Saumur is in the heart of the Loire Valley: it is rich in tuffeau, calcareous rock that was quarried to build the famous Chateaux de la Loire, leaving behind empty galleries perfect for ageing the Saumur wines.
This type of soil is also the main component of the terroir where the vineyard stands, along with limestone, sand and siliceous clay coming from the Paris Basin. It is a region with small hills, providing a barrier from the winds blowing from the Atlantic Ocean: it is a semi-oceanic climate with more pronounced seasonal variations.
Saumur is one of the leading appellation of the Loire Valley, producing noteworthy white wines. And we recently had a real crush on a winegrower from the region: Fabien Duveau.
Fabien Duveau is a young winemaker and represents the 8th generation of his family estate, that he became responsible for in 2008, after taking it over from his father. The vineyard is located in Chacé, about 3 miles South-East of Saumur, on the left bank of the Loire Valley. Chacé is one of the most renowned area of the region for the Saumur-Champigny production, because of the deep bed of tuffeau and the layers of clay and sandstone over it. His cellar and his vineyards are neighbors of the local star, Clos Rougeard.
The vineyard is composed of 20 hectares split among approximately 40 parcels, planted with Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc, that Fabien converted in organic and biodynamic viticulture when he came back to the family estate. Having so many parcels allow Fabien to separate it by different terroirsand configuration of the soils, so then he can produce different cuvees, often called by the name of the parcel.
Fabien ages his wines in a stunning cave from the 14th century, where the constant chill and humidity create the perfect environment to store wines. He uses concrete tanks for the vinification while the ageing is done in neutral oak to keep the purity of the fruit and the terroir.
We tasted different cuvees, and the most outstanding one was probably “Les Poyeux”: it’s a parcel quoted since 1802 as one of the most beautiful one from the Saumur area, and made famous by Clos Rougeard.
Composed of mainly shallows calcareous tuffeau stone, with soft chalk deeper soil, it allows a moderate but fairly regular water supply, ideal for producing quality wine.
Fabien is, as far as we know, the only winemaker to produce a white “Les Poyeux”. This parcel is shared among different producers in the appellation and almost exclusively planted in Cabernet Franc. That said, he owns part of it and planted some 0.08 hectare in Chenin Blanc. He is also the first one to make a difference between the lower and the upper part of the parcel.
Les Poyeux white, in appellation Saumur, is a Chenin on a sand and tuffeau stone, aged in neutral oak barrel for about a year. The wine is very complex, with a delicate roundness to it. It shows subtle citrus flavors, and stone fruits with a long finish. The expression of Chenin Blanc at its best! It is an outstanding wine, very complex, round in the mouth including delicate citrus and yellow fruits notes, with a long finish.
The lower part of the parcel, Les Bas Poyeux, is a Cabernet Franc on a slope. It is a sandy soil over a layer of limestone and clay, giving a distinct minerality signature to the wine. We found it to be incredibly smooth, powerful yet very soft tannins and the elegancy of red fruits. Absolutely a gastronomy wine!
On the other hand, the upper part, called Les Hauts Poyeux, is higher in altitude, and the difference lies in the top, as the subsoil remains layers of limestone and clay. The sand topsoil is thicker, giving a wine with more aromatics than texture, but still with very fine tannins.
Fabien is also releasing other vineyard sites to complement his range. Each will vary depending on the type of soils of the parcel. He added “Les Gaignes” for example this year: located on a chalky soil, you feel like you are tasting a very fruity juice. The minerality of the terroir and the ageing in concrete tank are revealing the beauty of the Cabernet Franc, in a very delicate way.
All in all, you will be impressed by the quality of the wines!
When I worked in the family Domaine in Meursaut in the 80s, I had the good opportunity to meet
Alain Chapel, an incredible chef who in turn, inspired a generation of chefs. Twice a year, Alain would
invite winemakers for what one could say..