Sancerre1 October 2021
In the heart of France, on the banks of the Loire river, stands the famous Sancerre vineyard.
Recognized for its Sauvignon Blanc, the reputation of the wines of Sancerre has been well established for many centuries … In fact, traces of vine culture can be found in Sancerre since Antiquity.
In 582, Grégoire de Tours attests the presence of a vineyard in Sancerre, then in the 7th century, the reputation of Pinot Noir from Sancerre vinified by the Augustinian monks spread thanks to its transport by the Loire river. Duke Jean de Berry even called it “the best wine in the Kingdom”.
As early as 1482, the notion of climate and terroir appeared, making Sancerre the subject of various research over the following centuries. In 1777, Father Poupart wrote in his history of Sancerre: “There is perhaps no more cut and differentiated terroir than the ones of Sancerrois Mountains. The ravines, which are multiplied there, offer different veins of earth everywhere ”.
Planted mainly in Pinot Noir until its destruction by phylloxera * at the end of the 19th century, the Sancerre vineyard was then mainly replanted in Sauvignon Blanc (75%).
Thanks to its rich terroir and to the work of the winegrowers to enhance it, the white wines of Sancerre were recognized as PDO from 1936 followed by the red and rosé wines, made from Pinot Noir, in 1959. This PDO now covers around 3000 hectares spread over fourteen different municipalities, where more than 300 winegrowers are constantly seeking excellence for this unique terroir.
The, or rather the terroirs of Sancerre, can be compared to a geological “mille-feuille” making the subtlety of the aromas of the wines. Different layers from very distant periods overlap or coexist, creating new eminences and drawing the many hills that makes up the beauty of the Sancerre landscape.
The richness of this terroir lies in this geological diversity. Thus, a few meters apart, the soil and the subsoil have neither the same age nor the same composition and the roots of the vines cross the different layers of rock which for the oldest would have remained inaccessible if a geological accident had not created a geological fault in Sancerre.
This flaw allows the distinction between 3 main terroirs:
- the white earths (of clay-limestone composition) in the west, produce a complex, full-bodied and round white Sancerre that will open up with age and a red Sancerre with a long finish, with subtle aromas of red fruits.
- the caillottes (very stony and calcareous), more than 150 million years old, give wines fond of youth, floral and whith a fruity expression.
- the flints (or clay-siliceous soils) in the east, along the Loire, offer wines with a beautiful minerality, spicy notes and aromas of white flowers thanks to the heat of the flints reflecting on the vine continuously .
The diversity of the Sancerre terroir is due to its subsoil but also to its relief. The vineyard can thus be seen as an island with the Loire on the east and numerous hillsides dominated in the center by the peak of Sancerre.
The climate of Sancerre is also one of the strengths of this region. The Pays Fort massif to the west attenuates the oceanic influence by sheltering the vineyard from excessively humid winds. On the east, the Loire drains cold air and acts as a regulator.
Each sun orientation on the different slopes gives subtly different aromas of grapes. Across the entire vineyard, there are more than 7,500 plots, representing as many different soils, subsoils and exposure.
These terroirs give winegrowers an infinite palette of aromas that they can blend to highlight a terroir, or all three, a plot, a grape variety, …
Sancerre’s production represents around 75% white, 20% red and 5% rosé, or nearly 25 million bottles, 60% of which are exported throughout the world.
The white wines, made from Sauvignon Blanc, are fresh, fine and full of fruit with hints of minerality, citrus fruits or white flowers depending on the soil. They are sometimes aged in oak barrels which give them roundness and more complex aromas.
The red wines, made from Pinot Noir, are light, round and fruity. We can mainly find notes of blackberry, blackcurrant, wild strawberries and minerality on some terroirs. When the wine is aged in barrels, we find rounder, more delicious aromas.
Also from Pinot Noir, the rosés are fresh and subtle, revealing in their finesse that the rosés are great wines. We find in these wines fruity aromas of raspberries or apricots.
The Sancerre PDO and its various players are also committed in environmental care. They thus ensure to reduce the use of plastic, to optimize the collection, sorting and recycling of waste. Every year, the winegrowers launch an action in favor of the environment. In the past, they have distinguished themselves by planting trees and hedges with the “one winegrower – one tree” project or by setting up bat nesting boxes. These animals have the advantage of eating moths, whose larvae destroy grapes. An initiative to reduce inputs and pesticides.
Pictures © D.R.