So, if you didn’t know, Pouilly-Fumé is Sauvignon Blanc, but from a specific area of France in the Loire Valley. Like a lot of European wines, the names can be confusing because they are named after the place they are from, not the grape they are made from. But the real question is - can you tell the difference between a Sauvignon Blanc from Pouilly-Fumé, which is going to be a little pricey, from a much less expensive Sauvignon Blanc? If you are curious about all of this stuff, this is the episode for you! We talk about what makes Sauv Blanc from Pouilly-Fumé special, and then we taste and review two wines from Pouilly-Fumé and compare them to Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc. The results may surprise you! Wines reviewed in this episode: 2021 Domaine Francis Blanchet Pouilly Fumé Cuvée Silice, 2020 Domaine Cailbourdin Pouilly-Fumé Les Cris, and Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc.
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Episode 68: WTF is Pouilly-Fumé? 00:00
Hello! And welcome to The Wine Pair Podcast. I’m Joe, your sommelier of reasonably priced wine, and this is my wife and my wine pairing partner in crime, Carmela. And we are The Wine Pair!
Ok, a quick orientation for those of you who may be new to the podcast - in each episode we learn about, taste and review three wines that are reasonably priced - meaning under $20 - and we look for wines that should be easy for you to find. Our podcast is made for people like us - people who really like wine, but want to learn more about different wines, find new wines to explore, and feel more confident when we talk about and order wines. And, we believe that learning about wine is also in part about learning about the world. So, if that sounds like you, you are in the right place! By the way, you should also know that when we rate and review wines, we will be very honest with you - we will not pull punches, and won’t be afraid to tell you if we think a wine is crap or if it is great. And we are proud to say that we are officially recommended by the editors of Decanter Magazine from their October issue, who call us fun, irreverent, chatty, and entertaining.
Now, after that intro, Carmela, we do have to admit that today we are going to taste and review a couple of wines that are above our $20 price point. Not a ton above, but a bit above. So we have to call that out, but we also have to explain why, and how we are justifying this very controversial decision.
We are back to one of our favorite episode series - the WTF or the what the fuck series, and this week I wanted to taste and review a French wine called Pouilly-Fumé for a couple of reasons. First, many French and Italian and Spanish wines can be a little confusing because they are often named for the region they come from rather than the grape they are made from. For instance, we are used to asking for a glass of Pinot Noir, but not a glass of Burgundy, even though they are the same grape. The difference comes down to where the grape is grown and the wine is made.
Second, Pouilly-Fumé is a wine I have wanted to try, but it has been a bit outside of the price point for our podcast. So we decided we would do two Pouilly-Fumé wines, and then compare them to a plain old inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc to see if the fancy ones are worth the higher price tag.
But wait, you say, you want to know why we are going to compare Pouilly-Fumé to Sauvignon Blanc? Well, that’s because Pouilly-Fumé is Sauvignon Blanc. Still confused? Don’t worry, we’ll make everything clear in a little bit.
Suffice it to say, however, that in order to stay within our budget - which maxes out at $60 or if we are being tricky and using math comes out to three wines that averages to $20 each - we have to pair two more expensive Pouilly-Fumé wines with an inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc under $7. With that difference in price points, we are really going to find out if normal wine drinkers, even big wine fans like us, can tell the difference between the three wines, and if the higher priced wines are worth it. So this will be really fun.
So, are you ready to try it out . . .? Well, we’ll get to it in a minute . . .
But first . . . we have to do our shameless plug, right Carmela? First, we want to start by saying THANK YOU for listening to us and for supporting our show, and if you have not had the chance to do so yet, now would be an awesome time to subscribe to our podcast - it is a free way to support us, and then you never have to miss a show! - and a huge thank you to all of you who have subscribed already - we really really appreciate it!
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You can also follow us and see fun pictures of the wines we are tasting and trying today on Instagram at thewinepairpodcast, and you can contact us on our website thewinepairpodcast.com with any questions or ideas you have.
And, as we do every week, we’ll tell you someone we think you should tell about The Wine Pair Podcast - and this week we want you to tell anyone who loves to drink wine, but really doesn’t get the whole French wine naming thing and is all confused by it but really wants to understand it.
ARTICLES and LINKS
Topic: What Is Pouilly-Fumé and Why Does It Matter? 08:20
So, let’s talk about what Pouilly-Fumé is. As we have mentioned in several previous episodes, when it comes to French wines in particular, I am often confused by what the wines actually are because it is very common that a wine is named after a region rather than the varietal.
What that means is that you and I know we like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, and so we feel comfortable ordering those wines when we see them in a restaurant or buying them off the shelf. We also know that we like Chianti, Barolo, and Barbersco wines, which are wines from Italy, but those are not the names of the grapes, those are the names of the regions they are from.
