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All About Pouilly-Fumé

Often compared to Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé is produced in the heart of the Nièvre region, in the Loire Valley. Not to be confused with Pouilly-Fuissé or its neighbour Pouilly-sur-Loire, Pouilly-Fumé is recognised the world over as one of the finest Sauvignon Blanc dry white wines. Focus on this white wine with a strong temperament!


Pouilly Fumé

The Pouilly-Fumé Vineyard

Tasted in Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and Ireland, Pouilly-Fumé is an AOC recognised the world over. Produced in the Centre Loire wine-growing region, in the Loire Valley, this appellation is developed in the Nièvre, around the commune of Pouilly-sur-Loire. Supported by around a hundred estates and passionate winemakers, the Pouilly-Fumé AOC covers around 1,400 hectares and extends over seven communes in the Nièvre: Pouilly-sur-Loire, Tracy-sur-Loire, Saint-Andelain, Mesves-sur-Loire, Saint-Laurent-l'Abbaye, Saint-Martin-sur-Nohain and Gachy.

The Pouilly vineyard, a history that goes back to Gallo-Roman times

Pouilly's history with vines goes back several centuries - the first traces of vineyards in the commune of Pouilly-sur-Loire date back to Gallo-Roman times. However, it wasn't until the 12th century that the vineyards really took off, thanks to the monastic congregations, mainly the Benedictine order. In fact, in the Middle Ages, the local Benedictines used white wine as a mass wine, as it was less staining. Sauvignon Blanc, the grape variety of choice for Pouilly-Fumé, then began to gain popularity in the region. However, Pouilly wines did not achieve commercial success until the end of the 18th century. The proximity of the Loire made a major contribution to their reputation, thanks to ongoing trade by river. Towards the end of the 19th century, the Pouilly vineyard suffered a decline due to attacks of mildew in 1888, followed by phylloxera in 1890. The use of resistant American rootstocks enabled the Pouilly vineyard to be gradually replanted. After the recognition of Sancerre in 1936, Pouilly-Fumé was recognised, along with Pouilly-sur-Loire, as an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée in 1937.

Pouilly-Fumé, the Loire expression of Sauvignon Blanc

Pouilly-Fumé is a white wine made exclusively from Sauvignon Blanc. The production area of this appellation is located on a terroir where this grape variety flourishes to perfection, both in terms of climate and soil. The Pouilly-Fumé vineyards enjoy a temperate climate with a continental influence. Summers are relatively hot, while winters are fairly cool. However, frost is rare. Throughout the year, the vineyards enjoy fairly regular rainfall. A true chameleon grape variety, Sauvignon Blanc captures every character of its environment. It faithfully interprets all the facets of the terroirs of the Pouilly-Fumé appellation.

An exceptional terroir with different soil types

The Pouilly-Fumé vineyards are planted on a wide variety of soils, giving the wines of this appellation a beautiful aromatic complexity:

  • Limestone (Villiers, Barrois and Tonnerre): found in the eastern and western parts of the vineyard, these soils are composed of sedimentary deposits and limestone pebbles of varying sizes. In these warm soils, the vegetative cycle of the vine and the ripening of the grapes are generally early.
  • Small oyster marl (Kimmeridgian): covering most of the vineyard, these clay-limestone soils are made up of fossils of small, comma-shaped oysters. Vines grow more slowly on these soils. The grapes ripen regularly and are dependent on changes in climate.
  • Flint clays: covering the highest points of the Pouilly-Fumé AOC, these soils provide great consistency in terms of production and quality for the vines.

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Pouilly Fumé

Where does the name Pouilly-Fumé come from?

There are various explanations for the origin of the original name "Fumé" given to this white wine from the Loire. However, two of them stand out: one linked to the grape variety and the other to the terroir:

  • When ripe, the berries of Sauvignon Blanc are covered with a fine grey bloom. This waxy film protects the surface of the berries and resembles a veil of smoke. This characteristic is also one of the reasons why this grape variety is known as "smoky white" ("blanc fumé" in French).
  • The word "Fumé" ("smoked") is also linked to the terroir that gives Pouilly-Fumé its unmistakeable flinty aroma. This is the smell given off when two flint stones rub together.

Pouilly Fumé

Pouilly-Fumé tasting notes

Sauvignon Blanc is particularly sensitive to variations in natural conditions (terroir, exposure, altitude, climate, etc.). Pouilly-Fumé wines therefore share a common aromatic structure, predominantly fruity and mineral, with floral and vegetal aromas.

