Burgundy World

Yours Sancerely

Belle Dame pinot noir
Published:  March 08, 2012

Now, I bought this bottle of Sancerre "Belle Dame"with great expectations. Two reasons: I read a couple of complimentary blogs about it, and even tweeted this one: How promising, a Romanée Conti for a price I can afford? Second, it cost me more than I'd usually pay for a wine I hardly know, 36 euros: was it worth it? No. It is a good wine, but not worth that much. Nor did it really do it for me as a pinot noir. Okay, it had a certain velvety richness underneath, and a fantastic, heavy, thick Burgundy-style bottle, but I couldn't help thinking there was something other than pinot noir in there, something acidy, something fighting against the through flow of rich flavours.

I had quite forgotten the blogs I had read and told the knowledgeable shopkeeper (ney, caviste!) who had sold me the wine what I thought: there's some gamay in there, right? No, he said, 100% pinot noir. 

Well, so is pinot noir from Alsace, and that doesn't do it for me either. However, this Sancerre is better than that. But just as Moulin à Vent is a pinot-style gamay from Beaujolais (and there are some wonderful ones), so this Belle Dame has a hint of gamay. Geographically, geologically and culturally, this makes some sense: Sancerre is next to Burgundy, has soils impregnated with gamay and sauvignon, and these wine growers have a Burgundian penchant.

A couple of things bother me about the blogs: too much emphasis on describing the very likeable family, the Vacherons, and too much focus on the "biodynamic" way the vineyards are kept (see below for two links, good articles but...). Okay, hats off in both cases, but what counts is: how good is the wine, is it worth it and how does it rate with competitors?

I paid 36 euros for the wine in Spring in Paris; I don't think it is worth more than 20 euros. It is too light, and overly haunted by the gamays that are more common in this terroir, however brilliantly worked. A beaune epinotte premier cru from a good grower will cost less than 30 euros and be a real feast of rich yet pinprick flavours.

That said, the chaps who run Spring know what they are doing, and the bloggers seem impressed, so they clearly see potential.  If they got the price down, it would be worth more.


Those Sancerre Vacheron blogs

Vacheron, by the Wineanorak (great name for a blog...)

Vacheron's Take Root: hmm, check out all those 2010s for a fine dinner in November 2011

Spring's blog on this, which I tweeted, so clearly a good article, even if the title is fantasy:


©Rory Delucenay-Clarke, March 2012

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