Chinon is a well-known appellation located in the central part of the Loire Valley. The appellation takes its name of the historic town of Chinon, and it is recognised for its tannic, leafy, berry-scented red wines made from Cabernet Franc (called locally Breton). There is also a small production of white wines made from Chenin Blanc and rosé wines from Cabernet Franc.
Chinon is located alongside the banks of the River Vienne, which is a tributary of the River Loire, and its viticultural history goes back to Roman and Gaul Times. The appellation is also home of the Renaissance author François Rabelais who's favourite wine was Chinon that was mentioned in many of his plays. Inevitably, the appellation has gained its Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) status early in 1937.
The climate of Chinon can be described as continental with a maritime influence. The appellation has approximately 2300 hectares of vineyards which are mostly terraced and are planted on gravelly, alluvial soils in the north of the region close to the banks of the Loire. The vineyards in the south, on “tuffeau jaune” soil - made up of a mix of sand and tiny extinct marine fossils and extremely porous - are the most suited for high quality viticulture. Chinon winemakers are obsessed with the concept of the terroir.
As mentioned earlier the Cabernet Franc is the king around here, the red and rosé wines of Chinon are made of at least 90% with up to 10% of Cabernet Sauvignon, while the whites are made of 100% Chenin Blanc. The red wines vary in style, but generally, they are medium bodied with refreshing, crunchy acid and dense, coating tannins, with some of the best expressions having complex noses with notes of undergrowth, pencil shavings, and spiced blackberries. In good vintages, Chinon red wines can mature splendidly for more than ten years. The white wines of the appellation account only for less than 5% of the total production and are quite a rarity, mainly vinified in a dry style. Chinon produces some of the most significant wines of Loire Valley and France, but still, they are difficult to find outside of the country mainly due to the limited production.