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2012 Sancerre Rouge, Chant de l'Archer, Brigitte et Daniel Chotard
When not organising music concerts or playing jazz piano and guitar in his own band, or fulfilling his obligations as the current president of the BIVC (Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins du Centre), Daniel Chotard makes some wine.
There have been vignerons in the Chotard family since 1789, but it was in 1992 that Daniel Chotard resumed work at the domaine. The domaine’s vines are situated on limestone slopes in the south-west of the region at Reigny near Crezancy-en-Sancerre, in Loire. In total, the area under vines is 15 hectares, 80% of which is planted with Sauvignon Blanc, with the remaining 20% being Pinot Noir. They farm 40 different vineyard parcels in total.
Daniel Chotard believes the terroir here is crucial in defining his wines. In the vineyard he employs the principles of lutte raisonnée, utilising organic products where and when possible and allowing grass to grow between the vines on the slopes. In the winery, he seeks to constantly maintain and improve his facilities. His aim is to produce a natural wine, true to its origins, with a fine aromatic profile.
For example, for his Sancerre Blanc he carefully selects yeasts that will not influence the natural aromas of wine, so the mineral expression and the character of the grape variety are not disguised. Ultimately, the philosophy of this musical vigneron can be summed up with his own statement that ‘…good wine is made to bring happiness…’.
Pinot Noir is probably the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, wine grape in the world. However when it is successful, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to man. This thin-skinned grape which grows in small, tight bunches performs well on well-drained, deepish limestone based subsoils as are found on Burgundy's Côte d'Or.
Pinot Noir is more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping - concentration and varietal character disappear rapidly if yields are excessive and yields as little as 25hl/ha are the norm for some climats of the Côte d`Or.
Because of the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines are lighter in colour, body and tannins. However the best wines have grip, complexity and an intensity of fruit seldom found in wine from other grapes. Young Pinot Noir can smell almost sweet, redolent with freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. When mature, the best wines develop a sensuous, silky mouth feel with the fruit flavours deepening and gamey "sous-bois" nuances emerging.
The best examples are still found in Burgundy, although Pinot Noir`s key role in Champagne should not be forgotten. It is grown throughout the world with notable success in the Carneros and Russian River Valley districts of California, and the Martinborough and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.
While Pouilly-Fumé's vineyards are tightly clustered and homogeneous, Sancerre's 14 communes (including the great villages of Chavignol, Bué, Verdigny, Amigny and Ménétréol) are widely dispersed, covering nearly 3,000 hectares over vertiginous valleys at up to 350 metres above sea level, and three distinct soil types: silex, a white flint found around Sancerre and Ménétréol in particular, giving perfume and a fine structure; terres blanches, a calcareous clay soil that whitens as it dries (widely distributed), delivering a full, fruity richness; and caillottes, a Portlandian soil brimming with large limestones imparting both power and verve – as found in Sancerre, Chavignol and Bué.
A fourth soil type, griottes, tightly-packed with small limestones, has also been identified – as found near the village of Vosges. Kimmeridgean clay crops up less consistently than in Pouilly-Fumé and since most Sancerre, bar the single-vineyard wines, are a blend of soils the result is a richer, fuller and fleshier Sauvignon Blanc.
As with Pouilly-Fumé, an increasing number of (single-vineyard) wines are being raised in French oak, mostly 500-litre and demi-muids; little surprise in light of naturally higher alcohol levels due to global warming. Sancerre Rouge is also made from Pinot Noir, the quality of which is often compromised by bleeding some of the juice to make rosé – Vincent Pinard is a master nonetheless.
Top vineyards include: Les Monts Damnés, La Grande Côte, Le Cul de Beaujeu, Grand (and Petit) Chemarin, Chêne Marchand
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