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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 (now called AOP - Appellation d'Origine Protégée - throughout the EU), 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 vs. IGP

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. These are no longer used and VDQS disappeared at the end of 2011, to be replaced by IGP: Indication Géographique Protégée.

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

* Click on wine regions marked * to read details of these wines *

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-Grand-Lieu
  • 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
  • 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

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*

Regional AOC / IGP

  • IGP Val de Loire
  • AOC Crémant-de-Loire
  • AOC Rosé-de-Loire
  • IGP Côtes de la Charité
  • IGP Coteaux de Tannay
  • IGP Coteaux du Cher et de l'Arnon

Loire Valley wine map


IGP

The term IGP Val de Loire has been used since 2009 to replace the Vins de Pays of the same name. The underlying purpose of the classification is to define a hierarchy to tie down the production of wines to this particular region of France.

The IGP designation does not necessarily mean that the wine is of a lesser quality than wines with an AOC name. It may mean that the winemaker has chosen not to abide by the rules of the appellation. Thus, a winemaker in Chinon may have decided to make wine from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, thus ruling it ineligible to use the Chinon appellation which does not permit the use of more than 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.

IGP Val de Loire

One of the many rules that is strictly enforced is that the grapes must come from the region on the label. Grapes used in IGP Val de Loire must have been grown here.

IGP Val de Val wines offer great value for money and around 25 million bottles are produced each year. Of these, white wines represent 58% of production, rosé 22% and red 20%. 24 different grape varieties may be used but in whites Sauvignon and Chardonnay dominate, while the red grape varieties Gamay and Cabernet franc in particular, represent the reds.