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Upper Loire Wine

Upper Loire is an unofficial name given to the eastern end of the main Loire Valley wine region of France. It groups together the likes of Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume and Menetou-Salon alongside lesser-known appellations such as Orleans, Chateaumeillant, Valencay, Reuilly and Quincy. It covers the area where the Loire slowly changes direction from north to west; everything south of this (Saint-Pourcain, Roanne, Forez) lies within Auvergne. Although unofficial, the name is very useful, as it allows the core Loire Valley wine regions to be grouped into four relatively neat blocks from west to east: Pays Nantais, Anjou-Saumur, Touraine, Upper Loire.

Vineyards near Sancerre

There are distinct differences between the western Loire appellations (those of the Pays Nantais and Anjou) and those in the east, and this is reflected in the wines. The moderate, moist, maritime climate so obvious in the Muscadet vineyards changes noticeably over the 220 miles (355km) between Nantes and Pouilly, where it is decidedly drier and more continental. Although they sit at precisely the same latitude, these two parishes differ considerably in their average rainfall, diurnal temperature variation and sunshine hours. This is tangible from the vineyard right through to the wine, and is perhaps best exemplified by the difference between the light, evasive aromas of Muscadet and the grassy, citric potency of Sancerre. These wines also illustrate a further key difference between the opposing ends of the Loire: the soils.

Limestone is the key soil type in eastern/Upper Loire vineyards – a result of their location at the southern edge of the Paris Basin. A significant geological region of northern France (and southern England), the Paris Basin is a shallow bowl of sedimentary rock of various types and ages, the lightest of which are the prized calcareous soils of the Loire, Chablis and Champagne. The key difference in the terroir of the Upper Loire, however, is the prevalence of flint – the silex after which many Loire wines are named. Flint is particularly common in the vineyards of Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume and Valencay and is widely credited for the particular 'smoky' character of their white wines. In fact, Blanc Fume – the name given to the Sauvignon Blanc variety here – translates as 'smoky white' and came about particularly because of this character (known in French as pierre à fusil – 'gunflint'). Flint is efficient at both accumulating heat and reflecting light, which helps the vines to achieve full ripeness during the growing season – an essential bonus in the cool climate here.

Although wine has been made in this area for many centuries, it was not until the second half of the 20th century that the local white wines began to make a name for themselves. Before the arrival of phylloxera in the 1860s, Gamay and Pinot Noir were the dominant varieties and the area was better known for its red wines. When restoring the vineyards post-phylloxera, however, local growers found that Sauvignon Blanc was more responsive to grafting than the red varieties. So it was for entirely practical reasons that Sauvignon Blanc became the variety of choice in the Upper Loire – a development that has proved both harmonious and profitable.

Some of the appellations classed as 'Upper Loire' lie some distance from the Loire river itself, which can lead to confusion. This has in turn led to other titles being used, including 'Central Vineyards' and 'Berry'. The former is technically quite accurate (this area is indeed very close to France's center, and falls within the Centre administrative region), but it omits the key word 'Loire', and neglects the quintessentially Loire identity of these wines – in particular Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume. The latter is the name of the historical Berry province, whose centre was Bourges, a city 25 miles south-west of Sancerre and Pouilly. It is unlikely that this lack of clarity will have any substantial impact on the wines themselves, although it does cause some problems for those creating maps and databases for the wine industry.

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Here are some wines produced in this region and all sub-regions, only the first 500 will be shown.
Wine Name
Grape 
Popularity
Didier Dagueneau Pouilly-Fume Silex, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $122 416
Didier Dagueneau Pouilly-Fume Pur Sang, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $99 1649
Baron de Ladoucette Chateau du Nozet Pouilly-Fume, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $33 2039
Didier Dagueneau Pouilly-Fume Asteroide, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $834 2156
Didier Dagueneau Blanc Fume de Pouilly, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $65 2411
Domaine Vacheron Sancerre, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $26 2484
Pascal Jolivet Sancerre Blanc, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $25 2662
Chateau de Sancerre 'Sancerre', Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $25 2958
Lucien Crochet Sancerre, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $28 3608
Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Les Baronnes, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $26 3649
Baron de Ladoucette Pouilly-Fume 'Baron de L', Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $75 4115
Alphonse Mellot Sancerre La Moussiere, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $31 4540
Didier Dagueneau Sancerre Monts Damnes, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $129 4707
Gerard Boulay Sancerre Chavignol, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $28 4752
Didier Dagueneau Pouilly-Fume Buisson-Renard, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $90 5568
Domaine Jean-Paul Balland Sancerre, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $21 8226
Cherrier Pere et Fils Sancerre, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $21 8239
Domaine Vincent Delaporte a Chavignol Sancerre, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $25 8293
Edmond Vatan Sancerre Clos la Neore, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $75 8293
Lucien Crochet Sancerre La Croix du Roy, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $30 8634
Francois Crochet Sancerre, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $23 8927
Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Edmond Blanc, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $62 9796
Domaine Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $25 9865
Chateau de Tracy Pouilly-Fume, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $28 9974
Domaine Chotard Sancerre, Loire, France Sauvignon Blanc $23 10064
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