Erik Neilson on February 1, 2017 0 Comments When it comes to white wines, people tend to stick with what they know and like. Ardent fans of Pinot Grigio will rarely stray outside of their comfort zones, while Chardonnay lovers will preach their passion to the mountaintops and never order a glass of something else. The same can be said for those who love Sauvignon Blanc, which happens to be one of the more expressive white grapes available to winemakers. Those who go down the Sauvignon Blanc rabbit hole in search of finding the next best thing will undoubtedly discover Sancerre, and it’s likely that they’ll never turn back. New to Sancerre? Here’s a primer to help you learn more about what may be the world’s ultimate representation of Sauvignon Blanc. What is Sancerre? One of the biggest points of confusion in learning about wine comes down to understanding the differences between regions, styles and grapes. Sancerre is unique in that it’s not necessarily a region, but a small town in the Loire Valley of France. Sancerre is about as close as it gets to being a picture-perfect French village and has played key roles in the development of the country, from the French Revolution to World War II and beyond. Rather than being a grape, then, Sancerre is an appellation — perhaps the most well-known in the Loire Valley. While Sancerre itself isn’t a grape, the grape in question is almost always Sauvignon Blanc. Pinot Noir is made in Sancerre, too, and it can be beautiful. In discussing Sancerre wine, however, Sauvignon Blanc is usually the subject of conversation. Sancerre: A True Expression of Sauvignon Blanc For those who are curious as to how Sancerre differs from other forms of Sauvignon Blanc, the answer can be found in the wine’s terroir. The soil in Sancerre lends these wines a great deal of smoky, flinty characteristics, which are unmistakable upon first sip. The vines are planted on rolling hills of limestone, which — coupled with the climate — help to influence the Sauvignon Blanc grapes to a noticeable degree. Acidity is higher than what is normally found in the grape, and flavors of chamomile and white peach permeate the nose of Sancerre wine. Because of its elegant, stony characteristics, Sancerre is a perfect complement to a wide variety of foods. It shines when paired with roasted chicken, grilled fish or seared meats. It’s just as effective with salads and courses of grilled vegetables, but Sancerre needs no accompaniment to be enjoyed on its own, either. Bottles to Try One of the first things many people discover about Sancerre is that there is a huge wealth of different bottles on the market to choose from for such a small area. Great Sancerre can be expensive, but it’s also possible to pick up an excellent bottle for as little as $10 or $15. Here are some go-to bottles of Sancerre that are not only reasonable, but represent a benchmark of quality not often found at such price points. Domaine Serge Laporte Sancerre Considering the fact that Domaine Serge Laporte sells for as little as $20/bottle, this may well be the one of the best values in Sancerre right now. It’s an elegant bottle, with leafy, herbal aromas and lots of orange and citrus in the nose. Upon first sip, fresh peach and stony minerals weave in and out of the wine, featuring a good amount of concentration and a nice acidic finish. A perfect food wine if there ever was one, Domaine Serge Laporte Sancerre is an excellent starting point for anyone unfamiliar with wines from the area. Anthony Girard, La Clef du Récit Sancerre This is one of the more “bready” Sancerres you’re likely to stumble upon, and we mean this in a very good way. The aromas of this wine are reminiscent of freshly baked biscuits, framed nicely by citrus and white peach. This is one of the flintier, smokier Sancerres, relying more on its earthy minerality than on any actual huge fruit presence. It’s an unobtrusive wine that’s tailor-fit for a warm summer evening, but it will also work beautifully with any seafood dish — particularly roasted whole fish. Vincent Pinard Flores Sancerre This is a relatively restrained Sancerre, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t bring quite a bit to the plate. The “ease” of this wine means that it’s an ideal option for serving to guests who may or may not be picky about what they drink, yet there are hidden complexities that show themselves to those who look more deeply into what’s going on inside. Juicy orange marmalade flavors are surrounded by honeysuckle and orange blossoms, ending in a long finish that doesn’t seem to want to dissipate. At around $24, this is an excellent bottle to try. Domaine Serge Laloue Sancerre If you’re looking for a bright, mineral-driven example of Sancerre, Domaine Serge LaLoue is the bottle to pick up. There’s certainly a fair amount of citrus happening in the wine, but the dominant flavors and aromas are those of earth and wet stone. White peach brings some fruity characteristics to the table, and the acidity is spot-on here. You’ll be able to grab one of these for under $20 if you look hard enough — it’ll be worth the search. Dominique Roger, Domaine du Carrou Sancerre Here’s a classic Sancerre that is in no way overthought. Smoky, flinty and full of hints of gooseberries, this Sancerre is carried by ripe plum and under-ripened white peach. It’s a truly unique wine, and one that can be found for under $30. Once people discover Sancerre, an entirely new world of Sauvignon Blanc opens up. Bottles don’t need to be overly expensive, and each one contains within it hints of the terroir of Sancerre. While most Sancerre is meant to be drank rather than aged, there are certainly bottles on the market that can cellar well for up to 10 years or even more. Start with some of the examples above, and branch out from there to try as much of what this small town offers as possible.