The grape in Chianti is a Sangiovese, so if you like Chianti, you can be reasonably sure that if you find a wine called Sangiovese you are going to find it similar - not exactly the same but similar and we will talk about why that is in a minute - and that you will probably like this wine from the Sangiovese grape.
Same deal if you like Barolo or Barbaresco, but those wines are made from a grape called Nebbiolo - which we actually did an episode on a few months ago - episode 61 to be exact - and so again, if you see a wine called Nebbiolo you’ll probably like it if you like Barolo and Barbaresco.
So, that is the same deal with Pouilly-Fumé which is made from the Sauvignon Blanc grape. So, if you like Sauvignon Blanc, you can be reasonably sure you are going to like Pouilly-Fumé as well, but if you saw Pouilly-Fumé on a wine menu or in a wine shop and you didn’t know it was a Sauvignon Blanc wine, you would have no clue. Because, in most cases there is no indication on the wine bottle or the wine menu that it is made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
So, that is the basic story on Pouilly-Fumé. It is a Sauvignon Blanc wine, and it comes from the Loire region of France. And so the ONLY time you are going to have Pouilly-Fumé is if you are drinking this specific wine from this specific region of France. And so next time you go to a restaurant and you are looking through the wine list and you can’t make heads or tails of it, this information may help you.
Now, just because it is a Sauvignon Blanc does not mean that Pouilly-Fumé is going to be like any old Sauvignon Blanc - and I will tell you why, and that is also why we are going to taste it against an - any old Sauvignon Blanc to see if it really really matters.
So, because the wine is called Pouilly-Fumé, and this is true of wines like Barolo and Chianti and Burgundy and Champagne and Bordeaux as well, it has to be produced in a very specific way - otherwise it will not be called Pouilly-Fumé.
First, the wine is the specific Pouilly-Fumé AOC in France that was established in 1937. AOC means that it has been officially designated by the government to be of a specific type and a specific quality. The wine is made in an area called Pouilly-sur-Loire, and it must be made in Pouilly-sur-Loire.
And that matters in wine, because the place a wine is from, called terroir, impacts the grapes that are grown and the wine that is made. Terroir covers everything from the soil, to the weather, to the altitude, to the water, and on and on. The terroir in Pouilly-Fumé is unique from any other place in the world, and so, the argument goes, the wine will be unique as well.
Sauvignon Blanc from Pouilly-Fumé is supposed to be a little smoky or even gun powder tasting and smelling because the soil the grapes grow in has a lot of flint in it. When it is good, like all Sauvignon Blancs, it can taste and smell like grass and grapefruit, sometimes pineapple and peach, and when it is not good, it can smell like urine - often described as cat pee. Which ain’t good, by the way.
Pouilly-Fumé is also sometimes also described as softer and more minerally - or with flavors of stone - than other Sauvignon Blancs, and is also a wine that can age. So call it more sophisticated, but we’ll see. This is a wine that is supposed to be very dry, very acidic (which is good when pairing with food), and tangy. Like many good wines, they are really meant to be drunk with food.
There are only 120 winemakers that make this wine, and the grapes only come from one vineyard - it’s a big vineyard, but there is only one of them - called Nièvre which is about 3,000 acres in size. For those of you who care, Pouilly-Fumé is actually very very close to Sancerre, which is another specific region in the Loire Valley of France, that also makes a wine made from Sauvignon Blanc, but is called Sancerre. They are so close, you could basically consider them cousins.
And one last thing, if you are curious, is if this wine is the same as Fume Blanc. Well, Fume Blanc is Sauvignon Blanc, but it was a term made up by Robert Mondavi who made his Sauvignon Blanc in oak barrels, and so it could be considered an oaked style of Sauvignon Blanc, which in my opinion would be a good way to ruin the wine altogether. But hey, that’s just me. And Fume means smoke, by the way. Not to be even more confusing, if you are in France, you may hear Pouilly-Fumé called Blanc Fumé or Blanc Fumé de Pouilly.
Alright, enough about that because it is getting confusing - what you need to know is that Pouilly-Fumé is Sauvignon Blanc from a specific area in France that is supposed to be of very high quality. Ok?!? Now let’s talk about the specific wines that we chose for this episode.
ARTICLES and LINKS
Pouilly-Fumé Wines We Chose for This Episode 16:45
Ok, so again, we cheated a bit in this episode because I really wanted to taste and talk about this wine, and any, given inflation, we may need to extend our price range for our podcast in the future someday anyway Usually, all of the wine we would have chosen for this episode would be under $20, but today we are going crazy, and the two Pouilly-Fumé wines we have chosen are below $28. Now, just to be clear, I could have gotten much more expensive Pouilly-Fumé wines, so hopefully these are good examples of the wine.
