evident gourmet notes of kiwi and rhubarb, before a long saline mineral and chalky finish. As seen before, we highly recommend you to preferably appreciate this wine, before 2023 and served at a temperature of 10°C, to either accompany a seafood platter or some goat cheese.
We pursue our Loire Valley tour with the charming Côteaux-du-Vendômois, located between Vendôme and Montoire territories, covering 150 hectares of silty and stony plateaus. Furthermore, these vines extend over the upstream part of the Loir area, mainly standing on limestone slopes on both sides of the river.
On the same historical mood of Pouilly-Fumé, the Côteaux-du-Vendômois vineyards may be dated back as early as the 10th century, notably in Villedieu. It is also said that King Henri IV was a high enthusiast of these wines, not far from his favorite castles, notably counting on those from the Domaine de Prépatour, in Naveil.
In this prolific appellation, don’t miss an eclectic production, composed of white, red and rosés wines. This wide range was luckily made possible thanks to various grape varieties available in this territory, such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Côt, Gamay, Chenin and Pineau d’Aunis. Therefore, the latter grape variety is often vinified in gray wines, while the majority of these Côteaux-du-Vendômois nectars have generally to be tasted as much as possible in their youth.
Then, with the wish to offer you some basic samples from this Côteaux-du-Vendôme, organized around a winery cooperative for more production efficiency. For your information, many of the juices produced in the zone, are composed of the noble and popular Pineau d’Aunis grape variety (photo credits: Côteaux du Vendômois).
This grape is originally coming from some vineyards, around the Priory of Aunis (near Saumur), back from the 11th century. It’s not a mystery that this Chenin Blanc affiliate has much expanded a lot in Vendômois, since the beginning of the 20th century and represents nowadays the grape speciality from the Côteaux-du-Vendômois.
As far as we know, the majority of Pineau d’Aunis wines are notably characterized by explicit spicy notes, able to display a wide range of peppery aromas, along other types of spices, such as cardamom.
In this case, the Cuvée Prestige elaborated by the Côteaux-du-Vendômois fully embodies the spirit of Pineau d’Aunis, thanks to its 50 year old vines, situated under a fabulous climate facing the Loir river.
Don’t also miss here that Pineau d’Aunis is mixed with Cabernet Franc, characterized by a pretty structure, despite their vinification is operated separately. Then, after an aging in vats between 6 and 8 months, this blending would naturally reveal a beautiful aromatic complexity, for a final a deep and brilliant ruby dress.
After feeling its charming and spicy fragrance full of black fruits (cherry or blackcurrant), you would easily enjoy intense flavors, ranking from a cardamom and blackpepper wedding, strong of silky tannins for a full length. Perfect to match with spicy diners and eventually goat cheeses (ex: Saint Moorus).
More information on the official website of the cooperative.
Still in red category, the wines of Patrice Colin are worth it too. This authentic wine enthusiast, attached to share his own vision of Vendôme wines, while pursuing a family heritage started in 1735 and reinforced in the early 1900s by his ancestor Emilien Colin who developed this domain (photo credits: Côteaux du Vendômois).
By the way, this redcuvée is baptized in honored to this local personality, supported by very old vines displaying the maturity of an elegant Pineau d’Aunis, grown in an organic vineyard and followed by a non-interventionist vinification. Enhanced of bewitching notes of cherries and raspberries carried by a pretty peppery hint, we appreciate here a structured wine whose tannins are elegant and the finish is very fresh. In this case, this 2019millesime delivers a very nice fruity roundness. We recommend to appreciate it until 2024, preferably on grills and goat cheeses.
More information on the official website and on the plateform of the cooperative.
Then, if you are more into rosé wines, why don’t you get bewitched by a rich heritage from the past, developed in the Lieu-dit Cocagne. This amazing wine may find its roots from a small set of unique vines located in sunny hills, located in Lunay on the edges of the charming Loir river.
For your information, the local winegrowers are proud to enhance this natural wealth visible in a semi-troglodyte hamlet, pierced with dozens of cellars stuck into the rock. Then, a smart use of prophylactic methods (including plug-in, stripping) provoke some interesting natural reactions, in order to regulate the production, in the framework of a reasoned agriculture (photo credits: Côteaux du Vendômois).
