05 May 2015

Zipping through Sancerre

Sancerre is only about 130 km (80 miles) from Saint-Aignan, but it's not that easy to get there. The mapping sites usually send you on long detours, sticking to main roads either through Bourges to the south or Orléans to the north. Meanwhile, the most direct route goes on narrow lanes through the forested Sologne region from one tiny village to another — Mennetou-sur-Cher, Theillay, Neuvy-sur-Barangeon, Méry-ès-Bois, Henrichemont, etc. — all of which feel remote, rural, and lost in time. It's easy to take a wrong turn.

It's worth the trip though. Last October, on our way back from Burgundy, we drove through the Sancerre vineyards. A blog reader in America had told Walt that he'd bought a bottle of fine Sancerre wine, and we thought we'd go find the winery where it was made. We did find it, after much searching — enjoying the scenery — but it was noontime and the place was closed. We drove on, stopping in a supermarket just below Sancerre itself to buy sandwiches for a roadside picnic and a few bottles of the local wine to take home.

The most famous wines of Sancerre are very dry, steely Sauvignon Blanc whites. It's just across the river from Pouilly-sur-Loire. At this point, the Loire is flowing north before taking the big bend that puts it on its course westward through Orléans, Blois, Tours, Saumur, and Nantes. Pouilly also makes Sauvignon Blanc. "Its character is often described as gunflint...", Hugh Johnson writes of both wines in his Worldwide Atlas of Wine, "...it is smoky, sightly green, slightly spicy and appeals to most people intensely at first with its summery style." The vignerons of Sancerre also make red and rosé wines from the Pinot Noir grape. Our local Touraine wine-makers work hard to make white wines that have the excellent qualities of Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé whites.

The photo above shows the main intersection in the village called Sury-en-Vaux, just north of the town of Sancerre (pop. 1,500 — not a typo). Sury is in the center of one of the prime local grape-growing areas. The word vaux in its name means "valleys" and you can see them in a couple of my photos.

Yesterday I read a blog written by a woman from Boston who recently spent a few weeks at a language school in Sancerre. Here's a link to her blog, Truffles and Tribulations.

8 comments:

Seine Judeet (Judith) said...

I remember riding in the car with my au pair family, as we traveled through Burgundy on these small roads that go through lots of small towns. I remember noticing that, at every fork, the only indication of which way to go, was a sign with an arrow, and the name of a town that you'd hit in that direction. It was really nerve-wracking for the driver and map-holding-directions-giving passenger, because, in a split second, you had to find the two towns on the map, to figure out which way to turn. It led to some ugly behavior up there in the front seat *LOL*.

Evelyn said...

I remember that sort of navigation, Judith. Sometimes the town's names were almost identical which made things worse.
That blog was good, Ken. It's not easy learning another language. I'm losing my hearing now and it reminds me of listening to French when I understand just a few of the words. I am so thankful that I decided to take French in high school- it's a gift that keeps on giving lol.

The Beaver said...

Judith

That's why I love having GPS in the car these days when we go to France. The road trips are much enjoyable.

C in California said...

Thanks for the introduction to Sancerre. This was one of the schools you told me about, and the link to the blog is very interesting. Perhaps next time?

Ken Broadhurst said...

We didn't actually go up into Sancerre. We've been there before. We were on our way home and our main mission was to find that winery I talked about. Too bad it was closed.

Cheryl said...

Sancerre whites are a favorite of mine. And then there's sparkling white from chez Aubert...

Ken Broadhurst said...

I prefer Chardonnay (French style -- Chablis or Mâcon) or Chenin Blanc (Vouvray, Touraine-Amboise). Including especially the sparkling Vouvray wines like Aubert's. Or Blanc de blancs de Champagne. So many wines, so little time.

C in California said...

Oops, I got lost in the link....