Sancerre home of Sauvignon Blanc wine
Sancerre – One of the wines I came to love early in life is Sancerre. It is a wine with an acidic edge but the modern versions have such an harmony that can be difficult to beat it. Back in the late 90’s and early years of 2000, if a resto in Montreal did not have a Sancerre by the.glass, you would have a riot. So much was the popularity.
Since then, Sancerre has been eclipsed by various New World expressions. California still produces variations of Fume Blanc, a name invented by Mondavi. But with the advent of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand the labelling has become marginally more honest. Still, none of these recent new world interpretations demonstrate the greatness of Sauvignon Blanc that could be achieved in Sancerre.
First the location. Sancerre is located in the center of France, on the very eastern point of the Loire Valley. The Sancerre area has a climate similar like Champagne or Chablis in northern Burgundy — continental, with warm summers and cold winters, where the threat of frost (hence total vineyard extermination) is imminent through the spring and fall.
Then there is terroir of the 15 villages that make up the area of Sancerre which is particularly unique in that the soil is heterogeneous, so the wine flavours are slightly different. For example there is:
Flint, which allows wines to taste like eating on rocks
Gravel, which gives the wines a lemony, green apple edge.
Chalk, which gives the wine a floral, grapefruit-like characteristic and
Limestone and clay, which yields quality, rich, and herbal wines (like fresh thyme or tarragon) that brings to mind drinking from a waterfall.
Despite the delicate style from each small vineyard area or town, all Sancerre has similarities: high strung acidity and a taste of minerals or rocks or waterfalls like no other Sauvignon Blanc in the world. Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand has high acidity, but unlike those ripe, fruity wines, Sancerre is barely fruity. Although there will be variation in each Sancerre you try, you’re going to find these characters in them all — it’s the style of the place.
I recently had a chance to taste some of the wines of Alphonse Mellot in Sancerre. For those new to Mellot, this producer makes some of the best Sauvignons Blanc in the world. La Moussière, where the domain’s most classical wines are made, is one of the most remarkable and best vineyards in France. It is a beautiful, south facing, rolling slope, with deep, limestone-rich, ploughed soils. Here, everything is done by hand, biodynamically and to pristine standards. Alphonse Mellot was, and is, one of the beacons of quality in a region where today, some 98% of fruit is machine harvested. Tasting notes as follow
La Moussière 2015 is a very fresh, bright, with a classically chalky perfume of the best Sancerres.A simply lovely palate, very fresh and bright, with harmonious substance but also a very bright a direct acid backbone.
Le Manoir 2015 ( SAQ # 12690686 $28.05) is a 1.6 hectare vineyard on a transition to biodynamic and organic viticulture The terroir consist mostly of argyle and silex, with an average age of 30 years. Only 7,500 bottles are made. Very citrusy on the nose with with white flower nuances and wet rocks. Austere and very structured. Lots of tension. A sancerre for the long haul.
Les Romains 2014 (SAQ #13302702 $59.25) is sourced from vines dated back in 1951 on partly limestone and silex soils. Aromas that bring to mind lemon buttermilk. On the mouth,. Light, yet rich, creamy flavours accentuated by lemongrass. Some grey quartz and lemon zest, and a sharp finale.
The Rhone strikes backs!
It has been almost a month since my return from the Rhone, and I cannot get it off from my mind. I recently tasted the red wines of Guy Mousset, which also makes the rose Caladoc which I talked about it last week. Olivier and Franck Mousset produce great Chateauneuf du Pape and high quality Cotes du Rhone.
Guy Mousset Cotes du Rhone 2014 ( Private Import, Charton Hobbs, $22.40). Mostly Grenache (80%) with a bit of Syrah (20%). Jammy black fruit and garrigue flavors. Very mineral .Full body. Round, dense with silky tannins.
Les Garrigues Côtes du Rhône Villages 2014 ( Private Import, Charton Hobbs, $31.25) is a majority blend of Grenache (70%) and Syrah (30%). Very soulful wine. Cacao, animal notes, old leather, complex dark fruit notes. Balanced, meaty in the mouth with firm tannins. A wine with a similar terroir than Châteauneuf-du Pape but half the price. Make it your BBQ wine for this summer.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tradition. ( Private Import, Charton Hobbs, $57.25). A multi blend of Grenache (40%), Syrah (30%) and Mourvedre (30%). Lots of animal notes and dark chocolate.cacao. A blast of indian spices with roasted red and black currants. Powerful, yet every bit balanced. Needs some time to integrate its tannic structure.
Wines of the week:
La Moussière Sancerre 2016
SAQ # 00033480 $28.85
A brave yet gracious Sancerre, prefer the current than the previous vintage. Pure with a perfect elegance, it seduces you with its enticing floral, menthol and anise flavors. Racy with a tense finale. Perfect with fried seafood dishes such as shrimp tempura.
Ravines Chardonnay Finger Lakes 2014
SAQ # 13120036 $28.50
Buttery pear nectar with ginger extract. Freshly grated nutmeg with almond extract. After a while, a flinty character appears On the mouth, round and richly textured. Good aromatics in the wine reminding me of indian butter, smoke and a hint of orange blossom water. Elegant finale. Good with butter or korma chicken.
Gabriel Meffre Tavel Saint Ferreol 2016
SAQ # 13204820 $21.95
Stunning bouquet of wild red cherries, strawberry. Fragrant thyme and oregano. Round and enveloping with a medium plus acidity. Serious enough to be a red wine with ripe dark red berries flavors and a tight finale that suggest some tannins presence. Excellent gastronomical rose for the table. Pair it charcoal bbq salmon fillet.
Jérôme Mathon Brouilly Vieilles Vignes 2015
SAQ # 10387270 $21.25
Powerful aromas of blackberries, with a strong mineral claw ( dust quartz, granit ). Very floral with nuances of violets, peonies, church incense. Peppery with a sensual red berry trace line. Full body, structured with a firm and muscular tannic composition. Mean, bitterish finale in a good way. Keep for a few years. Serious enough to pair with a prime rib steak or with a humble chicken and ham pizza.
Cline Zinfandel Big Break 2014
SAQ # 12484111 $29.50
Fragrant aromas of raspberry jam with liquorice and dark chocolate notes. On the mouth, ultra smooth in the palate with satiny tannins. Flavours bring to mind kirsch, mesquite and liquorice with an eucalyptus finale. Pair it with grilled flank steak.