Pierre Martin Sancerre Les Monts Damnés 2016
The first stunning view of Sancerre comes after driving across the Sologne, from the west, the Touraine in your rearview mirror. The trip seems interminably long, a verdant countryside with fields of cereal grains as far the eye can see. Sancerre's steep vineyards ultimately come into view after rounding a bend in the road, spread out below, with vines crouching low to the ground, as if your arrival was startlingly unexpected.
One must stop their car, take in the these magnificent vineyards, perfectly lined, with their small nuggets of chalk and limestone blanketing the ground, as if there had a been a snow. The old village of Sancerre stands in the distance to the east, like a sentinel, watching over its land. You get the immediate sense you're in an important wine place.
Sancerre is one of three winegrowing areas in France that are a "golden triangle" for wines--or more appropriately, "a thin white line." From the vineyards of Sancerre stretching north toward Auxerre and finally ending in Epernay, there is a typical geography that connects the three--the famous kimmeridgian soils, a chalky marl that is capped by Portlandien limestone. From space, one could almost visualize an island chain of great wine villages, connected on the surface by these ancient white stones. At the table, its easier to imagine a fine Champagne, a cru Chablis, and a lush Sancerre, framing the forthcoming meal.
There are 350 independent wineries in Sancerre, 25 grower/negociants, and only 1 cooperative. Over 7000 acres are planted to vines (nearly 80% of the entire surface area) of which 3/4 are planted to Sauvignon Blanc. The appellation has been fully exploited for years by wine lovers and connoisseurs. Finding something new is virtually impossible. Getting a return email is a challenge.
But yesterday we called on an energetic young vigneron named Pierre Martin. And he dealt us into the game.
Pierre assumed responsibility for his father's domaine about 10 years ago. His vineyards surrounding the village of Chavignol are among the best of the region. Everybody knows it. His parcels in Culs de Beaujeu and Mont Damnés are small, but the envy of other wineries nearby.
A Sauvignon from Sancerre, especially a great one, can be at once charming and lively, but in total will often be ravishing and complex. Wines never lack of acidity, and always have a haunting and bracing minerality (a word easily used but not simply explained). Pierre's wines are mouth-watering, sometimes tending toward austere, but featuring surprising richness. I think these white wines would please many red wine drinkers for some reason.