Last May in the eastern Loire Valley was a great awakening for me to the potential and diversity within top Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre. Styles of winemaking differ nearly as much as the change in soil throughout the region, from flint - to marl - to Kimmeridgian limestone. When the tour of domaines concluded, and the dust settled, there was one site and one wine that stuck with me like none other: Vacheron's Les Romains (pictured above).

Les Romains is one of the most transformative wines coming from the Loire, and sits at the top of a very short list of Grand Cru sites should the appellation classify.Unlike the age-worthy Cotat and Boulay Sancerres, here it's the silex (flint) soil that dominates instead of the Kimmeridgian limestone of Chavignol. 

This epic south-facing slope of 60+years-old vines felt special the moment I hit the rocky terrain. In a marginal climate where every last ray of sunlight is coveted, Les Romains has a generosity with an element of cut and rigor that other wines of the region can only dream of possessing.  Like tasting Burgundy vineyards side-by-side, Les Romains has an impact next to its neighbors that cannot be overstated. Immediately you taste that every element is heightened, with the definition of each jumping out.

The smokey quality produced from the flint-based soils cannot be glossed over. Tasting alongside wines from nearby Kimmeridgian limestone sites shows a completely different side of the variety. Sauvingon Blanc here develops faint honey, ginger, and orchard fruit notes with time in glass, and keeps a disciplined frame finishing with loads of crushed rocks and salinity.

Tasting at the domaine back several decades was another reminder that top Sancerre has a dynamic story to tell when given ample time. There's a dizzying array of secondary notes that come out with age. Qualities which are a great departure from the citrus and herbal elements that define much of young Sauvingon Blanc in the region. 

A tour throughout the seven different parcels with Jean-Dominique Vacheron was a thrilling way to get up close with the varied landscape. Farming practices are rigorous here, and there are no short cuts taken. It's very rare in Sancerre to farm in organics and biodynamics, as the weather can be brutal and uncooperative. Less than 10 producers are certified, with Vacheron starting in 2000.

In the cellar there has been a move to utilize larger vessels such as foudre to ensure the wines are taut and structured as temperatures in the region continue to climb. All wines are fermented with native yeasts, and the lunar cycle dictates when bottling occurs, There is no fining or filtering.

Les Romains is always the highlight of the Vacheron range. There are several single vineyard wines produced here that show site in crystal clear perspective, but none has the depth and capability to transform like Les Romains. It is Grand Cru Sancerre of the highest order. 

2016 Vacheron Sancerre Les Romains
$64 per bottle