Guide to the Loire regions

Val du Loir

The Vineyards of the Coteaux du Vendômois, Coteaux du Loir, and Jasnières


The Appellations  


Coteaux du Vendômois


A sign...

Côteaux du Vendômois – recently declared production (red, rosé and white)

2007- 7,224hl
2006- 7,063hl
2005- 6,905hl
2004- 8,695hl
2003- 6,615hl
2002- 7,771hl
2001- 8,611hl
1998- 8,630hl - 7,515hl (red and rosé) 1,115hl (white)
1986- 4,789hl - 4,283h (red and rosé) 506hl (white)

 Of the three appellations of the Loir valley the Vendômois is the least known yet the most extensively planted. The surface area under vine is twice that of Jasnières and the Coteaux du Loir combined, although only half of its 300 hectares are classified as Coteaux du Vendômois, the balance being sold as departmental Vins de Pays.

In the late 19th Century there were 4,000 hectares of vineyards here, but these have fallen away dramatically due to a combination of phylloxera, two world wars, the unreliability of harvests, declining demand and the pressure of competition from cereal crops which offer a quicker and more profitable return to farmers. Ten years ago, this was one of the last remaining Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (VDQS) wine regions left in the Loire. The INAO accepted the proposal to elevate the wines to full Appellation Contrôlée status in November 2000 and this was granted on May 5th 2001, covering wines from the 2000 vintage retrospectively. Today, within the Vendômois as a whole, there are 15 private producers and one co-operative, which in itself accounts for half of the region’s production.

The Vendômois has established itself in the past twenty years as a red grape area with only 15% of the vineyards now being planted to white varieties. Chenin Blanc is the main white grape, although Chardonnay is permitted as a ‘complementary’ cépage. Of the 85% planted to red grapes, nearly half are Pineau d’Aunis and this trend is increasing. The current breakdown of production shows 50% is vinified as red, and the remaining 35% of production is vinified as gris.

Travelling west, the first vines to appear along the banks of the Loir are on the slopes above the northern suburbs of Vendôme. The Pente des Coutis slopes down directly towards the conurbation. This is the most likely site to have been planted by the Benedictine monks of Marmoutier on their arrival at the Abbaye de la Trinité from Tours in the 11th Century. From here, the vineyards spread intermittently along the slopes on the Loir ’s north bank. Just before the village of Thoré-la-Rochette the river starts a meander and the orientation of the slopes differ. From here, vines start to appear on both sides of the Loir and can be seen wherever south facing slopes exist, although in reality most vineyards here are found on the plateau; and it is above Thoré that the greatest concentration of vines can be found. As the river flows westward towards Montoire-sur-le-Loir the vineyards become more dispersed and by the time one reaches Pont-de-Braye, the village that marks the end of the Loir-et-Cher département, the vineyard area has all but disappeared. 

 
Coteaux du Vendômois

Below is the list of the 28 communes that are officially classified within the appellation Coteaux du Vendômois, as drawn up in the region’s accession to full AC status in 2001.

Coteaux du Vendomois – authorized communes

    Artins
A
Couture-sur-Loir
Les Essarts
Fontaine-les- Coteaux
Houssay
Lavardin
 Lunay
Marcilly-en-Beauce
Mazangé
Montoire-sur-Loir
Naveil
Les Roches-l’Eveque
Saint-Martin-des-Bois
Saint-Ouen
Saint-Rimay
Sourgé
Ternay
Thoré-la-Rochette
Tréhat
Trôo
Vendôme
Villavard
Villedieu-le-Château
Villerable
Villiersfaux
Villers-sur-Loir
Fortan (not listed in the AC for the growing of grapes, but it is permitted to make wine here)

 

Coteaux du Loir


Maison des Vignes, above Dissay

There are 22 different communes entitled to the Coteaux du Loir appellation spread over a wide area, incorporating two separate départements on both sides of the river. Wine is only currently vinified in eight of them. The greatest concentration of vineyards is around the communes of Ruillé-sur-Loir and Lhomme (the same two communes as for Jasnières), Chahaignes and Marçon. Chahaignes is probably the most distinguished village in the appellation. It sits on the right bank of the Loir , and although the slopes are not continuous, its vineyards follow on from those of Jasnières some five kilometres to the east. In past times, the wines of Chahaignes, and one vineyard in particular, Rasné, were as renowned as those of Jasnières.


