2019 Gerard Boulay Sancerre La Cote
Just like any other well-known wine region in France, Sancerre has its own de-facto vineyard hierarchy. Officially endorsed or not, there’s no doubt that Sancerre’s greatest sites (barring an exception or two) are concentrated around the hamlet of Chavignol. Chavignol’s steep, south and south-east facing limestone slopes are home to historically revered sites like Les Monts-Damnés, La Grande Côte and Le Clos de Beaujeu—are, without doubt, the most potent terroirs of Sancerre. It’s no fluke that the top wines from this village regularly draw comparison to the great white wines of the world. Nor is it a fluke that this tiny village is home to an unusual concentration of Sancerre’s most revered winegrowing families. In Chavignol, the best wines have little (or nothing) to do with varietal character. They are fleshier, rippling, more textural—and less Sauvignon. No other terroir in Sancerre brands its wines with the same kind of flesh and saline minerality.
Gérard Boulay can trace his wine growing roots back to 1380, so you could figuratively say that the Boulay family wrote the book on Chavignol. He works predominantly with old vines, all planted by massale selection on quality rootstock and at a higher density than most Sancerre vineyards at 7500 vines per hectare. The soil is ploughed, or grass is grown to prevent erosion, and the Domaine has been practicing organics for decades. In the cellar, Gérard works with wild ferments, old oak (his 10- to 12-year-old barrels are sourced from Alphonse Mellot) and very little sulphur during élevage. The wines are bottled without filtration. It has been said many times that with the remarkable limestone-rich Chavignol holdings, the outstanding work of Boulay and his team in the vines, and the fact that this artisan is currently crafting the finest wines of his career, all place this Domaine at the apex of France’s white wine hierarchy.
First made as a single parcel in 2010, La Côte comes from the majestic Grande Côte vineyard, a south- to southeast-facing hillside on the Côte d’Amigny on the outskirts of Chavignol. La Côte has quickly become one of the heavyweights of Boulay’s range. It’s the Domaine’s coolest terroir and the last to be picked. The site’s pure Kimmeridgian limestone and late picking date deliver both density and absurd precision on the palate; a more expressive style, yet still bristling with tension and mineral notes. The 2019 was vinified and aged in three- and four-year-old barrels.
From a southeast-facing plot, the 2019 Sancerre La Côte is pure, deep and intense yet also fresh on the iodine-scented nose, with grip, lemon and tropical notes. The wine opens bright, clear and almost tropical on the nose and then shows tight, tense and lingering salinity and firm grip. Tasted in February 2021.Drink 2021 - 2035.
Stephan Reinhardt - Wine Advocate (Mar 2021)