Does the name Edmond Vatan ring a bell? It will if, like me, you appreciate great Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc and believe it to be among the world’s greatest white wines. Vatan is a legend in Sancerre whose iconic “Clos La Néore” is one of the region’s truly rare wines; only the most committed collectors and restaurants manage to get their hands on some, usually in bottle quantities. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that today’s wine from Gitton Père & Fils—from across the river in Pouilly-Fumé—had us all thinking of Vatan given the striking similarities in exotic perfume and depth on the palate.
As we’ve seen in the many superb Gitton Sancerres we’ve offered over the years, we expect greatness every bottle, but this is our first introduction to their tiny “Clos Joanne d’Orion” (barely one hectare) vineyard in Pouilly-Fumé—and it is on another level. Today’s 2017 not only channels one of my favorite (and, sadly, most difficult to get) white wines on earth, it’s one of the most incredible Pouilly-Fumés I’ve ever tasted. This, by the way, would be my feeling regardless of price, but when you factor that in it represents one of the best price to quality whites we have ever offered. It epitomizes everything we strive to offer here at SommSelect. I was so impressed after trying this wine that I bought every bottle I could from the importer. If we don’t sell it all, no worries: I’ll happily drink it over the next decade myself!
At the end of World War II, Marcel Gitton established his domaine with the purchase of a roughly one acre parcel in Sancerre along the snaking riverbanks of the Loire. It has since been passed down to his son, Pascal, who has grown the family’s holdings to 27 hectares—mostly in Sancerre—with a focus on soil-specific, single-vineyard bottlings. On the other side of the river in Pouilly-Fumé, however, they own a few small vineyards and today’s “Clos Joanne D’Orion” is one of those coveted gems. The vines here were planted in 1975 years on a steep, northwest-facing slope rich in Kimmeridgian clay and limestone (terres blanches), along with the appellation’s signature silica (silex). This rough, pitched terrain makes the vines struggle for nourishment, which is what the best growers want for their crop! The grapes were harvested and trucked across the river to Gitton’s home base in Ménétréol-sous-Sancerre. Fermentation and aging occured in 100% stainless steel and it rested for nearly one year before bottling.
In the glass, the 2017 Clos Joanne D’Orion displays a deep straw-yellow core with electric silver and green hues, then the explosive aromas takes center stage. When the wine opens up vibrant aromas of tropical flowers, passionfruit, lemongrass, Kaffir lime, green peach, salt-preserved lemon, honeysuckle, diced chives, oyster shell, gunflint, and crushed rocks blast out of the glass. The medium-bodied palate shows immense concentration and confirms all the spirited exotic notes found on the nose. It ends with an incredibly long finish that is perfectly accented by savory earth/mineral flavors brought by the unique Loire valley terroir. If you have time, decant for 30-60 minutes and serve either in Bordeaux stems or Burgundy stems. Either maintain a drinking temperature of 50-60 degrees or, if pulling directly from a fridge, pull the cork and let the wine rise in temperature for 30-40 minutes before serving. As the wine warms above cellar temp the true personality will emerge. Trust me, you’ll want to track its evolving aromatics. It can be consumed now, or in 5-7 years, but I have no doubt it would knock my socks off if I found a bottle in my cellar two decades from now—my friend recently had an ’85 vintage in France and said it was amazing! In terms of food and wine pairings, Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc is classic with goat cheese, so just about any recipe you find with that as a dominant character will be brilliant. If you want to go in another direction, fire up the grill and follow this recipe for whole grilled fish with lime and cilantro. Serve with some grilled veggies and jasmine rice for a perfect dinner party. Keep another bottle handy!
Upper Loire Valley
Terres Blanches & Silex