The history of the Sancerre vineyards goes back almost a thousand years, for it was in 11th and 12th centuries that monks in the surrounding districts began to cultivate vines. From the reign of Philippe-Augustus to the reign of Louis XVI, the Kings of France delighted in Sancerre wine - "one of the most exquisite of the Kingdom", as one described it - and a 19th century devoté, Honoré de Balzac, famously paid tribute to the "generous wines" of Sancerre.
The Chateau de Sancerre stands in the heart of the Sancerre vineyards. In 1874, the castle was rebuilt on its old site in the style of Louis XII. In 1919 it was purchased, along with part of the vineyards, by Louis Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle. It was he who restored the vaults and the spiral staircase which flanked the "Feudal Tower" - the only remaining vestige of the medieval castle. He also set up a private museum in Sancerre and was instrumental in building the reputation of Sancerre wines.
Today The Château de Sancerre is still owned by the Société des Produits Marnier-Lapostolle, also producers of Grand Marnier liqueurs and owners of the Château de Bourg Charente. It is here, in the heart of its historic birthplace, that an exclusive estate-bottled Sancerre wine is made and matured - the only wine which can be sold under the exclusive name Château de Sancerre.
Learn More About Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Blanc (so-veen-YAWN blahnk)
One of the most distinctive grapes, Sauvignon Blanc is a highly aromatic variety
that does well in both the old and new world. From the Loire
Valley of France to Marlborough
in New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc has found many regions that bring out its unique
and delicious flavors.
Sauvignon Blanc's home is the Loire Valley of France, where it produces the
crisp, grassy mineral-tinged wines of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume (not to be mistaken
with Pouilly Fuisse in Burgundy
- that would be Chardonnay). Wine of this region is crisp and grassy, with delicious minerality and an
occasional gun flint/smokey character. In the 1970's, New Zealand planted its first cuttings
of Sauvignon Blanc, which in turn brought the country to the forefront of the
wine world. In New Zealand, the variety exudes its typical crisp acidity, as
well as pungent passion fruit and grapefruit aromas and flavors. In
Sauvignon Blanc is produced both in stainless steel (like New Zealand and France)
and with a touch of oak. The wooded versions maintain the acidity of the grape
but tone down the intense citrus flavors with subtle oak characteristics. Winemakers
differ in their addition or choice of oak. The grape also produces delicious
wines from Chile and
Summing it up
Successful Sites: Loire Valley, New Zealand, California, Chile, Italy
Common Descriptors: grass, lemon, grapefruit, passion fruit.
Learn More About Loire, France
It's unfortunate that this region is so under appreciated and overlooked - the wines from the Loire Valley are outstanding. They are delicious examples of varietal and soil expression and the wide range of wines is so refreshing. Dry, sweet, sparkling, red, white… all represented here in the Loire. The main white grapes are Chenin Blanc, Muscadet and Sauvignon Blanc. For reds, Cabernet Franc takes center stage but the region also has plantings of Pinot Noir and Gamay. The AC of Cremant de Loire is popular – these are the sparkling wines of the Loire, usually made with Chenin Blanc.
As for which grapes you find in which regions… Starting on the Atlantic Coast and moving east - Muscadet hails from the region of the same name, within the larger Nantes district, right on the Atlantic coast. The wines are dry, citrusy and pleasant, but rarely powerful or intensely aromatic. Just inland from Nantes is Anjou-Samur, home to Savennières, an excellent source of dry Chenin Blanc. To the east is Touraine, where you'll find the popular white region of Vouvray - Chenin Blanc shines in Vouvray, which can be dry, off-dry or sweet – the majority of those found in the states are a lovely and food-friendly off-dry. In the same district, Cabernet Franc makes delicious, delicate and elegant reds from Bourguil and Chinon. Finally, in the Upper Loire area, Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé turn out Sauvignon Blancs of razor sharp acidity and minerality.