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Sancerre – trends and twists

May 15, 2023

Sancerre – trends and twists

Some may say Sancerre needs no introduction. It is certainly one of the most famous wine appellations in the world, particularly for Sauvignon Blancs. For decades, Sancerre’s captivating aromas and zesty deliciousness made it a ‘must-have’ on restaurant wine lists. But the wines from the region have come a long way since the appellation was created in 1936. While Sancerre has always been more than a Sauvignon Blanc, now many producers shy away from debating grape variety altogether, while they talk for hours about their different soil types, ‘terroirs’ and resulting wines. The rise, in the last few years, of site-specific cuvées from Sancerre highlights this trend.

We have seen this first-hand with our long-standing partner Domaine du Nozay, one of a number of ambitious producers crafting deeper and more complex wines, with strong identification of individual plots and ‘terroirs’. Corney and Barrow has partnered with the domaine from its inception in the 1970s to its conversion to biodynamics in 2017 and now, focusing on creating the healthiest possible fruit and minimising additives, to allow the grape to be a vehicle to express the individuality of each place.

These days, there is no shortage of unique Sancerre styles out there – whether fermented in cement vats, staying more time ‘sur lie’ or aged in oak. While our new exclusivity Domaine Bernard Fleuriet uses cement tanks and contact with lees to achieve beautiful textures in the mouth and enhance pleasure, Domaine La Croix Saint-Laurent – another new partner – ferments his ‘Caillottes’ cuvée partly in acacia barrels, giving it a touch of spice and a rounder texture. Some of the best-in-class Sancerres today are also very nice wines to age.

To capture this diversity and increase the depth and breadth of our Sancerre range, Corney and Barrow signed a small handful of new producers from the region last year. We managed to bring these exclusivities on board despite the apparently insurmountable obstacles posed by the 2021 vintage – devastated in volume by frost. Although these new producers differ in terms of their ‘terroirs’ and wine styles, all of them share the long-term philosophy and mantra of quality above all, which align with our own values.

A quick recap on Sancerre

In the so-called ‘Central Vineyards’ of the Loire Valley (Centre Loire), are the famous vineyards of Sancerre, the spiritual home of the Sauvignon Blanc grape. Blessed with a series of natural amphitheatres, where vines can flourish in the complex soils of the area, Sancerre was destined for viticulture and has been producing wines since Roman times.

The vineyards of the appellation are spread over fourteen ‘communes’ as they are termed locally. The rolling hills of this area harbour many exceptional sloping vineyards with their unique microclimates and complex mineral soils. These are some of the factors that make the wines of this area so distinctive.

The grapes are planted mostly on hillsides formed of three soil types – the ‘terres blanches’ featuring compact chalks on kimmeridgean marl, ‘caillottes’ comprising gravel and limestone, and ‘silex’, which is flint. While ‘terres blanches’ soils are held to give wines of more density and structure, ‘caillottes’ soils often allow for the crafting of delicate, earlier-drinking wines, and ‘silex’ soils tend to give longer-lived and particularly perfumed wines.

A selection of our producers and wines


‘Let nature do its work’ is the motto of this biodynamic estate, producing exceptional Sancerre with a cult following worldwide.

In the north of the appellation, in Saint-Gemme en Sancerrois, there is a hidden valley of peace and tranquillity home to one of our longer-standing producers, the biodynamic Château du Nozay. The château itself is a gorgeous, colourful, 17th century stone building with a frescoed cellar. The vineyards here were constructed by Philippe de Benoist in 1970, and Corney and Barrow bought their first vintage in 1974.
Today, Château du Nozay is run by Cyril de Benoist, son of founders Philippe de Benoist and his wife Marie-Hélène. Devoted to his land and champion of ‘terroir’, he is a passionate advocate of organic and biodynamic viticulture – approaches learned as a boy when he would visit his uncle Aubert (de Villaine, of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in Burgundy) and spend endless days in the vineyards.

Cyril is the driving force behind the conversion of Château de Nozay to these methods and spends a huge amount of time in the vineyard, tending his vines, which he thinks of as individual people and calls by name. A natural entrepreneur, Cyril is an experimenter by nature and now plays music direct to the vine roots, a practice he believes stimulates and balances the vines.

At Domaine du Nozay, Cyril sees the grape as a vehicle for the expression of ‘terroir’. Cyril’s meticulous mindset also led him to produce site-specific wines, or ‘vins parcellaires’ – adapting his viticultural practices according to each plot of land, its soil structures, aspect, microclimate, and ‘terroir’. Then at the winery, by minimizing additives, notably sulphites, he has been creating wines that are effectively ‘natural’.



