Saumur Champigny is one of the Loire Valley’s most exciting red wine appellations. Not long after being established as an AOC in 1959 the wines began to gain popularity throughout France and forty-plus years of commercial success left the village with an established wine scene and a fabulous reputation.
Alongside the commune of Saumur, eight other villages form part of the growing area: Chacé, Dampierre-sur-Loire, Montsoreau, Parnay, Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg, Saumur, Souzay-Champigny, Turquant and Varrains. About 130 growers produce wine here.
Furthest south is Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg where much of the fruit comes from. The vineyards here are planted in limestone rather than the clay sites closer to the river.
The appellation is low in altitude and so hot years tend to give much fuller wines than the medium bodied wines many associate with Saumur Champigny. Interestingly the area’s summer heat is the source of its Latin name, Campus Ignis, or field of fire, a reference to scorching temperatures.
Today, the appellation requires a minimum of 85% Cabernet Franc but most are mono-varietal. Some producers top up with Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a tiny bit of the very rare Pineau d’Aunis. A collection of predominantly small domaines produce wines that at their best are well structured, singing with crunchy red fruit and held together by tight acidity and medium tannin. Depending on the vintage and the producer’s decisions in the cellar, the wines can keep anywhere between five and 20 years.
Château de Parnay in the village of Parnay provide one of the benchmark wines for the area. They don’t come cheap, but nevertheless offer an insight into what wood aged Saumur Champigny can offer.