Alright, I know this is the "Spirits" blog, but today I'm breaking the rules because the most interesting thing I've tasted all week was not whiskey or a well-mixed cocktail, but rather an aged Sancerre. I'm a person who has learned to rise and fall with the tides of my alcohol mood swings, rather than fight them. Sometimes I just don't feel like drinking the hard stuff, or sometimes I don't feel like drinking at all, but for the last few days I've been on a wine resurgence. Looking for an excuse to celebrate Bastille Day, I pulled this homework bottle out of the fridge and gave it a whirl.
At the Redwood City store we have what we call the "Hazerai Box" which is where we put the leftover wines from an old and rare purchase. When we buy a private cellar, we buy the entire collection and if there are a few bottles included that are right on the line, we discount them heavily and put them in this box for someone to take a shot. Many times these wines are spent, done, dead. But every now and then you get an amazingly preserved bottle for a fraction of what it should cost. In this instance, I found a 1987 Paul Cotat Sancerre Chavignol, a legendary wine made by one of two famous brothers in France's Loire Valley. Why was it less than $10 and sitting in the box? Because 23 years should be over the hill for sauvignon blanc. However, there are a handful of producers in Sancerre, guys like the Cotats and Edmond Vatan, who make crisp, chalky, acidic wines that are said to turn rich and custard-like in their old age if you have the patience to wait. The question with this 1987 was: had this wine already long passed its golden years?
The answer to that question was thankfully "no" and the result was a fantastic experience in my on-going wine education. I'd never had what I consider to be "mature" sauvignon blanc, so I really had no idea what to expect. That vibrant Sancerre acidity was still there holding the wine together structurally, amazingly enough, yet the palate was rich like an old Burgundy. The combination of these two elements is very enjoyable I learned and I was grateful that I didn't have to lay this down myself to figure it out. However, since our old Loire buyer literally forced me to purchase a 2004 Edmond Vatan when I first started working here (although I had no idea what I was spending $50 on), I have a better idea of what I'm now patiently waiting for. The point here is that if you get the chance to snag one of these wines, they will surprise you with their longevity, as many wines often tend to do. Wine is a funny business in that the more I drink, the more I think most people have no idea what they're really talking about. Sauvignon Blanc is an age worthy varietal, despite what is often said.