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This morning, we kicked off the “summer of Sancerre” with a perennial favorite for a classy and classic value from Curot. Tonight, those of you who act fast can add a few bottles of a wine that has reached the apogee of this appellation.
Indeed, Vacheron’s “Guigne-Chèvre” is not only a Sancerre for this summer but one that will provide layers of richly textured limestone greatness for many, many summers to comeIt’s the Sauvignon Blanc equivalent of Chevalier-Montrachet, for a tenth of the cost, and I think it only a matter of time before that idea becomes mainstream. For now, I recommend you grab what you can, while you can!
Domaine Vacheron, as most of you know, is a first-ballot SommSelect Hall-of-Famer. When cousins Jean-Laurent and Jean-Dominique Vacheron took the helm of this family estate, their parents had already expanded a tiny property into a highly regarded Sancerre address. So J-L and J-D set about making it into a globally recognized destination for fine wine. They converted all their vineyards to biodynamic farming (certified since 2005) and began adding small parcels from some of the best sites in the region. Their philosophy is most easily described as “Burgundian,” with a focus on understanding and identifying all the subtle differences that can be found in the geology of their vineyards and then transferring those distinctions of terroir into their wines.
This focus on terroir is not surprising given that Jean-Laurent spent his formative years working and learning with Aubert de Villaine at the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Not a bad way to gain insight into coaxing the maximum potential from acclaimed parcels of vines! The Vacherons know that potential when they see it, and Guigne-Chévre was a sight for sore eyes. It isn’t random hyperbole when I compare this site to a Grand Cru. The vines, planted in 1983, sit near the top of a steep hill at a northeast exposure. The site can be extremely windy, so the vines are set very low to the ground, almost like small bushes. Unlike much of Sancerre where flint, limestone, and marl mix, this vineyard has a shallow layer of clay over a bed of pure, Oxfordian Jurassic and marine limestone. That’s a near carbon copy of the aforementioned Chevalier.
This means that the more obvious notes of grapefruit and grass give way to elegant aromas of orchard fruit, citrus blossom, and Meyer lemon. If you want to try a bottle now I would suggest a decant of at least an hour, and then serve it at a cool, not cold, 48 to 50 degrees in a Burgundy bowl. The aromatics will unfold slowly and the rich, honeyed texture will be immediately lifted by a prominent backbone of bright acidity and the lovely, limestone and seashell minerality that adds the perfect pinch of saline seasoning to the masterpiece.
A couple months ago I was fortunate enough to attend a lunch with Jean-Laurent Vacheron during his visit to San Francisco. It was very well attended by sommeliers from all of the Bay Area’s top restaurants—they know to show up for the good stuff. J-L told us that the 2021 vintage was very challenging, but in the end it produced some of the finest wines his domaine has made. Though he was hopeful that another vintage like ‘21 would come along before his retirement, he was resigned to the fact that it might not. The changing climate has been tough on Sancerre and will likely get tougher. They’re learning to mitigate, but if you want to experience a region's best wine from a generationally great vintage, this is your chance. We don’t have much, so grab some now!
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