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In Germany, the wines of the Loire are still something for specialists. Yet the Sauvignon Blancs, Chenins and Cabernet Francs guarantee many interesting discoveries. A visit to the last untamed watercourse in Europe proved this.

We are in Touraine, the "Garden of France" and the heart of the Loire cultural landscape protected by UNESCO. Here, as early as the 4th century, St. Martin of Tours laid the foundation for the development of viticulture. Some of the Loire's most famous chateaux are to be found here. And here - in the entire region around Tours, the Touraine and Vouvray appellations - is also the stronghold of Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc. Both grape varieties dominate the cultivation statistics, but for some time now they have been facing noticeable competition from Sauvignon Blanc and Gamay.

Wine also grows at the royal castle of Amboise

There is no question about it: the wines are individual and clearly outside the mainstream. This partly explains why Loire wines play only a modest role in Germany. About 3.8 million hectolitres per year are produced on average in France's fourth-largest wine-growing region with 70,000 hectares, 544,000hl of which are exported. The main customers are Great Britain and France, while Germany lags far behind with an export quota of eight percent. In our country, "the Loire is an unexplored area in the middle of the European wine landscape", a well-known sommelier recently commented.

Picturesque: View from the castle in Chinon

Yet Touraine in particular has a treasure to offer that can produce excellent qualities in the dry as well as in the residual and sweet range: the Chenin Blanc. A tasting at Chateau Gaudrelle in Rochecorbon (AOC Vouvray) proves what independent and complex wines can be produced from this grape variety. The racy sparkling wine Chateau Gaudrelle Brut Millésime 2008 impresses with its distinctive aroma of green fruits and nuts. The still wine Sec tendre is also very successful with a lot of minerality, beautiful fruit and freshness. For the first time, owner Alexandre Monmousseau presented the Chateau Gaudrelle Reserve Personelle Liquoreux: a very dense, intense and long-lasting sweet wine with the character of a Beerenauslese (berry selection), which is sold from the estate for 19 euros per 0.375-l bottle - an absolutely fair price.
Monmousseau produces 140,000 bottles a year, about half of them sparkling wine as Vouvray brut. The tuff cellar, built into the mountain, is absolutely worth seeing.

Alexandre Monmousseau% Owner of Château Gaudrelle in Rochecorbon

Chateau Moncontour is one of the big Crémant producers. In Vouvray alone, the estate owns 120 hectares; in addition, it has its own winery in Chinon. The Vouvray sparkling wines - brut, sec, demi-sec - account for 80 percent of the total production, which corresponds to about one million bottles. For the second and third brands, they hope for increasing demand from German supermarkets. The crémants under the umbrella brand Chateau de Moncontour are very good: the charming Brut with fine perlage and especially the Cuvée Prédilection, which provides an extremely creamy mouthfeel.

The wines of the Loire go perfectly with the regional specialities

In addition to Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc also finds excellent growing conditions on the banks of the Loire. Very different soil formations, from chalky tufa to clay, chalky rocks and gravel to flint, give the wines a very specific flavour, which is also influenced by the continental climate in a northern location. Apart from Touraine, Sauvignons are mainly found in the Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé appellations. In Touraine, winegrowers have joined forces to form the "Groupe blanc": an initiative founded in 2008 that aims to sharpen the profile of Sauvignon Blanc with the help of a lively exchange of experience. Under the aegis of New Zealand's Masters of Wine Sam Harrop, the producers make balanced wines that are intended to reflect the specific terroir of the Loire. In Chaumont-sur-Loire, we tasted two dozen reference wines from this project. Most of them are light, show the typical somewhat "green" Sauvignon fruit notes as well as a well-integrated acidity. In addition, there are some juicy, round representatives with mineral hints. The Sauvignons from Domaine Gibault, Domaine Malet, Domaine du Haut Perron, Chateau de Quincay and Chateau de Fontenay, each from the 2009 vintage, were particularly pleasing.

That belongs together: Chateaux and the Loire

For some time now, the red wines of the Loire, which continue to be overshadowed by the white grape varieties, have also been receiving support. Since 2005, a working group led by Sam Harrop has been producing an annual vinification guide. It offers a general orientation for the vinification of the wines, but without any binding claim. The vintners are only to receive assistance in producing wines that meet the requirements of the export markets to a greater extent than before. The guide describes profiles for Loire red wines from the predominant grape variety Cabernet Franc, and recently also from Cot/Malbec. The aim is to produce round, fruit-driven wines that are characterised by a balanced structure and ripe aromas. Vegetable-green aromas and too much extraction should be avoided at all costs. A distinction is made between the wine profiles "Basis" and "Premium". "Basis" stands for fruit-driven wines in the entry-level price range that are to be sold primarily through the grocery trade and are aimed at consumers who prefer an uncomplicated and fruity style. "Premium" is aimed at consumers looking for a structured, fuller-bodied and more complex Cabernet Franc or Malbec; sales channels are gastronomy and specialised trade.

Denis Courault presents cremants and wines from Château de Moncontour in Vouvray.

A tasting at the picturesque Chateau de Marcay proved the Loire winegrowers' capabilities in the red wine segment. Many of the 35 single-vineyard wines from different AOCs presented themselves with charming fruit, good structure and nicely integrated acidity. Particularly recommendable were the reds from the AOC Chinon such as the Chateau de la Grille 2005, the Chinon 2008 from the Domaine René Couly, the Les Blancs Manteaux 2008 from the Domaine de la Noblaie or the Cuvée du Domaine 2009 from the Domaine Charles Pain. But also other AOCs presented some very nice wines. The L'Expression 2009 from Taluau Foltzenlogel (AOC St. Nicolas-de-Bourgueil), the Lers Varennes 2009 from NAU Frères (AOC Bourgueil) and the Cuvée Yves Lambert 2009 from Domaine de St. Just (AOC Saumur Champigny) are just a few examples. Overall, the level was much higher than expected.

Tasting of the Sauvignon blancs de Loire from the Sam Harrop Project

Whether all these wines are already available in Germany is doubtful. But they would be one more reason to visit the Loire. The approximately 1000-kilometre-long river, along which one wine-growing region follows the next, stands for a lifestyle of simple but enjoyable living. It can be the houseboat or the bicycle when it comes to realising the dream of travelling at a leisurely pace along the tranquil river. The Loire has everything to offer, from unspoilt nature to the famous castles, the excellent cuisine to the multifaceted wine, what we in Germany like to call "savoir vivre". In any case, it is worth discovering.

The Loire in figures

The production

- Largest white wine producer in France
- Largest AOC region for sparkling wines
- Wine production 4 million hl
- Area under cultivation 70000 ha
- 68 appellations
- Total sales 400 million bottles

The companies

- 7000 wineries
- 100 wine merchants
- 24 cooperative wineries
- 33000 jobs


- 1.2 billion euros turnover
- incl. 220 million euro turnover in exports
- 70 million bottles exported

The largest vineyards

- Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 9000 ha
- Touraine 5500 ha
- Muscadet 3,600 ha
- Rose d'Anjou 2,400 ha
- Anjou 2300 ha
- Chinon 2300 ha

The main grape varieties

- Melon de bBourgogne 38%
- Chenin Blanc 25%
- Sauvignon Blanc 22%

- Cabernet Franc 50%
- Gamay 20%


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