Tom's blog

How to ruin a good sancerre? Add oak

I love the wines from Sancerre at this time of the year. There is something about the fresh acidity and floral notes of sauvignon blanc from this Loire Valley village that complement the arrival of spring.  If I see a dandelion, I don't see a weed. I see sauvignon blanc.

The sauvignon blancs from the Loire are quite different than those from New Zealand or the West Coast. They are more flinty, textured and often lean to citrus and stone-pit fruit flavors.  Best, they aren't as grassy as the bracing New Zealand sauvignon  blancs.

Alphonse Mellot and is son

Alphonse Mellot and is son

I went to a recent tasting of 10 sancerres and was taken by their differences. Much of the difference was due to soil and sun exposure, but most annoying were the handful of sancerres that were exposed to oak. Why on earth would anyone want to add oak flavors to a wine that traditionally is made entirely in stainless steel to preserve the freshness and purity of fruit character?

No good answers were forthcoming from the trade pourers, except that the winemaker liked them. He certainly knows more than me, but there wasn't one of these oak-fermented wines that seemed normal to me. 

If you are looking for great sancerre with character, look for the 2015 Domaine Alphonse Mellot "La Moussiere" ($30), 2015 Domaine Lucien Crochet Blanc ($30) and 2015 Domaine Chevreu "Les Terres Blanches" ($25) made from old-vine sauvignon blanc.