Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Savage Sauvignon from Sancerre

The story: Much is made of the vast differences between any two given glasses of chardonnay. No other grape, they say, takes to the differences of where it is grown and what the winemaker does (or does not do) to it. But I have found that secretly, subtely, and in the background sauvignon blanc has as many expressions that are equally loved, hated, and debated. One can find a glass from New Zealand that is intensely grassy and full of grapefruit zippiness. This style rose to popularity and was subsequently shunned for being too much. I have had California sauvignon blanc that was so extracted and oaked that it barely revealed itself as sauvignon blanc. Instead it poured a rather full bodied amber gold color, and tasted of pineapple and caramel. While delicious it is obviously highly manipulated.

So what is the pinnacle of typicity for sauvignon blanc? Many would argue it is the sauvignon blancs from Sancerre, an AOC in France's eastern Loire valley. There are multiple soil types through the valleys that constitute Sancerre, but in general the focus is on making dry wines that show peach and gooseberry with often wildly expressive aromas. They generally show notes of herbs (although less than New Zealand) and flint or minerals. The acidity in a Sancerre is rather high. Often slightly more full than a sauvignon blanc-semillon blend from Bordeaux, and rather similar to most Pouilly-Fumes (another sauvignon blanc region in the Loire) it is no wonder that lovers of this varietal are generally lovers of Sancerre.

The wine: The Les Hospice Sancerre 2009 comes in at a manageable 12.5% abv and pours a very pretty pale gold in the glass. The nose is not as wildly aromatic as one expects from a Sancerre but shows nice layers of savory green herbs over citrus fruit. It drinks simply and delicious with hints of white peach and more herbs. A string of minerality runs throughout the palette and it is all balanced by a nice dose of acidity.

The verdict: While easy to drink, and rather delicious, this wine does not display the often exuberant nature of a Sancerre. It is more reminiscent of a well grown and vinified but basic Loire valley sauvignon blanc. It does however retail for only $15 at Costco, coming in below the retail cost of many Sancerre wines. And for $15 I must say it is a refreshing and satisfying drink. With points deducted for the wine's hesitancy and atypical nature - 3/5

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