Pouilly-Fumé

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Pouilly-Fumé, also known as Pouilly Blanc Fumé and Blanc Fumé de Pouilly, one of the Loire’s most famous wines, perfumed dry whites that epitomize the sauvignon blanc grape (along with nearby menetou-salon, quincy, reuilly, and, most notably, sancerre). All Sauvignon here is Sauvignon Blanc (no Gris allowed) and was often called Blanc Fumé, because wines made from this variety when grown on the predominantly limestone soils, with some flint (silex), supposedly exhibit a ‘smoky’ flavour, or whiff of gunflint (pierre à fusil). The wines are certainly perfumed, sometimes almost acrid, and it takes extensive local knowledge reliably to distinguish Sancerres and Pouilly-Fumés in a blind tasting of both. Pouilly-Fumé is arguably a more homogeneous appellation than Sancerre, which is not surprising since less than half as much Pouilly-Fumé is made as white Sancerre. Unlike that of Sancerre, the Pouilly-Fumé appellation applies only to white wines. The best Pouilly-Fumé (such as the range produced by Didier Dageneau) is perhaps a denser, more ambitiously long-lived liquid than Sancerre, for drinking at two to six years, for example, rather than one to four (although there are, as always with wine, exceptions). At the most historic estate, de Ladoucette’s magnificently turreted Ch du Nozet, are bottles which prove that Pouilly-Fumé can last for decades, although whether it actually improves is a matter of taste. Some producers began experimenting with oak for both fermentation and maturation in the mid 1980s and the wines of the region have become more complex. The appellation takes its name from the small town of Pouilly-sur-Loire on the right bank of the Loire in the Nièvre département. The name Pouilly-sur-Loire is given to the zone’s less distinguished wine, a usually thin and short-lived liquid made in very much smaller quantities from the chasselas grape, grown here in the 19th century for the tables of Paris. In the 1970s and 1980s, Pouilly-Fumé was much favoured by fashion, and the total area planted with Sauvignon Blanc increased considerably. By 2012 it totalled 1,273 ha/3,144 acres. Some of the finest vineyards are on the slopes of St-Andelain north of Pouilly.