The wines of the central Loire are dominated by the juggernaut appellations of Sancerre and, to a slightly lesser degree, […]Keep Reading
The wines of the central Loire are dominated by the juggernaut appellations of Sancerre and, to a slightly lesser degree, Pouilly-Fumé. At the far southern edge of the vast deposit of Kimmeridgian limestone and situated just southwest of Sancerre, Menetou-Salon is often viewed as a satellite or country cousin to its neighbor. Standing in these vineyards, situated on gentle slopes that stretch from Humbligny to Pigny, you would be hard-pressed to identify what makes these terroirs different from Sancerre. So generally well-accepted is this assessment, that many renowned Domaines in Sancerre also tend vines of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir in Menetou-Salon. In tasting a wide variety of Sauvignon Blancs from the central Loire, it is generally easy to spot the generosity of Quincy, the vibrantly forthright aromas of Reuilly, and the smoldering minerality of Pouilly-Fumé. Telling Sancerre from Menetou-Salon is far more challenging – especially when tasting Sancerre from Terres Blanches and Caillottes soils.
If anyone could be a better ambassador for defining Menetou-Salon and placing it firmly on the map, other than Bertrand Minchin, we’ve yet to meet them. To describe Bertrand as irrepressible is an understatement. Whether it is conducting other vignerons in various singalongs and chants or in crafting minutely detailed renditions of his terroirs, Bertrand is a natural and gregarious leader. Bertrand was born in the province of Berry, where his family grew cereal crops and tended orchards in the tiny hamlet of Crosses. His passion for wine started in his youth, and after returning home after he completed his studies in 1987, he restored and replanted the vineyards his grandfather had planted – Sauvignon Blanc in the village of Morogues and scattered, south-facing plots of Pinot Noir on the slopes that stretch from Sancerre to the outskirts of Bourges. These vines and his family’s traditional farmstead became La Tour Saint Martin in 1994 with the construction of a winery and his first vintage of Menetou-Salon. La Tour Saint Martin is currently 17 hectares in size with 10 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc and 7 of Pinot Noir.
After realizing the detrimental effects of synthetic vineyard treatments in 1999, Bertrand decided to cease their routine use. He adopted many sustainable practices: tiling the soils, adding organic compost to the soils, and green harvesting to balance the fruit development and vegetative growth of his vines. He harvests most of his vines by hand, and each plot is vinified separately. The Sauvignon Blanc is gently pressed and fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, while the Pinot Noir is destemmed and fermented in oak vats after a short cold maceration. He handles his Pinot Noir carefully to avoid over-extraction, preferring long, gentle macerations with pump-overs only to keep the cap wet. Depending on the plot and vintage, his wines are aged in stainless steel tanks, French oak foudres, or French oak barrels.
Valençay is the rare example of a French appellation that applies both to cheese ( established in 1998) and wine (elevated to AOP in 2004) – and the first region in France to be officially recognized for both products. Situated on the southern bank of the Cher, Valençay can be seen as a southeastern and viticultural continuation of the vineyards of the Touraine. Like the Touraine, there are a wide variety of grapes permitted in the region including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Arbois for the whites, and Gamay, Cabernet Franc, Cot, and Pinot Noir for the reds. These are country wines – crystalline whites ubiquitously paired with the local goat cheeses and pleasurable, vibrant reds that match beautifully with every cured, stewed or roasted part of a pig imaginable.
Nestled in Selles-sur-Cher, a small village on the banks of the Cher with its gracefully crumbling château, Le Claux Delorme is a 15 hectare estate that Bertrand Minchin purchased in 2003. The soils here are different from those in Menetou-Salon – primarily chalky sand and flint gravel. While traditionally the wines of Valençay are blended, Bertrand prefers the racy, forthwith and aromatic qualities of pure Sauvignon Blanc when grown on these soils. For his reds he makes a traditional blend of Gamay for the fruit, Cot for the color and structure, Cabernet Franc harvested late to add aromatic complexity, and Pinot Noir for its fine tannins. Farming at Le Claux Delorme is sustainabe with certification from the French Ministry of Agriculture. Fermentations are in tank or oak vats followed by aging in stainless steel tanks, foudres, and French oak barrels. Naturally, when sharing a meal with Bertrand, his Valençay Blanc shows up early in the meal and his rouge makes its appearance with the arrival of a roasted pig knuckle.Close