‘Forget Sauvignon as you taste these wines’ comes from an Andrew Jefford article titled Sancerre and Friends, published in Decanter in late 2017. Needless to say that all the wines of Pabiot are Sauvignon Blanc, yet as you taste through them, the less Sauvignon Blanc they become. Jefford’s article is perhaps the supreme piece written on Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume and the Sauvignon vineyards of the Central Loire, little more needs to be said or read, as it is as comprehensive as it is lucid.


Varietal difference is unimportant

Beyond information and established fact is the phrase ‘Open palates soon understand that the varietal difference is unimportant’. Those of us who have undergone even the most rudimentary of wine education will note that this is contrary to the established dictum that wines, or at the very least “classic wines” should be varietal, expressive of their site or appellation and that their attributes conform to an established notion of accepted criteria. In fact, Jefford explains that the wines of Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre have more in common with wines grown as far north as Chablis as they lie on the Kimmeridgean Chain. Coupled with similar climatic factors, the wines are essentially less varietal than they otherwise would be.


Classic in a sense

Pabiot’s Sauvignon Blancs are classic in the sense that they conform to the rules of the appellations and their methods of biodynamic cultivation (the first in Pouilly-Fume) and natural vinification techniques are accepted general practice amongst the region’s finest producers. Beyond process, the best wines of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume share similarities of texture, flavour and style that are unlike Sauvignon Blanc anywhere else in the world, and we need to remind ourselves of Jeffords phrase, Forget Sauvignon as you taste these wines.


Jonathan Didier Pabiot Pouilly Fume Elisa 2021

We should start with the Elisa, a blend of material from young vines across the 15 hectares of estate vineyards. This is the most overtly fruit driven and high toned, indeed closer to the cliched notion of Sauvignon Blanc. Stainless steel ageing for between 8 to 12 months has gifted a rich and intense wine with the estate’s signature onion spire shape, minerality and spicy textural grip.

Tropical notes of passionfruit, guava and pawpaw, jostle for prominence with blood orange, lychee white flowers, smoke, nectarine and nettles. Silken flow, effortless drinking, until you are forced to sit up – with minerals, texture and clove spice. A magisterial example of the balancing of elements, the depths of flavour illuminated.


Jonathan Didier Pabiot Pouilly Fume Leon 2020

Leon is Jonathan Pabiot’s estate wine. Drawn from the region’s three main soil types of silex, caillottes and terres blanches. The vines are planted at 10,000 to the hectare, cropping a miserly 30 hl/ha. Now we enter the world of soil and climate. Aged in a mixture of stainless steel, oak and concrete, the choice of vessels accentuating nuance.

Pungeant florals of spring jasmine and sunflower, with blackcurrant, white peach, quince, rock melon and conifer. Rich, deep, silky and round in the mouth. Almost full bodied, with yellow fruits, cherry, lime, savoury spice, tingling with electric tension that flecks the edges of the palate, rather than cut through. Extremely long, with smouldering minerals, smoke and compost.


Jonathan Didier Pabiot Pouilly Fume Aubaine 2020

Aubaine is a single site of mature vines from the Les Champs de Cris vineyard. A cool, high vineyard, with stoney limestone soils of excellent drainage. Miniscule yields are derived from this tiny 1 hectare parcel and in a sense, this is the very essence of Pouilly-Fume. Depsite the cool nature of the site, the old vines and low yields (28 hl/ha to be precise) combine to craft a wine of intense concentration and baritone depths, not seen in the Sauvignons further north, and nowhere else for than matter.

Remarkable and beguiling aromatics of cherry, nougat, mustard seed, lime preserve, salt, white flowers, hay, nectarine and melon. Pure, full bodied and silky. As richly curved as a Rembrandt nude, with a depth of flavour and texture to match. Figs, fresh and dried, quince, clove, white cherry, lime and seasoned with white pepper. A real mouthful of weight and flavour, salty and tingling, velvet acidity. I have mistaken Loire Sauvignon for Chablis many times in blind tastings, but this and the following wine are entirely singular.


Jonathan Didier Pabiot Pouilly Fume Luminance 2020

Luminance is crafted from vines with an average age of 50 years. Planted in Kimmeridgian limestone with an active lime content of over 70%. A high active lime content is a feature of the region, but at this level, the vines must work very hard indeed for nutrients and water. The vineyard is terraced, steep and warm. Luminance is the deepest, richest and most opulent of Pabiot’s wines. Curvy and Baroque, every flavour a flourish, every detail a cutting nuance. Overt, there is nothing shy or demure, not rash, but thoroughly assured.

Aromatics of cream, spring jasmine, fig, lemon lime bitters, yellow peach, apricot, fennel and preserved lime. Rich and dense, the fruit super ripe and dark; cherry, orchard fruits, yellow fruits. Smokey, earthy and sprinkled with salt, deepens what is already impossibly deep, yet lightens and lifts the palate. Immensely powerful, but different to say Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay or Riesling. In a sense, Luminance combines all three. Pure, translucent and silky, I cannot think of any other wine that could combine these epithets with the magisterial dimensions of Luminance.


The familiar with the shock of the new

Christopher Hitchens wrote that the test of knowledge is an acute and cultivated awareness of how little one knows. My favourite wines almost invariably combine the familiar with the shock of the new. How lovely it is to discover new possibilities and dimensions with regions that one claims a former knowledge of and proficiency in? Johnathan Didier Pabiot’s Pouilly-Fumes are some of the deepest, most singular and delicious wines we have tasted in a very long time. The ridiculous, clownish fruited Sauvignon Blancs that taste more like a Gatorade mixed with a can of Red Bull are part of another solar system. Remember, forget Sauvignon as you taste these wines. Nothing, anywhere else in the world tastes of Jonathan Didier Pabiot.


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