EDW Alumni June Event – The history and soils of Sancerre and more …
This month at the EDW Alumni group we had an evening of discovery. Erica’s choice for the wines was superb and as always, we had a selection of white and red wines to taste. Erica spends a long time choosing the wines for these events and always has a variety of interesting facts about the producer, location and techniques involved in the production of her chosen wines. This month we had the opportunity to blind taste four white wines that were made by the same producer, using the same grape variety and produced in the same region but on different soils, to compare how they varied in taste, and we also learnt why.
The grape variety used to produce our four white wines turned out to be Sauvignon Blanc produced in the region of Sancerre. We began our evening learning about the history of this fascinating region going back as far as ancient times. It was during the 12th century that Saint-Satur Augustine monks and the ruling counts of Sancerre began to cultivate the vines in earnest. At that time, Sancerre was most famous for its Pinot Noir wines, which were exported from this region along the Loire River.
References of wine from Sancerre are found in accounts of life in the royal court, and Duke Jean de Berry believed it to be the finest wine in the entire kingdom.
It was towards the end of the 19th century that phylloxera destroyed the predominant Pinot Noir vines within Sancerre. Today, the region is more about its production of white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc, a grape variety that thrives in the climate and soils of Sancerre. Characteristically Sancerre has three types of soil; clay and limestone white soils—‘terres blanches’; pebbly soils— ‘caillottes’; and siliceous-clayey soils.
The producer of our four white wines was Henri Bourgeois, whose family has been involved in the production of wine for the last ten generations. They now harvest over 124 plots, totalling 70 hectares of vines, 64 located in Sancerre and six in Pouilly Fume. The Bourgeois family have such an interest in their wines that they carried out an experiment between machine and hand harvested grapes. They harvested all the grapes from the same vineyard using both methods, the wines were then tasted, and eight out of ten tasters preferred the wines made from machine harvested grapes. With attention to detail like this it was no surprise that each of the wines we tasted were sensational, and yet completely different from each other.
Our first example of Sancerre 2016 produced by Henri Bourgeois was the Grande Réserve. This wine is made from grapes grown on vines which are planted in a mix of chalky and clay soils, the juice is then fermented in stainless steel tanks and the wine is left to sit on the lees for five months. We then tried the ‘La Côte des Monts Damnés’—the vines used in the production of this wine are planted in Kimmeridgian marl, a soil made up of fossilized seashells and clay, Fermentation of the juice took place in stainless steel tanks and the wine was sitting on the lees for nine to ten months.
We then moved on to try the ‘La Chapelle des Augustins’. The soils for these vines are flint on chalky clay and the juice is then fermented in a combination of stainless steel and barrels. Our final wine was the ‘Sancerre d’Antan’—flinty soils are the feature here, and the wine sits on the lees for 18 months.
All the wines produced by Bourgeois were superb, they each showed different characteristics clearly. All of our members were suitably wowed again by Erica’s choices and now they are getting excited to see what she has planned for our next event. For more information regarding the Alumni wine tastings or if you are tempted to come along and join in with the fun please contact Louise Sproule.