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Sancerre vs Pouilly-Fumé: Tasting the differences – Ask Decanter

Made from the same grape, but how can you tell these wines apart when tasting...?

Kate Carpenter, London, asks: Do you have any tips on how to tell Sancerre wine and Pouilly-Fumé apart in a blind tasting?

Jim Budd, DWWA Regional Chair for the Loire, replies: The differences between these Sauvignon Blancs are nuanced and subtle.

Pouilly-Fumé tends to be a little broader, softer, slightly less vibrant and aromatic than Sancerre. It can have a smoky character, especially those from flint (silex) soils, though this can also be true of Sancerre grown on flint.

Both Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre, especially the good ones, have grass and citric characters – typically grapefruit – rather than the classic notion of cat’s pee, which in the Loire is a sign of unripe grapes. In ripe, hot years stone-fruit characters emerge.

Both should have linear purity of flavour and can age attractively. Producers like Henri Bourgeois, Joseph Mellot and Pascal Jolivet make both Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, so try them together and see if you can taste the differences.

Speaking to Decanter, Pascal Jolivet said ‘The late Kit Stevens MW once said, Sancerre is like spring, Pouilly-Fumé like summer – meaning that Sancerre is more immediately approachable in its youth, but with Pouilly-Fumé, you have to wait.

‘Pouilly-Fumé is more mineral, a connoisseur’s wine. It was very famous in the 1980s and ’90s, until Sancerre eclipsed it in popularity – maybe partly because Sancerre is easier to pronounce. We’re on a mission to bring Pouilly-Fumé back.’

First published in the February 2020 issue of Decanter magazine and updated with quotes from Jolivet in 2021. 

Related content: 

Decanter Premium – How to pick the best Sancerre wine

 Jefford: Wines of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé

What is Fumé Blanc? Ask Decanter

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