At the centre of the Loire Valley, Touraine epitomises the
Loire wine styles. Producing red, white and rosé, it
offers a variety of flavours whilst remaining true to the traditional tastes of
the region. Although rarely as distinctive as Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé or
Saumur, Touraine wines are none-the-less highly enjoyable.
Touraine has AOC status, with a basic general appellation
and six regional denominations. Thus, any respectable wine will be marked with
an Appellation d'Origine Côntrolée label; wines without one of these marks
should be used for cooking and cleaning your sink.
The basic Touraine appellation allows three styles:
- Touraine Blanc
A dry white made from 75% Sauvignon Blanc, with the
remainder being made from Chenin (known locally as Pineau de Loire),
Menu Pineau and (forming at most one fifth of the volume) Chardonnay.
This forms a light, fresh, clean wine, lacking the edge of a typical
Sancerre, the depth of a Chablis or the annoying sweetness of an
Anjou. It goes well with fish and chicken dishes.
- Touraine Rouge
A light and fruity red. May contain Gamay Noir,
Cabernet Franc and Côt, with smaller quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon
and Pinot Noir; most wines are made principally from Gamay in a style
similar but slightly heavier than a Beaujolais. Goes well with cold meats
and lighter dishes.
- Touraine Rosé
A medium rosé, again somewhere between Anjou and
Sancerre. May contain the same grapes as the rouge, plus Pineau
d'Aunis and Grolleau Noir.
The Touraine Primeur Rosé and Touraine Primeur Rouge
designations are also part of the basic Touraine appellation, and are used for
newer vineyards that did not achieve AOC in the original assessments.
Then there are the regional appellations, which is where
things start to get complicated. These designate wines produced in particular
areas using the grapes best suited for those areas, and two also cover
carbonated wine. There is considerable variety in style, especially amongst the
whites, which leads to confusion amongst the uninitiated and more choice and
fodder for arguments amongst the cognoscenti.
The Touraine Amboise regional appellation provides three
styles, but with different composition rules than regular Touraine:
- Touraine Amboise Blanc
May contain only Chenin. Sometimes slightly sweeter
than the basic Touraine white.
- Touraine Amboise Rouge and Rosé
May contain only Côt, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet
Sauvignon and Gamay Noir. The rosé is delicate, and the rouge
The Touraine Azay-le-Rideau regional appellation allows
only white and rosé. The whites contain only Chenin, and are dry or
semi-sweet. The rosé is dry, and contains at least 60% Grolleau with any
remainder being made from the normal Touraine grapes.
The Touraine Mesland regional appellation uses principally
Gamay Noir for the reds and rosé, and Chenin for the whites (small amounts
of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are permitted but seldom used). Mesland
tends to produce more subtle flavours.
Touraine Mousseux tends not to be very well known. The
whites are Sauvignon Blanc and possibly Chenin, and sometimes sparkling.
The rosé is fresh, dry and made mainly from Gamay (except when it is
sparkling, where it is usually sweeter), as is the more reserved red.
Touraine Noble Joue is only used on rosé and is not widely
exported. Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Meunier are used to produce an
interesting flavour that eschews traditional classifications. This is a recent
appellation, having been authorised in 2001.
Finally, Touraine Petillant. This is a lightly sparkling
wine produced in all three colours. None are particularly special.
The Vouvray, Montlouis, Chinon and Bourgueil appellations are also in Touraine geographically, but are usually discussed separately because of their significantly different styles.
Touraine whites should usually be aged for two to three
years. The rosé should be drunk immediately, whilst good reds can last for up to
five to seven years.
Reference: The INAO appellation guides for Touraine,
available online (in French) at