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Wine Appellations

Loire Valley Wine Appellations - understanding the names.

The Loire Valley appellations

Loire Valley Wine Tour - your guide to the wines of the Loire Valley

Appellation regions

There is no need to be confused by the French wine appellation system. It helps you understand what wine you are drinking by dividing the Loire Valley vineyards into progressively smaller geographical areas, each with its own ways of growing grapes and making wine. It is one of the most valuable pieces of information on the wine label. There are 69 AOC (Appellations d’Origine Contrôlées) wines in the Loire Valley which are produced from the Atlantic coast at Nantes to Sancerre in the heart of France.

Grape varieties

The Loire Valley has a large number of appellations covering a huge area. One reason why it is necessary to understand appellations is that unlike the new world of Australia, the United States, South America and South Africa, grape varieties are rarely displayed on wine labels in France. You simply have to know that a particular appellation requires that certain grape varieties be used in wine production in that region. This is all part of the fun of getting to know Loire Valley wines.

White Wine

If you see a white wine from the Loire region then it is likely to be made from Melon de Bourgogne if it is from the western section towards the Atlantic and Chenin Blanc in the middle Loire regions as far as Amboise, but there is increasing use of Sauvignon Blanc as you go up-river towards Sancerre. It is also possible that wines will be made from a blend of grape varieties. So we can find Chenin Blanc blended with Chardonnay near the Atlantic and Sauvignon Blanc blended with Chardonnay in the Touraine appellations.

Red Wines

Red wines from the Loire are usually made from Cabernet Franc in the middle Loire areas where Chinon, Bourgueil and St-Nicolas de Bourgueil, produce some of the best Loire reds. There is increasing use of Pinot Noir and Gamay as you get closer to Burgundy. Thus the appellation of Touraine which is in the Loire but not very far from Burgundy uses a mix of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc as well as Gamay in the red wines produced there. Malbec is used throughout the region, where is is known by the local name of Côt.


Appellations

Attempts to classify wines in France have been made since the 14th century and these entered a new era when in 1855 Bordeaux, on the west coast of France, produced a classification which divided the best vineyards into five levels of quality with the highest level going to five famous vineyards in the communes of Paulliac, Margaux and Pessac.

In the early years of the 20th century there was a lot of bad wine produced in France. Many talked about the need to introduce some control into vineyard practices, the making of the wine and the marketing of wine. Some attempts were made to establish regional appellations and to ensure that only grapes grown in that region were used in wines that were labelled as such. The creation of INAO in 1935 (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine) as the body with the legal responsibility for administering appellations in France was a huge step forward. The INAO is to this day the ruling body in France for the rules that govern the appellations.

They introduced a system of Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) or Appellation Contrôlée (AC) in its shortened version, where a set of strict rules, often overseen by a local committee, was introduced. These rules covered the permitted grape types which are explicitly stated, the communes in which the grapes can be grown, the maximum permitted yields (often around 50 hectolitres per hectare), the pruning type and the permitted harvesting techniques in some appellations.

AOC & VDQS

This work was interrupted by the Second World War but resumed soon after with the formation of a second tier called the Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (VDQS). The idea was that regions wanting to gain AOC status might first be granted VDQS status prior to elevation to AOC. It also allowed some status for regions that were marginal and might not ever gain AOC recognition.

Two more levels of recognition were later established (not under the control of INAO) namely Vin de Pays and Vin de Table. VDQS disappeared at the end of 2011.

To quote UNESCO, the Loire Valley is: "an exceptional cultural landscape, of great beauty, comprised of historic cities and villages, great architectural monuments - the Châteaux - and lands that have been cultivated and shaped by centuries of interaction between local populations and their physical environment, in particular the Loire itself." The wines of the Loire Valley are an important part of this cultural heritage, in some regions going back two thousand years or more.

Many lists of appellations to be found on the internet are out of date. We have tried to produce the definative list for the Loire Valley but if you know better, please send us a note so that we can correct it.

The Loire Valley appellations

Loire Valley Wine Tour - your guide to the wines of the Loire Valley

Muscadet region

  • Fiefs-Vendéens-Brem
  • Fiefs-Vendéens Chantonnay
  • Fiefs-Vendéens-Mareuils
  • Fiefs-Vendéens-Pissotte
  • Fiefs-Vendéens-Vix
  • Gros-plant du Pays Nantais
  • Muscadet
  • Muscadet-Coteaux-de-la-Loire
  • Muscadet-Côtes-de-Grandlieu
  • Muscadet-Sèvre-et-Maine

