WHEREVER you go in the wine world, you find Scottish connections in the most surprising places.
In Pouilly-Fumé, home to the world’s smokiest, steeliest sauvignon blanc, on a rocky spur overlooking the Loire in northern France, I meet a winemaker with noble Scottish ancestory.
Comte Henri d’Estutt d’Assay indicated his Scottish heritage on his family crest. His ancestor Francis Stuart came here with a large Scottish army to help the future Charles VII during the Hundred Years War. He met and married the Lady of Tracy in 1586, changing his name to Francois Stutt.
Today, his descendant Comte Henri lives in the 14th century Chateau de Tracy supervising 31 hectares of vineyards which date back to 1396, with his sister Nathalie. Tracy specialises in sauvignon blanc, the only grape allowed in Pouilly-Fumé.
With a spirit of enterprise inherited from his ancestors, Comte Henri is aiming to create something even better with extreme high density planting of 17,000 vines per hectare (compared to 10,000 or less) to enhance aromas in his new High Densite cuvée.
Opposite Pouilly-Fumé, on the Loire’s west bank is Sancerre. Twice the size of Pouilly-Fumé, with 2,700 hectares, Sancerre has steeper slopes surrounding the hilltop town of the same name. Producers here focus on either blending grapes grown on the different soils of silex flint, kimmeridgian marl or caillottes chalk, or producing single vineyard sauvignon blanc. Red varietal pinot noir is also allowed, enabling them to make white, red and rosé sancerre.
In Sancerre I meet a contrastingly modern producer. Pascal Jolivet created his own enterprise from scratch in 1982. Starting with no vineyards, he now produces one million bottles annually, tending his 64 hectares and buying in the grapes of another 50 growers. He also has a joint venture in New Zealand. Instead of a 14th century chateau, Jolivet has a brand new modern winery complex.
Amidst the narrow winding streets of Sancerre itself, I visit another famous winemaking family. The Vacherons have pioneered conversion to biodynamic viticulture, a system taking hold all along the Loire vineyards today. The week I visit is damp and cool, so with the crucial flowering period approaching Jean-Laurent Vacheron is busy tending his vines with tea sprays, leaving his father Denis to talk through their wines. Vacheron are one of the few large Sancerre estates left today to insist on harvesting by hand, not machine: an exemplary family domaine.
Pouilly-Fumé 2010 Chateau de Tracy
(£16-£18, Luvians; Laytons; Adnams; Lea & Sandeman; www.slurp.co.uk)
A classic example of the fuller, more generous, floral, creamy, honeyed style of Pouilly-Fumé.
Sancerre 2011 Pascal Jolivet
Prominent grassy nose, a richly fruited minerally sancerre.
Sancerre 2011 Domaine Vacheron
(£17-£18, The Wine Society; Waitrose)
Bright, tense, bone-dry and sleek with citric fruits, minerality and freshness.
Attitude Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Pascal Jolivet
(£11.15, Henderson Wines, Edinburgh; Drinkmonger)
Zippy fresh introduction to Jolivet’s style from grapes grown in Chemery sur Cher in Touraine.
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