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Gérard Boulay Sancerre Comtesse 2012

Gérard Boulay Sancerre Comtesse 2012

Yesterday I published a guide to the climate of the Central Vineyards, to complement my guides to the region’s geology, which examine in detail the Oxfordian, Kimmeridgian and Portlandian terroirs, as well as flint of course, looking at significance these different bedrocks and soils have for viticulture in the region. I am glad to have done so, because now I can crack on with my guides to the region’s various appellations and wines, and I will be starting in a couple of weeks with Sancerre. Well, to be frank, where else should I start?

On a very superficial level, the geology of Sancerre is not complex, and it can be divided into three bands which run north-south. In the band to the west is younger Kimmeridgian limestone, while older Oxfordian limestones sit in the central band. Flint dominates in the eastern sections, in particular on the slopes around the towns of Sancerre and Saint-Satur. This is of course an over-simplification, and the physiography of Sancerre is as complex as any appellation on (for example) the Côte d’Or, with a myriad different lieux-dits which take advantage of an infinite number of combinations of slope, aspect, bedrock and soil. For this reason I think it will be worth splitting my guide to Sancerre into several parts, one to look at the appellation as a whole, followed by some more detailed examinations of the most famed wine villages that take advantage of these many different terroirs.

Gérard Boulay Sancerre Comtesse 2012

In the search for a village where prized Kimmeridgian limestones and marls dominate there is only one place to go, and that place is Chavignol. Les Monts Damnés is surely the most famous slope (although Le Cul Beaujeu is surely only a notch behind), and one of its most prized lieux-dits is La Comtesse. This parcel of vines is named for Adélaïde de Saint-Germain (1769 – 1850), Comtesse de Montalivet, the illegitimate daughter of Louis the Beloved, Louis XV (1710 – 1774) and the wife of Jean-Pierre Bachasson de Montalivet (1766 – 1823), who was Napoleon’s interior minister. Originally known as Les Vignes Blanches, the vineyard – which produced a white wine in an era when red was more common than it is today, hence the name – seems to have been renamed La Comtesse, in honour of Adélaïde, during the late-19th century. The wines of this parcel have been praised in France’s gastronomic literature throughout the 20th century, in particular by Maurice Desombiaux (1868 – 1943), who wrote under the pseudonym of Ombiaux.

Gérard Boulay owns a small section of this parcel, as do the Bourgeois family, as proprietors of Domaine Laporte. The vineyard is warmer than the higher parts of the slope, says Gérard, but its wines have more finesse, a fact perhaps attributable not only to its Kimmeridgian terroir, but also the age of the vines, which are well over 100 years old. The 2012 Sancerre Comtesse from Gérard Boulay has a pale and shimmering straw-coloured hue in the glass, and bearing in mind this is six years old it feels very fresh and youthful. Of course, the more serious wines of Chavignol (such as this one!) are wines that, while delicious young, also do well in the cellar. Aromatically this is evolving delightfully, and it displays intense concentration, with a blast of desiccated fruits, in particular dried white peach and tangerine zest, dusted with white pepper and a fresh crushed-rock minerality. In the mouth this ripe and punchy aromatic profile translates into a quite striking confidence, here packed with the flavours of dried apples, peach and citrus slices, a little bitter citrus pith too, and minerals of course. It feels richly textural, with a long and mouthwatering finish. This is truly excellent, and while it is developing nicely it has years ahead of it yet. A top-notch wine from one of the top-notch domaines of Chavignol, and thus of Sancerre. 96/100 (23/7/18)

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