Chahaignes

When the appellation laws for the Coteaux du Loir were set down in 1948, there was a debate between the authorities and the growers as to whether Rasné should be included appellation of Jasnières. This would have been at the same time as the decision was taken to include the Sous-le-Bois vineyard in Ruillé-sur-Loir, although the proposition was eventually vetoed.

Beyond this central core of villages, the outlying vineyards are restricted to a number of side valleys created by streams, themselves tributaries of the Loir . From the north these include the Veuve (which flows through Lhomme) and the Dinan (through Flée). The more important, however, arrive from the south: the Déme (through Epeigné, Beaumont and Marçon) the Long (through Villebourg and Dissay-sous-Courcillon) and the Escolais (through Saint Paterne-Racan, Saint Christophe and Dissay-sous-Courcillon). The role of these streams is very much like the relationship the Layon has with the Loire, carving their way through the bedrock exposing the tufa and creating some interesting expositions and terroirs.  


The Escolais at Dissay-sous-Courcillon

To the south-east, the appellation extends from the Sarthe into the adjoining département of Indre-et-Loire, where there are six authorised communes but only one working vigneron.

The 22 Communes of the Coteaux du Loir

Sarthe
Beaumont-sur-Dême
 Chahaignes
 La Chartre-sur-le-Loir
Château-du-Loir
Chenu
Dissay-sous-Courcillon
 Flée
 Lhomme
 Marçon
 Montabon
 Nogent-sur-Loir
Poncé-sur-Loir
Ruillé-sur-Loir
Saint-Germain-d’Arcé
Saint-Germain-du-Val
Saint-Pierre-e-Chevillé
 Vouvray-sur-Loir

Indre-et-Loire
Bueil-en-Touraine
 Épeigné-sur-Dême
 Saint-Aubin-le-Dépeint
 Saint-Christophe-sur-le-Nais
 Saint-Paterne-Racan
 Villebourg

The Coteaux du Loir appellation allows for red, white and rosé wines to be produced. The sole variety for white wine is Chenin Blanc and this accounts for around one third of the total production each vintage, and it would be a fair to state that the best examples are indistinguishable from the wines of Jasnières. Red and rosé wines can be blends, but Pineau d’Aunis must form at least 50% of the assemblage, although this is likely to be raised to 65% when the appellation laws are reviewed in 2009. The yield for all wine styles is set at 55 hectolitres per hectare. When the appellation was first established in 1948, the amount was set at a parsimonious 25 hectolitres per hectare for white (the same as Jasnières) and 30 hectolitres per hectare for red grape varieties.

Coteaux du Loir: Recently declared production

2007- 2,504hl (combined)
2006- 1,504hl (red and rosé) 1,367hl (white)
2005- 1,767hl (red and rosé) 1,310hl (white)
2004- 2,133hl (red and rosé) 1,592hl (white)
2003- 1,280hl (red and rosé) 925hl (white)
2002- 1,873hl (red and rosé) 1,217hl (white)
2001- 1,969hl (red and rosé) 1,032hl (white)
1998- 1,555hl (red and rosé) 1,012hl (white)
1986- 985hl (red and rosé) 389hl (white)
1979- 120hl (red and rosé) 80hl (white)

Jasnières

‘Three times each century, Jasnières is the best white wine in the world’ – Curnosky

 
Map of the region: click here for a higher resoultion pdf version. This map is © Richard Kelley and may not be reused without permission.

List of Parcels cited in the appellation Jasnières

Those marked with a * are specifically named under the title Le Cru des Jasnières – bénéfice de l’appellation contrôlée
in a notification by the Association Viticole de la Sarthe published in the local newspaper,
 
L’Echo de la Chartre-sur-le-Loir, towards the end of 1937.
Others are crus are cited later in a French publication ‘Vignes et 
Vins de France’ - Poulain/Jacquelin which dates from 1962. All are within the commune of Lhomme, unless stated otherwise.

