We depart from convention by treating Saumur, Bourgueil (including St-Nicolas de Bourgueil) and Chinon as a single sub-region; Saumur is usually grouped with Anjou to the west, and the other appellations with Touraine to the east. It is in fact an area of transitions – from the Touraine’s chalk to Anjou’s ancient rocks, from the continental climate of the centre to the softer maritime weather of the coast – and of conflict – between two Celtic tribes (the Andes and the Turones), through two dynastic families (the Plantagenets and the Capetians), to the present day.
The area is best known for its red wines, aided by the combination of a warm climate (for the latitude), which allows Cabernet Franc to ripen, and chalky soils, which lend an elegance and suppleness to the tannins. In all three areas there’s a clear distinction between the chalky slopes (or coteaux) and the alluvial plains closer to the river, with the former typically producing longer-lived, more powerful wines. There are naturally exceptions to such generalisations, and increasingly one can find savoury, deep wines made from vines well-rooted in the sand and gravel near the river bank. The whites, made from Chenin Blanc, are remarkable, combining the finesse of Vouvray and the power of Anjou, and not as famous (or pricy) as they used to be.
From west to east: Guillaume Keller is making intense and pure Saumurs (both white and red) at his family’s beautiful estate of Château de Fosse-Sèche, while Yannick Amirault is slowly handing over the reins of their Bourgueil estate to his son, ensuring the wines remain as powerful and well-structured as ever. In Chinon the Baudrys are going through the same process, with Mathieu back from his globe-trotting training; the wines, like the son, are suave and sophisticated.
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