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The ascension of Clos Rougeard and Didier Dagueneau has shown the world just how great the top terroirs of the Loire Valley can be in the hands of a gifted winemaker with a single-minded focus on expressing their essence.
Clos Rougeard’s Foucault brothers and Dagueneau became superstars through a pursuit of quality and transparency of site above all else, in two appellations— Saumur-Champigny and Pouilly-Fumé, respectively—long dominated by houses and blends.
Another important figure in the Loire’s recent emergence has been Sancerre’s arch-traditionalist Edmond Vatan who, for decades, had quietly been turning out brilliant wines from his Clos la Néore parcel of the iconic Monts Damnés .
Ironically, Vatan’s wines caught fire in the market just as he was set to retire in the mid-2000s. Today, while searching for stray bottles of his iconic wine for nearly $200 a bottle, lovers of Sancerre may be asking themselves if anyone will—or can—follow in Edmond’s footsteps.
But ask that question in a well-placed Parisian wine bar or caviste, or to a sommelier at a Michelin-starred restaurant—the same establishments that made Rougeard’s and Dagueneau’s reputations—and more likely than not the answer will be “Pinard.”
The Pinard brothers, Florent and Clément, are the 20th generation of their family to work vines in their home of Bué. But unlike most of their contemporaries, they see the world of wine that extends beyond their village. They understand the greatness not only of Rougeard and Dagueneau, but of Coche, Selosse and Roulot. And the wines they make from their best vineyards reflect it profoundly.
In the decade since they took over their family’s domaine, the Pinard brothers have made their wines the talk of not only of Paris but of winemakers throughout France. And they did so by shifting the goal from producing wine solely of typicity to making wine of true greatness.
The key, of course, is that they have very great terroirs and old vines with which to work. The slopes of Bué are not only very steep, they’re built of Kimmeridgian limestone marl—part of the same vein that gives Chablis’ Les Clos and Chavignol’s Monts Damnés their legendary perfume and chalky minerality.
But the soil around Bué is also unique, due to the weathering forces of nature over the centuries. Where Monts Damnés is 100% terres blanches, in Bué the Kimmeridgian vein has become pebbly caillottes, resulting in more powerful wines, with great length and nuance.
Yet, as with Clos Rougeard and Dagueneau, it is what Florent and Clément do with the fruit from these terroirs that creates greatness. They recognized that their domaine is capable of a wide range of expressions, and set about discovering how best to capture them.
Each site is densely planted, farmed organically and pruned for low yields. Yet, the fruit from each is handled differently in the cellar, according to the given vintage. Depending on the year, they deftly mix different size barrels (pièce, demi-muid and the experimental elongated cigares pioneered in the Loire by Didier Dagueneau) both old and new—and stainless steel tanks as well—to craft the best wines possible.
The whites—strictly selected on a vibrating sorting table and 100% whole-cluster pressed—now number seven different cuvées. Three are specific lieu-dit terroir expressions—Petit Chemarin, Grand Chemarin, and Chêne Marchand—plus Harmonie, which blends the last two sites. And there are three cuvées based on fruit and aromatic character—Clémence, Florès and Nuance—whose vinification and aging is tailored according to the vintage.
But that’s not all—Pinard is one of those rare domaines where the reds are as compelling as the whites. The Sancerre Rouge bottlings are sourced from old Pinot Noir vines planted in the clay-limestone marl areas of the domaine.
Charlouise represents Pinard’s oldest Pinot Noir vines, averaging 50 years in age, destemmed, fermented with the native yeasts in oak vat, and then aged for 18 months in both old and new barrels. Vendanges Entièrs is just what it’s name means—100% whole-cluster fruit from a tiny plot of 35-year-old vines in the La Pèlerine lieu-dit, aged primarily in neutral pièce.
The results are striking Sancerres, in both colors, with an intensity and depth perfectly countered by their nuance and finesse, each cuvée expressing its terroir with stunning purity.
So far, the ardor of Pinard’s biggest French fans—which include the 3 stars of Troisgros and L’Arpège—has made it very difficult to find its wines in America. And they remain little-known here, having received most of their praise in the French press.
But, whether your interest lies in finding wines that profoundly express their terroir or to simply be there at the birth of a cult star, the Pinard Sancerres are among the greater wine-world’s most compelling new discoveries.
|2012||2012 Vincent Pinard Sancerre Chene Marchand 1.5 L||1.5 L||4||$125.00||add|
|2014||2014 Vincent Pinard Sancerre Chene Marchand 1.5 L||1.5 L||4||$125.00||add|
|2012||2012 Vincent Pinard Sancerre Grand Chemarin 1.5 L||1.5 L||6||$115.00||add|
|2012||2012 Vincent Pinard Sancerre Petit Chemarin 1.5 L||1.5 L||3||$125.00||add|
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