Confusion Corner: Loir (not Loire)

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First things first: there is an actual Loir River and Loir Valley, and they are geographically close to—but not the same things as—the Loire River and the Loire Valley.

And yet, if you tell your friends you are going to the Loir Valley to taste Chenin Blanc, visit the gardens of the Prieuré de Vauboin, and tour the stunning Château du Lude—they would probably guess that you are going to the Loire Valley.

The Château du Lude in France’s Loir Valley. Photo credit: Manfred Heyde via Wikimedia Commons

Your destination, however, would be the valley of the Loir—a river that flows somewhat parallel to and about 20 miles/32 km north of the Loire River as it passes the city of Tours (and the wine regions of Touraine).

The Loir River flows—from its source just north of the town of Illiers-Combray—for a total of about 200 miles/322 km. Its waters eventually make their way into the Loire, and it is considered a third-order tributary of the larger river. Before joining the Loire, the Loir flows west/southwest for nearly 180 miles/290 km and eventually joins the Sarthe River just north of the city of Angers. From there, the Sarthe River joins the Mayenne River to form the Maine River, which flows south for a mere 7 miles/11.5 km before joining the Loire-with-an-e.   (Note: the Maine River of which we speak is a different Maine River than the more-famous Maine River [aka the Petite Maine] that flows northward through the region of Muscadet Sèvre et Maine.)

Three AOCs—considered part of the Loire Valley “family” of wine regions and often grouped together with the other regions of Touraine—are located along the Loir River. The easternmost—Coteaux du Vendômois AOC—surrounds the city of Vendôme; all three are located along a 40-mile/67-kilometer stretch of the Loir as it flows north of (and fairly parallel to) the Loire.

Graph of the Maine, Mayenne, Sarthe and Loir rivers in France by Mbursar via Wikimedia Commons

As befits the location, Chenin Blanc and Pineau d’Aunis (Chenin Noir) are the leading grape varieties planted along the Loir River. Here’s a bit more information about the AOCs and wines of the Loir (not Loire) Valley:

Coteaux du Vendômois AOC: The Coteaux du Vendômois AOC is approved for three styles of wine: red, white, and vin gris (a light-in-hue rosé made via direct press, thus avoiding skin contact). White wines are typically based on Chenin Blanc; Chardonnay is allowed as a secondary variety. Vin gris—considered the speciality of the region and also the most widely produced by volume—must be 100% Pineau d’Aunis (Chenin Noir). The reds are always a blend, requiring a minimum of 50% Pineau d’Aunis along with 10% to 40% Pinot Noir and 10% to 40% Cabernet Franc (Gamay is allowed [up to 20%] but not required).

Jasnières AOC: The Jasnières AOC (technically a sub-appellation of the Coteaux du Vendômois) is a small, white wine-only appellation. The first vineyards were planted here by Cistercian monks in the Middle Ages; centuries later the wines were beloved by Henry IV. Jasnières benefits from soil rich in tuffeau (a type of limestone) and clay, as well as south- and southwest-facing hillsides. All the wines produced under the Jasnières AOC are 100% Chenin Blanc, but the wines may be made in dry or sweet styles. Well-made Jasnières can be quite age-worthy; most producers suggest allowing the wines to age for at least five years; sweet versions may last for 12 years or even longer.

Château de Bazouges in the commune of Bazouges-sur-le-Loir (Photo credit: Manfred Heyde via Wikimedia Commons)

Coteaux du Loir AOC: The Coteaux du Loir AOC—located downriver from (and to the west of) the Coteaux du Vendômois and Jasnières—produces red, white, and rosé. The white wines are 100% Chenin Blanc and may be produced in a range of sweetness levels from dry to sweet (including some affected by botrytis). Many of the reds and rosés are 100% Pineau d’Aunis; however, they may also be produced as blends. Red wines must contain a minimum of 50% Pineau d’Aunis; the remainder is Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and/or Gamay.  Rosé blends must also include a majority of Pineau d’Aunis; the remainder may be comprised of Malbec, Gamay, and Grolleau Noir (a common component in many of the rosés produced in that other Loire Valley). The vineyards of the Coteaux du Loir AOC are protected, in part, by the magnificent Forest of Bercé (Foret de Bercé), located to the north and west of the region.

The vineyard area of the three Loir Valley AOCs combined totals just 700 acres/280 ha. Compare this to the 185,000 acres/75,000 ha of vineyards found throughout the Loire Valley region and it becomes crystal-clear that the Loir comprises just a tiny part of the Loire Valley wine story.

And yet, it seems worthwhile to know your Loir (without an e) from your Loire (with an e)—and to plan a trip to visit both!

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net

About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

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