Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sancerre and Kimmeridgian Soil

Sancerres and summertime are a marriage made in heaven and the 2016 Aurore Dezat Sancerre has been the most recent showstopper here at the store.  Within the trade it's no secret that the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world comes from Sancerre and because France is so quick to expand popular wine appellations there is now a glut of the stuff at popular prices.  Aurore Dezat is about a third less in price than what you might expect to pay.

So what makes Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc so good?  Objectively, it displays the purest fruit flavors of Sauvignon Blanc along with the terroir of its birthright.  Most wine lovers would cite the food-friendliness of the wine as being what sets it apart. says it has "gooseberry aromas, bracing acidity, and flinty flavors" ideal for pairing with the goat cheeses of the same place.  Most wine lovers would simply say Sancerre is quintessential seafood wine.

When this incredible marriage of grape type and place began is open to speculation.  Ampelographers claim the Sauvignon Blanc grape originated somewhere in northeastern France.  The Romans first cultivated the area in the first century A.D. so that may be its imprimatur.  What is known is that it was not there immediately before the Phylloxera epidemic of the late 1800s but re-introduced because of its ease of grafting to American rootstocks.  Then in 1936 it received its official AOC (Controlled Appellation of Origin) designation, sanctioning it as the white grape of Sancerre.

The Sancerre appellation has been enlarged four times since 1936 which has created three unoffical "crus" of Sancerre.  The western side of the appellation around Menetreol-sous-Sancerre has a silex-based (clay/flint) soil making it a more minerally Sauvignon Blanc.  The central segment of the appellation around Chavignol with its gravelly limestone makes a lighter more perfumy wine.  The eastern side has a Kimmeridgian Marl soil that yields a bigger-bodied, more powerful white wine.

Kimmeridge is a village in England where a mid-eighteenth century French geologist identified a unique soil and named it after the village.  That same soil makes up a much larger region in northern France encompassing northern Burgundy (including Chablis), Champagne, and eastern Sancerre. declares the Kimmeridgian soil that is responsible for the wines produced there to be the finest vineyard soil in the world.

Kimmeridgian soil is a clay and limestone marl that also contains seashells and fossils from centuries of being under water.  While this soil originates in the post-Jurassic period, the "Paris Basin" was actually created by many centuries of geological tilting thereafter effectively channeling rivers and other bodies of water into the basin keeping northern France underwater.  As the conditions gradually changed, pockets of residue settled into these incredible vineyard lands.  In short Kimmeridgian soil is easy to cultivate, retains water, and supports root structure.      

Friday, July 21, 2017

Defiant by Seghesio

You might say Seghesio is the premier Zinfandel maker of California.  Around 1980 they were responsible for the production of most of the red wine made in Sonoma County and most of that was Zinfandel.  For the entire iconic Seghesio story, which is about as emblematic as any of California's giants, check out our V&C blogpost dated June 14, 2014.

Defiant is a new label from Seghesio released slowly through restaurants beginning in October of last year.  It is a Zinfandel-based blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Alicante and Syrah in supporting roles.  Seghesio owns 315 acres in Sonoma Valley in three parcels located in Dry Creek, Alexander Valley, and the Russian River Valley.  The Defiant label only says "Sonoma County" so it may be sourced from anywhere therein.

The name Defiant refers to the Seghesio family determination to succeed in this industry.  Edoardo Seghesio emigrated from Italy in 1886, first apprenticing himself to Italian Swiss Colony before purchasing his own winery in 1902.  Then he and his heirs gradually amassed vineyard land throughout the early twentieth century eventually becoming the largest operator in Sonoma in 1980.  Significantly, they didn't start their own Seghesio label until 1983.  They were solely grape farmers for the first eighty years.  Angela Seghesio, the family matriarch at mid-twentieth century, is believed to be the inspiration for the mindset Defiant symbolizes.

From their website Defiant is characterized as "dark, savory, and bold".  The nose shows "youthful blackberry, mocha, and spicy aromas".  The taste shows "blackfruits, and pepper with savory notes".  Now here is what our tasting panel thought:

Gin - "The peppery finish with a hint of mocha is evident in the tasting. It's rich without being overwhelming, with an interesting bite at the end. A smooth aftertaste, and something fascinatingly different in the realm of reds!"

Min- I like the rich full body taste. This would be a good wine with a good Italian meal or a good steak.

Mike - A nice Zinfandel blend that is not too "rasiny" tasting and soft tannins with a medium finish.

Doug- The construction industry is not dead. Clearly evident in this wine is the fine construction supporting the chocolate notes with the right balance of spice and robustness. This is a guys wine that will leave the women feeling warm and tingly. Nothing wrong with this experience - great start and smooth and strong finish.

Steve = Full body wine with a beefy finish! Good by itself or your favorite steak!