Sancerre: What to Know

Love crisp high-acid whites? Then you’ve likely had a glass or two of Sancerre before. This highly regarded appellation is known for producing some of the best expressions of sauvignon blanc in the world, thanks to its cool climate, mosaic of soil types, and overall one-of-a-kind terroir. This is everything you need to know about this small yet fierce wine-producing appellation, as well as a short list of five exceptional bottles to taste to better understand this beloved region. 

What Is Sancerre and Where Does it Come From?

Sancerre is a wine-producing appellation (or region) located on the eastern side of France’s Loire Valley, in northwestern France, and wines from this region are commonly called Sancerre as well. The region is best known for its crisp white wines, which are crafted entirely from sauvignon blanc. Although white wine accounts for approximately 80% of the region’s production, small amounts of red wine are made in Sancerre, produced from 100% pinot noir. White wines from Sancerre are dry, light- to medium-bodied and dominated by flavours of citrus, flint, sea salt, honeysuckle and freshly cut herbs.

How Is Sancerre Made?

As with wines from all regions, Sancerre wines are vinified in a variety of styles, and their final flavour profile depends on where exactly the fruit was grown, how it was vinified and in what type of vessel it was aged. Many winemakers in Sancerre choose to vinify and age their wines in stainless steel and without malolactic fermentation, so as to preserve the wines’ natural fruit-forwardness and freshness, although barrel-aged Sancerres do exist. 

Sancerre winemakers often practice sur-lie ageing, which allows the wine to rest on its yeast cells during the ageing process. This process adds texture and weight to the wine without imparting external flavours (for instance, those from oak barrels). 

Are Sauvignon Blanc and Sancerre the Same Thing?

Kind of. All white wines labelled Sancerre are produced from 100% sauvignon blanc, meaning that all Sancerre wines are sauvignon blanc. However, not all sauvignon blanc comes from Sancerre.

What Does Sancerre Taste Like?

Sancerre’s detailed flavour details are producer-specific, meaning that a producer’s harvest and vinification choices have a lot to do with the wines’ final flavour profiles. However, generally speaking, sauvignon blanc tends to show flavours of citrus and crushed rocks, marked by ample amounts of zesty thirst-quenching acidity. Sancerre wines are also frequently characterized by “flinty” and mineral-driven notes due to the unique silex soils in which much of the region’s fruit grows. 

How Is Sancerre Different from Other Sauvignon Blancs?

As noted above, Sancerre wines tend to show citrusy mineral-driven flavours that are heavily noted by flint, silex and/or notes of gunsmoke. This is as opposed to sauvignon-blanc-based wines from New World growing regions (such as Napa Valley or New Zealand), which tend to show more grassy and tropical-fruit notes. 

Which Foods Should I Pair with Sancerre?

The lightning-like acidity and citrus-driven nature of Sancerre wines make them perfect for serving with a variety of happy-hour snacks, including fresh seafood, cheese boards and crudité platters. Additionally, Sancerre wines often pair well with many spicy Asian dishes, provided that the alcohol level in the wine isn’t too high. 

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