Saumur-Champigny is a red wine appellation of Saumur in the central Loire Valley wine region of France. Created in December 1957, this location-specific title was introduced as a complement to the Saumur Rouge appellation (created at the same time and under the same decree). Today, more than 80,000hL of Saumur-Champigny red wine are produced each vintage. The grapes come from about 3700 acres (1500ha) of vineyards located within the parishes of Saumur and Champigny and six of their immediate neighbors. Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg is the most southerly of these and its vineyards are one of the core sources of Saumur-Champigny wine. The village's wine co-operative was, in fact, the main proponent of Cabernet Franc planting in the area, and played a large part in the development of this appellation.
Saumur-Champigny wines are made predominantly from Cabernet Franc, with a permitted (if rarely used) addition of up to 10% Cabernet Sauvignon or Pineau d'Aunis (sometimes called Chenin Noir here). They are typically light- or medium-bodied, and characterized by crisp acidity and forward, slightly spicy, berry fruit flavors. Their lack of body means that they do not age very well despite their natural acid content, and are best consumed within five to ten years of vintage.
The terroir around Champigny is vital to the production of wines in this style and is the reason the area was singled out for its own independent appellation. A low plateau of tuffeau – the yellowish metamorphic rock so distinctive of the central Loire region – rises up at the eastern edge of Saumur town and continues almost uninterrupted for seven miles (11km) to the village of Candes Saint-Martin. This sandy, porous rock is the key to much of the Saumur wine character; it regulates water supply to the vines by immediately absorbing excess water and retaining it for use in the driest periods. Vines growing in tuffeau-rich soils rarely suffer from excess water stress but also benefit from dry, free-draining soils.
The climate around Saumur is moderated by a slight maritime influence from the Atlantic Ocean, albeit reduced by the intervening 100 miles (160km) of low-lying fields and woodland. In summer, however, the slow-moving waters of the Loire do little to combat the high temperatures. According to local folklore, it was this midsummer heat that gave Champigny its original Latin name: Campus Ignis ('Field of Fire').
Within ten vintages of the title's creation in 1957, the wines had become extremely fashionable – a trend which continued right up to the 1990s. This was especially true ofthe Paris elite, for whom the Loire Valley has historically been a weekend retreat. The stretch between Angers and Orleans, in particular, is often referred to as the 'playground' of the French nobility. This popularity led to a dramatic development in Saumur-Champigny wine production, and saw the surface area of the vineyards double and treble in size. During this time a number of vignerons began focusing on quality as well as quantity in their wine production and have sustained the good reputation of Saumur-Champigny into the new millennium.
In October 2009, the Saumur Puy-Notre Dame appellation was officially introduced, covering a slightly larger area just south and west of the Saumur-Champigny catchment area. It is not yet clear what effect this will have on the wines, domaines and reputation of Saumur-Champigny.