2012 Domaine Daulny Sancerre Le Clos de Chaudenay
 
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Clos de Chaudenay, Sancerre Sancerre "Le Clos de Chaudenay"

In July, we made the same cellar-hopping trip to the Loire Valley that we've been making each year since 1992. Rather than making a half-dozen visits per day as we once did, we've learned that less is more when you're trying to really understand the vagaries of a single growing season, and the wines that come out of it.

From the Touraine to Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, the description of the 2012 vintage was much the same. This was a growing season where those accustomed to farming for quality — at the expense of quantity — came through with flying colors, crafting Sauvignon Blancs that married the ripe-fruit intensity of 2009 and the stinging minerality of 2010.

But as we'd come to understand so clearly when speaking with Étienne Daulny, while Dominique Roger, Vincent Pinard, the Vacherons and the Daulnys crafted some of the finest Sancerres of the new millennium, the less rigorous farmers lagged well behind. Over lunch at Le Chat in Cosne-sur-Loire, Étienne explained why.

"Right from the beginning, 2012 was challenging," Étienne Daulny began. "We had frost in April. Many of us lost a third of our production in a single night. The weather remained unseasonably cold right up until mid-July. On the 15th, I remember recording in my vintage logbook that we were two to three weeks behind. One hail storm and we'd be dipping into cash reserves, and as the harvest was almost sure to creep into late September or October, the risk of late-season frost was all too real."

According to Étienne's log, the weather broke around the 18th of July. Blue skies and bright sunshine bathed the 70-year-old vines at Le Clos de Chaudenay, not letting up until late September. The rigorous farmers would be rewarded for biting the bullet. Multiple times from July to September, the Daulnys, Rogers and Pinards took to the vines, clipping off damaged clusters, making sure there was plenty of air circulation so as to ward off mildew.

In late September, picking began. In what would prove to be one of the most extraordinary harvests qualitatively since 1999, yields — particularly for the oldest vines — were paltry. The Daulnys would barely eke out 2.5 tons per acre of tight, small-berry clusters. Natural sugars insured a finished alcohol level of just under 14 percent — even if the top wines show no sign of heat. Acids remained superb, with pH levels at a brisk 3.3.

Brilliant greenish-golden to the rim with pure, ethereal aromas of grapefruit, ripe pear, mint and lavender. Dense, tightly wound and brisk on the attack with mouthwatering saline character, packed with juicy apple/pear concentration, still wonderfully bracing and penetrating on the finish — without any sign whatsoever of heat or astringency. Drink now for its youthful vitality or lay down for a decade or two like all great vintages of Domaine Daulny's Le Clos de Chaudenay.



Tasting Notes

2012 Domaine Daulny Sancerre Le Clos de Chaudenay
"Brilliant greenish-golden to the rim with pure, ethereal aromas of grapefruit, ripe pear, mint and lavender. Dense, tightly wound and brisk on the attack with mouthwatering saline character, packed with juicy apple/pear concentration, still wonderfully bracing and penetrating on the finish — without any sign whatsoever of heat or astringency. Drink now for its youthful vitality or lay down for a decade or two like all great vintages of Daulny's Le Clos de Chaudenay. Exquisite."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

 

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