Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Saumur, town in the Loire just upriver from the anjou district giving its name to an extensive wine district and several appellations. Saumur is effectively a south western extension of touraine, yet is more of a centre for the wine trade of Anjou–Saumur than is Angers. The grapes grown in these latter two neighbouring regions are very similar, except that Saumur does not have Anjou’s range of potentially great sweet white wines.

Saumur’s most important wine (and France’s most important mousseux) is Saumur Mousseux, a well-priced white and rosé sparkling wine made from Chenin Blanc grapes, often with a mix of international and Loire varieties. These grapes can come from an even wider area than that permitted for still Saumur, and the quality of winemaking is high among the larger houses of the town of Saumur, such as Gratien & Meyer, Langlois Chateau, and Bouvet Ladubay, and also at the important co-operative at St-Cyr-en-Bourg, with its extensive underground cellars hewn out of the local tuffeau. This calcareous rock predominates around Saumur, and was much quarried, both locally and abroad (according to Duijker it was used for rebuilding after the Great Fire of London, and also extensively in the Dutch city of Maastricht). This left the Saumurois with ready-made wine cellars, perfect not just for mushrooms, one of their most important products, but also for the maturation of their acidic wines which, as in champagne, had a natural tendency to retain some carbon dioxide in spring. Ackerman-Laurance was the first producer of sparkling Saumur, in the early 19th century. The wines have enjoyed considerable commercial success, although an increasing proportion of the base material for Saumur Mousseux is expected to be fashioned into crémant de Loire, for which the criteria are rather more rigorous: yields of 50 rather than 60 hl/ha and 12 rather than nine months’ tirage.