Once harvested, the fermentation of this precious juice may start in thermo-regulated stainless steel tanks, prior a rest on lees during a period of 3 to 4 months. Those are the necessary steps to feel this very intense nose on strawberry and citrus notes, before a balanced evolution in mouth through major tones of fresh red fruits (strawberry, currant) and spices. At last, a round and fresh finish to gather with inspired salads and any type of barbecue moments.
More information on the official website of the cooperative.
Still in these Côteaux du Vendômois, you could be satisfied with a sparkling wine. The Charme aux Dames is elaborated with the respect of the illustrious traditional method, thanks to prolific vines located in the microclimate of the troglodyte town of Villiers-sur-Loir. This is where the tasty Chenin grape variety, the same as in Vouvray, Montlouis and Saumur appellations, develops there in a good harmony, providing to this Charme aux Dames a very original typicity (photo credits: Côteaux du Vendômois).
Blended with Chardonnay, this smooth sparkling wine is supported by a favorable calcareous soil, composed of clay and pink, for a cuvée full of surprises and complexity, combining the freshness of Chenin and kind fruitiness of some Chardonnay. Thereafter, its fine bubbles offer an intense and fine foam, which reveals a very aromatic nose of fresh red fruits, nuanced with some dried fruits.
Adding to this, this ideal companion for bubbly diners lets arise a fresh taste of light strawberry, dried fruits and even some fig notes, to combine in a cocktail time, with smooth tapas or chocolate cakes.
More information on the official website of the cooperative.
Installed since the early eighteenth century in Thoré-la-Rochette, the Creuzet family offers with their Caves-aux-Caux domain, a range of quality wines produced in the respect of a certain local Vendôme tradition. Through eighteen different cuvées (dry white, semi-dry white, soft white, syrupy white, gray and semi-dry rosé…), this original domain tends to sweep as much as possible towards an entire range of flavors, thanks to a series of wines suitable for all kinds of convivial moments (aperitif, meal, etc.).
Those various wines are luckily vinified with their natural yeasts and with the minimum inputs. On top of that, their vinification and bottling are also performed by a maximum relation with the lunar calendar in order to promote the aromatic expression of those wines. In parallel, as always looking for more quality and authenticity, no sulfites nor other types of conservatives are added in their juices, since 2017.
Adding to this sustainable viticulture, a natural fermentation of wines is nowadays operated. Therefore, there is no insecticidal treatment on their last campaigns, apart sometimes a fungal protection.
That’s why, a small vine plot of Pineau D’Aunis, aged of over a hundred years, has been handly cultivated and harvested, along the precious help of a draft horse, now for some years. This original and ancestral process gave birth to their Trotte Putain grey wine, related to its plot name, conveying to a pretty dry but mineral juice, longered with some peppered and spicy notes. At last, we recommend to marry this elixir with cold meats, pancakes, grills and again goat cheese (photo credits: Cave aux Caux).
Are you familiar with family affairs? The wine house Couly-Dutheil has been creating wines, since in 1921, proving a long and patient quest for quality.
This time, we find ourselves in the Chinonterroir, ideally located in a semi-oceanic climate, where Cabernet-Franc is king. Adding to this, a variety of soils express through three privileged terroirs (made of gravel, clay-siliceous and clay-limestone), all organized around the Vienne river. When it comes from denser soils such as limestone hillsides, more structured wines would arise and suitable for long storage.
These vineyards are fortunately cultivated with a kind respect of nature, essentially within a complete grassing of the vineyard, leaf stripping, low yields, among many other smart behaviors. Perfect to express the generosity of the major varieties of the domain, so to say Cabernet-Franc and Chenin Blanc.
For example, we are glad to introduce their Cuvée Chinon Rosé, fully composed of this Cabernet-Franc variety, elevated in fertile alluvial sandy terraces, fed by the Vienne river (photo credits: Couly-Dutheil).
The result is a pinky wine announcing a delicious and fruity nose of currants and citrus, before a delicate slightly spicy taste in mouth. It’s possible that the maceration of around 12 hours, along a fermentation of the musts, provides this addictive expression, possibly to match with some roasted asparagus, along fresh salads, or any kind of exotic dishes and grills.