The Upper Loire, while not a specific AOC-defined appellation like Anjou, Muscadet and Touraine, is an unofficial wine region that contains several of the Loire's most well-known appellations. Whereas Chenin Blanc dominates the white wines of the Middle and Lower Loire regions, here Sauvignon Blanc is much more common. The wines are greener in flavor, have a sharp tang, and are known for being bitter and austere, albeit in a fresh and intriguing way.
This page simply works as a jumping off point for the Upper Loire's six appellations, two of which are quite famous and four of which are potential rising stars.
- Orléans: The new kid on the block in the Upper Loire, Orléans has only been an AOC since 2006. The two red Pinot grapes, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, are used to make intriguing red wines, but the Chardonnay grape makes the best wines of the region. These wines are unconventional for the Upper Loire in that they rarely have the trademark bitterness of the region's wines.
- Pouilly-Fumé: Pouilly-Fumé wine is the inspiration behind the Fumé Blancs of California and the Sauvignon Blancs of New Zealand. The original appellation for Sauvignon Blanc, it remains impressive despite New World competition. With its crisp, green flavor and the definitive Sauvignon Blanc "tang", as well as a distinct nuance of smoke, the wine basically defines the mainstream style of the grape. Not to be confused with Pouilly-Fuissé, a Chardonnay appellation in Burgundy.
- Pouilly-sur-Loire: Though it sounds similar to Pouilly-Fumé, the Pouilly-sur-Loire appellation is actually for whites based on Chasselas! Chasselas is a completely different grape from Sauvignon Blanc, so flavors are entirely different. The wines can be fresh and brisk in a pleasant enough manner, making some of them good values at their low prices. However, very few wines are exported and as a result the appellation remains poorly known outside France.
- Quincy: All Sauvignon Blanc here; this is a pretty obscure appellation, but there's no reason it couldn't catch on and share the spotlight with Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. In fact, the wines show surprisingly complex flavors with less intensity than most Sauvignon Blancs.
- Reuilly: Sauvignon Blanc is again the prime grape here. The Sauvignons are dry and sometimes unforgiving, but nonetheless technically impressive in the eyes of the grape's fans. Interestingly, reds from Pinot Noir and rosés from Pinot Gris are made here as well.
- Sancerre: Located right across the Loire river from Pouilly-Fumé, Sancerre shares many similarities with Pouilly. Both make crisp, green styles of Sauvignon Blanc, although the trademark smoke characteristic of Pouilly-Fumé is usually missing in Sancerre wines. These wines are less intense and have lighter, more refreshing fruit; they are also slightly more expensive.