If you have never tried a red wine from Sancerre, there is a likely explanation: only 10–20% of the wines from that appellation are red, even though the Sancerrois have been cultivating and vinifying Pinot Noir for centuries! In the late 1980s, Kermit asked Hippolyte’s son Michel to try aging his small amount of Sancerre rouge in the traditional demi-muids and bottling it unfiltered. Michel agreed to run this experiment with the cuvées we imported, but he continued to filter his Pinot Noir for other customers. Eventually those clients tasted our unfiltered cuvée and requested this style for themselves. So, in 2003, Michel finally decided to bottle all of his reds unfiltered. One whiff of this charming, Paris-bistro Pinot Noir from Sancerre and you know you’re not in Burgundy. Pure, classy fruit sing tenor without any interference from the earthy bass that often makes itself heard in Bourgogne rouge. This Pinot Noir is for pleasure and refreshment, not for pondering.
Hippolyte Reverdy’s family has been making wine in the charming village of Verdigny for many generations. The Reverdys raised goats on a traditional multi-crop farm, making small quantities of wine for local consumption. It wasn’t until after WWII that Hippolyte and his sons began increasing production and bottling under their own label. Michel joined his father and brothers at the domaine in 1971. Shortly after Kermit began working with the domaine in 1983, the passing of Hippolyte and untimely deaths of Michel’s two brothers brought a climate of sadness to the domaine. Slowly but surely, Michel has found his own rhythm. He crafts an unfiltered Sancerre rouge in traditional demi-muids—one of a kind, it’s the talk of Sancerre.
The defining feature of the Loire Valley, not surprisingly, is the Loire River. As the longest river in France, spanning more than 600 miles, this river connects seemingly disparate wine regions. Why else would Sancerre, with its Kimmeridgian limestone terroir be connected to Muscadet, an appellation that is 250 miles away?
Secondary in relevance to the historical, climatic, environmental, and cultural importance of the river are the wines and châteaux of the Jardin de la France. The kings and nobility of France built many hundreds of châteaux in the Loire but wine preceded the arrival of the noblesse and has since out-lived them as well.
Diversity abounds in the Loire. The aforementioned Kimmderidgian limestone of Sancerre is also found in Chablis. Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur boast the presence of tuffeau, a type of limestone unique to the Loire that has a yellowish tinge and a chalky texture. Savennières has schist, while Muscadet has volcanic, granite, and serpentinite based soils. In addition to geologic diversity, many, grape varieties are grown there too: Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Melon de Bourgogne are most prevalent, but (to name a few) Pinot Gris, Grolleau, Pinot Noir, Pineau d’Aunis, and Folle Blanche are also planted. These myriad of viticultural influences leads to the high quality production of every type of wine: red, white, rosé, sparkling, and dessert.
Like the Rhône and Provence, some of Kermit’s first imports came from the Loire, most notably the wines of Charles Joguet and Château d’Epiré—two producers who are featured in Kermit’s book Adventures on the Wine Route and with whom we still work today.
For the wines that I buy I insist that the winemaker leave them whole, intact. I go into the cellars now and select specific barrels or cuvées, and I request that they be bottled without stripping them with filters or other devices. This means that many of our wines will arrive with a smudge of sediment and will throw a more important deposit as time goes by, It also means the wine will taste better.
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