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The Cellar: Pouilly-Fumé—the other Sauvignon Blanc

Friday, May 30, 2014


Many of you will associate the Sauvignon Blanc grape with the pungent and zesty wines from Marlborough, New Zealand. This is no surprise as brands such as Cloudy Bay, Kim Crawford and Oyster Bay have done a tremendous job at getting us American wine lovers hooked on this lighter and grassier style of Sauvignon Blanc. While I don’t have anything bad to say about this very attractive NZ style, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about another place that also produces great Sauvignon Blanc – a very different, perhaps more serious style - that is well-worth seeking out: the wines from the French region of Pouilly-Fumé.

Pouilly-Fumé is located in the eastern part of the Loire Valley, directly across the river from its more famous brother Sancerre. The wines that bear the name ‘Pouilly-Fumé’ are always Sauvignon Blancs (put that in your memory bank). The appellation covers 7 smaller towns and a total of 2840 acres of vineyards (for comparison Napa Valley has more than 43.000 acres under vine). Thankfully the wines are only named after the region’s main village (Pouilly-sur-Loire) while Fumé refers to the local name for Sauvignon Blanc (Blanc Fumé).

If you like Sauvignon Blanc and can’t remember ever having sampled a Pouilly-Fumé (not to be confused with Pouilly-Fuissé which is the name of a Burgundian Chardonnay) I suggest you head down to your local wine merchant and ask for one. One great Pouilly-Fumé that is distributed in our area is the one made by Guy Saget. I recently featured one of their Vouvrays (Chenin Blanc) at the Providence Wine Academy and people absolutely loved it! The Saget family has been making wine since 1790 and has expanded their holdings throughout the Loire Valley as their company has grown. Today Guy Saget has Estates in all the major sub-regions, including Pouilly-Fumé.

After fermentation the wine is aged on the lees for approximately 6-7 months with occasional pump-overs to mix everything around. After bottling the wine is kept an additional 6 months to come together. One of the things that make this Pouilly-Fumé (and most Pouilly-Fumés) stylistically different from its counterparts from New Zealand is not only the weight that comes with lengthy lees aging, but the level of concentrated fruit and the pronounced flinty minerality. In Pouilly-Fumé yields must be kept extremely low. Low yields usually makes more concentrated wines as an acre of land with five-hundred, 20 cluster vines produces more concentrated fruit than an acre planted with fifteen-hundred plants each supporting 40 clusters of grapes. Makes sense?

The 2010 Pouilly-Fumé from Saget is absolutely delicious – and really well-made. Upfront there is delicious citrus and apple fruit, followed by the signature flinty minerality on the mid-palate. On the finish the ever-present acidic nerve washes over your palate leaving you with lingering pineapple and lemons.


Steffen Rasch is a Certified Sommelier and Specialist of Wine. Feel free to email him at [email protected] with any wine-related question or learn about wine in person by signing up for one of his tastings through the Providence Wine Academy.


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