Most wines we drink are a blend of some sort. Even if they are made with only one grape variety, they’re probably a blend of different clones or grapes grown on different soils.
I was recently invited to blend some wine samples with Pierre-Jean Sauvion from the Loire Valley. The event was set up classroom style, and Pierre-Jean Sauvion led the “class.” After tasting his Muscadet – I suspect to get a sense of his palate, we were given the components of his 2011 Sancerre.
The Sauvion “Chateau de Cleray” Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie 2011 was light and elegant, perfect for oysters or raw bar. Sauvion is the name of the producer, Chateau de Cleray is the name of the wine, Muscadet Sever et Main is the region, Sur Lie means the wine was aged for a short time on the spent yeast from fermentation to prevent oxidation and build some body. Obviously, 2011 is the vintage. I’m not sure if the 2011 is on the market yet, but the 2009 is on sale for $11 at 67 Wine & Spirits, 179 Columbus Avenue, NYC; 212.724.6767.
Just so you know, wines labeled Muscadet are made from a grape called Melon de Bourgogne (Burgundy). It was originally from Burgundy, but in the early 1700s the vineyards were ordered destroyed. At around the same time the western Loire Valley had such a cold, horrible winter that they had to replant most of the vineyards. They replanted with Melon, which I can only assume is hardier than the original grapevines.
The wine we played with was the Sauvion Sancerre 2011. It’s 100% Sauvignon Blanc, but those grapes come from four different areas in Sancerre.
The four different areas have four different soils. Sample A was grown on Terres Blanche, which is clay with chalk. The grapes from this soil produce wine that is very bright and acidic, has some green characteristics and grapefruit flavors.
Sample B was made from grapes grown on Caillottes, which is chalk and rock. The grapes ripen earlier and produce a wine that has more body and fruit than Sample A.
Sample C was made from grapes grown on Griottes, which is chalk and sand. The grapes grown on this soil produce wine that is soft and full, showing flavors of peach and apricot.
Finally, Sample D is from grapes grown on Silex, which is flint over a base of clay and limestone. This sample was the most drinkable on its own, with great aromas, lovely fruit, minerality and acid.
We were given tank samples of the wine from each of the four areas that were used in the final blend, and asked to create our own blend. My final blend was 30% from Sample A, 15% from Sample B, 15% from Sample C, and 40% from Sample D.
I’m very proud that I created one of the two wines the winemaker liked. It was very different from his final blend, but still a winner. While I have to say I really liked my blend, Pierre-Jean’s blend was very different and delicious. I highly recommend you try it. His Sancerre is sold at Wine Heaven for $30, 333 Third Avenue, NYC; 212.726.0033.
The most interesting takeaway here is that using the same four components we all came up with very different blends. Some of these needed more work; some were very good as they were; all were very different. It really drove home the point that a little more of one sample or less of another makes a big change in the final product.