A wide variety of nuances of aroma and taste expressing the facets of the terroirs

Pouilly-Fumé AOC white wines generally have mineral, floral, fruity and vegetal notes. However, they also reveal different nuances that reflect the facets of the terroirs in which they were born.

  • Pouilly-Fumé's appearance: Pouilly-Fumé has a very pale colour with green highlights.
  • Nose: all Pouilly-Fumé white wines have citrus aromas (lemon, orange, grapefruit) combined with delicate notes of mint and fern. Produced from Cree (limestone soils), this wine exhales aromas of blackcurrant and boxwood. Produced on Kimmeridgian marl soils, Pouilly-Fumé reveals tuberous notes and scents of narcissus. Influenced by the flinty clay terroirs, the scents released by the wine are more vegetal, with hints of gunflint.
  • Palate: produced on the Cree terroir, Pouilly-Fumé is fragrant and elegant, with chiselled, subtle flavours. Wines from the marl terroir, on the other hand, are full-bodied and firm, with excellent ageing potential. On the flinty terroir, the wine is firm and structured with flinty flavours.

Pouilly Fumé et le Pouilly Fuissé

What's the difference between Pouilly-Fumé and Pouilly-Fuissé?

Despite a distance of around 200 kilometres separating them, the appellations Pouilly-Fumé and Pouilly-Fuissé, which have similar names, are often confused. Although they both contribute to the richness and diversity of French wines, they have just one thing in common: their colour. Like Pouilly-Fumé, Pouilly-Fuissé is a French white wine.

Two different regions, two different grape varieties

Pouilly-Fuissé and Pouilly-Fumé are so similar in name that they are often confused. This confusion is also due to their geographical location. Pouilly-Fumé comes from the commune of Pouilly-sur-Loire, in the Loire Valley. Pouilly-Fuissé, on the other hand, belongs to the Burgundy vineyards in Saône-et-Loire. The production area for this AOC is in the commune of Solutré-Pouilly. While these two appellations come from two different wine-growing regions, they are also made from different grape varieties. Pouilly-Fumé is a single-vineyard wine made from Sauvignon Blanc, while Pouilly-Fuissé is made from Chardonnay. Chardonnay is also the main white grape variety grown in the Burgundy wine region.

Fumé or Fuissé? Two different styles of wine

While Pouilly-Fumé AOC produces elegant, mineral fine white wines, Pouilly-Fuissé AOC produces round fine white wines. Pouilly-Fumé is generally lighter in alcohol and reveals greater freshness. By contrast, its Burgundian neighbour has more power and body. Although the two appellations share the same continental climate, Burgundy enjoys a slightly warmer climate, which is why Pouilly-Fuissé is so powerful on the palate. The specific characteristics of each grape variety also make a difference. Generally speaking, a Pouilly-Fumé gives off fruit notes and smoky, wet stone aromas. By contrast, a classic Pouilly-Fuissé develops notes of ripe exotic fruit or stone fruit aromas. Finally, the winemaker's signature influences the profile of each wine.

Pouilly Fumé

Pouilly-Fumé, a gastronomic white wine

Thanks to its rich aromas, Pouilly-Fumé is one of the finest white wines for gourmets. A delight for gourmets and connoisseurs alike, this prestigious white wine can be found on the finest Michelin-starred tables and is the perfect accompaniment to the finest dishes.

Which dish to serve with a Pouilly-Fumé for a successful food & wine pairing?

With its aromatic complexity, Pouilly-Fumé is a wine of great class, with exceptional flavours and a wide range of food and wine combinations. This gastronomic white wine goes magnificently with seafood such as scallops or oysters. Its fruity aromas and mineral notes enhance the fine, delicate flesh of certain sea fish in sauce, steamed or grilled to perfection. Pouilly-Fumé is also a perfect match for white meats in terrine, with cream or accompanied by a lemon sauce. As for cheese, this white wine from the Loire Valley goes wonderfully with goat's cheese (Crottin de Chavignol). Pouilly-Fumé can also be enjoyed simply as an aperitif.

When to drink Pouilly-Fumé?

Pouilly-Fumé wines are most often drunk 6 to 18 months after harvesting, when they are in their prime, revealing clean, fresh notes. Some cuvées have excellent ageing potential; some of these fine white wines can be cellared for 5 to 10 years, or even up to 15 years.

At what temperature should Pouilly-Fumé be served?

A bottle of Pouilly-Fumé is best enjoyed at a temperature of between 10°C and 12°C.

Château de Tracy, Joseph Mellot, Domaine Chaveau, Domaine Chollet - these are just some of the names to remember when enjoying a cuvée of Pouilly-Fumé at your table. Order in just a few clicks on Vinatis!

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