2011 Domaine Daulny Sancerre Le Clos de Chaudenay
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Clos de Chaudenay, Sancerre 70-Year-Old-Vine Sancerre "Clos de Chaudenay"

For those of you who missed it, novelist Jay McInerney wrote an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal about the work of wine critic Stephen Tanzer. Entitled "A Critic Who Favors Finesse Over Power,"1 the piece honed in on both Tanzer's rigorous tasting protocol and his palate preference for wines that marry fine concentration and vibrant minerality.

In collector circles, Tanzer's International Wine Cellar has long been the go-to resource when searching out the top white wines of Burgundy and the Loire Valley. Last year, we were able to get our hands on a single pallet of Tanzer's highest-rated Sancerre in the last five years. Drawn from 70-year-old vines set on a gentle slope high above Verdigny, the Daulny brothers' 2010 Sancerre "Clos de Chaudenay" would earn 92 points from the stingy New Yorker.

In the topsy-turvy growing season of 2011, one in which many of their neighbors stumbled, the Daulnys upped the ante, turning out an old-vine Sancerre that seems to marry the lively minerality of 2010 with the lush, ripe apple opulence of 2009. Once again, we've come away with just 672 bottles of one of the richest, most riveting whites of the year.

"It was a winegrower's harvest," the older brother, Etienne, would tell us as we again trekked the rows of what many believe to be the most precious holding in Sancerre. "The barometer see-sawed all summer long. If you didn't drop crop, there was insufficient air circulation between the bunches. If you used a mechanical harvester instead of doing the work by hand, the wines suffered. We handled 'Le Clos' the way we always do. With kid gloves. Then I turned things over to Bertrand."

Bertrand Daulny, of course, is the top enologist of the appellation, running the laboratory that consults for most of the top estates of Sancerre. In 2011, the brilliant winemaking brother would again perform a long, cool vinification, nursing fabulous concentration from the thin-skinned berries. Natural acidity was again excellent, providing for this scintillating mix of apple-pear juiciness with textbook Tanzer minerality.

Of the 194 buyers who rated the 2010 "Clos de Chaudenay," 151 would come in at 4-stars or 5. This morning, get ready for a repeat performance.

Pale gold, with piercing aromas of ripe apple and pear, tinged with anise. Dense and compact on the attack, with luscious mineral pitch, marrying rich Anjou pear with a hint of lavender -- a touch of violet -- all braced by superb old-vine persistence. Drink now for its primary fruit vibrancy or do as we've done for years with Sancerre from the Clos de Chaudenay. Lay this one down for 5-7 years. Dividends will be paid to the patient.

Tasting Notes

2011 Domaine Daulny Sancerre Le Clos de Chaudenay
"Pale golden in color with lively aromas of ripe apple and pear, tinged with anise. Dense and compact on the attack, a marriage juicy Anjou pear with a hint of lavender and violet, all braced by excellent saline persistence. Drink now, if you must, for its primary fruit vibrancy. Otherwise, lay this one down for 5-7 years. Dividends will be paid to the patient."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

1. This article appeared December 29, 2012, on page D7 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: A Critic Who Favors Finesse Over Power.

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