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Antoine Sanzay, Saumur-Champigny “Cuvée Domaine”Loire Valley, France 2018 (750mL)

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Antoine Sanzay, Saumur-Champigny “Cuvée Domaine” Loire Valley, France 2018 (750mL)

Fruit
Earth
Body
Tannin
Acid
Alcohol

Going by the numbers, I’d say we are still struggling to communicate how excited we are about the red wines of Saumur-Champigny in France’s Loire Valley. Our subscribers have yet to embrace them the way they have embraced Cru Beaujolais, even though the wines are close spiritual cousins in both style and value. But nevertheless, we persist: The wines of fast-rising Loire star Antoine Sanzay are too good to ignore. 


One thing I know for sure is that, aside from Cru Beaujolais, Saumur-Champigny is one of the reds most likely to be found on the lists (and in the glasses) of the most forward-looking sommeliers, because if you’re a savvy restaurant or wine bar, these wines check every box: they’re from one of the world’s epicenters of sustainable farming and natural winemaking; they offer nearly unparalleled value-for-dollar; and they are, stylistically, the kinds of high-energy, low-artifice reds winning the most hearts right now. This is pure, primal Loire Cabernet Franc that makes a huge impact without any undue “bigness,” and increasingly, that’s the style of red I’m drawn to—one that complements, rather than overwhelms, food; one that feels buoyant rather than overweight; one that leaves you refreshed and energized rather than ready for a nap. Step into any great wine bar and there’ll be some young, fresh-faced sommelier eager to pour something like “Cuvée Domaine” for you. Let them! There’s a reason these wines are hot, and it’s got nothing to do with “branding” and everything to do with authentic, down-to-earth excellence. It needs to be in your glass right now—I don’t know how else to say it!



Antoine Sanzay is not merely a neighbor of the famed Clos Rougeard (both have pieces of the same vineyard, “Les Poyeux,” in the village of Chacé), but one of an acclaimed new crop of producers bringing polish and prestige to the Central Loire, where France’s Anjou-Saumur province gives way to Touraine. Saumur-Champigny and Chinon are neighbors separated by this traditional provincial boundary, and the latter AOC, while much larger and more widely known, is essentially an easterly extension of the former. The Saumur-Champigny zone is characterized by its limestone-rich tuffeau mixed with clay and sand, a porous rock that allows for excellent drainage and root penetration. In a lengthy article in the online publication PUNCH, author Jon Bonné raved about this area (and about many producers we’ve spotlighted here at SommSelect, including Sanzay, Château de Brézé, Domaine Guiberteau, and La Petit Saint-Vincent), with the following passage having particular resonance for me:


“But now they’re increasingly seen as something more: soulfully complex and savory wines, expressive of their individual terroir in a manner reminiscent of red Burgundy…And, aside from a brief flirtation with Bordeaux-like levels of oak and extraction about a decade ago, Saumur wines have achieved their success with relative grace, avoiding the difficulties that seem to entangle nearly every promising French region as it finds fame.”


As some subscribers will be well aware, it’s exactly that kinship with red Burgundy—not just some of the Pinot Noirs but especially the more-structured Gamays of Beaujolais, especially Morgon—that makes Saumur-Champigny such a SommSelect favorite. Antoine Sanzay is headquartered in Varrains, one of the nine villages that comprise the Saumur-Champigny appellation. He originally took over his family’s 11 hectares of vineyards in 1999, and while he started his own label in 2002 he continued to sell half of his harvest to a local cooperative to help with cash flow. He eventually cut ties with the co-op and has had access to his entire production since the 2013 vintage. Farming is carried out organically (certified by Ecocert) and the average age of Sanzay’s vines exceeds 35 years; his piece of the “Les Poyeux'' vineyard (larger than that of Clos Rougeard) boasts 50-year-old vines and is the source of his top wine, which critics have ranked right alongside Rougeard’s famed “Clos du Bourg.”


Today’s 2018, known as “Cuvée Domaine,” is sourced from 35-year-old vines and is vinified and aged in concrete vats. In the glass, it’s a deep ruby with magenta highlights at the rim, with aromas of black cherry, cranberry, black raspberry, damp violets, tobacco, and a hint of black pepper. The medium-bodied palate is fresh and full of acid-driven energy, while the tannins have a wooly-soft quality I find in many wines fermented/aged in concrete. I could see someone mistaking this for top cru Beaujolais, as the overall effect is similar, but the hints of sage and mint intermingling with the lush, juicy fruit are a key indicator of Cabernet Franc. This is another one of those wines that would disappear first if plopped down on a table of sommeliers—it’s a refreshing and pure evocation of place, perfectly balanced, and just delicious on every level. I envision it continuing to improve over the next 3-5 years, not that I will refrain from opening a bottle now; decant it about 30 minutes before serving in Burgundy stems at 60 degrees, with something bistro-inspired to eat with it. I like the mix of herbs and earth in the attached recipe; if this combo doesn’t turn you into a full-on Franc fanatic, nothing will. Enjoy!





Antoine Sanzay, Saumur-Champigny “Cuvée Domaine” Loire Valley, France 2018 - SommSelect

  • CountryFrance
  • RegionLoire Valley
  • Sub-RegionSaumur-Champigny
  • SoilClay, Sand & Limestone
  • FarmingCertified Organic
  • BlendCabernet Franc
  • Alcohol13.9%

  • CountryFrance
  • RegionLoire Valley
  • Sub-RegionSaumur-Champigny
  • SoilClay, Sand & Limestone
  • FarmingCertified Organic
  • BlendCabernet Franc
  • Alcohol13.9%
  • Temp.Serve at 60° F
  • GlasswareBurgundy Stem
  • DrinkingNow-2026
  • Decanting30 Minutes
  • PairingThyme-Basted Pork Tenderloin w/ Oyster Mushrooms