Loir Valley Wine Route
Whilst there is a small wine-producing domaine just north of Alençon, the nearest major AOC region is to the south of Le Mans in the Loir (without an “e”) valley. We passed a pleasant afternoon driving the Loir Valley Wine Route in late autumn; this was quite by accident after cutting short a planned visit to the town of Château-du-Loir (there’s not much there – not recommended!) following a late-season trip to the “Jardin d’Atmosphère” at St Biez-en-Belin.
I’m not a wine buff – this is purely a guide to help anyone wishing to visit some vineyards in the region and perhaps buy direct from the producer.
The Googlemap below shows the wine producers we found and where the main vineyards are located, with those possessing a decent website represented by a bunch of purple grapes and the others by green grapes. Several sell wine directly to the public, giving you a chance to taste before buying. Otherwise you can buy many of the same wines online or in wine merchants/cavistes in the towns around the region.
There is a “route des vignes” clearly signposted along the Loir valley, which is how we found several of these vineyards.
The Vineyards of the Coteaux du Loir and Jasnières
The Coteaux du Loir AOC stretches across 16 communes in the Sarthe and 6 in d’Indre-et-Loire department, producing red, white and rosé wines. However, only half of the communes that are entitled to produce AOC Coteaux du Loir actually make any wine, and the greatest concentration of vineyards is around the communes of Ruillé-sur-Loir, Poncé-sur-Loir, Lhomme, Chahaignes and Marçon.
The Jasnières AOC is a sub-section of Coteaux du Loir; it is a dry white wine produced exclusively in the communes of Lhomme and Ruillé-sur-Loir.
All of the vineyards are located on the south-facing slopes, the banks and larger tributaries of the river Loir.
Coteaux du Loir
The Coteaux du Loir whites are similar to Jasnières: same chenin blanc (also known as Pineau de la Loire) grape variety, same type of terrain and climate. The best are indistinguishable to plebs like me from the better known (and more expensive) Jasnières.
The red wines from Coteaux du Loir use juice mainly from the Pineau d’Aunis, a local grape variety. They are fairly pale red, smooth, fresh and raspberry-ish.
Rosés from Coteaux du Loir are predominantly from Pineau d’Aunis, light and fresh – pretty much like Rosé d’Anjou.
Jasnières is a dry white wine, yellowish in colour, flowery and fruity to smell, often with a mineral, flinty taste. In the best vintage years, sweet wines are also produced in this area.
I’m told these wines age well – that they can take 10 to 15 years to reach their best and still remain fresh after 20 years.
Several Jasnières wines are labelled after their terroir (the parcel of land which produces the grape) : such as le Clos des Jasnières, le Clos des Molières, la Gidonière, le Clos Saint-Jacques, etc.
The Jasnières vineyards run in a line about 200 m wide for a distance of 5km on the south facing slopes of the Loir, through the communes of Lhomme and Ruillé-sur-Loir. This means that the vines enjoy the best sunshine and are protected from the north winds by the hills and the forest of Bercé.
To visit nearby
Château de Bénehard at Chahaignes – you can visit the grounds of this château, no charge, from July to September. In the grounds is a 15th century wine press.
Musée de la Vigne, Lhomme – the museum has been recently renovated and reorganized and is situated in the centre of Lhomme. It displays the tools used by local wine-growers for working their vines and making wine and has a video showing the work of the last local barrel-maker. Open July to mid-September, Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 3pm to 6pm.
Gardens of the Château de Grand-Lucé – 17 acres of classic French gardens open April to September Sundays 10am – 6pm
www.maisonsrouges.com – wine producer
http://www.belliviere.com – wine producer (images © Studio Amarante)
www.coteauxduloir.fr – website of Coteaux du Loir producers
www.jasnieres.fr – website of Jasnières producers
You will find links to other vineyards by clicking on the Googlemap at the top of the article.