The Wine of Pouilly Fumé

Portrait of Nick Borland, wine tour guide
Nick Borland
August 2, 2021

In July of 2017 Pouilly celebrated 80 years since the official AOC classification of its 2 wines, the Pouilly Fumé and the Pouilly-sur-Loire. Some 160 wine growers cultivate 1350 ha (3250 acres) of Sauvignon blanc for the Pouilly Fumé and only 30 ha (75 acres) of Chasselas for the AOC Pouilly-sur-Loire, producing two dry white wines which take advantage of the priviliged geographic position of the vineyards which lie exactly half way along France’s longest river, the Loire. To be more precise, 496 km from both its source and its estuary on the Atlantic coast. Here we are in the department of the Nièvre, one of the four that make up the administrative region of Burgundy, although the wines are classified as Central Loire and not Burgundy. And most importantly, Pouilly Fumé should not be confused with Pouilly Fuissé of the Mâconnais which is made from the Chardonnay and which is classed a white Burgundy !

There are several likely origins of the term Fumé « Smokey » . Firstly, the wine is known locally as the blanc-fumé « smokey-white » a term which is possibly due to the light grey film, the colour of smoke, that forms on small, tightly-packed oval Sauvignon blanc grapes that make up the bunches. Another explanation is that the term « smokey » refers to aromas and bouquet of these delightful Sauvignon blanc wines, and which are rather reminiscent of the smell you get from rubbing together 2 pieces of flint, stones often found in these vineyards,

4 types of soils are found here, dominated by Kimmeridgien marnes (limestone & clay). Planted in kimmeridgien soils similar to those of Chablis, the vineyards of Pouilly-sur-Loire benefit from an oceanic climate specific to the Loire valley and where the Sauvignon blanc varietal encounters almost perfect conditions. It is at the summit of the hill of Saint Andelain that the famous flinty soils are found and where the wines often offer their unique « whiff of gunsmoke » aromas. To be precise, the 4 types of soil are as follows : Villiers Oxford limestone. Locally known as « caillottes » sedimentary deposits which border the eastern part of the vineyards Kimmeridgien marnes of tiny oysters. Locally known as « terres blanches » and which cover the greatest part of the vineyards Portland limestone. The stones generally larger than those of the Villiers and are found to the west of the appellation Clay & flint. These soils occupy the higher slopes of the villages of Saint Andelain, Saint Laurent and Tracy.

The vineyards of Pouilly-sur-Loire produce wines with unequalled aromatic pallets from 2 different grape varieties. the Pouilly Fumé is produced exclusively from the Sauvignon blanc grape. Here, it expresses all its varietal flavours as well as unique gunflint aromas. These are spectacularly mineral yet flattering wines with powerful aromas of citrus fruit and white flowers. The trend today is to lay the wines down for a few years in the cellar thus giving them time to liberate a more subtle bouquet sometimes with a hint of spices the Pouilly-sur-Loire is made from 100% Chasselas grapes. This is a varietal whose home is usually Switzerland, the Savoy or Alsace. However in the Central Loire vineyards it enjoys great conditions on different soils, producing flattering, clean and refreshing wines often with a good streak of minerality and aromas of white flowers and dried fruit. The wines of Pouilly benefit from the gentle climate close to the banks of the Loire river as well as the setting sun as most of the vineyards are exposed due west. However the vineyards of Pouilly are subject to climatic variations such as the Spring frosts of 2016 & 2017 which will undoubtebly penalise producers faced with increasing export which today represents just over half of all sales. Blending is often the rule in the vatting rooms and cellars of Pouilly-sur-Loire. Following neighbouring Sancerre’s example, the vast majority of producers blend together their wines produced from grapes grown in different parcels of vineyards ; for example, 70% flint soils, 20% kimmeridgien marnes and 10% limestone. However with the arrival of a new generation of wine makers, some now decide to « raise » their wines in barrels and vinify their wines coming from individual parcels of vines, in the more typically Burgundian manner.

If you would like to learn more about these world class wines, why don’t you sign up for one of our Sancerre & Pouilly Fumé wine tours in France as there is no substitute for tasting these world class Sauvignon blancs than in the cellars of the producers themselves. We offer 1 day wine tours from Paris as well as longer vacations with the added possibility of visiting other wine-growing districts such as Chablis in Northern Burgundy and the Grand Cru Burgundy vineyards around Beaune and Nuits Saint George.

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Portrait of Nick Borland, wine tour guide

About Nick

My professional experience in wine and tourism has been long and varied and has included, amongst others, working as a wine buyer and sommelier for boutique hotels, putting together wine lists for restaurants, a specialised wine tour guide for luxury hotel barges, a « wine hunter » for Scandinavian importers as well as organising and conducting wine-tastings to Wine Societies in the UK, Germany and Holland. I have also completed my WSET Level 3 and and obtained a certificate in Advanced Tasting Techniques from the Wine University in Suze-la-Rousse". I love sharing my knowledge of wine and spirits with people interested in the topics. I have a passion for how wine is made, from the methods used to the history of the grapes. If you would like to learn more about wine, join me in my Facebook group by signing up below to using the form. I talk about wines, answer all the questions you may have about it growing techniques, history, and even organise webinars for the group members where I talk about wine in a bit more detail. Hope to welcome you there soon!
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