Ladoucette, Pouilly-Fumé (Loire Valley, France) 2015
(Maisons, Marques & Domaines, $45): I have been souring on Sauvignon Blanc wines lately because so many of them that I taste --largely from California, which dominates the wine market in this country -- just fail to hit the target of expressive fruit with high acidity and dryness, which to me typifies Sauvignon Blanc. (Perceptible sweetness is one of my issues, as well as structure that’s
driven by high alcohol rather than acidity.) Drinking this Sauvignon Blanc from France’s Loire Valley righted my world by confirming that the Sauvignon Blanc grape can still attain greatness.
Ladoucette Pouilly-Fumé is not just any Sauvignon Blanc wine, of course. For decades it has occupied the highest tier in one of France’s two most acclaimed appellations for this variety, the other being Sancerre. Baron Patrick de Ladoucette, who has directed the winery for forty-plus years, is credited with introducing Pouilly-Fumé to the U.S. market. He is a direct descendant of the Comte Lafond, who purchased the Chateau de Nozet and its estate lands from the illegitimate daughter of King Louis XV near the end of the 18th century. The Ladoucette and Comte Lafond families own the largest and most famous vineyards in the Pouilly-Fumé appellation.
The most impressive characteristics of the 2015 Ladoucette Pouilly-Fumé are its intense flavor coupled with tensile acidity and richness of texture. The wine’s aromas and flavors suggest citrus (lime, grapefruit, lemon) and citrus skin as well as green apple and fresh herbs. Tasting a Pouilly-Fumé, of course, I look for smokiness or gunpowder complexities; those aromas/ flavors are not evident in this wine at this stage, but the wine clearly has an earthy, mineral note in its flavor as well as a tactile character that I might describe as stony or chalky.
The wine’s flavors show not only intensity but also purity and terrific concentration. The wine is bone dry but its concentration of fruit brings richness and weight that distract from the dryness, even as high acidity emphasizes it. The structural dynamic that results is so fascinating that I can hold the wine in my mouth for dozens of seconds, sensing first the verticality of the acidity and then the lateral sensation of concentration, weight, and the rich, oily texture, and finally the interplay of the two forces. Even when you drink the wine in a normal way, you will probably notice how balanced it is, and how intricately built.
The wine is entirely Sauvignon Blanc, and it owes its vivid expression to that fact. All hail the terroir of Pouilly-Fumé, where Sauvignon Blanc can stand alone, without Semillon or Muscadelle (as in some of the top whites of Bordeaux) and without the Musqué clone (which many California producers use to bring more perfume to their Sauvignon Blanc wines)!
Winemaking for the 2015 Ladoucette Pouilly-Fumé involved a long, cool fermentation at 60 degrees for six to eight weeks in stainless steel tanks. The wine then matured on its lees for three to six months, again with no exposure to oak; the lees contact has probably contributed to the wine’s texture, as well as protecting it from oxygen, so that when you first pour a glass, you can see some static bubbles in the wine. Based on the high acidity and the vivid fruit flavors, I imagine that the wine did not undergo malolactic fermentation.
My advice on drinking this wine is to consider the temperature. Refrigerator temperature -- and all the more so, ice-bucket temps -- will normalize the wine into a crisp, flavorful, immensely refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. A less cold temperature will reveal the richness and the structural complexities of the wine and bring a different kind of appreciation.