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.      

No comments:

Post a Comment