“I tasted good Sancerres in several caves but selected Hippolyte Reverdy’s because it was the prettiest, because it has none of the dreaded SO2, because his price is far from painful, and because I liked his name. When you are named Kermit, there is a satisfaction to be gained by meeting an Hippolyte.” — Kermit Lynch, June 1983 Newsletter
Does it get more classic than this? Like Chablis and Muscadet, Sancerre is a quintessential white wine appellation of France, beloved for its famous Kimmeridgian limestone and crisp blancs that sing at apéro hour. This AOC also happens to be home to half a dozen vignerons named Reverdy. Domaine Hippolyte Reverdy, a family farm that has been making wine for many generations—since the 1600s—is our favorite, producing Sancerres with trademark notes of fresh spring flowers and a zesty, mineral finish. Since Kermit began to work with Hippolyte, the first Reverdy in this family to bottle, in the 1980s, the wines have been consistently excellent. The current generation, Julie Guiard—Hippolyte’s granddaughter—is as much a humble farmer as any of her ancestors, foregoing vacation and travel to make sure everything is in exactly the right place in her vines and cellar. As we celebrate 40 years of importing Domaine Hippolyte Reverdy, join me in opening a bottle of this charming Sancerre that represents what we love most about tradition in French winemaking.
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.
Great winemakers, great terroirs, there is never any hurry. And I no longer buy into this idea of “peak” maturity. Great winemakers, great terroirs, their wines offer different pleasures at different ages.
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