Those who visit Sancerre undoubtedly gravitate towards the hilltop town of that name, which although once a fortress bristling with defensive towers is today much more welcoming to the inquisitive visitor. It is easy enough to spend more than a day or two in the town, taking advantage of the auberges and cafés secreted along the back streets and the Place Nouvelle Place, perhaps visiting some of the cellars and tasting rooms, of which there are more than a handful, and soaking up the views from the Remparts des Augustins across the broad valley of the Loire. By all means linger a while, but to really get to grips with Sancerre it is better to explore a little. Start with Chavignol, as to not visit this little town would be a little like flying into Bordeaux but then not heading up the D2 to Pauillac or St Julien. But then look further still, to the more distant communes; not just Bué or Verdigny (both certainly of merit), but more obscure names.
Such as, for example, Sury-en-Vaux.
Sury-en-Vaux is surely not the first name to trip off the tongue when talking of this region and its wines. This little village lies to the north-west of Sancerre, and if it has a claim to fame outside the world of wine I suspect it is as the resting place of the author Richard Aldington, best known for his World War I poetry and semi-autobiographical war novel, Death of a Hero (published 1929). But as far as wine goes, there are hidden gems waiting to be discovered here. Far removed from the very famous names of the appellation in Chavignol and in Sancerre itself, some of these domaines demand our attention. One of them, which can be found within a tiny hamlet not far from Sury-en-Vaux, is Vincent Gaudry.
This domaine’s origins lie with Vincent Gaudry’s maternal grandfather, who seems to have had ownership of a few rows of vines. I suspect this was merely part of a smallholding, this being the norm in the region even only two or three generations ago. It was not significantly developed during his time, and the vines were subsequently passed on to his son-in-law, Vincent’s father, Georges Gaudry. Writing of the domaine in Les Vins de Bourgogne (Editions Jema, 1985), Suzanne Blanchet informs us that even at this time, presumably several decades after he took on the running of the domaine, Georges Gaudry still had only 3.6 hectares. This was therefore a very tiny domaine, no bigger than the vineyard of Château Lafleur in Pomerol (sorry, I can’t help squeezing in a mention for Lafleur whenever I encounter a similarly diminutive domaine), and was of such a size that the land could be worked single-handed. This would have been viticulture as gardening, rather than as a great agricultural venture.