2015: A Tenuous Bright Spot in France

As some of our previous posts (not to mention any major wine publication worth the purchase price) will tell you, it’s been a rough few years for many French wine regions. Hail storms have battered Burgundy, bringing down yields for the last several years and completely decimating some vineyards. In 2016 late-season frost in April brought disaster to the Loire Valley as well. Some producers lost nearly everything, with historic frosts hitting the region on three nights – April 18, 25, and 27.

Sancerre mapAlthough Sancerre itself escaped the very worst of the frost damage, this latest disaster combined with low stocks at wineries from lower than usual harvests for the past couple of years will mean that prices could move around quite a bit in the next few years.

Lower Yields, But High Quality. Amid all this doom and gloom, the wines from 2015 are a welcome relief. While yields were still a bit low, the wines are of great quality. A very hot summer gave the grapes a few extra notches of ripeness, creating a fuller mouthfeel, more pleasingly ripe fruit flavors, and toning down that grassy character that can sometimes get to be a little bit too much in Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Rain and some cooler weather came at exactly the right time in September, preserving the freshness that makes wines like Sancerre so pleasant on a hot summer day.

The rain also came early enough that it could dry thoroughly before the very early harvest, preserving concentration of flavor. In short, 2015 is a fantastic vintage in the Loire Valley for this wonderful concentration of ripeness and acidity. The 2015 Domaine de la Chazétte reflects this delicious balance – elegant, yet still fun to drink.

A Chance Discovery. A chance encounter led Stephane Defot, relative newcomer to the importing scene in the DC area, to this family-owned producer – and we’re glad it did! His father stumbled upon Domaine de Chézatte during a hike, and introduced Stephane to the wines.

This introduction came at just the right time, as Stephane needed a Sancerre producer to add to his portfolio. He always thought maybe he’d drop the estate for something he’d picked himself, but the wines are so delicious that they’ve become a best seller for him that he wouldn’t dream of dropping – and now we wouldn’t either!

 

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