Grapevine: Sancerre

September 10, 2020 BY

We often feature the wines and regions that sit on the Kimmeridgian chain from Champagne in the North, down through Chablis and along the eastern part of the Loire Valley.

In no small part, it is because we are in a seaside town, and they provide fantastic matches for seafood. Today we turn our attention to Sancerre. Whilst many will have tried Sancerre, some will know exactly where it is and what is grown there, many may not know that it is Sauvignon Blanc in the bottle.

The Sauvignon Blanc of Sancerre is often a world away from the Sauvignon Blanc that many will have come to anchor their perception on from Marlborough; highly aromatic, showing all kinds of grassy, herbaceous characters through to the intense ripe tropical fruit sweetness. Place a glass of Sancerre in front of you and if you weren’t told what it was you would not look silly saying it was Chablis or a similarly light, crisp minerally white. Both are fair and true expressions of the grape, but to an extent express the difference in philosophy between the ‘Old World’ and ‘New World’ producers.

The herbaceous characters and tropical fruits of a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc are certainly unique characters of the grape, characters that are often emphasised by the New World producers who focus on varietal expression and fruit forwardness, whilst the Old World has a history of aiming to express place before grape. If you pick up a bottle of Sancerre you are unlikely to even see the grape variety mentioned.
It is the benefit of having had hundreds of years to refine exactly where to plant, how to grow and how to make the wines that reflects the combination of soil, climate and grape that these producers can so clearly zero in on particular sites to bottle. It is also just how unique, and uniquely suited to viticulture their soils are. The Chalky Kimmeridgian soils are unique in the wine world and provide the perfect balance between water retention and porosity such that it can hold water when necessary but also shed it efficiently and allow for the roots to dig deeply with relative ease. Combine this with the fossilised sea life and the impact is wines of intense minerality, a nervy tension that runs the length of the palate and so often draws you in for another glass where the simple crisp high acidity of many Marlborough grown wines will be refreshing but short-lived. While there is no proven way for the mineral rich soils to actually transfer the intense mineral elements in to a wine, wines grown on these unique soils certainly feel a little more profound.

Daniel Crochet Sancerre 2018 – $48

The 2018 vintage in Sancerre has been regarded as one of the finest in recent memory, the wines tend to have vibrant, ripe fruits and lively albeit moderate acidity levels. It makes for wines that are nicely balanced and provide good early drinking, particularly if you are new to the region as you the wines are looking so good already.

Daniel Crochet farms vineyards which are all within the Sancerre appellation, both on the Kimmeridgian soils as well as one of the other two principal soil types – a pebbly limestone. They farm and make the wines in a ‘simple’ sustainable manner, which is all that is required to produce excellent wines when the raw materials are so good. Green herbs, citrus, apple and tropical fruits are all clear and easy to identify. They are supported and balanced by crisp mineral/flinty acidity which carries the wine through a long, persistent finish. It may sound a little like any sauvignon Blanc but the balance, resonance of the minerality and length are what elevate these wines beyond the run of the mill.

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