2010 Lucien Crochet, Croix du Roy Sancerre Rouge
We are huge fans of the racy, mineral-laden Sauvignon Blancs that the Sancerre region of France’s eastern Loire Valley is so justly renowned for. So great is the reputation of these whites, that many are surprised to learn that Sancerre also produces red wines. In fact, about 20% of the wines produced in Sancerre are red, made from the Pinot Noir grape. It isn’t surprising that Pinot grows well here, since the vineyards of Burgundy begin a mere 100 miles to the south. Lucien Crochet is one of the top producers here, making both white and red Sancerres. The domain was created by a marriage, which combined the estate of André Crochet (Lucien’s father) with that of Lucien Picard (his father-in-law). Lucien expanded the resulting property over the years to its current size of 38 hectares, of which 29 are planted to Sauvignon Blanc and nine to Pinot Noir, mostly in the village of Bué. His soils consist of both stony “caillottes” from the Oxfordian era and “terres blanches” (white, chalky clay soil) from the Kimmerdigian era, in vineyards situated on slopes with south, to southeast exposure. This Pinot is sourced from both types of terroir and is aged 60% in barrel and 40% in stainless steel tanks for about one year. Its earthy aromas of dark fruit and wet chalk lead to elegant, complex fruit flavors. It is a subtle, graceful wine with silky texture and a long finish, lovely now or to enjoy over the next few years. At $39.75, it would pair wonderfully with grilled salmon and roasted vegetables.
2012 Antoine Arena, Patrimonio Grotte di Sole Vermentinu
This isn’t the first wine we’ve featured from this Corsican producer: in September, 2011 we presented their Niellucciu. At that time we introduced you to winemaker Antoine Arena, who grew up on a modest family farm in the Patrimonio region at the northern tip of Corsica. Located in the Mediterranean, north of Sardinia and just off the Tuscan coast, the island is politically part of France, but culturally and viticulturally very much a part of Italy. Arena moved to the French mainland to pursue a career in law, but returned in the mid 1970s during the Corsican independence movement, determined to show the world what his region of Patrimonio was capable of producing. While in France he had become close friends with, and was influenced by, the famous “gang of four” from Beaujolais, who called for a return to traditional winemaking practices a refocus on producing wines of utmost quality in their then languishing region. Back in Corsica, Arena identified his best parcels and vinified them separately, and he began working the vineyards organically and in harmony with nature. Today he is one of the most respected winemakers on the island and, they say, quite a legend in Paris, guaranteed to draw a capacity crowd at wine tastings there. Although we first featured one of his red wines in the club, the Patrimonio region is primarily known for its crisp whites made from the Vermentino grape (Vermentinu in the Corsican spelling). This one is sourced from his Grotte di Sole vineyard, which takes its name (“sunny grottoes”) from its direct south-facing exposure. Arena has one hectare of Vermentino here from his original family holdings, with vines averaging 60 years in age. Given the warm site, it is not surprising that the wines tend to be rich and round, but he goes to great effort to harvest early and avoid excessive maturity. This one is layered with amazingly complex flavors, from fresh straw, to clover blossoms and citrus, with plenty of balancing minerality. It is $49.75 and would be a perfect accompaniment to seared scallops.