Franc-ly speaking: a focus on The Loire’s reds

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5th June, 2019 by Arabella Mileham - This article is over multiple pages: 1 2 3

The Loire is best known for its classic white wines, but a seminar at the London Wine Fair in May shone a light on the Loire’s forgotten reds, and the exciting development being unleashed on Cabernet Franc.

At this year’s London Wine Fair, attendees had the rare opportunity to discover more about one of the overlooked gems of the Loire Valley – Cabernet Franc – and the exciting developments that have been bubbling under the surface for this much- maligned grape.

Hosted by award-winning wine journalist, editor and author Rebecca Gibb MW, the seminar lifted the lid on the changing face of Loire Cabernet Franc looking at the impact of typography, terroir, and climate change, as well as the new approaches adopted by today’s winemakers to draw the best out of the variety.

There are many theories about Cabernet Franc’s origins. A parent of Cabernet Sauvignon, it is thought to have originated in the Basque country, and was introduced to the Loire Valley in the 11th century, long before being mentioned by Renaissance scholar François Rabelais, under its alter ego ‘Breton’. But it has only been in the past 20 years that the grape has undergone a renaissance of its own.

It is now the predominant red variety in the Loire, accounting for 56% of all red varietals, along with Gamay, Pinot Noir and Grolleau, but makes up just 19% of the total production of wines along the 1,012km Loire River, with reds accounting for around 510,000 hectolitres or 68 million bottles, compared with white’s 133m bottle output. Production is focused in the central belt around Angers and Saumur, in the Chinon, Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil, Saumur, Saumur Champigny, Saumur Puy Notre Dame, Anjou and Anjou Villages appellations, with blends also allowed in the Touraine appellation, along with Gamay and Malbec (Côt).

This, as Gibb pointed out, is no mere coincidence, because this central area has the lowest average rainfall in the region, the highest average temperature and, along with Nantes, enjoys the highest number of sunlight hours.

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