Sancerre review 2020
Perfect to compliment the last of the summer’s heat, in this blind tasting we’ve shopped around for some supermarket Sancerre to review. So without further ado…
In many ways wine fame works a lot like celebrities, ‘A’ listers like Tom Hanks and Jennifer Aniston are known around the world. Then at the other end of the spectrum you’ve got your TOWIE cast who aren’t particularly recognised, well, anywhere. In terms of wine A listers, Sancerre has to be up there.
Sancerre is known for being quite an expensive wine and we wondered whether supermarkets would cut it at that level or not. Despite buying them from leading supermarkets all of the wines were still quite expensive, the most of which being £17 a bottle. At that price you are certainly encroaching on independent online wine shop territory, but is it as good?
The Sancerre region
Sancerre is a French wine appellation on the Eastern side of the Loire Valley. The majority of it falls on the Eastern bank of the river opposite Pouilly-Fume, another of the famous Loire Sauvignons. Almost all of the wine in Sancerre is Sauvignon blanc, however you will find small amounts of Sancerre Rouge, which is pinot noir and Sancerre rosé. The Sancerre area is known as one of the central vineyards due to its location in the centre of France, around 60 miles south of Chablis. It has a cool continental climate so there is an ever-present threat of springtime frost which can have an effect on the survival of some of the grapes. This means that the volume of production isn’t guaranteed and that can have an effect on price and on style. Once the springtime has passed the temperature is largely regulated by the proximity of the Loire river. Most Sancerre vines are planted on very steep south facing slopes, the gradient makes mechanical harvesting difficult, so most Sancerre grapes are picked by hand. Of course, this has another advantage in terms of quality control.
Unlike Sauvignon from Marlborough in New Zealand, Sancerre tends to be more on the green fruit side of things, even a bit grassy and is far less tropical in flavour than those down under
The supermarket offerings
Another thing to watch out for with Sauvignon blanc is the vintage. While it’s certainly possible to keep a seriously good Sancerre for several years, on the cheaper end of the spectrum you will notice quite a rapid decline and loss of intensity and vibrance. In this tasting we have examples from both 2018 and 2019 vintages. Both these vintages were thought of as good years, but we think you can really tell the tail end of 18 vs 19 at this price level. Some of the best Sancerre will begin to develop some delicious notes of truffle and petrol over time but that’s less likely to be the case with these supermarket versions.
We took advantage of one of the hottest evenings of the latter year for this garden based blind tasting. Unusually, after the first couple of wines we were decidedly unimpressed, there didn’t seem to be any of classic Sancerre freshness that we expected to be shining through. We switched out the glasses, had a palate cleanser and tried again… nothing. It even led us to check out the biodynamic lunar calendar in desperation. This is basically the theory that the moon has an effect on farming and is still used relatively widely in wine production. It suggests that wine should be at its most optimal on a fruit or flower day and at its worst on a leaf or root day. Again, it turned out to be a fruit day, so no excuses there. The only other possible bearing was that we were tasting them at night-time – one Italian Sauvignon producer once told me that at his vineyard they only ever taste sauvignon on a sunny daytime! Although, I’ve never noticed it tasting particularly different at lunch or dinner in the past!
So overall the verdict on these supermarket Sancerre’s is a bit mixed. The winner (Morrisons) was the only 2019 wine on trial here and we think that may in part explain why it was the freshest and overall our favourite.
We have some great Sancerre at winehack from small independent vineyards which you won’t find in the supermarket, but if you are heading for (or ordering) the weekly shop, our view is the Morrison’s offering is the best bet of the bunch and the good news is it’s also the cheapest! It is also worth considering picking up a Touraine Sauvignon from just a little further down the Loire valley which can in many cases represent better value.
Smell – slightly herbal, grassy, slight acetone
Taste – light citrus and grapefruit, touch of nectarine
Finish – grapefruit again lingering acidity, fresh
Buy this if… you want something light and fresh and a good option for the price
Smell – expressive, honeysuckle
Taste – acetone hint, pear and crab apple, quite zingy
Finish – tart, lemon verbena, bitterness but shorter
Buy this if… you want something possibly a tad more expressive but not quite as fresh as the Morrison’s offering
Smell – quite light, green apple, grassy
Taste – a little thin, quite acidic some minerality and nectarine
Finish – quite full, lemongrass, almost metallic edge
Buy this if… you want something more herbal and on the green fruit side of things, but it lacks depth
Smell – quite powerful, grass, fruit compote
Taste – a little dull, melon, pear drop, slight bitterness
Finish – citrus comes through a little, not too much acidity
Buy this if… you want something less like a Sancerre, with a different taste profile, we didn’t love it