The appellation of Savennières is made in the Loire Valley wine region, in the west of France, and more precisely, in the heart of the region of Anjou-Saumur. Covering just 146 hectares, Savennières is a small appellation whose wines enjoy an excellent reputation. In this article, our chief wine adviser Béatrice Dominé, along with French Master Sommelier Laurent Derhé, invites you to discover one of her favourite terroirs.
One of the Loire’s Treasures
Considered as a Grand Cru of the Loire Valley, Savennières is a historic wine-growing area covering 146 hectares just outside Angers. Covering just three villages, Savennières is a micro appellation; these three villages are Savennières, Bouchemaine and La Possonnière.
The appellation lies in the heart of the Anjou-Saumur wine region which is home to the production of many red wines, like Saumur-Champigny. The area is also known for its great sweet wines like Coteaux du Layon.
Savennières is an exception in that it only produces white wines. Most of these are dry wines, even though the appellation does allow the production of sweet wines. In the Loire Valley, the Chenin grape used for Savennières can be made into a full range of styles, from dry to lusciously sweet wines and even sparkling wines.
A Unique Terroir
The Savennières AOP area covers just a hundred or so hectares on the hillsides beside the river Loire, where the terroir is one of sandstone-schist. Within this appellation, two plots have been identified as particularly outstanding for the distinctive character that their terroir gives to the wines. These are La Roche-aux-Moines and La Coulée de Serrant.
La Roche aux Moines, limited to only a handful of vineyards
Le Savennières-Roche-aux-Moines is a unique terroir with a rocky sandstone-schist soil, which runs down towards the river. The 22 hectares that make up La Roche-aux-Moines are cultivated by just eight wine estates. A long list of rules must be followed in order for them to use the Savennières-Roche-aux-Moines appellation. Chenin is the only grape variety allowed and yields must not exceed 30 hectolitres per hectare. Artificial weedkiller and insecticides are banned and it is compulsory to harvest by hand.
Coulée de Serrant, an appellation belonging solely to Domaine Joly
Exclusively owned by the Joly family, the seven-hectare Coulée de Serrant vineyard is an AOC appellation in itself. The vineyard was planted in 1130 by Cistercian monks and today consists of vines aged from 35 to 80 years old. Since 1984, the entire estate has been cultivated using biodynamic farming methods. Today’s owner Virginie Joly believes strongly in this approach introduced by her father Nicolas Joly, who is a real ambassador for biodynamic winegrowing.
Wine has been produced from this terroir steeped in history for nearly 1000 years. Although rather a confidential wine estate, La Coulée de Serrant is on its 890th vintage and is renowned and recognised by connoisseurs for its fine wines. This reputation is largely the result of an outstanding quality terroir.
The notion of terroir incorporates the soil, the climate and the grape variety. When these three factors combine in just the right way, you have an outstanding terroir and Savennières is an incontestable illustration of this.
Here the Chenin variety achieves unparalleled perfection thanks to a unique association between the soil and the climate. Indeed, Savennières has an extremely advantageous climate that is oceanic yet with continental influences and the soil is quite unique with its chalk, tufa, sand, clay and silica.
The finest Chenin wines display finesse and an aromatic complexity on the palate that is rare to find, as well as a silky-smooth, creamy texture. As for the finish, it is fresh, with great tension and a touch of minerality. Chenin wines have superb aromas both in youth and when aged. The white wines of the Savennières appellation are thus often at their best after about five years ageing in cellar conditions.
An Elegant Wine
Finally, what brings elegance and complexity to the wines of the Savennières appellation are its low yields. The vineyards produce only half the volume of other appellations for an equivalent area. The hillsides are difficult to farm, but it is this difficulty that makes it possible to attain the level of excellence of this prestigious appellation, which is one of the finest of the Loire Valley.