Sancerre: A Wine Guide

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Sancerre is an appellation of origin (AOC) famous for dry white wines from the Sauvignon Blanc grape variety.

The style is crisp with bright acidity, full of characteristic flavors of the grape, like citrus, cut grass, gooseberry, and white flowers. Red wine and rosé from Pinot Noir are also allowed under the appellation Sancerre Rouge, but production is small.

Sancerre is located in France in the grape-growing region called “Central Vineyards” or “Upper Loire” and is part of the Loire Valley region. The producers there focus a lot on creating high-quality wines with clear varietal and terroir character. It is a renowned region with two-thirds of the production exported all around the world!

Try a Sancerre without hesitation. They’re very easy-drinking but “serious” at the same time!

Related: Brachetto d’ Acqui

Wine Description

Color

It is usually a characteristic very pale lemon-green color. Bottle-aged wines and those with oak aging will have a slightly deeper color with a more intense yellow hue.

White sancerre has a characteristic pale green color with green flavor profiles as well.

Nose

Sancerre has very clear aromas, but they are not quite pronounced as the other famous Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough in New Zealand.

Three main aroma families are present — citrus fruits (like lemon and lime), flowers (mostly white ones), and slightly green aromas (like cut grass and bell pepper).

If green notes don’t sound appealing to you, think how fresh the smell of cut grass feels on a hot summer day. These aromas brighten up the nose and make the aromatic profile very distinct and attractive. This aromatic profile makes it unique in the world!

Taste

Sancerre is a dry white wine with high crisp acidity, moderate alcohol of about 12-13.5% and a medium body. Aromas on the palate mirror the nose on type and intensity. The finish of the best examples has a mineral touch.

An example of a sancerre wine - Les Monts Damnes
Photo credits to dpotera

Region

The french viticultural region of Sancerre is situated on the left bank of the Loire River. On the opposite side of the river lies the other famous appellation of Pouilly-Fumé. The vineyards cover 3000 hectares and have three main soil types; “Les terres blanches,” a Kimmeridgian soil, like the soil found in Chablis, “Les caillottes,” which are chalk, and “Les terres argilo-silicieuses”- sedimentary soils. Each gives different characters to this varietal.

The climate is cool continental. It enjoys a slight warming influence from the river but doesn’t have any Atlantic influence, like the rest of the regions of the Loire Valley. It is actually located closer to Chablis (Burgundy) than the Anjou-Saumur region!

The wine takes its name from the homonymous town, which lies on top of a 300 meter hill, one of the highest in the area. It has a rich history of more than 2000 years, due to its strategic location. Nowadays, you can explore the medieval streets and cultural sites it offers, all while enjoying a glass of the high-quality wines it produces.

Sancerre is a city on a 300 meter hill surrounded with many vineyards

Grape

As mentioned earlier, the white Sancerre made of 100% sauvignon blanc is the most famous wine of this district. That being said, red wine or rosé from Pinot Noir can also be used to make it under the appellation of Sancerre Rouge.

Sauvignon Blanc

The vast majority of the plantings are with the flagship Sauvignon Blanc grape. This grape was already mentioned in the 18th century and originated from the Loire, so Sancerre could be considered its birthplace.

It is a vigorous variety, best planted in less fertile sites. That’s why the poor chalky and limestone soils lead to such wonderful grapes.

In France, apart from the Loire Valley, it is grown in Bordeaux, the Sud-Ouest, and Languedoc. It also enjoys worldwide popularity with an important presence in New Zealand, Chile, South Africa, and the USA.

Pinot Noir

While Pinot Noir was the most important grape for the region until the 18th century, it was mostly replaced after phylloxera hit the region with just 20% of the plantings now. It is used for light-bodied and fruity reds and rosés.

Process

The whites are picked with fresh acidity and pressed very fast to avoid skin contact, which would lead to a slight bitterness. They are fermented in cool temperatures to promote aromatic expression.

While most are aged in stainless steel to protect the natural mineral character. Some producers prefer to use older wood vessels to add some complexity and promote its age-ability.

Food Pairings

Due to its distinct green notes and high acidity, the most classic pairing is asparagus with hollandaise sauce. It is also a great match with seafood and fish.

The fresh, vibrant character also makes it perfect for drinking by the glass on a hot summer afternoon! Remember to always chill before serving to 44- 50 ̊ F.

A vineyard seen outside of the city of in France

Try It Out

Top Examples

Vincent Gaudry Sancerre A Mi-Chemin: Vincent Gaudry was the first producer of the region to be certified biodynamic for all his 9 hectares back in 2004. He works with respect to the product, intervening minimally only when necessary. His bottles are a pure expression of the terroir.

Alphonse Mellot Sancerre ‘Edmond’: The Mellot family can trace its winemaking history back to the 16th century. In the 19th century, Alphonse Mellot created a tavern, producing excellent quality wines, and then in 1881 got the license to export his bottles in France and the rest of world, helping the region achieve the reputation it has today. The winery is now run by the 18th and 19th generation of Mellot!

“Edmond” is the best cuveé of the winery. Rich, precise, and full of character, it comes from a single high-quality south-facing vineyard.

Good Values

Pascal Jolivet Sancerre Blanc: Typicity here is key, with a vibrant style of bright acid and flavors of citrus and lemon blossom. The palate is rich and round, so this youthful wine is a great company for the start of a dinner with many dishes.

Domaine Reverdy Ducroux beau roi: Another classic example, this bottle is more approachable with less intense aromatics. It is perfect to be enjoyed by the glass. Aromas are typical for the variety, like lemon, green apple, and gooseberry and with the characteristic high acidity always present.

Glassware

White wine glasses will help capture the aroma.
White wine glasses on Amazon

Fine white wine glasses with a medium bowl that end up to a narrower rim. Fill in the glass to about one-third to allow plentiful aeration. That way, the delicate flavors will concentrate towards the nose, enhancing your tasting experience.

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Amanda Greene is a professional cook and a wine lover. She enjoys sharing her true love for wine with other hobbyists as well as beginners.

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