Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My First Sancerre!

This is the third month into my second year of learning about wine and I've had my first Sancerre. I've had Sauvignon blanc wines before, but I was excited to try my first from France. I hoped that the French version would be more pleasing to me than the sweet, really fruity versions I'd already tried.

Geographically, Sancerre is a town almost directly in the center of France. It is located at the tail end of the Loire Valley. "Enologically", Sancerre is Sauvignon blanc. Wines from other grapes are made in Sancerre, but the name has come to be associated with white wines. The soil of this area is desibed as "Marl Limestone" or "white soil". I was pleased to read that grapefruit is a common flavor componant of a Sancerre.

The Sancerre I tried was the 2006 Henri Bourgeois Grande Réserve Sancerre. The Henri Bourgeois web site made these notes about the wine:
"The hills and ridges separating the village of Chavignol from Sancerre are composed of clay and limestone chalk (65% clay and 35% chalk). 'Grande Réserve' comes from this terroir so long planted with vines.
Fermentation in thermoregulated stainless steel tanks at 15 - 18°c then oak-aging for 5 months on its fine lees preserves the aromatic potential of this fine wine."

The process of fermenting "on lees" refers to leaving wine with the deposits of dead yeast or residual yeast and other particles that precipitate after the yeast is done converting the sugar to alcohol. This lends a yeasty flavor to the wine. (It's interesting to note that when my wife smelled this wine she thought it smelled like beer.) The oak-aging is supposed to add more "depth" to the wine, but I don't think this is the typical way that a Sancerre is made.

I liked the result of the process! When I sniffed the wine, I detected the distinctive cat pee smell that I've come to associate with Sauvignon blancs. On the first day, I could smell yeast and some citrus but had a hard time placing it. I had to settle on lemon. But when I tasted and swallowed the wine, I knew what it was: grapefruit! The wine was dry, with just a hint of sweetness, a quality that differentiated from most Sauvignon blancs I've had. There oak in this wine is very pronounced, almost making me think it was an oaked Chardonnay. After swallowing the wine, I could really detect grapefruit. It was like I was tasting the rind of the grapefruit; a pleasant finish to me.

I enjoyed my first Sancerre with some Chinese food. I liked the dryness and grapefruit finish, but was a little disappoined by the amount of oak. I want to try another Sancerre that hasn't been aged in oak. It would be interesting to try one that has been fermented on the lees with no oak and one that has not touched either lees or oaks. Any suggestions?

Tasting Notes:

Color: Light golden and clear

Aroma: Slight cat pee, citrus, yeast

Taste: Oak, dry grapefruit peel. The wine has a slight mouth feel, heavier than a typical Sauvignon blanc

Finish: The grapefruit rind finish lingered for a while after sipping the wine.


Sonadora said...

Sounds like a great wine. Where were the sweet Sauvignon Blancs from? I love the racy acidity of those from Chile, South Africa, and New Zealand.

Orion Slayer said...

The sweet Sauvignon blancs have mostly been from California. I worked at BevMo last year pouring for wine tastings. Whenever we had an SB it was from Cailifornia and seemed sweet, not minerally and dry like the Sancerre. Are you aware of any US producers who make this type of SB? Thanks for the comment!

Robert M. Oliva, ND, LMSW, MA said...

After a few years of obsessing on the New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, I recently took the plunge and tasted a French 2007 Montintin Sancerre. It was exceptional. My family enjoyed it for Christmas Eve dinner. Thanks for the exciting wine blog. I have only recently come to exploring the world of wine. I will certainly link to your site. You can take a look at mine at


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