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Wine’s Tom Hanks: Why Everyone Loves Sancerre

on 27/04/13 at 9:51 am


imagesCELEBRITIES, consumer brands and countless TV shows are deemed successes or failures based in part on their “Q Scores,” which measure familiarity and mass appeal. (Tom Hanks, for example, is a perpetual high scorer, while Lindsay Lohan ranks unsurprisingly low.) If wines were accorded similar ratings, I’m certain that Sancerre would top the list.

Consider its attributes: The name is a singsong syllabic pleasure (“San-SER”), the grape is the popular Sauvignon Blanc and it’s made in the ever-fashionable France, in the Loire Valley. And no matter how often Sancerre might show up on store shelves and wine lists, it has managed not to seem commonplace—unlike, say, Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay.

Sancerre has actually been considered desirable for centuries; ancient French royals were said to be among its fans, although the Sancerre they drank was more likely red than white. Indeed, until the late 19th century, most vineyards in Sancerre were planted to Pinot Noir and Gamay. Then the dreaded phylloxera louse struck, devastating the vineyards. When Sancerre producers replanted, they did so mostly with Sauvignon Blanc. Pinot Noir is still grown in Sancerre, but it’s very much in the minority. (And Gamay is pretty much gone altogether, as is the previously planted white grape Chasselas.)

These new white Sancerres quickly became popular in 20th-century Paris bistros and bars. Lively and uncomplicated, they were considered Beaujolais’s white counterpart.