The Touraine is a fractal of the Loire, a quilt of tributuaries, undulations and villages thrown over a bed of chalk. The tufting is different in each appellation: scattered sand and gravel in Chinon and Bourgueil (please see our SaboChi section), loam on the Vouvray plateau, silex in Jasnières and the Coteaux-du-Loir and rich clay in Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny. Long considered the garden of France for its natural bounty (and beauty), it’s almost home to an almost bewildering variety of grapes and vignerons.
In the main appellations along the Loire, one can find both crunchy, minerally Cabernet Franc and tender yet strong Chenin Blanc, but strike out to the tributaries and the varieties remain stubbornly diverse. There’s spicy, perfumed Pineau d’Aunis everywhere one cares to look, intense, nervy Romorantin in its final bastion of Cour-Cheverny, not to mention fruity, friendly Grolleau. Even varieties associated with other regions abound here: Malbec, called Côt locally, less tannic and more refined in this climate, Gamay, with a touch more spine than in Beaujolais, and Chardonnay, almost always unoaked and the better for it. To the east, the influence of the Centre (e.g. Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé) region is apparent, as vineyards are given over to fragrant, supple Sauvignon Blanc, and silky, high-toned Pinot Noir.
The vignerons themselves are just as diverse. Vouvray’s depth and complexity only become apparent with age; François Pinon’s wines as measured, as gentle as his speech, while Huet continues to make regal, seemingly immortal wines. François Cazin makes great Cheverny (hobbled by the appellation regulations) and Cour-Cheverny every single year. And the father and son duo at Domaine de la Charrière define traditional Jasnières – evocative mirrors of one of the most marginal appellations along the Loire.