Like many of you, I love me some Sancerre. My affection was even greater when for $15 I could find one from a top producer, but saying this reminds me of my grandfather lamenting the days when he could ride the subway for a nickel.
As Sancerre climbed its way up the popularity ladder — and Pouilly-Fumé, its neighbor that also is famous for sauvignon blanc, stayed pretty close behind — Menetou-Salon, Cheverny and Quincy took their place. Now many of the wines from these French appellations have crept up in price.
Luckily, as France — and the Loire in particular — continues to proliferate with folks who are not tied to established regions, there are numerous wines filling this gap. In the vast region that extends from Pouilly-sur-Loire south of Paris to the Atlantic Ocean, sauvignon blanc is grown throughout. Yet the eastern half is where you will find most plantings.
Some people swear by Chilean and New Zealand sauvignon blancs. And while there are wines from both of these countries that I enjoy, the minerality of Loire wines, even if not from the regions with the most famous terroirs, is unique.
Here are three that you must try:
Frantz Saumon Sauvignon de Touraine, 2012: Frantz Saumon is in Montlouis, where he makes several wines from chenin blanc. Before turning his attention to viticulture, he was a forester in Quebec, but discovered that compared to trees, grapes provide more immediate gratification. After enology school, he purchased 7.5 acres and made his first wines in 2002. A purist, Saumon does not use any chemicals in his vineyards, harvests by hand and uses native yeast. With wet stones in the nose, green apples and citrus, and soft yet lively acidity, this sauvignon blanc has pristine finesse. Suggested retail: $15
Domaine de la Couperie Sauvignon Blanc, Vin de Pays de la Loire, 2011: The Cogné family has been making wine in the Nantes for three generations. In the 1980s, they planted sauvignon blanc. While the rest of the area is known for muscadet, which is made from melon-de-Bourgogne grapes, Couperie works with chardonnay as well as sauvignon blanc and several red grapes. They are certified Terra Vitis, a form of sustainability. Floral with grapefruit, a hint of white peach and searing acidity, it will easily satisfy any cravings for sauvignon blanc. Suggested retail: $14
Domaine de la Garreliere Touraine "Le Blanc," 2011: This biodynamic estate once supplied wine to Cardinal Richelieu, one of the most powerful figures in French history. It has been owned by the Plouzeau family for 40 years, and with its array of imaginatively named wines has become among the most influential in the biodynamic world of the Loire Valley. Picked in October when the fruit is riper, "Le Blanc" has mineral notes but the fruit is what hits you first, with kiwis, kumquats, melon, peach and grapefruit. Suggested retail: $18
Some of these wines are available through Bi-Rite Grocery, The Jug Shop, K&L Wine Merchants and Paul Marcus Wines.
Pamela S. Busch is a wine writer and educator who has owned several wine bars in San Francisco, including Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen.