2018 Merlin-Cherrier Le Chêne Marchand, Sancerre, Bue, Loire Valley, France

2018 Merlin-Cherrier Le Chêne Marchand, Sancerre, Bue, Loire Valley, France



Thierry Merlin has several parcels he organically farms in the quaint hamlet of Bué just outside the old walled town of Sancerre in the Loire Valley. The village sits at the bottom of what looks an amphitheater of Sauvignon Blanc vines on the hills flanking the village on three sides.  As the vineyards ascend these hills the vines are planted with different exposures in the highly coveted and distinctive terroir locally known as Caillottes which is very stony (limestone), compact chalk without much clay or marl.  Geologically speaking Caillottes is recognized as Oxfordian Limestone.  Caillottes is responsible for giving these Bué Sancerre their diverse and broad, perfumy floral aromas, finesse and precision.

Chêne Marchand is one of the crown jewel vineyards of Sancerre and is the appellation’s outstanding example of Caillottes terroir.  If ever Sancerre were to classify its vineyards, Chêne would be a certain candidate for grand cru status. The vineyard grows on the western plateau above Bué where the sun always shines if it is shining anywhere in the neighborhood, and this plateau has supported vines for many a century—possibly as far back as the Roman Occupation.  The 2018 Le Grand Chemarin, which was bottled for the first time, is situated at the top of the eastern hillside of the amphitheater with a southern exposure facing opposite to Chêne Marchand.

Thierry has two parcels in Chêne Marchand that total 0.84 hectares, or two acres (the surface of Chéne adds up to 30 hectares and makes up 10% of Bué’s total surface of vines). The smaller parcel belonged to his grandfather, which was worn out by the time Thierry inherited it. He ripped up the diseased vines and planted various grasses and grains to replenish and aerate the soil, and he did this every year for an astonishing ten years. Today this parcel grows his best vines. Production averages 550 cases per year.

The wine from his two parcels is made in vat and normally with native yeast, resting on its fine lees for 12 to 18 months, the year depending, and is never racked out of vat except at bottling. It’s bottled without fining and without cold stabilization (the wine can throw tartaric crystals—and would that more wine did as this is a sign of quality) and with a light filtration. It’s an immensely elegant, refined and long, and mineral Sancerre.  In riper years, the wine can be exotic with notes of white flowers, hazelnuts, and honey; in leaner years the minerality and length carry the day.

2018 as one of the “most exceptional vintages” in the last 50 years, according to Pascal Jolivet, one of the area’s leading producers, and is clearly one of this year’s major stories in the wine world.  Riper and with richness, but all tempered by crisp, vibrant and refreshing acidity.



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