Sauvignon Blanc has many incarnations throughout the world, but even in the Loire Valley—the grape’s spiritual home—Pouilly Fumé represents a very distinctive example. While it shares the Kimmeridgian limestone of its neighbor Sancerre, its soils also contain fragments of flint, which are presumably responsible for Pouilly Fumé’s characteristic goût de pierre à fusil, or gunflint taste. Régis Minet, a second-generation vigneron who already boasts almost forty harvests under his belt, is always happy to demonstrate how striking together two pieces of flint from his vineyard creates the smoky gunflint aroma typically associated with the wine. A generous host, Régis is known to greet his guests with cornucopian platters of locally produced meats and Loire goat cheeses. Not surprisingly, his lively, crisp, floral, and beautifully mineral Pouilly Fumé is the quintessential foil to savory slices of saucisson and a sticky Crottin de Chavignol.
One could consider Régis Minet the Loire Valley’s answer to an action hero, a man of brooding intensity on an insatiable quest for adventure. It may just be in the blood. His grandfather, Robert, was an artisan tonnelier, or barrel-maker. He kept a mere three hectares of vines in Pouilly-sur-Loire—just enough to make the family’s wine. He, too, was very independent, living autonomously off his own livestock and fresh vegetables from his farm. When he passed away in 1976, Régis left his studies to continue the work of the domaine without giving it a second thought. Since then, he has made this tiny farm a full-time domaine, adding an eight hectares of vineyards. His love of his native terroir certainly translates into his wines.
The defining feature of the Loire Valley, not surprisingly, is the Loire River. As the longest river in France, spanning more than 600 miles, this river connects seemingly disparate wine regions. Why else would Sancerre, with its Kimmeridgian limestone terroir be connected to Muscadet, an appellation that is 250 miles away?
Secondary in relevance to the historical, climatic, environmental, and cultural importance of the river are the wines and châteaux of the Jardin de la France. The kings and nobility of France built many hundreds of châteaux in the Loire but wine preceded the arrival of the noblesse and has since out-lived them as well.
Diversity abounds in the Loire. The aforementioned Kimmderidgian limestone of Sancerre is also found in Chablis. Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur boast the presence of tuffeau, a type of limestone unique to the Loire that has a yellowish tinge and a chalky texture. Savennières has schist, while Muscadet has volcanic, granite, and serpentinite based soils. In addition to geologic diversity, many, grape varieties are grown there too: Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Melon de Bourgogne are most prevalent, but (to name a few) Pinot Gris, Grolleau, Pinot Noir, Pineau d’Aunis, and Folle Blanche are also planted. These myriad of viticultural influences leads to the high quality production of every type of wine: red, white, rosé, sparkling, and dessert.
Like the Rhône and Provence, some of Kermit’s first imports came from the Loire, most notably the wines of Charles Joguet and Château d’Epiré—two producers who are featured in Kermit’s book Adventures on the Wine Route and with whom we still work today.
I want you to realize once and for all: Even the winemaker does not know what aging is going to do to a new vintage; Robert Parker does not know; I do not know. We all make educated (hopefully) guesses about what the future will bring, but guesses they are. And one of the pleasures of a wine cellar is the opportunity it provides for you to witness the evolution of your various selections. Living wines have ups and downs just as people do, periods of glory and dog days, too. If wine did not remind me of real life, I would not care about it so much.
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