Angers region

  • Anjou
  • Anjou Mousseux
  • Anjou Pétillant
  • Anjou-Coteaux-de-la-Loire
  • Anjou-Gamay
  • Anjou-Villages
  • Anjou-Villages Brissac
  • Bonnezeaux
  • Cabernet-d'Anjou
  • Chaume
  • Coteaux-d'Ancenis
  • Coteaux-de-l'Aubance
  • Coteaux-du-Layon
  • Coteaux-du-Loir
  • Jasnières
  • Quarts-de-Chaume
  • Rosé d'Anjou
  • Rosé d'Anjou pétillant
  • Savennières
  • Savennières-Coulée-de-Serrant
  • Savennières-Roche-aux-Moines
  • Vin-du-Thouarsais

Saumur region

  • Cabernet-de-Saumur
  • Coteaux-de-Saumur
  • Saumur
  • Saumur Mousseux
  • Saumur Pétillant
  • Saumur Puy-Notre-Dame
  • Saumur-Champigny

Touraine region

  • Bourgueil
  • Cheverny
  • Chinon
  • Coteaux-du-Vendômois
  • Cour-Cheverny
  • Haut-Poitou
  • Montlouis-sur-Loire
  • Montlouis-sur-Loire Mousseux
  • Montlouis-sur-Loire Pétillant
  • Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil
  • Touraine
  • Touraine Mousseux
  • Touraine Pétillant
  • Touraine-Amboise
  • Touraine-Azay-le-Rideau
  • Touraine Chenonceaux
  • Touraine-Mesland
  • Touraine-Noble-Joué
  • Touraine Oisly
  • Valençay
  • Vouvray
  • Vouvray Mousseux
  • Vouvray Pétillant

Orléans region

  • Orléans
  • Orléans-Cléry

Centre region

  • Blanc Fumé de Pouilly
  • Châteaumeillant
  • Côte-Roannaise
  • Coteaux-du-Giennois
  • Côtes-d'Auvergne
  • Côtes-d'Auvergne-Boudes
  • Côtes-d'Auvergne-Chanturgue
  • Côtes-d'Auvergne-Châteaugay
  • Côtes-d'Auvergne-Corent
  • Côtes-d'Auvergne-Madargues
  • Côtes-du-Forez
  • Menetou-Salon
  • Pouilly-Fumé
  • Pouilly-sur-Loire
  • Quincy
  • Reuilly
  • Saint-Pourçain
  • Sancerre

Vins de Pays

  • Crémant-de-Loire
  • Rosé-de-Loire
  • Vin de Pays d'Indre-et-Loire
  • Vin de Pays d'Urfé
  • Vin de Pays de Creuse
  • Vin de Pays de Haute-Vienne
  • Vin de Pays de l'Allier
  • Vin de Pays de l'Indre
  • Vin de Pays de la Sarthe
  • Vin de Pays de la Vienne
  • Vin de Pays de Loire-Atlantique
  • Vin de Pays de Vendée
  • Vin de Pays des Coteaux Charitois
  • V.D.P. des Coteaux de Tannay
  • Vin de Pays des Coteaux du Cher et de l'Arnon
  • Vin de Pays des Deux-Sèvres
  • Vin de Pays du Bourbonnais
  • Vin de Pays du Cher
  • V.D.P. du Jardin de la France
  • Vin de Pays du Loir et Cher
  • Vin de Pays du Loiret
  • Vin de Pays du Maine et Loire
  • Vin de Pays du Puy de Dôme


Vins de Pays

The term Vin de Pays is loosely translated into English as 'wine of the country'. In France this more closely means wine of the region. The underlying purpose of the classification is to define a hierarchy to tie down the production of wines to a particular region of France either at the regional level, the Department level or a much more specific geographical level.

The Vin de Pays designation does not mean that the wine is of a lesser quality than wines with an AOC designation. It may mean that the winemaker has chosen not to abide by the rules of the appellation. Thus, a winemaker in the Loire may have decided to add some Cabernet Sauvignon to their wine thus ruling it ineligible to use the Chinon appellation which does not permit any use of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Vins de Pays

One rule that is strictly enforced is that the grapes must come from the region on the label. Thus if the grapes were sourced from various areas in the Loire Valley then the wine may only qualify for the Vin de Pays du Jardin de la France classification. If the grapes were sourced from a particular départment within the Loire then it can carry a name such as Vin de Pays de Vendée or Vin de Pays du Cher. If it can be localised even further then it may qualify for a classification such as Vin de Pays des Deux-Sèvres.

Other rules that apply are that the wine must be submitted for analysis, it can only be produced from recommended grape varieties for the region and must pass a tasting test from submitted samples each vintage. There are also rules relating to sulphur content and alcohol content. The maximum yield for Vin de Pays is 90 hectolitres per hectare although individual Vin de Pays may have more restrictive requirements.