Authentic Sauvignon Blanc
Since the 1950s, this wine region has been one of the best and most sought-after white wines from France. 14 municipalities can crown themselves with this coveted designation of origin, but the most famous parts are located around the beautiful steep Côtes of Chavignol, Verdigny, d’Amigny and Bué.
The region is in the easternmost part of the elongated wine region of the Loire. The name derives from the river that springs in the Massif Central and flows into the Atlantic Ocean near Nantes. The style of Loire wine is diverse. You can hardly compare Sancerre with the wines that are made in the far west or even in the centre of the region.
In wine style, Sancerre can be better compared to northern Burgundy. Sancerre and Chablis are only 50 kilometres apart and share a similar terroir (Maritime Kimmeridge rocks formed 157 to 152 million years ago). But where Chablis is famous for its mineral and zesty Chardonnay, Sancerre is all about soft, ripe elegant Sauvignon Blanc. The planting in Sancerre is homogeneous, 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Pinot Noir for red and rosé wine.
Thanks to the diligence of some great producers and the top terroir, the white Sauvignons in Sancerre are more than a mere refreshing white wine. A great white Sancerre has a ripening potential of decades. Today, most people associate Sauvignon Blanc mainly with the distinctly aromatic, grassy versions from New Zealand. You cannot compare a Sancerre Sauvignon with these types of whites.
Most producers make their white Sancerre with a long time on the fine yeasts, which gives a soft and creamy texture. In addition, they age the best versions on oak barrels. Mostly old used barrels, which don’t give off toasty or oaky flavours as much as produce a depth in evolution. As a result, a good white Sancerre has a developed and complex character and can eventually mature very well in the bottle. Most white Sancerre has hardly any Sauvignon expression. In this region, it is mainly about the top terroirs that pop out of the bottle.
Sancerre Parcel Perfection
Just like in Burgundy, winemakers in the region have had the tradition for centuries of dividing their vineyards at the parcel level. The classification based on geological eras is complex and requires some study. To keep it short, you can make a geological division into calcareous marl soils from the Kimmeridge era (Terres Blanches) with caillottes (large limestones) or griottes (small limestone pebbles), these wines can be full of white, ripe fruits, concentrated but elegant at the same time. The other important division of the geological era is the Oxfordian limestone soils that give refined, elegant wines, such as in Bué’s Chêne Marchand site.
The Oxfordian formation is older than the Kimmeridge rocks. The Oxfordian soils are stonier and cooler and many specialists believe these are the sites to watch now the climate is warming up. Finally, there is also a small proportion of Silex (flint) soils. You might know Silex better for the neighbouring, competing Pouilly Fumé region. These are tight, linear wines, sometimes even a bit reductive, focusing less on the fruit but more on the minerality.
The Terres Blanches (better known as Kimmeridge calcareous marl) produce the most famous Sancerres. The municipalities of Chavignol and d’Amigny are home to the most coveted and steepest vineyards, such as Les Monts Damnés (Chavignol) and La Côte or La Grande Côte. Famous names such as François and Pascal Cotat and Gérard Boulay are producing highly sought-after wines on these sites. Our new domain Denizot, which we elaborate on below, also has its stakes on these plots.
Pinot Past and Present
Small fun fact – originally Sancerre was a red wine region (Pinot Noir). After the phylloxera destroyed most of all vineyards in Europe, this region has been replanted with mainly white grapes. The share of Pinot Noir is now only 20 per cent, used for both rosé and red (14,000 litres compared to 19,000 litres annually). Red Sancerre is fruit-driven, slender and elegant. However, the interest in red in the Loire is at this moment reviving. Pinot Noir is less easy to grow than Sauvignon and also produces lower yields, but producers believe in the potential of this noble grape. The Belle Dame of Domaine Vacheron is considered one of the best red Sancerres, but the Reuilly of Domaine Les Poëte is also of very high quality and definitely a domain to watch if you haven’t discovered it yet.
Our new Sancerre acquisition Domaine Denizot has its vineyards, situated around Verdigny, Chavignol and d’Amigny. The wines are mainly made from the famous Kimmeridgian Terres Blanches with caillottes, producing elegant but powerful Sauvignon Blanc. The smaller part is the argilo-calcaire soils, kept for fruity and refined Pinot Noir. The soul of this newfound treasure is the young couple Thibault and Jennifer Denizot. The winery has been in the Denizot family for six generations, but these two passionate vignerons are working vintage after vintage, putting the domain on the map, and raising their own bar.
Their working method is in line with the careful and dedicated tradition of Sancerre. They produce their wine at a plot level and every vintage is adjusted in detail. Experience but also fingerspitzengefuhl are the key elements here. Thibault wanted to be a vigneron from an early age. He went to the Académie Viticulteur in Beaune where he met many great spirited and talented young winemakers. With them, he could share knowledge and express aspirations. Of course, being raised in the vineyards, the vines were already in his blood.
Together with his wife Jennifer they’re aiming solely for quality without concessions. However, it’s continuous hard labour, this young couple is breathing and living Sancerre. It’s all about the details and being precise, but also having respect for nature and the fields they work on. This admirable mentality ensures a high level that only gets better every year. The family owns 18.5 hectares, of which 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Pinot Noir.
We are proud to attract new, for now still unknown talent. Certainly, from sought after regions such as Sancerre where importers are in line to buy and sell wines. Not a celebrated name here, but young people who are willing to work hard, to be amongst the greatest!
We have some bottles left from Domaine Vacheron – send us an e-mail if you need more information firstname.lastname@example.org