Many of you know and love to drink Sancerre; it was something of a rage a decade ago. Sancerre is an appellation in the Centre region, on the eastern end of France’s Loire Valley wine country. Most of us are familiar with the whites that dominate the region, always made from sauvignon blanc. Crisp, clean, and refreshing, these wines have become very popular, and for good reason. In general they tend to be great quality for the price, with some of the best setting the bar for sauvignon blanc globally.
What many don’t know is that this primarily white-wine appellation also produces a decent amount of red wine (about 20 percent of the region’s output). To be labeled Sancerre Rouge, wines must be 100 percent pinot noir. These pinots have been a hard sell for the region given the overwhelming popularity of its whites. Many producers sell most of their red locally and many take their lowest quality wine and chill it down to serve to their vineyard workers eating lunch in the summer time. (There is also some pinot noir rosé produced in Sancerre.)
Because this style of pinot noir is less complex than that of its neighbors in Burgundy doesn’t mean that it’s not worth your attention. As a warm-weather wine, nicely chilled, it can be quite enjoyable. More and more of these wines are becoming available in the States and they belong here! Like the whites, most are unoaked, straightforward, and simply refreshing. They can drink like a full bodied rosé or a light-bodied red. They generally tend to have vibrant acidity making them perfect to drink with whatever is coming off the grill in these still-warm early days of fall.
Matthew Conway is the creator of www.underripe.com, a wine-focused website geared towards the under ripe millennial generation. He serves as general manager / sommelier at Restaurant Marc Forgione. Conway is also a writer currently on the editorial advisory board for Boulder, Colo.-based Sommelier Journal.