Most Loire-Valley wine areas lie along the Loire itself, however there are a few areas some distance from that great river. One area that is relatively little known lies along Le Loir river about 25 miles due North of Tours. [Le Loir actually flows West, pretty well parallel to La Loire, for another 50 miles from here before joining the Sarthe just North of Angers.]

This area (sometimes referred to as North Touraine) is actually composed of three wine areas: Coteaux du Loir, Jasnières and Coteaux du Vendômois.

Jasnières and Coteaux du Loir straddle Le Loir in the departments of Sarthe and Indre et Loire. Coteaux du Vendômois lies in the department of Loir et Cher. Although the border is administrative, some feel Jasnières /Coteaux du Loir is generally a step up in wine quality from Coteaux du Vendômois. This is certainly true of Jasnières, for while white Chenin Blanc wine is widely produced in the general area Jasnières is the top of the tree, at its best comparable in quality to other famous Chenins – from Montlouis and even Vouvray and Savennières…

Actually Jasnières is an North West enclave within the general Coteaux du Loir area, rather than separate from it – and red CDL and white Jasnières vineyards are pretty equally planted there. CDL red is based on the elusive Pineau d’Aunis grape [minimum 60% with up to 20% each of Cabernet, Côt (Malbec) and Gamay] sometimes seen elsewhere as a component of light Rosés.


The Loir River valley, looking South, with vines in the right foreground.

So while staying 15 miles North of Saumur, a visit to one of the most reputed, biodynamic producers of Pineau d’Aunis at Domaine Les Maisons Rouges seemed appropriate. This domaine use 100% Pineau d’Aunis for their Coteaux du Loir reds, and make Jasnières white too.

The Domaine is in the very North West corner of the Jasnières area. We turned up of a very sunny but freezing January afternoon to taste three 2015 vintages, welcomed by Elisabeth Jardin.


Elisabeth Jardin of Domaine Les Maisons Rouges, outside the Domaine

Elisabeth showed the 2015 vintages of 3 wines:

Jasnières L’Eclos is made from 3 plots in the western part of the Jasnières appellation in the commune of Lhomme, 3miles or so West of the Domaine. The parcels face due south with a terroir mixing clays resulting from the alteration of the different geological strata of the mother rock the tuffeau. These clays and sands are loaded with numerous flints and spongoliths, a characteristic marker of the Jasnières. The Chenin vines are 18 to 32 years old. Fermentation and aging: 12 months in 400l casks (none new) resulting in a wine with 1.6 g / l residual sugar, and 13.7% alcohol, Review of the wines of France January 2017:  16/20

Coteaux du Loir – Garance. From vines aged 14 – 50 years on rocky perron soil on a surface of clay loaded with flint. Made with 7 months aging in large vats.

Coteaux du Loir – Elixari. From vines aged from 50 – 100 years, planted on a terroir  of perrons and flint clays. All the vines of this cuvée are very old: the youngest were planted in 1947 and the oldest in 1905. Maceration of whole bunches in vats with punching without yeasting or any added product, then matured in barriques (not new) for 13 months.


2015 vintages of Jasnières, Garance and Alizari

The wines were very impressive, showing freshness and precision. I thought the Jasnières wonderful, combining a very high acidity, comparable to many Savennières, but with a warmer, rounder, less aggressive quality, with just a hint of soft fruit and a mineral background. Ready to drink, food-friendly but also age-worthy.

Pineau d’Aunis is an unusual wine, very translucent in colour with a red fruit, perfume, pepper and herb nose. Reminiscent, in some respects, to Gamay the palate has warmth and surprising depth with a structured frame and some length.

I won’t go into the qualities of the two Pineau d’Aunis Cuvées: Garance and Alizari, as I hope to show one at least in the upcoming Lesser Known Wines of the Loire tasting… So you’ll have to look out for that!

Until much sooner than that though….