Helen’s blog

Thoughts and tastings from Helen Savage, wine writer.

Ugly ducklings and old wine

I took some clients to taste at Domaine Vacheron in Sancerre a few days ago. The estate is one of the finest in the appellation and one of the pioneers of biodynamic viticulture in Sancerre. After tasting the latest releases we headed into the cellars to the family vinotheque with Jean-Laurent Vacheron. He selected a sufficiently ancient bottle of red Sancerre and asked us to guess the vintage.

It was clearly an old wine: quite tawny, though not yet brown. The aroma was remarkable: cherries in alcohol, complex yet delicate and full of promise. It did not disappoint. Still quite fruity, with soft tannins it was certainly nearing the end of its life, but was a lovely, lingering drink. After about fifteen minutes a faint, but rather lovely scent of truffles began to appear and added even more complexity to the wine.

So what was it? I know little about old vintages of Sancerre so I  suggested 1983 – a stab in the dark (though this was far less fine in Sancerre than in Bordeaux).  It was older. I tried again. Might it be 1976 – though it had such good acidity that I realised I was probably wrong. I was. It was 1977, an ugly ducking vintage, that produced rather ungenerous, acidic wine. But the acid had protected it and ensured its unusually long life.

Beware vintage charts!

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