Touraine, a large region of the Loire, is the home of one of the Loire's best white wine appellations and three of its best red wine appellations. It produces little wine within its own AOC, but includes a number of smaller regions that have achieved top status among French wines, particularly Chinon for red wines and Vouvray for whites. The 13,000 acres extend over three regional départements, and encompass about 2 million cases of wine production each year, including the subappellations.
Stretching across most of the Loire, the Touraine takes its name from the old region of France that was broken up back in the Middle Ages. Touraine, the wine region, still covers the same area but the départements are now called Indre, Indre-et-Loire, and Loire-et-Cher. Sheer size gives it a great advantage, with the massive appellation encompassing a significant percentage of the Loire. More red wine is produced here than in all other parts of the Loire combined.
The reason for Touraine's name is that the name of the wine region remained after the real Touraine region was broken up in 1790 as a consequence of the French Revolution. Winemaking here has had an extraordinarily long history, with historical mentions of Vouvray going back to the Middle Ages. The Touraine AOC was created in 1939.
Climate and Viticulture
Touraine's climate varies widely, as does the soil, across the region. Due to Touraine's enormous size, we would suggest going to each specific page to find out more accurate information about the climates of the wine regions.
The AOC for the entire Touraine region is for all kinds of wines. Light-bodied, fairly simple Gamays are made for drinking young. The slightly more ambitious reds generally use Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, or a mixture of the two. Whites are generally Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, or Chardonnay.
Touraine AOC is similar to Bordeaux AOC: large and regarded as of unreliable quality. However, we can recommend four very good producers that make wine generally exceeding the average.
- Clos de la Briderie: Two very good examples here from the subappellation of Touraine-Mesland: the white Chardonnay with citrus-and-mineral metallic notions and orange fruit flavors, and the zesty, yeasty rosé.
- Clos Roche Blanche: Almost definitely the Touraine appellation's most ambitious producer; the wines are a tad pricey for the region at $12-$20 but become good deals once you look at the competition. Wines of several styles are made: a basic Cabernet Sauvignon, the ultra-complex, berry-flavored Pineau d'Aunis rosé, Cuvée Cot, a pungent, dark, serious Malbec, some refreshing, Beaujolais-like Gamay, and zesty, herbal Sauvignon #2. A very impressive selection with good consistency.
- Domaine Sauvete: The Sauvignon Blanc here is quite good; called the Oneiros, it has lively, herbal flavors. The reds are Antea, which has vibrant dark fruit and cola notes, and the even better Les Gravouilles with its nuances of herbs and thin but vibrant fruit. This wine is Gamay but shares little similarity with your average Gamay.
- Clos du Tue-Bouef: The tangy, bitter whites are interesting here, but the more conventional reds are better. The La Butte Gamay is a particular highlight, with concentrated dark fruit and floral highlights wrapped around a solid but not intrusive mineral core.
Touraine AOC is the basic appellation, and it has four satellite appellations of its own: Touraine-Mesland, Touraine-Azay la Rideau, Touraine Noble-Joué, and Touraine-Amboise. None are particularly common.
The true subappellations of Touraine, the ones that have their own AOCs and distinct grapes and flavors, number seven, and are listed below.
- Bourgueil: One of the few appellations in the Loire where white wine is actually not allowed; these are only red and rosé wines from Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Franc actually does better here, making austere but powerful and ageable wines.
- Cheverny: An obscure but increasingly interesting wine region. Many styles of wine are made; the most unusual come from local grape Romorantin.
- Chinon: These Cabernet Franc-based red wines showcase the grape at its finest: earthy, ageable, powerfully styled, yet also fairly soft and easy to drink. In fact, this is one of the top spots for Cab Franc in the world. It's also the Loire's best appellation for affordable red wine.
- Jasnières: The Jasnières village makes an interesting style of Chenin Blanc with steely, bone-dry flavors of citrus and minerals with some floral nuances. The wines are powerful enough to age for 10-15 years. Producers Bellivière and Janvier have the best vineyards and therefore make the best wine.
- St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil: Extremely similar to the neighboring Bourgueil, this appellation has pretty much the same rules--no white wines!--and the same taste, although the wines can be both less austere and less ageable.
- Valençay: Valençay was created as an AOC in 2003. Sauvignon Blanc is good here, but, surprisingly, red wine grape Gamay is the highlight, making an outgoing, Beaujolais-like red with bright, energetic red fruit and herb notions. Le Claux Delorme is a good producer.
- Vouvray: Arguably the most famous appellation in the Loire, Vouvray is an extraordinarily impressive white wine area. The Chenin Blancs vary from extremely sweet to bone-dry, and the best part is all of these styles are high-quality. All have penetrating, unique flavors and can age well, for at least 10 years. Some wine critics even claim that the sweet wines will last 100 years, although this is disputed.