Thanks to Iron Chef and similar shows we tend to think of all food and drink as some kind of competition, which it’s not, it’s everyday life. Recently I attended a Loire Wine Tasting at the Gainesville ABC Fine Wines and Spirits, highlighting two of my favorite Loire white wines: Pouilly Fumé and Sancerre. So I set up this “versus” situation in the title, but these two Loire Sauvignon Blancs are not battling each other. They do make a great contrast and illustrate the magical differences between these two locales just across the river. The term is terroir and this is a graduate-level wineaux course project. Get one of each of these Sauvignon Blanc-based wines and taste them side-by-side. The limestone and clay soil of Pouilly Fumé creates a noticeably different expression of the grape than its neighbor, Sancerre, with a more loamy and granitic geology. I adore these wines, so I am biased, but I tend to pair them differently because of their distinct flavors.
The Jonathan Didier Pabiot Pouilly Fumé 2011 has a mineral brightness that jumps out of the glass. Scents of lemon zest and tart fruits like gooseberry or Granny Smith Apples waft over the rim, reinforced on the tongue with loads of acid, framed by the limestone mineral structure, so much like the soil of La Champagne. Being on the east side of the Loire River, Pouilly Fumé is closer to La Champagne and shares a similar soil profile. The brightness of the acid represents this terroir and its interaction with the Sauvignon Blanc grape.
I’d pair this wine with shellfish, from oysters to clams and even scallops and crab. I’d really like it with fresh New England blue fish, a fatty fish whose fattiness would be cut clean by this acid bomb of a wine. Freshwater trout would also match the zestiness of this wine and mellow the freshwater character of the fish. I note that this wine is darker in color than the Sancerre, and chalk that up to the Pouilly Fumé being a year older.
The Domaine Serge Laloue Sancerre 2012 smells of Golden Delicious Apples and green pear, with a hint of minerality. On the palate acid hits first, but a more subdued acid in comparison, opening up quickly to riper fruits, like kiwi and carambola, finishing with classic gooseberry. There is a softer richness to this wine on the palate, giving it a smoother finish. A little green grass on the final nose differentiates this wine from the limey Pouilly, yet both have so much more mineral and grass than typical New World Sauvies. These both finish with that musky tart gooseberry quality that tends to be overshadowed by grapefruit and citrus in New Zealand Sauvys and is barrel-aged out of recognition by some of California’s best producers.
Because of the softer character of the Sancerre, I’d go to the classic archetypal pairing with chevre. Either fresh on a salad or poached in white wine or tossed in pasta, goat cheese and Sauvignon Blanc were meant to be together. Though this wine could work with fish, salmon or even grouper, I’d love to pair it with a French-style roast chicken like my mom used to make, stuffed full of Herbs de Provence, a halved lemon and a handful of garlic cloves, and skin bathed in EVOO and a little butter. Add some pan-roasted new potatoes, cooked with the chicken, and a seasonal vegetable of choice, and this Sancerre would harmonize perfectly. Both wines are under $20 dollars and are available locally at ABC Fine Wines and Spirits. Try Northwest Seafood and Laughing Chicken Farm for your seafood and free-range chicken options in Gainesville (or find something similar close to you). Cheers!