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Katherine Donnelly: F-rated oomph

Excuse me while I use the F-word. Words, actually. Fumé or Fuissé -- what's your preference? A friend very definitely in the Fumé camp, because Sauvignon Blanc is her fave grape, has, at times, mistakenly picked up and enjoyed the Fuissé, even though she swears she doesn't like Chardonnay.

For the record, Pouilly-Fumé is a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley and Pouilly-Fuissé is a Chardonnay-based white from Burgundy. The former is one of the twin quality peaks of the Loire; Sancerre the other.

Pouilly-Fumé's name and reputation are built on a flinty soil, credited with giving it a certain smokiness (as in fumé). Among all the Loire Valley Sauvignons, Pouilly-Fumé at its best has a complexity that goes well beyond the underlying gooseberry and citrus flavours for which the grape is known.

However, if Pouilly-Fumé is above budget, it is worth remembering other Sauvignon Blanc-based wines from the locality: Menetou-Salon, Quincy and Reuilly.

But a word of caution: Pouilly-sur-Loire, from the same area, is made from a pale imitation, the Chasselas grape. Move south to the Mâcon region of Burgundy and enjoy a Pouilly of a different nature. Here, two villages -- Pouilly and Fuissé -- have given their name to a version of Chardonnay that, at its nutty, honeyed best, is rich and opulent.

Again, it's the terroir that gives it bragging rights, and its concentrated fruit is well able to take on a year's ageing in barrel, which should be so well done you hardly notice it.

While an everyday Mâcon won't compare with a decent Pouilly-Fumé, the cheat's guide to local, perhaps more pocket-friendly, alternatives could include bottles with Pouilly-Vinzelles, Solutré, Viré Clessé or La Roche-Vineuse on the label.

Fumé or Fuissé? Both have a welcome oomph for winter, the former better with fish, the latter with poultry or creamy pasta.

  • Watch out for autumn/Christmas wine fairs. Upcoming events include the On the Grapevine fair, Dalkey, on November 4, 6pm-9pm, at Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel, Killiney and the Gibney's of Malahide fair on November 24, 6pm-10pm, at the Grand Hotel.

Irish Independent