Savennières: The Appellation
The creation of the Savennières appellation was down largely to a small number of growers, led by Bernard Closel of Domaine du Closel, and Jacques Roussier, of Clos de Coulaine. Their work led to the appellation being signed off in 1952; it incorporated the Savennières vineyards as we know them today, but also brought to the wine world’s attention two crus, the Clos de la Coulée de Serrant and La Roche-aux-Moines. These very special subzones of the Savennières appellation are worthy of dedicated discussion and I will examine them in more detail in separate instalments of this guide, especially appropriate as in modern times both crus have been elevated to appellation status, Savennières Roche-aux-Moines and Coulée de Serrant.
The regulations which were signed off in 1952 describe an appellation where the focus was producing sweet wines, quite possibly with high levels of residual sugar. One piece of evidence in support of this was the maximum permitted yield at this time, which was set at an extraordinarily strict 25 hl/ha. This figure was lower than that permitted in the Coteaux du Layon appellation, and is very similar to the levels permitted in Quarts de Chaume and Bonnezeaux.
This very low figure is not such a surprise if we view the newborn Savennières appellation in the context of its environment. Anjou is a region which has always benefitted from botrytis, for centuries the wines, led by those of the Coteaux du Layon, valued for their colour, richness and of course their sweetness. Along the right bank of the Loire the focus was no different. The principal appellation on this side of the river was Anjou Coteaux de la Loire, a broader vineyard spread over a number of communes including both Bouchemaine and La Possonnière (both of which are eligible for the Savennières appellation today) but not the commune of Savennières itself. The Anjou Coteaux de la Loire appellation had been signed off six years before the Savennières appellation was made real, in 1946, and it was solely for sweet wines. The Savennières appellation was therefore born at a time, and in an environment, in which sweetness was the norm. Contrary to the prevailing style today, the very first wines from the Savennières appellation were at least demi-sec, if not properly moelleux (like the 2009 from Château d’Epiré, pictured below).