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Risking Life and Limb for a Classic Pouilly-Fumé

Risking Life and Limb for a Classic Pouilly-Fumé

by Kermit Lynch by Kermit Lynch

From the Archives: March 1998 Newsletter From the Archives: March 1998 Newsletter

2022 Pouilly-Fumé “Vieilles Vignes”

2022 Pouilly-Fumé “Vieilles Vignes”

Régis Minet   

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Régis Minet    France   |  Loire   |  Pouilly Fumé

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For Americans, Pouilly-Fumé is probably most famous for inspiring Robert Mondavi to call his Sauvignon blanc Fumé Blanc. It is a lovely name. But as usual here at KLWM, we invite you to look back to what launched such a masterly marketing idea. Fumé means smoky, and Pouilly-sur-Loire is the neat little town on the banks of the Loire where the stony vineyard soil bestows upon the Sauvignon a smoky or gunflint aspect.
     The Loire there is broad and quite shallow, full of islands and constantly shifting sandbars and channels. Motorboats were useless in that stretch of the river until our winemaker, motorcyclist Régis Minet, built himself a flat-bottomed craft with a barely submerged propeller. Only it and pole-propelled skiffs can navigate the Loire there. When I visit to taste each year, he insists on taking me for a ride, so to speak. We zoom along, scraping over the sandbars, veering sharply to avoid sunken tree trunks and wine buyers, ducking to avoid hanging vines and branches, while I act cool, smiling blissfully, hanging on with whitened knuckles and pounding heart, thinking that if l told you, my clients, that I was risking life and limb to get a decent Pouilly-Fumé into your glasses, you would not take me seriously.
     What I find unusual and remarkable about Minet’s old-vines cuvée is its class. I know what today’s Sancerres and Pouilly-Fumés taste like. One will perhaps be more or less aromatic, another grassier, another lighter or heavier, higher or lower in acidity . . . But how many have the class and exquisite harmony of Minet’s? Everything is in balance, there are no rough or sharp edges, nothing to set your teeth gnashing in frustration. Don’t you just love class? This is just pure, delicious, classic, definitive Pouilly-Fumé.

** In 2021, Régis handed the reigns of the domaine to his stepdaughter, Lucia Mineur-Billet. Régis and Lucia are both ready and excited for this new chapter in the estate’s history! **

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More from this Producer or Region

About The Region

Loire

map of Loire

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.

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Kermit inspecting wine barrels

For the wines that I buy I insist that the winemaker leave them whole, intact. I go into the cellars now and select specific barrels or cuvées, and I request that they be bottled without stripping them with filters or other devices. This means that many of our wines will arrive with a smudge of sediment and will throw a more important deposit as time goes by, It also means the wine will taste better.

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