Sancerre Domaine du Nozay 2021
An idiosyncratic, biodynamic Sancerre, with generous fruit and subtle minerality. From C&B’s long-standing friends, the de Benoist family.
Keywords: fleshy, creamy, textured



‘Le principal c’est l’essentiel’ – the most important is the essential.

Further west from Chavignol, on the slopes of the Menetou-Râtel ‘commune’, is our new biodynamic producer Domaine Bernard Fleuriet et Fils, who makes top-notch Sancerres notable for their silky textures. Domaine Bernard Fleuriet et Fils was originally a farm, but in 1991 Bernard Fleuriet embarked on a project to convert his family land to vineyards. Planted predominantly on the steep slopes of Menetou-Râtel, in the Sancerre appellation, the vineyards feature the three key soils of Sancerre: caillottes (stony calcareous soils), terres blanches (calcareous clays) and silex (flint). This combination provides a diverse palette of fruit, from which to create complex blends. Bernard’s sons are now at the helm, Benoit focusing on viticulture while his brother Matthieu oversees the winemaking. Together they converted the estate to organic production (certified in 2016) and then to biodynamics (2021).

Sancerre Bernard Fleuriet et Fils 2021
An exceptional, textured and polished Sancerre. Made with mastery from crystalline, biodynamic old-vine fruit.
Keywords: textured, crystalline fruit, complex.



Historical domaine, producing fine Sancerre of great typicity of ‘terroir’ in Maimbray, Sury-en-Vaux.

This is one of our new exclusivities, nestled in the hamlet of Maimbray, part of the commune of Sury-en-Vaux, in the heart of the Sancerre appellation. Its sloping vineyards – the so-called ‘Pente de Maimbray’ – comprise pure ‘terres blanches’ (calcareous clay) soils, classic of the appellation. The domaine was created by Louis Vattan in the 19th century. His grandson Paul joined the estate in 1954, expanding it progressively to its current 12.5 hectares. His viticultural approach was rooted in a respect for the land and a deep understanding of its ‘terroir’. Paul was an excellent winegrower, known for his meticulous working methods, upheld today by vigneron Damien Laurent, who now runs the estate.

Sancerre ‘Pente de Maimbray’ Domaine de Saint-Romble 2021
A very fine, characteristic Sancerre, with the unmistakable chalky notes of its ‘terroir’. It is ‘terres blanches’ in a glass.
Keywords: zesty, vibrant, chalky.



A true vigneron, Gilles Lesimple is fortunate to own long-held family vineyards comprising the three main soil types of the region.

Gilles Lesimple is the fourth generation of a vinegrowing family. He trained in the US before returning to Sancerre in 1997 to take over the family estate. After many years of selling his grapes to the local cooperative, he now produces his own bottles to supply in France and for export. His is not a single estate, but rather a collection of top-quality sites acquired over time by the Lesimple family. The parcels are in the commune of Sancerre itself (prized for its calcareous soils, known as ‘caillottes’) as well as Saint Satur (known for its ‘silex’, which is flint), Sury-en-Vaux and Verdigny (both on predominantly calcareous clays, or ‘terres blanches’). The resulting fruit provides an exceptional range of blending material.

Sancerre Domaine Gilles Lesimple 2021
A steely and focused Sancerre, with a flinty touch. All-encompassing blend from three stunning ‘terroirs’.
Keywords: crisp, clean and focused



Small family domaine based in Bué, producing great value Sancerres that are a tribute to their land.

South of the Sancerre appellation, in the hamlet of Bué, lies our new exclusive producer, Domaine La Croix Saint-Laurent. Since 1932, this small domaine has been in the hands of the Cirotte family, who make classical Sancerres from steep hillside vineyards, farmed sustainably. The estate comprises 10.5 hectares in Bué, just a few kilometres from the village of Sancerre itself. Bué has a mix of soils comprising classic caillottes (stony calcareous soils), ‘terres blanches’ (calcareous clays), and ‘terres rouges’ (portlandian clays) with some ‘silex’ (flint). Its steep hillside vineyards, mix of altitudes and ideal aspects also give exceptional ripening conditions.


Sancerre ‘Caillottes’ La Croix Saint Laurent 2020
A Sancerre of ripe fruit, orange blossom, subtle spice and creamy texture, from ageing in acacia barrels.
Keywords: orange blossom, succulent, ripe.



Sancerre La Croix Saint Laurent 2021
An expressive, light and balanced Sancerre, with benchmark bell pepper and citrus notes, and mineral touch.
Keywords: elegant, refreshing, mineral.




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