Waves, dolphins and even whales. It is hard to imagine now, but until 70 million years ago, the Loire region of France was part of a sea. In the chalky soil, you can find the evidence in fossils of shellfish and other marine animals that lived here. And that marine character? You absolutely often taste that in the wines from Centre-Loire too.
Text: Evelijn van Heuven
Mineral in Loire Central
The Loire is not only a province in western France, it is also the name of the country's longest river. From the Massif Central, its waters flow uphill for over 1,000 kilometres before finally flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. Along the way, it passes through several regions. So does Centre-Loire. This relatively inland region is home to a number of wonderful wines. The most famous are undisputedly the Sauvignon Blancs Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. But did you know that they also make red wines here, from pinot noir and, to a slightly lesser extent, gamay, for example?
Lime and fossilised oysters
Centre-Loire is located in the heart of France. Here you will find vineyards on plateaus, hills and slopes along the river. This little region certainly makes the geologist's heart beat faster, as the subsoil there is diverse. They are chalky soils that originate from the ancient seas that were once there. That these soils play such a role in the region's wines is also reflected in the terms you find on the labels. Sometimes you read terres blanches, literally 'white earth'. This is a calcareous sedimentary rock that comes from the sea and is rich in fossilised oysters, also known as Kimmeridge. It forms the basis of the wine regions in Centre-Loire. Whether you see caillottes on the label. These are small limestone pebbles mixed with clay. And flint? That in turn refers to a rocky soil with flint and clay. Sauvignon loves it. It gives the wine a smoky character reminiscent of gunpowder (flint) that is a little wild west.
On those soils in Centre-Loire lie eight AOC-qualified subregions: besides Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, these are Quincy, Reuilly, Pouilly-sur-Loire, Menetou-Salon, Coteaux du Giennois and - the youngest - Châteaumeillant. Eighty percent of the vineyards are filled with sauvignon blanc vines, 15% with pinot noir. The main focus here is single-variety wines, or wines made from a single grape.
Further reading? You will find more information in WINELIFE Magazine, issue 85. You can order this here.
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