Two of the wines that I bought at the Domaine de la Renne in Saint-Romain-sur-Cher a few days ago were not at all the Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Gamay, or Cabernet Franc you might expect. One was a rosé wine made with a grape called Pineau d'Aunis, and the other was a white made from Chardonnay grapes
Pineau d'Aunis is a local specialty here in the Loire Valley. It's also called Chenin Noir, apparently. It's planted here in the Cher River valley around Mareuil, Saint-Romain, and Saint-Aignan, and also up north of Blois around Vendôme in the Loir River Valley. That's Loir, not Loire — they are two different rivers.
Pineau d'Aunis can be made into red wine, but it's a thin, lightly colored red at best. Most of it is made into rosé, and it's a delicious rosé — light, very dry, and slightly peppery or spicy. The rosé wines made in this part of Touraine are often very dry and light, making them much more pleasant to drink with food or as an apéritif in hot weather than sweeter rosés are. A lot of the local rosés are made with Cabernet Franc or Gamay Noir grapes, but the Pineau d'Aunis rosés are the really typical, special, unusual ones.
Some Chardonnay is grown around the Saint-Aignan area, but not an awful lot. The local white wine grape that has an AOC is Sauvignon Blanc. Touraine Sauvignon is what the region is best known for. Chardonnay around here often goes into a blend of grapes used to make local sparkling wines, with Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and even some Pinot Noir. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the AOC grapes of Burgundy and Champagne, which have a colder climate than the Loire Valley's.
The wine cooperative in Saint-Romain makes and sells good Chardonnay wine, either in bottles or in bulk (you take your containers in and they fill them from the cuves — the big tanks, either stainless steel, fiberglass, or concrete, in which the wine is kept before bottling). And it turns out that Domaine de la Renne, also in Saint-Romain, grows enough Chardonnay for use in making its sparkling wines as well as some to put in bottles as still white wine too.
Notice that the rosé is Appelation Contrôlée, but the Chardonnay white is simply
a vin de pays, a local wine that doesn't have the more prestigious AOC label.
Domaine de la Renne doesn't sell wine in bulk — no filling of the customer's containers at the winery — but some years they produce enough Chardonnay grapes to be able to package some of the still wine in bag-in-box containers. Wine is less expensive packaged that way because you don't have to pay for bottles, labels, and corks. You also don't have to deal with recycling the bottles (we don't have curbside pickup, so we have to haul all that stuff to the recycling center ourselves). The plastic bag inside the wine box collapses upon itself as wine is drawn out, meaning that the remaining wine doesn't come into contact with air, which would spoil it fairly quickly. Wine in the bag-in-box can last for several weeks or even months.