One thrill of living in Beaune in 2012 was getting familiar with an enormous range of Burgundy producers. Beaune had its fair share of wine bars, and none devoted serious space to wines outside the region. That changed when the natural-focused Les Vins de Maurice opened in the spring, where wines from the Jura, Rhone, and Loire Valley covered the walls.
One day, I asked Maurice to introduce me to a new producer doing something unusual, and he quickly picked up a bottle of Vincent Pinard's Sancerre. I've been hunting for his wines ever since, brought to the U.S. by the same importer as Mugnier, Comte Liger-Belair, and Lafarge.
Pinard is in the village of Bué—some of the most prized vineyards in the region are here (alongside Chavignol). His wines are overtly stylish, each cuvée standing apart from one another. They have intense concentration and a gossamer texture that bears little resemblance to what we commonly expect from Sancerre.
Florès comes from a collection of vineyards in Bué. Aged in stainless steel tanks, the racy and crispy classic Sauvignon Blanc citrus notes mesh perfectly with Pinard's more layered and textural style. When fall hits, and I reach for Sancerre, this is the kind of secret overachiever that delivers!
Pierre Menard reaches cult status in Europe for his lieu-dit (single-vineyard) Chenin Blancs. Simply put, Chenin gets the prime slopes in Anjou, where schist dominates, and the flatlands may see some Sauvignon Blanc. However, Menard discovered one of the first Sauvignon Blanc parcels in this region, the tiny 1957-planted Clos de la Roche atop a slope in Faye d'Anjou.
Before tasting Laïka, one should expel any notion of what this variety delivers. Typical grapefruit and lime fade into the background—much like earth did when the first living creature, a dog named Laïka, was rocketed into space in 1957—those flavors are replaced by saffron butter, a kaleidoscope of yellow fruits, and a mineral underpinning that only Anjou's schist-laden slopes convey.
Only a few cases of Laïka enter the U.S. each year. Also, do not miss Menard's stellar Chenin Blancs in equally small quantities. While we don't focus on many sweet/dessert wines, the "Cosmos" Coteaux du Layon (500 ml) blew us away. Perfect for pairing with cheese or dessert, but save the chocolate for Port!