Glistening green-gold to the edge. The nose showed beautiful ripe grapefruit, accented by flinty, limestone character.
It was the Viking on the Harley who first directed us to Dominique Roger. We spent many summer evenings in the late 1980s in Didier Dagueneau’s backyard, tasting bottles from the Loire Valley’s best. Dagueneau was always a stickler, mincing no words as he ripped apart bottles that others found acceptable. “Acceptable” (pronounced “ax-ep-tabble”) was a neglected part of the bearded winemaker’s vocabulary.
But each time we came to a bottle from another young, far-more-introverted winemaker from the other side of the river, Dagueneau would break into an almost pained, puzzled smile. “Ca c’est bon, vachement bon” (“It’s good, awfully good!”), Dagueneau said one night as we swirled Dominique Roger’s 1986 Sancerre under the stars. “Les pluparts de Sancerre sont médiocres. Mais ca? Ce vin est grandiose!”
Here’s the rough translation: “Most of the wines of Sancerre are mediocre, but this? This wine is grandiose.” Twenty-nine years later, that Sancerre is still perfectly youthful, infused with the bitter honey core that so typifies the great whites from Domaine du Carrou.
Dominique Roger and the Viking from Pouilly-Fumé shared a common winegrowing intuition. But otherwise, the two guys couldn’t have been more different. While Didier was on a constant search for the bright lights of center stage, his Sancerre equivalent remained a “terrien” — a man of the land. Even as the price of Dagueneau Pouilly-Fumé soared (over $200/bottle at the likes of Daniel and Le Bernardin), the price of Domaine du Carrou Sancerre remained a modest $75 on the list. When we asked Dominique’s fiscally minded wife, Dany, why they choose to ignore the most basic laws of supply and demand, she just shook her head.
“It’s Dominique. There’s nothing I can do. He wants the people who have come to love our wine to always be able to afford it. We already have as much land as we can hope to farm. The domain has nearly tripled in value over the last decade. Dominique asks, ‘What would we do with the extra money anyway?’ What can I say?”
In each of the last five years, thanks to our longstanding friendship, WineAccess has received a small allocation of Domaine du Carrou Sancerre — every year, hoping for just 20 more cases, especially in 2015, one of the finest vintages in recent memory. Still, Dany wouldn’t budge. Why?
Things got off to an epic start in 2015 as a warm, dry spring gave way to a hot and sunny summer. From Amigny to 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. In Bué-en-Sancerre, the call to harvest came at the beginning of September — one of the earliest on record — and the Sauvignon grapes planted in the stony limestone hillsides at Domaine du Carrou had ripened to perfect maturity.
The reality, however, of irregular spring flowering meant that overall yields were slightly down, driving demand for Roger’s Sancerre from nearly every export market through the roof. Then Britain’s high-brow Decanter Magazine put the nail in the coffin, dropping 94 points on Roger’s 2015 and firmly shutting the door on our hopes for a larger allocation. We pleaded with Dany and Dominique, our call ending with no other choice but to settle for the annual pallet.
Glistening green-gold to the edge. The nose showed beautiful ripe grapefruit, accented by flinty, limestone character. Yellow peach, caramelized pear, and lemon on the palate, with the mouthwatering concentration and riveting, mineral-driven acidity that screams top Sancerre. Long and bright on the finish, with enough structure to age gracefully for a decade or more. A wine of exquisite purity and mineral precision, as the Viking on the Harley first said in 1984, dollar-for-dollar, the finest Sauvignon Blanc in the world is “grandiose.”
$75/bottle at the likes of Le Bernardin and Daniel. Just $21 this morning. That’s the good news. The bad? Just one pallet — 56 cases are up for grabs.
Terriffic wine. The balance is what sells the wine. Mierality is present, but restrained. A refined wine with delicious fruit flavors, perhaps pineapple? One of my most enjoyable Loire wines.
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