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Sancerre just might be the most popular white wine appellation in France. This is very interesting as before white Sancerre exploded in the 70's most Sancerre was red (Pinot Noir only) and green (in a bad way) and not particularly ripe. Trendy people all over the world just love ordering a glass of Sancerre. It is awfully good when it is good and tragically bad when it is bad and, yes, you guessed it, most of it is industrial swill and plonk and there are far fewer great producers than the press and trendies would lead you to believe. Sancerre is very hilly and the greatest terroir within Sancerre is by far Chavignol which is home to the top producers. As in Chinon most Sancerre is mechanically harvested, sprayed with pesticides, fungicides and herbicides and is yielded very high to satisfy world demand. The Sancerre that I think is the best is made with natural yeasts, no spraying, natural/sustainable viticulture and is produced organically and biodynamically. 

The only grape allowed in white Sancerre is Sauvignon Blanc and Sancerre is usually easily identifiable by the obvious yet delicate aromatic spectrum it gives off. Gooseberries, white flowers, light pit fruits and chalky, stony minerality. On the palate acidity is the key as if there is not sufficient acidity due to maybe a hot vintage then the wine will seem flabby and very un-Sancerre-like. Nobody wants that. We want our Sancerre to be crisp and minerally and most of all piercing. That is where the charm lies in Sancerre. Most Sancerre is ready to drink as soon as it is released when it is fresh and alive but there are some producers in Chavignol and one in Bue that produce exceptionally long-lived wines, especially for Sancerre.

Sancerre is everywhere and relatively easy to find anywhere but the top guys are a little harder to find but worth the search. Sancerre has been creeping up in price but you can still find a couple good bottlings in the under $20 category but most are now priced in the $20-$30 category. Ah the days of $10-$15 Sancerre are gone but that does not mean that these are not great values. But I warn thee again, producer, producer, producer is the most important thing when looking for Sancerre and then vintage. 2003 was incredibly hot and easily one of the worst years in recent memory with flabby wines with little or no character. The best recent vintages are 2005, 2004, 2002, 1997, 1996, 1990, 1989. Here is a brief list of what I think are the top producers in no particular order. There are other producers out there like Mellot and Bourgeois that many people consider great but they do not run to my taste and sometimes put the stuff in new oak. Yak!

Notable Recent Vintages: 2011, 2010, 2008, 2007, 2005, 2002, 1996

Top producers (in no particular order) include:

  • Francois Cotat
  • Pascal Cotat
  • Edmond Vatan
  • Lucien Crochet
  • Gerard Boulay
  • Domaine Fernand Girard (value!)
  • Thomas-Labaille
  • Didier Dagueneau (makes a rare bottling from the great Les Monts Damnes site)
  • Vacheron (more for their red than white)
  • Henry Natter (red only)
  • Phillipe Raimbault
  • Roger Champault
  • Yves Martin
  • Sebastien Riffault
  • Vincent Pinard  (great red!)
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