- Sancerre, Loire, France
Thank you to importer Louis/Dressner for this profile of the Girard estate:
Domaine Fernand Girard is currently run by Alain Girard. He comes from several generations of winemakers in the tiny village of Chaudoux, located a few miles northwest of the town of Sancerre and directly north of the famous town of Chavignol.
He tends 14 hectares of vines in total, sells some cuvées to négociants and bottles only a portion of the total production under his family name. The "La Garenne" cuvée originally came from a 2.5 hectare vineyard of that name, a plot on a steep east-facing slope with a very rocky limestone soil. The chalky soil brings out the characteristic flinty, mineral and green notes of Sauvignon Blanc. On La Garenne’s well-drained, warm slopes, the grapes achieve exceptional ripeness and fruit.
Over the years, as demand increased, it became clear that Alain would need to blend his sites together to produce more estate wine. Today, only one wine is produced in much larger quantities than when we started working together in the early 1990's. In a crass move of commercialism, it was agreed to keep the name "La Garenne" since it was a "recognizable brand".
Compared to those in other viticultural regions in France, most of Sancerre’s vignerons have stricter than usual standards of cellar tidiness and hygiene. It might be the influence of the local goat cheese making, which was traditionally done on a very small, artisanal scale, by people who knew the importance of a pristine environment.
The Girards have an impeccable cuverie and vinify with modern technology: a pneumatic press, stainless-steel vats, a temperature control system during fermentation, and an air-conditioned space for aging in vats and stocking bottles. They counterbalance technology by practicing old-fashioned vineyard work, where herbicides and treatments are used sparingly, and by never adding commercial yeasts to induce fermentation or add flavors.
Their Sancerre is everything one hopes for when thinking about the region: it is bright, lively, pleasantly aromatic, has zippy acidity but low astringency. It is a wonderful food wine that is as versatile as it is easy to drink.