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Terroiriste Wine Club Selections
April 2012: White
2010 Roland Tissier Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc – Loire Valley, France
The Region & House
Ask many a proud wine geek – like your author – what is their desert island wine, and they will answer [after ruefully considering a life devoid of Champagne, Barolo and Chambolle-Musigny] that it is Sancerre. First, Sancerre is doubtless exceptional with the sea cucumber crudités and starfish crudo on which one must subsist. Second, and even more crucial, it is absolutely delicious, soulful, refreshing, complex and should a FedEx package wash up with some Crottin de Chavignol, why come back? Superb Sancerre, both inexpensive and fine enough for this club is becoming more and more difficult to find. This comes from a small domaine of 24 acres run by Florent and Rudolphe Tissier near the town of Sancerre. They farm the estate without the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, etc. They do all the right things.
The property is between the towns of Sancerre and Chavignol, the very heart of the appellation, and includes plots in the three main soils of Sancerre – terres blanches or calcareous clay over limestone that yield rich, full-bodied wines; caillottes, stony compact chalk and gravel producing more delicate, filigreed wines; and silex, a soil found near the city of Sancerre itself at the eastern edge of the appellation which includes a significant amount of flint. Silex soils produce pungently aromatic wines suggesting brimstone and minerals.
This is classic Sancerre – crisp, mouthwatering and bursting with grapefruitiness. Oysters, pan roasted fish and other shellfish are excellent here. As for Chavignol’s celebrated chèvre, it is one of the great combinations from the culinary academy – with or without a side of starfish.
Terroiriste Wine Club Selections
April 2012: Red
2009 Domaine du Joncier Lirac Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre – Rhône Valley, France
The Region and House
No wine conveys the muscularity and exuberance of the southern France appellations more than Châteauneuf-du-Pape, also noteworthy as the birthplace of the Appellations Contrôlées system. As the notoriety of Châteauneuf grew, so to did the standard of winemaking, and regrettably, the price. Happily, a ready antidote to the high prices of Châteauneuf resides a few kilometers to the west in the sleepy hamlet of Lirac. Once known primarily for rosé in the style of nearby Tavel, it is now more closely associated with rich, Grenache based red wines.
Thick among the galets roulés of Lirac, are the vines of Domaine du Joncier, founded in 1964 by the agronomist Pierre Roussel, and run since 1989 by his daughter Marine. The estate vineyards are certified organic, and Marine has begun conversion to Biodynamic practices. Farming organically in this part of France is easier than many other regions, thanks to the mistral, the cool, dry wind which blows down through the Rhône, easing pest and mildew pressure in the vineyards.
Joncier produces a white, a rosé and a mourvèdre dominated cuvée Lirac, though this “Le Classique” is their workhorse. Far too infrequently in our analysis of wines, do we simply ask, “Is this wine delicious?” We get caught up in various quantitative variables, alcohol, acidity, balance, etc. Here, the delicious index is very high. Many of you might have tried another Lirac in the shop from Ségriès, which the very essence of bright, vivacious red fruits. This bottling is closer in character to Châteauneuf proper – dark, brooding, musky and rich. It has proven a superb accompaniment to our hanger steak with mushrooms and Asian dipping sauce and one can reasonably expect the same with braised meats, game, tomato based sauces and the odd galets roulés.