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Long ago and far away, in fact when northern Europe was roughly where the Sahara is now, the limestones of the Paris Basin were laid down in a vast warm ocean by the shells and remains of zillions of sea creatures. These limestones are now identified by the era in which the sediments occurred, the most important for wine terroir being Oxfordian, Kimmeridgian and Portlandian. The Kimmeridgian era, named after a village on the English coast, lasted from approximately 157 to 150 million years ago, with the limestone terroir being most present in Chablis, Champagne and the Loire Valley, and they occur in three main types - Calcaire de Buzançais, Marnes de Saint Doulchard, and Marnes et Lumachelles à Exogyra virgula. In the central vineyards of the Loire Valley, these soils, also known as terres blanches, appear in Pouilly-Fumé, Sancerre and Menetou-Salon with the highest concetration being in the villages of Chavignol (Sancerre) and Morogues (Menetou-Salon). A combination of factors contributes to the unique quality of these soils, including mineral content, water retention, permeability by the vine roots, reflection of sunlight, soil micro-nutrients and more, but in any case, wines originating on Kimmeridgian soils are known for great complexity and the ability to age gracefully for ten to twenty years.
2020 Pierre Martin Sancerre (Chavignol) "Les Culs de Beaujeu."
The village of Chavignol has been renown for the quality of its wines since the 12th century, perhaps longer, and three vineyards there, "La Grande Cote," "Les Monts Damnées" and "Les Culs de Beaujeu" are considerd to be the finest vineyard sites in Sancerre. Known in the 1300's as "Clausus de Bellojoco," "Les Culs de Beaujeu" has a bit deeper clay than "Les Monts Damnées" and is perhaps the steepest of the three sites, with bedrock of Kimmeridgian limestone of all three types depending on the position on the slope. Joining Francois Cotat and Gerard Boulay as top producers of "Les Culs de Beaujeu" is the young Pierre Martin, who worked with his father Yves beginning in 2004 and took over entirely in 2012.
His one hectare of vines on "Les Culs de Beaujeu" is on a southeast facing slope with an incredibly steep 50% gradient. Farming here is organic (not certified) with biodynamic preparations used as well, and the wine is fermented and aged partially in vat and partially in old 600L barrels. The resulting wine in the 2020 vintage is outstanding and we are very happy to offer a Sancerre of this quality at such a reasonable price! Given the current extreme shortage of Sancerre, putting a few cases of this wine aside is an exellent idea...
2018 Pierre Morin Sancerre Rouge "Bellechaume"
For another tale of a younger generation doing fine work, we find Pierre Morin, who also joined his father Gérard in 2004, after stints in Australia, Bordeaux and Burgundy. The estate is based in Bué and practices organic farming, harvests by hand and ferments with wild yeasts. Pierre has lowered yields and improved the winemaking, bringing more complexity and finesse to the wines. Four different whites are produced, including "Chene Marchand," primarily on "caillottes" soils of small limestone rocks. Of course none of the whites are now available, but happily, the estate produces superb Sancerre rouge, including the 2018 "Bellechaume" from a vineyard on Kimmeridgian limestone "terres blanches" soils.
The "Bellechaume" is whole-cluster fermented, giving it more structure than most Sancerre rouge, and is aged partially in barrel and partially in tank. We found the 2018 "Bellechaume" to be a beautiful glass of Pinot Noir with a unique mineral backbone imparted by the Kimmeridgian soils. The aromas are of ripe black cherry with earth, bitter chocolate, citrus and minerals, quite complex and Burgundian. There is delicious ripe cherry fruit on the palate, which is sapid and long with lovely earth and mineral notes. This is delicious now, especially with some aeration, but will obviously drink well for another 5 to 8 years. Here's a note from the excellent Bordeaux/Loire website thewinedoctor: "the Bellechaume cuvée is just a delight; substantial and smoky, with a rich complexity, it is easily one of the most compelling red cuvées I have encountered in the entirety of Sancerre. And yet, unlike one or two others that spring to mind, it is not lush texture and depth that won me over, but a savoury, vinous substance imbued with wonderful complexity."
2021 Domaine Pellé Menetou-Salon "Morogues"
Just east of the town of Menetou-Salon, and just southwest of Sancerre, is the sleepy village of Morogues with its great terroirs of Kimmeridgian limestone and silex. Here we find Domaine Pellé, known as one of the regions finest producers of white Menetou-Salon from Sauvignon Blanc, and red Menetou-Salon from 100% Pinot Noir. Domaine Pellé is a fourth generation family estate run by the talented and hard-working Paul-Henry Pellé. Paul-Henry's grandfather played an instrumental role in the establishment of the Menetou-Salon appellation, and lobbied hard to inlcude "Morogues" on the label. As Paul-Henry explained, “Morogues is comprised of 90% Kimmeridgian limestone. This is why my grandfather pushed so hard to give it the status it deserved."
The "Morogues" cuvee originates from seven parcels which total 12 hectares on the Kimmeridgian slopes, the highest in the appellation. The vines average 30 years old and the fermentation is in a mix of stainless steel and wooden cuves. The 2021 "Morogues" is a vibrant and scintillating Sauvignon Blanc that will benefit from decanting or opening in advance if drinking now - enjoy over the next five years.
These three beautiful wines are on order and will arrive on Friday Oct 7th, quantities are limited. (10% case/mixed case discount applies)
Judging by this wine, the young Pierre Martin, who took over from his father about ten years ago, is doing great work in the vineyards and in the cellar. From one of the three finest vineyards in Sancerre, the 2020 "Culs de Beaujeu" shows very elegant aromas of dried fruits, pear and apple, with citrus and floral hints which are underpinned by pronounced earth and mineral notes - quite complex and deep. The palate is dense and sapid, showing more white fruits than citrus and with a very dense core of minerals that continue with firm acidity in the very long finish. While showing the ripeness of the 2020 vintage, the wine is built to age and will benefit from decanting or many hours open if drinking now. This is a great Sancerre to enjoy now and over the next five to ten years as you wait for your "Clos Néore" to mature....
Pierre Morin makes this lovely red Sancerre from a small parcel in Bue on Kimmeridgian "terres blanches" soils. The 2020 "Bellechaume" is a beautiful glass of Pinot Noir with a unique mineral backbone imparted by the Kimmeridgian soils. The aromas are of ripe black cherry and berries with earth, bitter chocolate, citrus and minerals, quite complex and Burgundian. There is delicious ripe cherry on the palate, which is sapid and long with lovely earth and mineral notes.Fuller bodied and structured from the hot vintage. This is delicious now, especially with some aeration, but will obviously drink well for another 5 to 8 years. Enjoy!
The "Morogues" cuvee originates from seven parcels which total 12 hectares on the Kimmeridgian slopes, the highest in the appellation. The vines average 30 years old and the fermentation is in a mix of stainless steel and wooden cuves. This jumps from the glass upon opening, the nose full of pink grapefruit, daffodil and fresh green herbs. On the palate, this has terrific weight and balance, with more grapefruit, orange sherbet, and little hints of fennel frond. The finish is incredibly stony, with plenty of dry extract. This is my kind of Sauvignon - a little bit of grape and a whole lot of soil. Excellent and incredible value. Sam Ehrlich