by Fred McMillin
for May 13, 1999


Black Robes, White Wines


c. 700 A.D. --- Gastronomic Developments:

Chopsticks introduced into Japan.

Wine is in trouble in Europe. Followers of Mohammed overrun Armenia. They conquer Seville in Spain. Vines being uprooted.

Nevertheless, black-robed Benedictine monks start the La Charite monestary at the eastern end of the Loire river. They will create the first and one of the best dry Sauvignon Blanc white wines on the planet, Pouilly-Fumé.

The Rest of the Story

Fumé (foo-may) refers to the striking aroma of the wine. It means "smoky." You may assign a different descriptor... "flinty" is common...but you'll agree that the aroma gets the wine off to an exciting start.

Baron Patrick de Ladoucette Which one should you try? You can't do better than this.... Ten years ago I attended an in-depth tasting of Loire wines conducted by the marvelous Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein, He selected one Fumé. He said it was "produced by a baron who has done a lot for the region." He was speaking of Baron Patrick de Ladoucette (see photo, from the winery, taken by The Wine Spectator).

Today's Wine

1997 de Ladoucette Pouilly-Fumé, France
Variety—100% Sauvignon Blanc
Soil—Clay and limestone
Oak—No oak contact; you taste the grape and the contribution of that soil. Suprisingly vigorous flavors.
Importer—Maisons Marques & Domaines USA, Oakland, CA.
Contact—Michelle Armour, (510) 286-2000, FAX (510) 286-2010
Price—$28 range


What those monks started has affected wine lables today. It was Robert Mondavi's contact with Pouilly-Fumé that inspired him to re-name his slow-selling Sauvignon Blanc to what became his fast-selling Fumé Blanc. Today many vintners in many parts of the world use "Fumé" in naming their Sauvignon Blanc.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


WineDay Annex

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