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Sancerre is an extremely popular wine in the market right now, and indeed, no self-respecting classic wine list is seen as complete without it. I even read an article this week in which Sancerre was referred to as ‘hipsterific’ and ‘post-post-modern.’ (Side note: even with an MA in Art History, I am not sure what was meant by the latter.)
With such an outpouring of praise, we might well ask: “Are we in a Sancerre ‘bubble’??”
Unlike other consumer trends (say, the almost zombie-like demand for Pinot Grigios and Malbecs), Sancerre is a sophisticated wine that is worthy of the amount of attention it gets. Situated in northern France along one of its longest, most Chateau-riddled rivers, this appellation is practically synonymous with the Sauvignon Blanc grape (although a few reds and rosés can be made here from Pinot Noir as well). The soils here are a mixture of Kimmeridgean clay (sea-fossilized soil also found in Chablis), stony and flinty soils. Stylistically, the wines are marked by steely, herbaceous notes as well as a creamy minerality. Moreover, its refreshing acidity, subtle complexity and length does make it a great choice at the dinner table. So if you don’t want to get beyond Sancerre, that is fine. Just sit tight. You’re good.
But for those who do say it’s time to diversify, you are also in luck, as the Sancerre wine region has many excellent neighbors. These appellations (with one exception) get much less attention but are often no less worthy than their more illustrious neighbor.
- Pouilly-Fumé: This appellation is situated to the east of Sancerre, right across the river, where the soils have a higher concentration of flint (silex). Some credit this with giving the wines here an element of ‘gunflint’ minerality, more smokiness in the wine.
Producer recommendation: Chateau de Tracy
- Menetou-Salon: Whereas Sancerre is a mix of three soils, the appellation of Menetou-Salon (located to the southwest of Sancerre) is defined by one soil type: Kimmeridgean clay. If it’s not fossilized ancient seabed, it can’t be Menetou-Salon. These wines give Sancerre a serious run for the money.
Producer recommendation: Domaine de Chatenoy
- Quincy: Pronounced CAN-see. This tiny appellation is located southwest of Menetou-Salon on banks of the Cher river, where vineyards are planted on ancient terraces comprised of sand and gravel soils.
Producer recommendation: Domaine du Tremblay
- Reuilly: Located to the southwest of Quincy, the vineyards here are planted on steeper vineyards between the banks of the rivers Cher and Arnon. The soils here are similar to Sancerre, a combination of fossilized marl and gravel.
Producer recommendation: Claud Lafond