-          Les Hussières *
-     L'Aillerie *
-          Les Jasnières *
-          Le Clos de Tuffières
-          L’Enfer
-          La Bonotiere
-          Les Longues Vignes *
-          Les Côtières
-          Les Mollières *
-          Les Fleuries *
-          La Mule
-          Le Paradis
-          Panorama
-          La Gidonnière *
-          Saint-Jacques *
-          Les Haurieres
-          Les Verboisières
-          Clos des Bordes *
-          Clos de la Berterie *
-          Clos des Montignés *
-          Clos de la Magdelaine *
-          Clos du Benard *
-          Les Quatre Vents *
-          Le Pelonnière *
-          Clos Portier *
-          L’Etre Pucelle *
-          Les Bourgaudières *
-          La Verrière *
-          Les Maillières *
-          Le Pavillon *
-          La Richardière *
-          Les Beduaux (Lhomme and Ruillé-sur-Loir)
-          Sous-le-Bois (Ruillé-sur-Loir)
-          Les Gargouilles (Ruillé-sur-Loir)
-          Les Heridaines (Ruillé-sur-Loir – Coteaux du Loir)  

The names and locations of some of these old parcels have been forgotten over time.

  


Maison des Vignes, Clos des Jasnières

Jasnières is the unofficial Grand Cru of the Coteaux du Loir, taking its name from a single parcel, Le Clos des Jasnières, which occupies the most distinguished site situated on a south facing, crescent shaped slope, dissected by a number of minor valleys which run up to the plateau behind. The appellation is made up of countless different parcels, and whilst the Le Clos des Jasnières might be the best known, others, such as Le Clos St Jacques with its dense silex soils, are at least its equal.  


Clos Saint-Jacques

The appellation exists only for Chenin Blanc, planted in the very heart of the slope; there is a central cordon of vineyards, perhaps no more than 200 metres in width, which run from east to west for approximately five kilometres. This narrow band ensures that the vines within the appellation enjoy the best orientation and are protected from the north wind. The slopes also reduce the risk of damage caused by a late frost as the colder air tends to tumble through the vines to the cereal plain below. Vineyards can be found on the plateau above the central band, or at the very foot of the Jasnières slope where the soils tend towards less interesting clay, silt and sand. The vines here are more vigorous and are as likely to be planted with Pineau d’Aunis as they are with Chenin. Such sites, which are entitled to the wider Coteaux du Loir appellation, produce wines that are generally lighter and more precocious. One particular parcel, les Pierres Beurre, has strong reputation for the quality of its Pineau d’Aunis.


Silex in Jasnières

Despite its size, the soil composition of Jasnières is as complex as any found in France and its make-up changes from parcel to parcel. The mother rock remains constant in that it is all derived from craie du turonien (tuffeau) which in itself is extremely friable and allows for the extraction of the deep caves below the vines; the extracted rock used to build the local houses. Within the caves it is possible to see deep, vertical grooves where wooden stakes were driven into the rock. These were then soaked with water; the resulting expansion helping to detatch the stone.   

The main soil type, in varying degrees of concentration is silex; its size ranges from small fragments of flint, which help radiate the heat of the day back onto the vines, through to large boulders, locally called perrons, which are generally found towards the top of the slopes. The density of silex in the Clos Saint-Jacques, one of the best parcels, is such that it makes it difficult to work the soil. On a moist winter’s day one can literally smell the gunflint as one walks through the vines. Varying concentrations of clay can also be found in some slopes, but the three important determining factors remain: the amount of silex present, the proximity of that silex to the subsoil, and the inclination of the slope insomuch as it affects the drainage potential.

