By Rick Riozza
Around this time of the season in the desert sun, I get a huge request for Sancerre. Many of you know and love to drink the Sauvignon Blanc from this region of France that is situated in the Loire Valley. Most of you who have traveled and visited the Loire Valley probably drank the white Sancerre and you’ve been in love with the stuff ever since.
The crisp white wine from the limestone and clay hills of Sancerre, bisected by the upper reaches of the River Loire, is probably the best example of a complex Sauv blanc from anywhere around the world. And for you Sancerre love birds, I’m sure you contend it is the best anywhere.
But what many folks don’t know is that this primarily white wine appellation also produces a decent amount of red wine—perhaps around 20% of the region’s output.
Now if we were to quiz you on the red grape varietal grown in Sancerre, what would you guess? A clue: The main red grape varieties in the Loire Valley are Cabernet Franc—famous in Chinon; Gamay—famous in Tourraine; and Côt (aka Malbec)—famous as a blending grape throughout the Loire. But this clue won’t do!
Okay—the red grape grown in Sancerre, get ready for it: Pinot Noir! And these juicy, fresh, medium-light-bodied wines make for sensational drinking. Indeed, it is a real sexy choice at the wine bar, and is probably one of the “secret” wines that connoisseurs and sommeliers from around the world have an inside track on. Should you find yourself in a Parisian bistro enjoying steak-frites—you’re just too cool when ordering a Sancerre Rouge.
Back in the day, this region flourished with Pinot Noir and was famous for it. That was until phylloxera hit in the 1860s (that pesky critter that devastated vineyards throughout France and the United States). Sancerre’s reputation for producing high-quality red wine is now gaining momentum. A special note: Sancerre is closer to the Cote d’Or in Burgundy than the rest of the Loire Valley!
Not the usual flavors coming out of Burgundy, nor from the California and Oregon coast, which of course are deliciously wonderful, but rather, the Pinot Noir—the Sancerre Rouge, when lightly chilled, is gloriously light in texture with fresh cherry, strawberry, blackcurrant and raspberry flavors along with a thrilling acidity that refreshes but doesn’t overwhelm the palate. This is definitely the red wine of choice in our summer heat.
The Sancerre Rouge reeks of Loire Valley atmosphere and soil with its sort of chalky aftertaste in the mouth, which is what makes them so attractive when paired with food of the region that we can simulate here in our desert with servings of pork, fried chicken, paté, grilled meat, and a huge array of seafood dishes. If ever there was a red wine made to go with fish—this is it!
Grown in the Loire, Pinot Noir also takes on a spicy edge and possesses more of a black pepper and black tea character than it does in Burgundy or in the Pacific states.
That’s plenty of info to pique your interest. And now, some Sancerre Rouge to consider: We recently enjoyed the 2019 Domaine Serge Laporte Sancerre Rouge ($25). The wine is from one of the prestigious villages within the Sancerre appellation and it’s reasonably priced for its world class quality.
I heartily agree with the Laporte family’s comments on the wine: “It’s no exaggeration to say the wine is complex and long on finesse with lively mouthwatering acidity. This lighter style Pinot Noir boasts tart cherry and strawberry fruits on the palate with black tea and a hint of savory smoke flavor on the finish. Complex and long on finesse, with lively, mouthwatering acidity. Perfect for salmon, or chicken, pork or even by itself. The lingering minerality on the finish really sets it apart.
If you can’t find this wine in your local wine shop, visit www.cynthiahurley.com for any ordering info.
Of course, as with any premium wine, there are a wide range of prices for quality stuff,
The Domaine Serge Laporte above is such a reasonably priced wine; however, those folks who are treating themselves for a special occasion, check these bottles out—notes are from Vino Vest:
2019 Domaine Vacheron Sancerre Rouge ‘Les Marnes’, Loire, France ($168). “This red wine has a lovely aroma of light pepper, juicy red plums, and sweet red cherry. This wine is smooth and velvety on the palate, with notes of flowers, earthy forest floor, spiced red fruit, and hints of mushrooms.”
2014 Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Generation XIX Rouge, Loire, France ($144). “This Pinot wine opens up with notes of cedar, spicy nutmeg, and syrupy chocolate, and a smoky hint on the nose. This wine has a plump acidity but is smooth on the palate, with notes of crisp red fruit and fine tannins.”
2018 Pascal Cotat Sancerre Chavignol Rose, Loire, France ($80). “On the nose, this Pinot Noir has leathery gun smoke and tame floral notes. The flavor is a combination of minerals, red berries, and earthy tones, such as honey, chalk, and truffle, which lead you to an exquisite finish.”
Don’t you just love the world of wine! Cheers!