kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits & lifestyle writer / wine educator

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Sancerre and Pouilly Fume primer


Here is some info on 2 of my favorite white wine appellations: Sancerre and Pouilly Fume, in the Loire Valley, sent to me by the Loire Valley Wine Bureau. Although there are exceptions, wines from Pouilly Fume tend to be similar to Sauvignon Blanc's made in California, softer than those from Sancerre. Robert Mondavi was, after all, inspired to label his CA SBs "Fume Blanc" after he visited Pouilly Fume. Those from Sancerre are crisper, more acidic, "steely" and sometimes flinty/mineraly (depending on the soil), more like Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand:

"The most famous of these appellations is Sancerre. Spread over 12 communes, the vineyards are planted to steep slopes that are sheltered from winds and receive favorable exposure. There are three unique soil types in Sancerre: Terres Blanches is compact chalk on top of kimmeridgean marl and produces somewhat bigger wines that allow longer aging; Les Caillottes is gravel and limestone and produces fragrant wines that are ready to drink when young; and flinty silex-clay soil produces wines with a strong mineral component that can suggest smoke. The vineyards cover 2,716 hectares, and the annual production of Sancerre Blanc is 130,800 hectoliters.

Just across the river from Sancerre is Pouilly Fumé, where Sauvignon Blanc is grown exclusively. The terroir of Pouilly Fumé is composed of limestone, silex, and clay soils. The latter component gives the wines a slightly rounder, creamier note than those from its neighbor, Sancerre. The vineyards cover 1,212 hectares and the annual production is about 74,000 hectoliters. The wines can age a year to eighteen months in bottle, and will continue to mature well after that. Fish, shellfish, and white meats are all excellent complements to the smoke and flint notes of Pouilly Fumé, whose structure and balance make it a good match for richer foods. "