And, again, as I mentioned earlier, we are going to taste a third wine, but because I wanted to keep the whole set of wines in our price range, and because I really do want to see how these wines stack up against a very, very common Sauvignon Blanc, the third wine is under $7. Yikes. But, if this is an episode people like, we can do more of them where we taste test fancy wines against cheap wines.
And, all of these wines are reasonably easy to find because I got the Pouilly-Fumé wines from wine.com, and the Sauvignon Blanc, which is from Barefoot wines, from Safeway. And, Barefoot wine you find basically anywhere. Whether you want to or not!
The first wine we are going to taste is called Domaine Francis Blanchet Pouilly Fumé Cuvée Silice (SEE-LEASE). The wine we are drinking is from 2021 and does not have any ratings, but previous vintages have gotten ratings of 90 and 91, and not from James Suckling!
Now, I chose this wine for a couple of reasons. First, it was one of the more reasonably priced that I could find on wine.com, and second because it had the name Blanchet in it, which is the name of a school that both Carmela and I and all of our kids went to here in Seattle. So, there’s that. So when wine snobs tell you that they don’t choose a wine based on its name or label, don’t believe them. We all do!
Some facts about this wine - Domaine Francis Blanchet is a small estate that has been making wines for 8 generations, and their wine comes from an area with the highest percentage of silex or silice (SEE-LEASE), also known as flint, in the whole Pouilly-Fumé region. And, yes, I had to look that up. They use sustainable farming practices, don’t use herbicides or pesticides, and they hand harvest their grapes. They also use indigenous yeast, which is another reason why this wine would taste unique from other Sauvignon Blancs, and their wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel.
So, I am expecting a really acidic, crisp wine. Exciting!
The second wine we are tasting is called Domaine Cailbourdin Pouilly-Fumé Les Cris, and it is a 2020, so a touch older. Again, no ratings for this wine, but previous vintages have gotten ratings of 90 - 92, and again none of those are from James Suckling!
The name Les Cris refers to vines planted in pebbly limestone soil, and that matters because it will mean there is a ton of drainage for the roots, and we can expect what they call minerality - or the taste of rocks - on the wine. This is described as a powerful wine, and Robert Parker has said that Domaine Cailbourdin is one of Pouilly-Fumés best wine makers.
The winemaker only started making wine in the area in 1998, and now he and his son make the wine there. Like the previous wine, they are sustainably farmed, hand harvested, and do not use herbicides and pesticides. They also use indigenous yeast, but they also call out that they do not use malolactic fermentation which is used to mellow wines out a bit and makes them creamier and less acidic. So this should also be a nice, crisp, acidic wine, too. And it is also fermented and aged in stainless steel.
And, the last wine we are tasting, as a comparison, is basically the only one that fit into our price cap of $60 for three wines, or 20 bucks on average, and we know is very available and likely very popular, because it’s like 6 bucks, and, again, that is the Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc. As Carmela would say, aye-yai-yai. But we should be careful about prejudging! Let’s let the wine do the talking, right?!?
A few facts about Barefoot wines - it is one of the 10 most valuable wine brands in the world, it is the second most valuable wine brand in the US behind Chandon, and is officially number 6 in terms of most valuable brands worldwide. It is also owned by E&J Gallo who bought it in 2005.
They also claim to be the most awarded wine in the world, but let’s just say some of those awards are a little dubious. For instance, the sticker on the bottle of wine we have says that it was rated Gold and received 95 points - however, this was in 2017 at the California State Fair Wine Competition. Not going to bag on them too hard, but I don’t think Far Niente or Ridge were in the competish.
Now, Barefoot built their brand on sweet wines, which a lot of people like, but this wine is supposed to be bone dry, so that is a good thing - at least from our perspective. And, believe it or not, Wine Enthusiast gave this wine a 90 rating in 2021. However, I cannot tell you if that is the same wine that we are having or not because they do not put a vintage date on their bottles. Which is weird. But, look, a lot of people buy Barefoot wine, like - a LOT of people, so there has to be a reason why!
On the bottle, Barefoot says “we believe wine should be more fun and less serious.” So, there’s that. We more or less agree. But it also shouldn’t be shitty, so we’ll find that out.
So, on that note, we are going to stop prejudging, and I think we have been talking enough and it’s time to get drinking! Whaddya say?!?
