What? I don’t recognize any of those words. I hear you, people. That’s because it’s a French wine. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about French wine. The main gripe I have heard about it is the price being ridiculous. Well, while that is true of some of the Bordeaux wine producers which basically sell all of a vintage before it is even finished being made, there are also a lot of French wine producers that are very reasonably priced. This is mainly because France produces enough wine to solve California’s drought problems several times over. There are really inexpensive, high-quality options coming from France that are readily available here in the states. Now I am no French wine expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I have learned a few tricks that allow me to grab some good bottles on a budget. Sancerre is one of those options.
The French label their wine based on where the wine was produced and not by the varietal. This is not only because they are elitist jerks, but also because each region usually only produces one white and one red grape. This isn’t true across the board and I haven’t totally figured out all the rules but let’s focus on this bottle. This is a Sancerre which is a region inside the Loire Valley. The Loire Valley is a wine producing region that runs from central France westward toward the atlantic ocean along the Loire river. Sancerre is one of the most eastern regions within the Loire Valley. “I’ll take, ‘I know nothing about French geography’ for $1000, Alex.” Just look at this map. You’ll find Sancerre all the way to the right in green. There is also a little insert in the top left that shows you where this region is in regard to the whole of France.
This region produces 2 varietals, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. The Sauvignon Blanc is labeled as Sancerre and the Pinot is labeled as Sancerre Rouge. See? The French are silly. This is a white Sancerre so that means it’s a Sauvignon Blanc. Something that sort of sets these wines apart from their California cousins is that almost all Sancerre is aged in stainless steel tanks instead of oak barrels. They are also fairly young. They harvest the grapes in mid-September and are bottled around Easter. Not using oak barrels, along with some other winemaking techniques which are uncommon in California, they produce wonderfully bright, acidic wines that go well with fish as well as lighter pasta dishes.
I made some linguini with scallops as you can see above. I halved some grape tomatoes and reduced them down with some white wine and garlic and a little olive oil and then added my pasta and sautéed scallops. I don’t think this wine is what an expert sommelier would suggest for this meal but I think it works perfectly. The acid in the wine cut the oil and butter in the sauce and still added a grassy, citrusy flavor that the scallops needed. This wine has many green fruit flavors like apple, pear, and honeydew, but also has a hint of peach subtly in the background. The thing I love about Sancerre is the aroma. They are so fresh. It always smells like springtime with notes of cut flowers, grass, and citrus. I happen to like a mineraly, sharp white wine and I understand that some people don’t…but they’re wrong. MY BLOG MY RULES.
To be honest, I might be a little biased. The 2009 vintage of this same wine is actually what made me get serious about white wine. I always was causal friends with white wine but never would seek it out. I was out at a fancy-shmancy fish house and somehow this bottle ended up at our table. I was totally blown away. I didn’t know white wine could be this good. I was sure it was probably expensive, given that it was French, until I looked at the wine list and realized even with the restaurant markup it was only $40. I just bought this bottle at Whole Foods and it still was only about $25 and I found it online for around $20. I know that’s a little steep for an everyday white wine, but I think it’s important for people to try this. As I’ve said before, challenge yourself by trying something you are familiar with from a place you aren’t familiar with. Sancerre is one of the best kept secrets of French wine in America. It’s popular enough where it will probably show up on your favorite restaurant’s wine list, but foreign enough where you can still impress your date by showing off your knowledge of French wine. Next time you are at a big wine retailer, look for a Sancerre and save it for the next time you are cooking some fish and I promise you will not be disappointed.