We conclude our series with part 3 on the #Loirevalley by taking a look at the Centre and Upper Loire. Arguably, some of the most well-known wines of the Loire are produced here. Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are famous for their Sauvignon Blanc, and this is the variety's home. Pinot Noir is also well-known here.
The Upper-Loire moves to Chardonnay, Sacy, Gamay, Pinot Noir and are less well-known.
Centre and Upper Loire:
The Loire River begins in the Massif Central mountain range, and the AOC's are dotted along the river all the way to Orléans. Vineyards are planted along the river and its tributaries, taking advantage of its warming effect on a cool climate. The vineyards face mostly east and west.
The area experiences a continental climate, which means a large temperature variance between winter and summer.
Winters are cold and prone to frosts and ice.
Springs are short and variable with sunny and cloudy days.
Summers are hot and sunny.
Autumns tend to be temperate and mild through Harvest. Humidity and fog can sometimes pose problems promoting conditions for rot.
The region is on a base of Kimmeridgean limestone. It has 3 distinct soil types;
Terres Blanches; marl rich in oyster fossils. (produces vibrant acidity)
Caillottes; little limestone pebbles. (produces a little less acidity)
Silex; flint. (adds a unique gun flint/smoky finish)
The cold climate of the Loire naturally restricts what varieties will grow successfully. Historically, the region was planted with the Chasselas variety, but this variety is now grown in Switzerland, Savoie and Alsace almost exclusively. Due to its difficulty with grafting, Chasselas was abandoned to Sauvignon Blanc after phylloxera struck the region. A few other varieties are also grown.
Sauvignon Blanc-principle grape. (literally translates as "smoky white")
Gamay Saint Romain
The AOCs of the Centre Loire are as follows:
Menetou-Salon AOC: This AOC produces white wines from Sauvignon Blanc and red and rosé wines from Pinot Noir in a style similar to Sancerre. Kimmeridgean soils play a large part in the signature profile of these wines by imparting a nervy, vibrant acidity and a core of minerality to the whites. The reds are supple with silky tannins, and the rosés are medium-bodied and fresh.
Pouilly-Fumé AOC: This AOC produces white wines only from Sauvignon Blanc. Due to the variety of soils here, Sauvignon Blanc can produce a variety of styles from gunflint/smoky styles to lighter, fruitier styles through to deep flavour, round and creamy.
Pouilly-Sur-Loire AOC: This AOC covers the same ground as Pouilly-Fumé but uses the Chasselas variety.
Quincy AOC: This AOC produces white wines with Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris is allowed to be blended. Planted on a plateau along the Cher river combined with Kimmeridgean soils produces white wines with fresh citrus, acacia blossom, white pepper, menthol and characteristic racy/nervy acidity.
Reuilly AOC: This AOC produces white wines from Sauvignon Blanc and reds from Pinot Noir and rosés from Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Planted along the Cher river on Kimmeridgean soils the whites are floral, herbal and concentrated. Reds/rosés are delicate and light-bodied.
Sancerre AOC: This AOC is the most well known, along with Pouilly-Fumé. Whites here are made from Sauvignon Blanc and reds/rosés from Pinot Noir. The whites have high acid and are marked by lemon-grass aromas and minerality. The reds/rosés are elegant with cherry and plum flavours along with soft silky tannins.
There you have it! The wines of the Loire Valley. A truly exquisite region both for its wines and beautiful scenery, along with fresh produce. Make sure you give them a go.