When it comes to Sauvignon Blanc, it is not wrong to say that Sancerre is one of the finest expressions of the grape in the world of wine. One could argue that Bordeaux produces many great Sauvignon Blanc wines, with examples from Pessac-Leognon that boast a far higher price, but most of these are a blend. Sancerre, on the other hand, produces incredible whites of 100% Sauvignon Blanc.
Sancerre wines are made up of many excellent features, each lust-worthy in their own right. First, they are complex, even when served young, with cool and ripe fruit aromas, terroir-driven mineral chalky, flinty and savoury character and weighty mouthfeel which is perfect for drinking straight. Next, they are high in acidity allowing versatility in food pairings, and giving good potential for long-term aging. Finally and most importantly, they are really very affordable in price right up to the stars of the appellation!
Many drinkers, even experienced ones, are sceptical about how well a Sancerre can evolve with age. Prior to my recent experience I had the same doubts in my mind, and so I decided to do a tasting, in order to address my concerns. Coincidentally all three Sancerres tasted were Magnum in size, which typically means they would be expected to evolve slower than through ageing in regular bottles.
You may reference my tasting notes below in more detail, but in short I am confident to say that Sancerres are very age-worthy, that with age the tertiary aromas and mellowed acidity and alcohol bring harmony and balance to the wine, and the extra weight on the mouthfeel gives a good length, and a hedonistic element to the glass. This is the kind of wine that wrongs most tasters when serving blind, because it is so much better than what most expect, and this is ultimately why wine drinkers cannot help but fall in love with Sancerre.
Tasting Notes (all in Magnum size)
Alphonse Mellot Sancerre ‘Edmond’ 2014
A “baseline” newer vintage as a good comparison with the two older vintage bottles tasted. The appearance was a light lemony colour. This wine demonstrated incredible liveliness led by the ripe citrus fruits and distinct mineral character, and followed by a light hint of white floral notes. The overall balance of the wine was good, a tad high on acidity and a little lacking in weight, but nevertheless good concentration and vibrancy. Although it requires time to allow acidity to mellow down for a better balance, it has all the elements required to evolve into something special in the next decade.
Gitton Pere et Fils Sancerre ‘Galinot’ 2002
This wine is fully matured with a beautiful deep golden colour like a Sauternes of a similar age. Tertiary characters dominate the nose as biscuit, nutty, honeyed aromas lead the underlying ripe grapefruit and stone fruits that are still detectable. Acidity is just enough to support the vibrancy of the wine. The rich weighty mouthfeel along with the tertiary characters are what bring me the most pleasure: you would not have expected this from a Sauvignon Blanc! I would judge this wine to be already at its peak, so drink up now.
Francois Cotat Sancerre ‘Les Culs de Beaujeu’ 2002
No one would have expected any less from Francois Cotat, but this bottle is truly memorable. Very much alive, this bottle showed no sign of fatigue, powering the front with a range of ripe lemon, green apple, guava and tropical fruits and backed by solid chalky mineral character. The effect of ageing is just enough to have slightly mellowed the acidity and alcohol which gives a very smooth mouthfeel, yet the complexity of the range of aromas is already multi-layered even though it has shown minimal tertiary characters. This already is a wine of great concentration, complexity, harmony and balance, but I am excited to try it in another five years, and watch it evolve. A really magical wine!
– Chris Cheng