An introduction to Sancerre, James May's wine of choice
You may have noticed in James May's first video that he was drinking a glass (or three) of Sancerre. What is it, where is it from, and what does it taste like?
Sancerre is a small wine region in central France, in the eastern part of the Loire Valley. It is known for its fresh, fragrant white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc.
Classic Sancerre wines have a lively acidity, packed with gooseberries, green grass, nettle and that signature minerality.
The Sancerre Sauvignon is not as straightforward and daring as the extremes of this variety from New Zealand, or the very citrussy Sauvignons from Chile.
History of Sancerre:
In the past, Sancerre's surroundings were better known for light red wines. And only some time after the approval of the official appellation, in the second half of the 20th century, it began to be strongly associated white wines. Red wines from the region are made exclusively from Pinot Noir, and make up less than 20% of the annual wine output.
Before the devastating invasion of phylloxera into local vineyards in the 1860s, the main plantings here were red varieties: Gamay and Pinot Noir.
When they found a way to deal with the phylloxera epidemic, Sauvignon vines flourished, and became the dominant variety in the region.
Sancerre is located in the east of the Loire Valley. It is closer to Burgundy's Cote d'Or than other key areas of the Loire - Anjou and Touraine. Just 50 miles away is the northern Burgundy Chablis region.
The soil of Sancerre can be divided into three types: Cretaceous, gravel-limestone and flint.
The latter gives the characteristic “gunpowder” taste, which is the hallmark of Sauvignons from this part of the Loire Valley. The aroma is so clearly seen in some local wines, it's where the name Blanc Fumé comes from (translating to “white smoky”), and to the name of wines from the neighbouring appellation, Pouilly-Fume.
About 2,800ha of vineyards today are dedicated to the production of Sancerre wine. Almost twice as much as when the appellation was established in 1936.