Loire Varieties: Other White Varieties
As I have already espoused, although the big three varieties give plenty of joy to many drinkers, to look beyond Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Melon de Bourgogne to the fabulously complex and diverse array of varieties offered by the Loire Valley is to take the wine experience within this region to another level completely.
My previous instalment of this guide opened the batting for this complex array of varieties by taking a look at what I think are two of the most intriguing, namely Romorantin and Menu Pineau. Here, in this final canter through the white varieties, I look at what remains, from the obvious, including the likes of Folle Blanche and Chasselas, varieties that might be familiar to drinkers of Gros Plant du Pays Nantais and Pouilly-sur-Loire, through to what might be termed unicorn varieties, hardly ever seen and of almost mythical status. It is here that the likes of Meslier-Saint-François and Tressallier have their moment in the limelight.
In a discussion of the variety per se, there isn’t really that much more to say about Fié Gris (pictured below), as in fact this is nothing more than a colour mutation of Sauvignon Blanc. Having acknowledged that fact, in a similar vein Pinot Noir is just one mutation in a whole family of Pinot cultivars, and we don’t seem to have any shortage of commentary on that variety. So, I shall persist with my short discourse on this variety which can be found dotted around the Loire Valley at numerous points.
The name fié is probably derived from ferus, Latin for ‘wild’, a reflection upon the appearance of the vine which has leaves very similar in shape to wild grapevines. Of note, Sauvignon has a similar derivation, originating from sauvage, also meaning wild. The variety also goes by the name of Sauvignon Rose, a reference I think to the colour of the berries, as well as Sauvignon Gris. As already intimated, in the Loire Valley the variety can be found scattered along the length of the river, although plantings are not extensive, and indeed France as a whole is unable to boast more than 500 hectares.
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