The Jasnières appellation was created in 1937. At that time, the legislation only covered the vineyards in the commune of Lhomme (the hamlet of Jasnières itself is nothing more than a cluster of houses on a slope below the vines). When however, the documents were being drawn up for the Coteaux du Loir appellation in the late 1940s, a large parcel called Sous-le-Bois to the east in the neighbouring commune of Ruillé-sur-Loir was added. Today the appellation extends over the two communes, with a split of approximately 80/20, much in the same way that a parcel of Bonnes Mares strays out of commune of Chambolle-Musigny and into neighbouring Morey-Saint-Denis. This decision to extend the appellation and include Sous-le-Bois remains controversial, with several growers claiming that only the western slope of the vineyard, closest to the rest of the appellation, is really worthy of the Jasnières name.  

The reputation of Jasnières over the past four decades has been made by the quality of its dry white wines, although the appellation does allow for the full range of styles. The maximum permitted yield is 52hl/ha, even though the original legislation was set at only 25hl/ha (coincidentally, the same as in Savennières), and a possible indication of Jasnières historical potential to produce sweet wines. Certainly, the western slopes, along with several similar sites in Chahaignes five kilometres further west, often remain humid during the late Autumn, helping to attract botrytis. The minimum alcohol is set at 10% (equivalent to 162g/l of unfermented sugar) with a maximum of 12.5% in place should chaptalisation be practised, otherwise there is no upper limit. From the 2008 vintage, it will be a legal requirement to state the wine style on the label.  

Jasnières: Recently declared production

2007- 2,401hl
2006- 2,379hl
2005- 2,888hl
2004- 3,116hl
2003- 1,642hl
2002- 2,240hl
2001- 2,355hl
1998- 2.096hl
1986- 1,201hl



Panorama and the Château de la Gidonnière

 

Valley of the lower Loir, the Sarthe and the Mayenne


Sarthe in flood at Briollay

It would be appropriate here briefly to discuss the origins of vineyards much further downstream, along with those that once existed further north in the départements of Mayenne and Sarthe . In the Sarthe alone, the 18,000 hectares that existed at the end of the 19th Century have dwindled by 95% in the intervening 100 years or so, ruined by a combination of phylloxera, war and economic circumstance. The list below comes from the book Vignes et Vins de France by Poulain/Jacquelin published in 1962 and cites the following wine producing communes in the valleys of the lower Loir, Sarthe and Mayenne, although it actually spills over slightly into the northern extreme of the Maine-et-Loire département where the wines are classified as Anjou. Today, a very few producers still exist and I’ve listed the two that I am aware of. It is interesting to note that the commune of Huillé comes with its own list of crus. 

      Baugeois - considerable distance from the Loir half way across a plateau between La Flèche and Saumur
Mareil-sur-Loir - to the east of La Flèche
La Flèche - on the north bank of Le Loir
Saint-Germain-du-Val - a northern suburb of La Flèche
Arthezé - north of La Flèche
Bazouges-sur-Loir - between La Flèche and Durtal
Durtal  - substantial town on the north bank of Le Loir
La Chapelle-d’Aligné - to the north of Durtal
Huillé - five kilometres west of Durtal on the north bank of the Loir . Noted for its specific crus:

  •  Clos des Tertes

  •  Clos du Pineau

  •  Clos Pilate

  •  Clos la Patrie

  •  Clos Charrot ‘the driest of all’

           Lézigné - on the south bank of Loir opposite Huillé
Saint Denis d’Anjou - considerably northerly commune to the west the Sarthe
Tiercé - on the east bank of the Sarthe
Étriche - between the Sarthe and Loir
Écuillé - west of the Sarthe and east of the Mayenne
Soulaire-et-Bourg - between Mayenne and Sarthe
Seiches-sur-le-Loir - on east bank of the Loir
Baracé - on north bank of the Loir , west of Huillé
Briollay -close to the confluence of the Loir and Sarthe
Cheffes - on the north bank of the Sarthe
Corzé - on the south bank of the Loir
Soucelles - on the north bank of the Loir
Pruillé - on the west bank of the Mayenne
Mayet - west of the Bercé forest
Écommoy - between Le Mans and Château-du-Loir
Vaas - on the Loir west of Château-du-Loir


Le Loir at Durtal

 

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