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Henri Bourgeois Sancerre d'Antan 2005

Henri Bourgeois Sancerre d'Antan 2005I offer no apologies for featuring yet another wine from the Loire Valley this week, as this truthfully reflects my current drinking. And as I have already featured wines from the Anjou-Saumur and Touraine regions, I thought it would only be unfair if I did not extend my gaze upriver to some extent. Sancerre, which is home to perhaps the best known Old World expression of Sauvignon Blanc, has an appellation which dates back to 1936 for the white wines and to 1959 for the reds and rosés (which are made from Pinot Noir). There are fourteen communes eligible for the appellation, and these largely spread out to the west of the town, the Loire lying to the east; these vineyards are some considerable distance from their Touraine cousins, and it can be argued that they have as much in common with Chablis as they do with Vouvray.

Although white Sancerre comes in varying styles I have previously - painting with broad brushstrokes - described them as fresh and balanced wines, with some minerality; although this generalisation is not inappropriate, there are many very serious wines emerging from the appellation, often cuvées from one of the many lieux-dits, or utilising a parcel of old vines. I think it is fair to say that this week's wine, the 2005 Sancerre d'Antan (which translates as Yesteryear's Sancerre) from Henri Bourgeois is one such cuvée; the fruit in question is harvested from vines planted in flinty soils in 1936. The yields are closely controlled, and the fermentation takes place in used oak barrels, aged 4, 5 and 6 years. Once the fermentation is complete, the wine rests on its lees with only two subsequent rackings, which are timed according to the lunar cycle. It is then bottled with neither fining nor filtration. The result is certainly worth experiencing in my opinion.

This vintage has a good colour, pale but shimmering with light. There are fabulous and profound aromas on the nose, led by passion fruit and pear, presented in a bright and beautiful clarity. The palate shows a plentiful array of fruit as found on the nose, with a fresh and lively demeanour, but underneath it there is also considerable substance. It has a rather full, perhaps even meaty texture, and it is very finely balanced with good acidity. Towards the finish it shows a very solid feel in the mouth, clearly displaying the density due perhaps in part to the vintage, in part to the careful vinification and handling of this wine. Overall I think this is beautiful, and although it flatters now with primary fruit over the texture I think it has a lot of potential pleasure to yield in the future too. It would be interesting to pop a few in the cellar to see. 18.5+/20 (4/8/08)

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