Sancerre is a lovely appellation, with a long tradition of winemaking. Not only lovely to visit, it produces beautiful wines. Let’s dive into this appellation together now.
How to pronounce it?
San – cerre
Where is Sancerre?
Sancerre is situated in France, on the banks of the Loire river, just south east of the city of Orleans. As we’ll see in a moment, the region is full of hills and valleys, and the appellation covers a rather wide area, covering nearly 3,000 hectares, spread across 14 communes. It is situated almost directly opposite the appellation of Pouilly Fumé, which sits just across the river from Sancerre.
The appellation name comes from the small village of Sancerre, a quaint village of less than 2,000 people. The region is steeped in history, and has been a pivotal region in French revolts over the centuries. It’s worth learning about if you’re into French history!
What are the main grape varieties of Sancerre?
What is the heritage of Sancerre?
It is believed that Romans started making wines in the region around the 1st century AD. Since then, winemaking has been refined, but the region started gaining more fame after the 2nd world war when its wines started being drunk more and more in Paris. With improvements in quality, the region continued to gain momentum to reach the status it has today, which is that of a region producing some of the finest Sauvignon Blancs in the world.
What are the dominant features of the region?
Sancerre is situated nearly perfectly in the centre of France. Slightly further away from the coast than other Loire wine regions, it enjoys a semi continental climate, with highs of 20C in summer and lows of 4C in winter.
Hills are the defining features in the region. They can be quite steep, with some reaching 350 above sea levels. Generally speaking, vineyards tend to be planted on south facing slopes.
The soils in the region are usually broken into three categories:
- Clay and limestone in the west of the appellation. This gives wine with more body and power
- Gravel and limestone as we move closer to the city of Sancerre. This produces lighter wines with a more delicate nose
- Flint around the city itself. This gives the mineral, flinty aroma that has become associated with wines from that region.
What are the wines like?
The typical Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc is dry, mineral, and with aromas of gooseberries, quince and peaches. They usually are quite high in acidity.
As we’ve just seen, there is a variation based on where the wine comes from in the region, and you will find wines that range from medium all the way to full bodied.
Mostly, Sauvignon Blanc in Sancerre is unoaked. If you are a fan of Sauvignon Blanc from the New World, you will find that Sancerre Sauvignon Blancs are less herbaceous, and develop less aromas of exotic fruit.
What food to pair with Sancerre?
Sancerre whites are fantastic as aperitif wines. The acidity prepares your palate for what’s to come, and opens your appetite. Drunk cold on a summer’s evening they are just wonderful.
They are also incredible to match with cheese, especially goat’s cheese. Crottin de Chavignol, which is produced in the same region is a great example that works fantastically well with Sancerre.
Finally, the high acidity and delicate aromas make it great to pair with seafood dishes (Sancerre and Oysters – delish!) or with fresh summery salads.
What tastes similar?
If you are a fan of Sancerre, you probably already know Pouilly Fumé, another appellation famed for Sauvignon Blancs, made in very similar styles.
You can also try Sauvignon Blancs from the New World. New Zealand has become renown for its excellent Sauvignon Blancs, and would be a good place to start.
Alternatively, I would recommend you give Müller-Thurgau a go. This grape variety is known as “new breed” and is widely planted around the word. It gives very dry wines, in a similar flavour profile to Sancerre.
We haven’t spoken much about Sancerre reds so far. The wines have a similar profile to Pinot Noirs produced in the nearby region of Burgundy: light or medium bodied, with lovely red fruits aromas. Their bad reputation may be linked to the fact that until 20 years ago, the quality was indeed low. However, there has been a real shift towards quality, and I would argue that Sancerre reds are now starting to give some Burgundian Pinot Noirs a run for their money!
Five to try:
Here are some great options for you to give Sancerre a go. I’ve suggested four whites and one red:
- Les Epsailles, Domaine David Sautereau 2015
- Domaine de la Villaudiere, 2012
- Pascal Jolivet 2014 Sauvage
- Harmonie, Vincent Pinard, 2011
- 2006 Domaine André Dezat Sancerre Rouge
Do let me know your thoughts, ideas and favourites Sancerres by leaving a comment below. Until next time, Santé!