Sancerre in the Summer
“I’ll have a Sancerre!” just might be the wine phrase of Summer 2019. But, why exactly? Sancerre always been a fantastic and classic wine, with a deep history, but in the past few years it has leapt to the top of popularity. It is now one of the most frequently ordered white wines and can be found on nearly every wine list you encounter. But what is it? Where is it from? What makes it so special?
Let’s dive right into this crisp and minerally white wine!
The term “Sancerre” actually refers to a sub-region in the eastern part of the Loire Valley, France, where the grapes grown are Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Sancerre is also the term we often use to identify the type of whitewine found in that sub-region, even though there are red and rosé wines made there, the term “Sancerre” has become one most associated with Sauvignon Blanc from that region. Instead of saying, “I’ll have the Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre” we simply order “a glass of the Sancerre”, knowing we will receive 100% Sauvignon Blanc.
The village and region of Sancerre is steeped in history. Located nearly in the center of France, Sancerre has remained an important location of the French resistance since the Middle Ages. During the wars of religion and the Protestant reformation Huguenots sought refuge there. Following that, during the French revolution, the village of Sancerre was the center of the royalist rebellion to restore the French monarchy. And then again during WWII, Sancerre remained in resistance mode as a regional command center for the French resistance.
The region itself is obviously significant historically but, what makes the wine of Sancerre so different than all other Sauvignon Blanc? I have had many wine drinkers tell me that they aren’t crazy about Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or California, but they absolutely LOVE Sancerre. It’s the same grape–what makes so Sancerre special? The answer lies in the somewhat elusive concept of terroir. Terroir is a term meaning “a sense of place”; which essentially equates to everything that makes a place, or area of land, unique and distinct: the weather, soil, plants, animals, insects, rocks, etc. The concept of terroir takes every little aspect of the physical space the grapes grow in and then that becomes part of the flavor profile of the wine made from those grapes. The wine becomes the “expression of the terroir” that it is from, ie, where the grapes are grown and harvested.
The concept of terroir is distinct in the region of Sancerre where the ground is packed with limestone, which imparts that distinct minerality only found in a Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre. Add that to the semi-continental climate and you’ll discover an extremely textured, flinty Sauvignon Blanc with bracing acidity and hints of gooseberry. This can seem almost like a totally different wine when comparing it to the grassy and grapefruit driven Sauvignon Blanc found in New Zealand. The real difference is in the minerality component the terroir of Sancerre imparts on the wine, setting it apart from Sauvignon Blanc found in other regions around the world.
Common tasting notes found in a Sancerre range from herbal notes of chive and chamomile, to more citrus notes like Meyer lemon or grapefruit. This is often accompanied by stone fruits like plum, apricot and white peach. The minerality is my personal favorite aspect; the smoke and flint are a perfect marriage with the citrus elements. This is a no-brainer pairing for all of your summer seafood dishes and even has such a great texture and acidity that it will stand up to your bolder items as well.
Sommelier Tip: A favorite food served in Sancerre is goat cheese (in many forms). It is a classic food pairing. The saying goes “what grows together, goes together” and the region of Sancerre is crawling with goats. The lemony, funky cheese simply “works” with the citrus and minerality of Sancerre.
Here are a few Sancerre we love by Henri Bourgeois and Claude Riffault, along with a sauvignon blanc and rosé of pinot noir
that are wonderful examples of fine wines available at the Wine Shop at Murphy’s and at our website. If you have any questions or would like to special order any wines you love, you can always reach me, Emilie Zeiger, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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