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Wine By Region Right Europe Right France Right Loire Right Upper Loire Right Sancerre

Located across the Loire river from Pouilly-Fumé, the Sancerre appellation is the home of many of the world's best Sauvignon Blanc wines. Although they lack the distinctive smoke flavor of the best Pouillys, Sancerres are generally considered better wines on technical merit. Unoaked, nervy, thin Sauvignons, they have a distinctively tangy, minerally aura of green fruit. New Zealand Sauvignons are considered similar to Sancerre, and are now offering better prices, but Sancerre's consistent quality is currently keeping it at the top of worldwide Sauvignon production.

Sancerre's main village shares its name; although it is only a little over six square miles, it contains many of the vineyards where the best Sancerres source their grapes. A dozen other villages, however, are also included, which adds up to 5,400 acres of planted vineyard space, almost all of it made up of Sauvignon Blanc. This is more than twice the acreage of Pouilly-Fumé, giving Sancerre a simple size advantage. Production is more than three times that of Pouilly, adding up to around 1.5 million cases a year of wine.

As one of the major wine appellations of the Loire Valley, Sancerre has increased in standing recently. Complex vinification techniques and perfect climate are what makes the region so legendary; in addition, there seems to be a dearth of low-quality producers in the area. Sancerre is an extraordinarily reliable appellation. However, this undisputed fact allows producers to add on a significant price premium, as a result of which the low-priced New Zealand Sauvignons are more popular in world markets.


As a result of its non-wine history, which was full of events like wars, fires, and stampedes, the Sancerre area is a tourist attraction. Though the region's early days were turbulent, wine has been consistently made here for hundreds of years. However, originally the Sancerre appellation made only red wines from Pinot Noir. Unusually, the region benefited from the phylloxera epidemic since the vines were replanted with Sauvignon Blanc. It was found that Sauvignon made excellent wines here, and by 1936, the region was well-known enough to receive AOC status before almost every other region in the Loire.

The Sauvignon Blanc world itself has undergone an interesting transformation since the Sauvignon Blanc grape became fashionable, a trend that perhaps started in the late 1970s or 1980s. As a result, the formerly monopolistic two appellations of the Loire Valley were faced with competition from all over the world, since the Sauvignon grape was quite easy to grow. New Zealand is the biggest challenger, but other warm climate regions in South America and South Africa are also experimenting with the grape.

Climate and Viticulture

Though it lies right across the Loire River from Pouilly-Fumé, Sancerre is a much more exciting region in terms of climate and viticulture. While Pouilly-Fumé's soils are mainly flat, Sancerre's vineyards are sloping. The weather of the region is cold and sometimes frost can ruin an entire crop, but the river has a warming influence that makes this a rare occurrence. This weather is perfect for the style of Sauvignon Blanc, bitter, slightly "unripe", yet impressively vibrant and energetic.

The size of the Sancerre appellation means that soil isn't a huge influence; in fact, great Sauvignons can be made from both chalk soils and limestone soils--complete opposites in viticultural terms. For the most part, Sancerre is located on flinty, chalky soils, which make the most powerful wines, with marl and gravel soils making for less uncompromising styles.

Producers, believing in the grape's natural ability to make intense and powerful wines, generally make the wines sans oaking. These are some of the most natural white wines in the wine world, which really adds to their already impressive technical credibility. A few producers are experimenting with oaking, but they remain a criticized minority.

Grape Varieties

Major Producers

The Sancerre appellation is one of the most reliable in the Loire; even the red wines rarely go astray quality-wise. Below is a list of 10 producers whose wines are the best in terms of critical consensus; however, it should be noted that these wines are also more expensive than your average Sancerre.


A couple of producers (Boulay and Cotat) have a Chavignol label on some of their wines. This indicates the village in which the wine was made. The usage of lieu-dit vineyard names, however, is more common. The best-known of these is Les Monts Damnés. Yes, it literally translates to "the damn mountains." Other good vineyards include the Clos du Roy (spelled in many alternate ways), Les Romains, and Les Caillottes spots.

Sancerre's sister appellation, and main competitor, is the Pouilly-Fumé region, located right across the river. Read up on it to gain a lock on your knowledge of Loire Sauvignon.