Wines from Pouilly-sur-Loire, referred to as Pouilly-Fume, are known for their distinctive, smoky, gunflint aroma. Located in the Loire Valley near Sancerre, the very centre of France, Poilly-Fume wines are made purely from Sauvignon Blanc grapes, which develop a grey bloom on them when mature.
Wine growers in Pouilly-sur-Loire talk about the “Blanc fume,” or smoked white, when discussing their renowned wines.
The region that produces Pouilly-Fume is comprised of seven parishes on the right bank of the Loire River, while these parishes are technically in Burgundy, they are still considered to be part of the Loire wine-growing region.
Wine growing in the area dates back to the fifth century and was a Gallo-Roman estate during the Roman Empire. In 680 AD, a bishop, Bishop Vigile, left his entire estate to an Abbey, along with the grape vines growing on the land. In truth, wine production only began in earnest with the abbey’s Benedictine Monks. Traditionally, sacramental wine is white, as it doesn’t stain as much as red wine. In the Middle Ages, St. Vincent was viewed as the patron saint of wine growers, a tradition to which producers in the region still adhere to when they celebrate his feast day on January 22nd.
During the Middle Ages, the Benedictine monks were renowned for their skills in wine making, and it is around this time that they began producing wine, particularly Pouilly-Fume, in the region. Under the monks’ guidance, wine production in the area spread, as did the reputation of Pouilly-Fume.
In the late 1100s, the fiefdom of Pouilly was sold to the Benedictines for “3,100 sous and a silver mark”, and they held the region until 1383, when the lands were purchased by Jean III de Sancerre.
The area was quiet until the 1600s, although the Loire River was continuously used for trade and transportation throughout France, when the Briare canal opened in 1642. This canal directed trade more firmly towards Paris, and Pouilly wines were transported there, as well as Versailles, Fontainebleau, and Montargis, where they were sold to aristocrats, merchants, the rich middle-classes and men of the Church.
In the late 1800s, mildew and phylloxera devastated the area, which thankfully recovered with the practice of grafting European grapevines to phylloxera resistant vines from America.
Pouilly-sur-Loire received its appellation in 1937 and today a large share of its production is sold abroad, particularly popular in Italy and Belgium.
Despite the fact that the region where Pouilly-Fume is produced is technically a part of Burgundy, it is considered to be one of the quintessential Loire Valley wines.
The climate in the area is continental and averages around 24 to 31 inches of rain per year. The soil in the region is primarily made of limestone, which is credited with giving Pouilly-Fume its distinctive gunflint aroma.
There are about 1,250 hectares under vine in the area, with a yield of about 65 hectolitres per hectare. 120 winemakers produce 70,400 hectolitres per year of Pouilly-Fume.
Only white wine is produced in Pouilly-sur-Loire.
Pouilly-Fume wines are made exclusively from Sauvignon Blanc grapes. These grapes are egg shaped and form in tight clusters. When they are mature, the grapes take on a grey, smoky colour, which is called “grey bloom” and is where Pouilly-Fume gets its name.
Producers in the area also say that Pouilly-Fume gets its distinctive flavouring from the soil in which it is grown, which consists of limestone and clay.
Pouilly-Fume has some of France’s most lively aromas, with notes of lime, apple and gooseberry, as well as wet wool, slate, and smoky flint. Pouilly-Fume has an aromatic (floral) base, with underlying fruity and flowery notes. The wine itself has a pale, straw yellow colour, and is light to medium bodied. However, it is truly the slate and flint aromas for which Pouilly-Fume is most well-known.
Pouilly-Fume wines are generally consumed within 6 to 18 months of harvesting, although some vintages can be kept for around 5 to 10 years after bottling.
One of the most notable producers of Pouilly-Fume is the town of Nievre, and within Pouilly-sur-Loire, Didier Dageneau is particularly renowned for his wine making skills. Other famous producers include Domaine des Cassiers, Domaine Saget, Masson-Blondelet, and Domaine de Bel Air.
Domaine Pascal Jolivet, which was founded in 1987 by the Jolivet family, has a rich history of wine making. Their attention to detail and talent for producing wine has led to worldwide success and distinction in the wine world.