Menetou-Salon to Sancerre
As we continued to move east through the Loire Valley, we left the village of Quincy and made our way to Menetou-Salon, an AOC appellation that like Sancerre focuses primarily on Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, both in the rouge and rosé form. There are records as far back as 1063 that show evidence of vineyards being prevalent in the region, and while the wines often don't have the same celebrity status as the aforementioned Sancerre, they're often every bit as delicious.
Our first stop was at Domaine Jean Teiller, today run by Patricia Teiller and her husband Olivier Lunel. With vineyards planted to stony, mineral-rich soils, they're working with 11 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc and another 7 hectares of Pinot Noir, although as Patricia pointed out the latter isn't planted to silex like the former. Limestone and silex help to promote acidity in the grapes, which is great for making a crisp and snappy Sauvignon Blanc, but can be a bit much for Pinot Noir, especially when bringing the reds to full ripeness is already a challenge as is. Her 2017 whites were fantastic, full of stone fruit, salinity, and a fresh crispness.
Patricia brought out some of the rocks from her Sauvignon Blanc vineyards, covered with the fossils of sea creatures that existed back when the entire region was covered by ocean water. It's the compacted shells of the coquillage that make up the unique terroir of the Menetou-Salon soil.
As the sun began to set, we continued northwest towards the most famous Loire Valley appellation of them all: Sancerre. The region's Sauvignon Blanc wines have been having their moment in the sun over the past decade, with the name Sancerre practically becoming synonymous with the varietal, reminiscent of what Champagne is to sparkling wine. There isn't a serious wine list anywhere at this point that doesn't offer at least one Sancerre by the glass, which is good news for the appellation's winemakers. I'm completely on board with the renaissance myself. If I had to pick one wine to drink for there rest of my life, it would probably be Sancerre.
We pulled into Domaine Daulny just in time to catch Etienne Daulny filling up a few glasses from the recent 2017 vintage tanks. The wine was simply outstanding, fleshy and brimming with round fruit flavors, but absolutely zesty and zingy on the palate. Etienne didn't have the same problems with frost that other Loire Valley producers during the vintage. He lost maybe 10% to the cold, but overall he considers the harvest a complete success. I couldn't help but concur.
Things started to get a bit nuts when Etienne's daughter Céline started bringing out plates of local Chavignol goat cheese to pair with the wine, perhaps my favorite cheese that exists with its mild, slightly herbaceous flavor and thick, creamy center. With the wine it was an absolute dream. If there's anything that should be on every wine drinker's bucket list, it's to drink a cold glass of Sancerre blanc in the region with a bite of fresh Chavignol. I'm hardly a nerd when it comes to wine pairings, but in this case I can vouch for the experience: absolutely worth the hype.