A walk through the vineyards of Saumur Champigny

We spent the afternoon travelling through the unique terroir of the Saumur-Champigny AOP in the heart of the Loire Valley. The Champigny appellation is for nine villages and we walked through one, the very picturesque region of Souzay-Champigny.  The entire region has 100 winemakers farming 1,600 Ha of vines and all nine villages produce a total of 10 million bottles annually.  The AOC was created in 1957 and 99% of production is Cabernet Franc.

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The key to the quality of the wines from this region is the Tuffeau/Limestone soil that the grapes are grown on. Souzay-Champigny has a unique meso-climate; the name Champigny comes from the Latin Campus Ignis meaning “fields of fire”, a reference to the climatic enclave found here. Rainfall is low and the average vineyard temperatures are higher than in the other villages. This means that Cabernet Franc thrives here; as we walked through the vineyards on an afternoon excursion, we stopped at various points to taste the wines. The first thing of note is the soil, mostly chalk it absorbs rain and Cabernet Franc needs moisture to thrive.  The soil also retains the heat from the sun also vital to ripening the grapes. We tasted 16 wines and the quality very much in evidence, with a few stars in the mix, sadly not available on  the Irish market.  I have long been a fan of Cabernet Franc but my go-to was Chinon and St Nicholas de Bourgueil, I can now most definitely add Saumur Champigny to my list.

I was delighted to see that two of the wines we tasted are currently available on the Irish market. I tasted the 2020 Châteaux de Villeneuve €21.95 his wines are imported by Le Caveau https://lecaveau.ie/ but I suspect they may have an older vintage.  The wine I tasted is made from old vines, grown in a grand clos (walled vineyard).  Jean-Pierre Chevallier owns the 28-ha property located in Souzay.  We met him and his daughter Cecile to taste their latest vintage which was 2020.  This is 100% Cabernet Franc made from organically grown grapes.  It was one of the more structured wines we tasted that afternoon.  Floral notes on the nose, but when tasted a lot of elegant darkberried fruit, with a good lenght and finish. Structure but with a hint of softness, this wine will last a while, a  real find!.

The other wine currently available on the Irish market is the 2020 Domaine Langlois AOP Saumur Champigny.  2020 is their first organic vintage. 100% Cabernet Franc it was a lovely easy drinking wine, fresh and fruity. O’Brien’s Wines currently have the 2018 vintage on offer at €14.76.  The wine had wonderful floral aromas, peony roses came to mind, and  tons of fruit. During the summer months, when lighter red wine styles are very much in demand, this one is definitely worth a look. https://www.obrienswine.ie/products/langlois-saumur-champigny

We started our walk in the cave dwellings, the now famous troglodyte houses which were, for many centuries, home to a huge underground community.  Now abandoned you can still see the remains of these underground villages, hewn out of the rock. The Tuffeau was quarried and the chalk blocks were used to build most of the charming houses, châteaux and churches in the region.

Today there are bicycle and walking tours of the very popular route du vin.  If you are contemplating a holiday with a difference, this classified UNESCO world heritage site is worth a visit.  Troglodytic caves, beautiful gardens and 80 estates welcoming visitors all year round.


For more information:  www.saumur-champigny.com



Sean Mitchell

Author at Pynck

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