Poised to be Centre-Loire’s next AOC, Côtes de la Charité is rapidly showing how Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir contribute to the galaxy of Centre-Loire wines.
It was under the guidance of Benedictine monasteries that the wines from Côtes de la Charité earned acclaim in the Middle Ages. Transported to other parts of France as well as elsewhere in Europe, the wines were most notably served at the court of the Duke of Burgundy in Paris and Arras in northern France. In the early 19th century, at the height of prosperity, over 3,200 acres of vines flourished in the region. However, phylloxera decimated the thriving industry, and devastation from the First World War thwarted further recovery.
In 1980 a collective of intrepid winemakers formed with the goal of bringing the region back to its former glory. In 1986, the group saw its efforts start to come to fruition as the area earned the title “Vin de Pays des Coteaux Charitois.” 2011 brought about another accomplishment: the recognition of the area as a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). The 15 producers that now call these 111 acres of vineyards home hope to achieve AOC status in the near future.
A north-south running fault line creates a distinct geographical landscape. Vineyards, mostly planted on hillsides, are oriented to capture the sun’s warmth to ensure ample ripening. As elsewhere in Centre-Loire, layers of limestone and marl are found in the subsoils of the calcareous clay soils.
These soils add distinct character to the wines. In the Chardonnay, a bright mineral streak balances the dried fruit, floral, and almost buttery character of the grape. Like nearby Burgundy, the Chardonnays from Côtes de la Charité can age very well and become even more expressive after a few years. Plantings for Pinot Gris are also on the rise; unlike elsewhere in Centre-Loire, where the grape often is made into a rosé, here it shines as a white wine. Pinot Noir as a red wine is fresh and lively and bursts with red berry notes, and an earthy, forest-floor quality balanced the exuberant fruit. As a rosé, Pinot Noir is energetic and crisp, with a long, refreshing finish.
The passion of these 15 vintners in the Côtes de la Charité is apparent in every sip, and their commitment to the region ensures that great things on are the horizon.