White wines are the specialty of Pouilly. Pouilly-Fumé wines are made exclusively from Sauvignon Blanc, while Pouilly-sur-Loire only uses Chasselas grapes. These dry crisp wines are best known for their gunflint smoky aroma.
Between Burgundy and Berry, Pouilly is comprised of 1,334 hectares (3,300 acres) on the right bank of the Loire River. In the department of the Nièvre, the Pouilly-Fumé and Pouilly-sur-Loire appellations extend across the villages of Garchy, Mesves-sur-Loire, Pouilly-sur-Loire, St. Andelain, St. Laurent, Saint-Martin-sur-Nohain, and Tracy-sur-Loire.
Thanks to Benedictine monks, wine growing in Pouilly dates to the 5th century when the area was called Pauliacum super fluvium ligerim. The birthplace of wine in Pouilly is a 44-hectare (108 acre) plot of land known as Loge aux Moines, a name it still retains. At the end of the 11th century, many of the local lords left, leaving land to the Benedictines. By the 12th century, wine from Pouilly was already famous, being mentioned in a French tale entitled, “The Battle of the Wines,” which praised the best wines in the country.
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Since the 16th century, wine has been transported via the Loire River, despite the issues with ice and high or low waters. With the opening of the Briare Channel in 1642, trade from Pouilly to Paris became possible. Around 1860, the production from Fontainebleau and Thomery couldn’t keep up with the Parisians’ demand, thus wine from Pouilly was eagerly welcomed. Transportation to Paris became even more efficient with the arrival of the railroad to Pouilly in 1861.
After the phylloxera crisis in the 1890s, the area’s production was limited. However, in 1937, Pouilly was awarded with two AOC certifications: Pouilly-sur-Loire for the Chasselas grape and Pouilly-Fumé for Sauvignon Blanc.
Pouilly is distinguishable by four different types of soils:
● Villiers limestone from the Oxfordien geological period (caillottes)
● Marls with small oysters from the Kimméridgien geological period (Terres blanches)
● Barrois limestone from the Portlandien geological period (caillottes)
● Clay-with-flints from the Cretacé geological period
The Vendanges (grape harvest) in Centre-Loire begin between the last week of September and the first week of October, ending the last two weeks of October. Some grapes are still harvested by hand, though most are picked with mechanical grape harvesters. The grapes are sent to the modern wine storehouses for processing.
At its most ripe, the harvest is pressed as soon as the grapes arrive. For 12 to 24 hours, the must is racked, before it's placed into a fermentation tank, where it will ferment at a temperature of 64°F. Temperature control allows for longer fermentations, which gives more intense and delicate aromas. Once fermentation is complete, a racking is made to remove the first layer of lees. The wine matures in tanks with a thin layer of lees. The first bottlings occur between March and September, with some waiting more than a year before being bottled.