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Recently, Grape Skills founder Cynthia was on the road at the Loire. A highlight of the study tour: The appellation Touraine-Chenonceaux.

But first, a few Loire basics: it's the longest river in France and also one of the largest wine-growing regions. Generally, the climate is cool along the river, but the stylistic diversity is great. Therefore, it is worth taking a brief look at the four sub-regions of the Loire:

The Nantais in the far west lies directly on the Atlantic. Here, the white grape variety Melon Blanc (also Melon de Bourgogne) is grown, from which Muscadet is made - a fresh, dry white wine with green fruit aromas.

A little further east is the Anjou-Saumur region, where the climate is already less maritime. Two grape varieties dominate the vineyards here: Chenin Blanc for white wines that can range from dry styles to lusciously sweet dessert wines. And Cabernet Franc for red wines and the Rosé d'Anjou.

The neighbouring region is the most extensive sub-region Touraine - this is where Cynthia was travelling, so more on that in a moment.

If you follow the course of the river a little further east, you'll arrive at the Central Vineyards, where the most famous appellations Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé are located. The climate here is cool and continental - together with the region's famous limestone and flint soils, this is the basis for complex white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc, which is the main grape variety here.

But now back to Touraine: In addition to some famous appellations like Vouvray (white wines made from Chenin Blanc) and Chinon (red wines made from Cabernet Franc), Touraine is better known as a generic appellation for fruit-driven and uncomplicated Sauvignon Blancs. Within the area, however, a few sub-appellations are just beginning to blossom, striving for higher quality.

Chenonceaux is one of them. Since 2011, the name is allowed to be attached to the Touraine appellation. The sub-region is located on a hill opposite the river Cher, a tributary of the Loire. It offers good conditions for grape growing with excellent ripeness and intensive aromas.

The white wines from Touraine-Chenonceaux are made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc and need to age on the lees for a certain time to gain more texture and complexity.

The reds, which make up only a quarter of production, are an assemblage (the French word for blend) of Malbec, also called Côt here, and Cabernet Franc.

For the white and red wines alike, the main goal is to preserve the fruit characteristics of the grapes; oak is therefore not used in either vinification or ageing.

It is always exciting to discover a new wine region - new grape skills included! Want to learn more about French wine in general? Then book a place on one of our WSET Level 2 courses. Or do you want to go deeper into the individual regions like the Loire? Then sign up for WSET Level 3.

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