Five Minutes From Bistro Au P'tit Goûter in Chavignol
Making the rounds in France’s Loire Valley last April, we went on a walk that quickly felt like a hike. We left the Sancerre town of Chavignol on foot, walking past tightly packed homes with steep red-tiled roofs and bright-red clapboard shutters, to an almost 9-acre vineyard about five minutes out of town. Our company was top-notch, the vineyard’s owners: Franck Bailly and his nephew Aurélien.
We glanced down at our shoes, which had become coated with a white dusty chalk: the famed “terres blanches,” the pulverized remnants of jagged pieces of marl and limestone that littered the steep slopes of the vineyard.
“Everything you see here is sustainably farmed, and we don’t use any chemicals,” Franck told us. “Everything is done by hand. We harvest when the grapes taste ready.” He then gestured uphill to his left. “I can’t speak for this one,” he motioned again, in a sweeping gesture, “or any of them. I only know for certain what we do here.”
Domaine Bailly-Reverdy is one of Sancerre’s best-kept secrets — though if you have one of Robert Parker’s printed Buying Guides lying around, you’ll find them called “one of Sancerre’s best producers,” and an “outstanding” one at that. It’s a benchmark of purity and of the classically bone-dry style of Sauvignon Blanc that we love in a crisp, refreshing Loire Valley white.
We were more than ready when Aurélien filled a few cups with a generous pour of the sprightly 2015 Domaine Bailly-Reverdy Sancerre “La Mercy-Dieu.” The wine shimmered a light, lemon-color in the sunlight, flecked by slivers of emerald-green hues.
The wine we tasted that day in Chavignol was edgy, pure, and exciting — a genuine representation of the terroir surrounding us. Now, after some time in bottle to settle, it’s even better — a beautiful, refined stunner.
The 2015 growing season in the Loire Valley got off to an epic start and never slowed down. A warm, dry spring gave way to a hot and sunny summer — setting up 2015 in Sancerre to be one of the finest growing seasons in recent memory. In Chavignol, it was smooth sailing clear through the end of August, without any of the usual hurdles (hail, mildew, etc.) the Sancerrois face in more challenging years.
On September 14th, Franck and Aurélien began harvesting the Sauvignon grapes planted in those chalky, marly, and limestone hillsides five minutes from Bistro Au P’tit Goûter in Chavignol. There were no instruments to tell them if the grapes had ripened to perfect maturity — they could taste it. We confirmed their intuition with each sip in the vineyard.
The 2015 Domaine Bailly-Reverdy Sancerre “La Mercy-Dieu” is a blend of the three types of soil that embody the terroir of Sancerre: marl, flint and pebbly limestone. Bright straw-yellow, flecked by emerald hues. A classic expression of Sauvignon Blanc with scintillating citrus aromas of lemon, lime, and grapefruit. Fresh, bright, and juicy on the attack with pure fruit flavors of citrus, green apple, pithy grapefruit, and stunning mineral complexity, which calls to mind that magical pulverized chalk dust that puffed up in clouds under foot in the vineyards in Chavignol. All this threads its way through a long and sumptuous finish, tinged with lofty Mediterranean garrigue notes.
We’d suggest arranging a platter of your local butcher’s best-cured sausages, torn pieces of the freshest local country bread you can find, and a bottle (or two) of Franck and Aurélien’s mouthwatering Sancerre. Direct from the cellars, with a bit of magic chalk dust if you’re lucky. Classic opulence for just $24 per bottle. Shipping included on 4.