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Sancerre wines reclaiming time-honored tastes

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Lasting traditions: Sancerre wines from France’s Loire Valley are traditionally known for their mineral emphasis. (AP file photo)
Lasting traditions: Sancerre wines from France’s Loire Valley are traditionally known for their mineral emphasis. (AP file photo)

It almost seems like an obligation to write about Sancerre once a year, though it may actually be longer since I last mentioned this popular appellation.

Located in the eastern part of the Loire Valley, Sancerre has become the standard for Sauvignon Blanc. In the way that California chardonnay producers may say their wine has Burgundian characteristics, you will hear folks even in New Zealand try to grab the Sancerre–like mantle at times.

When I tasted my first Sancerre 25 years ago, the style of what was then not a well-known region was pretty different from how many are made now. The wines were very minerally and it was not unusual to notice cat-pee-like aromas. I like cats, so Sancerre and me became fast friends, but as wine drinkers from the entire world became introduced to the area in the 1990s, the wines started to head in a more fruit-driven style that New Zealand had made popular.

Happily, stalwarts such as Crochet never abandoned the mineral emphasis that made Sancerre Sancerre, and some other producers who may have flirted with fruit- forward winemaking are coming back home. Sancerre has become more expensive, but many are still fairly priced and occasionally you can find an outright deal.

Patient Cottat Sancerre, Vielles Vignes, 2009 (Loire Valley, France): This is an outright deal. The Fournier family, which owns the estate, has been on the land for many generations and bottled its first wine in 1950. Made from 35-year-old vines, this is palate-invigorating wine with notes of oyster shell and yellow grapefruit rind. Suggested retail: $17

Domaine Andre Vatan Sancerre, les Charmes, 2010 (Loire Valley, France): Domaine Andre Vatan is very much a family-run, mom-and-pop kind of operation. You can feel the love that goes into Vatan’s wines. Les Charmes is intense, with distinct mineral flavors that play off of subtle citrus tones, all the while abetted by vibrant acidity, and chalk and wet stone aromas. In the end, it is a crisp, complex wine with a finish that carries on its glory. Suggested retail: $23

Guy Saget Sancerre, Domaine de la Perrière, 2010 (Loire Valley, France): Domaine de la Perrière was acquired by Jean-Louis and Christian Segat in 1996. Magloire Archambault, a World War I veteran, originally planted the vineyards in 1920. The Segat family has been making wine for generations, so the brothers were able to take over this site with some ease. With a mineral core, citrus accents and a clean, bright finish, it is a Sancerre for people who like a little fruit without going overboard. Suggested retail: $24

Pamela S. Busch is the owner of Skrewcap.com, founder of CAV Wine Bar and a Bay Area wine consultant. Please submit your questions to Pamela@Skrewcap.com.

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