ARTICLES and LINKS
Pouilly-Fumé and Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc Wine Pairing Tasting and Reviews 26:43
Wine: Domaine Francis Blanchet Pouilly Fumé Cuvée Silice (Click here to buy this wine. Affiliate link)
Region: France, Loire
Producer: Domaine Francis Blanchet
Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc
What we tasted and smelled in this Pouilly-Fumé:
- On the nose: Burnt match, tropical fruit, peach, stone fruit, apple, fruity, fresh pineapple
- In the mouth: Fruity, good acidity, clean, tart, stone, tropical fruit, some citrus, lemon peel, pineapple
Food to pair with this Pouilly Fumé: Fresh fish, lightly fried fish, spicy foods
As a reminder on our rating scale, we rate on a scale of 1-10, where 7 and above means that we would buy it, and 4 and below means that we are likely to pour it down the sink, and a 5 or 6 means we are likely to drink it and finish it, but we are probably not going to buy it.
- Joe: 9/10
- Carmela: 9/10
Wine: Domaine Cailbourdin Pouilly-Fumé Les Cris (Click here to buy this wine. Affiliate link.)
Region: France, Loire
Producer: Domaine Cailbourdin
Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc
What we tasted and smelled in this Pouilly Fumé:
- On the nose: A little hot, no fresh tropical fruit, smoky, grassy, earthy, apple, grapefruit
- In the mouth: Sour, tart, smoky, Mezcal, very little fruit, bigger mouthfeel, tons of stone, seashell, has a bite, sea salt, zippy
Food to pair with this Pouilly Fumé: Needs food, pungent cheese, good with focaccia, spaghetti and clam sauce, shellfish, clams, spicy foods to balance it out, sushi with wasabi
- Joe: 7/10
- Carmela: 6/10
Wine: Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc
Producer: Barefoot Cellars
Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc
What we tasted and smelled in this Sauvignon Blanc:
- On the nose: Very tropical fruit, pineapple, orange, coconut, pina colada, no smoke, very pleasant,
- In the mouth: Very pleasant, crowd pleaser, not complex, smooth, beach wine, very enjoyable wine, mellow, most would prefer this to the previous wine, very likable
Food to pair with this Sauvignon Blanc: Fish and chips, white pizza, pizza bianco, spaghetti with clams, cheese board
- Joe: 6/10
- Carmela: 7/10
Which one of these are you finishing tonight?
- Carmela: Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc
- Joe: Domaine Francis Blanchet Pouilly Fumé Cuvée Silice
Taste profiles expected from Pouilly Fumé Sauvignon Blanc 45:37
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Wine Folly: Gooseberry, honeydew, grapefruit, white peach, passion fruit.
- Usual wines: Fruit flavors such as white peach, grapefruit, lime, pear, passion fruit, and other tropical fruit. Herbaceous hints of cut grass, lemongrass, and tarragon. Spicy notes of green bell pepper, jalapeño, vanilla, nutmeg, and clove
- Pouilly Fumé
- Domaine Francis Blanchet
- On wine.com: nice balance of ripeness and crisp acidity with vibrant citrus fruit and a clean, mineral-driven finish
- TechSheet: This gorgeously pure and bright Sauvignon Blanc shows a brilliant bouquet of lemon zest, nectarine, jasmine tea, and quince. The high percentage of silex in the terroir shows through with a distinct flinty note that adds complexity. The palate has plenty of verve, with notes of ginger, anjou pear, and wet stone. A clear vein of minerality keeps everything in balance
- Domaine Cailbourdin
- This beautifully mineral and saline Sauvignon Blanc shows a captivating bouquet of lime zest, white peach, lemongrass, and quince. The palate is bright and refreshing with flavors of grated ginger, jasmine tea, pink grapefruit and wet stone, leading to a long crisp finish
- Domaine Francis Blanchet
- Barefoot wines
- WE: This elegant wine is an amazing value, offering great refreshment along with an array of subtle mineral, fig and citrus flavors. It's nicely balanced by acidity, rich in its fruitiness but also restrained enough to demand more sipping.
- Barefoot bottle: our driest white wine bursting with fruit flavors of fresh pear and crisp citrus. But then, Barefoot website: Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc is a fruit-forward, crisp-style white wine. Refreshing notes of honeydew melon and nectarine open to dashes of jalapeño and sweet lime on the finish
- So I am confused!
Outro and how to find The Wine Pair Podcast 48:33
Ok, so, Carmela, it is just about time for us to go, but before we do, we want to thank you very much for listening to us - AND if you haven’t done so yet, now would be the perfect time to subscribe to our podcast AND also a fantastic time to leave us a nice rating and review on our website or Apple podcasts or other podcast service - and it is an awesome and free way to support us and help us grow listeners.
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Alright, with that, we are going to sign off, so thanks again, and we will see you next time. And, as we say, life is short, so stop drinking shitty wine.