Today Sancerre came to New York in the form of Marc Sorrel-Dejerine, International Director of the Chateau de Sancerre, hosting an intimate lunch and tasting and talking about his wine.
Now, it’s possible you are more familiar with the grape variety Sauvignon Blanc than the name Sancerre… and that is because in old world regions such as France’s Loire Valley, they refer to a bottle of wine by the region where it is from. So in the Loire region of Sancerre, your only choices are a “Sancerre blanc” or a “Sancerre rouge.” By French law, the Sancerre white must be Sauvignon Blanc, and the rouge Pinot Noir (and Chateau de Sancerre makes both).
It’s very possible that you have had Sauvignon Blanc and it is your favorite grape, yet you’ve only had it from a region such as New Zealand. The styles of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and from the Loire are very different. First, you have the New World vs. Old World issue, with New World wine generally thought of as being more fruit forward. And most Sauvignon Blanc wines from New Zealand do have an accent on ripe, rich fruit on the nose and palate. Old World wines are said to be more dry and mineral, and this is definitely the case here, as evidenced by both Chateau de Sancerre’s white and red.
I like both styles of wine, for different reasons, and for different times. Often the preference kicks in when it comes time to pair the wines with food. Depending on the dish, a Sancerre is more restrained and complements instead of overwhelming a dish. Today we tried the 2006 vintage of Chateau de Sancerre white with lobster and it was a terrific pairing. The Pinot Noir was paired with Branzino, a grilled fish, and though pairing red wine with fish is not typically thought of as a perfect match, the high mineral content of the red really melded perfectly.
Grapes for the white wine are harvested at the end of September and pressed immediately. The filtered juice undergoes alcoholic fermentation for four to six weeks at a constant temperature between seventeen and nineteen degrees Celsius, then is matured on the lees for the next two to three months. It undergoes battonage (stirring of the lees, or dead yeast cells) to give it body. The wine is then racked and matured on fine lees to preserve its freshness and youth. The prestige white wine, Chateau de Sancerre Cuvee du Connetable, undergoes a similar process save that the grapes come from the best plots, with that terroir composed of flint and chalky stones.
The red wine (Pinot Noir) is harvested by hand in five hectares of vineyards whose soils are composed of clayey limestone. The grapes are sorted several times, de-stemmed, then left to ferment in their juices in thermo-regulated tanks for a two to three week period. The juice is then drawn off and the grapes are pressed. Half the vintage is matured in oak barrels, the other in tanks, for a year. Then the two wines are blended in September and bottled in November.
Today the Chateau de Sancerre estate belongs to the Societe des Producits Marnier-Lapostolle, yet the Chateau has a very romantic history. In the fourteenth century, the vineyards were cultivated by French monks. By 1919, Louis-Alexander Marnier Lapostelle, the creator of the liqueur Grand Marnier, acquired the feudal castle which had been built in the tenth century by the Count of Champagne. Louis-Alexander restored it and made it one of the town’s landmarks.
Chateau de Sancerre is a quality producer and on restaurant lists around the world, as well as in shops. If you haven’t yet had a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire, you can trust Chateau de Sancerre to deliver the specific taste profile this region is famous for.