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Wine Recommendation: Lucien Crochet "La Croix du Roy" Sancerre Rouge

Lucien Crochet "La Croix du Roy" Sancerre RougeThese days, it seems everyone is looking for the next great source of Pinot Noir. Ever since the movie Sideways, the grape's popularity has exploded, with sales increasing 18% in the nine months following the movie's late-October 2004 release. Although it is still outsold by grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which account for 12% and 10% of US wine sales respectively, Pinot Noir is holding its own with a 4% share of the US market. Yet, when you consider that in 2010, California crushed nearly 3 times as many tons of Cabernet Sauvignon as Pinot Noir, the gap in sales is easily explained.

Pinot Noir is not easy to grow. It is thin skinned, is prone to a host of diseases, and prefers cool climates. As such, there are restrictions on where it can be planted. Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, which has adapted to a host of climates all over the world, Pinot's fickle nature has kept it confined to a few specific regions. These regions, such as Burgundy, parts of California (e.g., Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Carneros, Central Coast, etc.) and Oregon's Willamette Valley, have become the tried and true sources of Pinot Noir for lovers of the grape from all over the world.

Because of the difficulties associated with growing Pinot Noir, and its widespread popularity, when a new region emerges as a potential source of quality Pinot Noir based wines, it generates a good deal of buzz in the wine world. Earlier this year, I was tremendously excited when I visited Whitecliff Vineyards, and discovered that they were producing top-notch Pinot Noir. Similarly, over the last 10 years, Pinor Noir from New Zealand and Chile have generated a good deal of excitement, as they have been spotlighted on the world wine stage.

Yet, despite all the frenzy over Pinot Noir, there are certain regions that get overlooked, even though they are producing terrific Pinot. Germany is one such place. Sancerre is another. That's right, I said Sancerre. While many people strictly associate Sancerre with Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir is the red grape of Sancerre. Pinot Noir is the only red grape from which Sancerre Rouge or Sancerre Rosés can be produced. These wines are rare, generally accounting for only 15-20% of Sancerre's overall production. However, they are delicious. Earlier this week, I had the good fortune to enjoy a Sancerre Rouge from perhaps my favorite producer in the Sancerre AOC: Lucien Crochet

I have enjoyed the wines of Lucien Crochet for as long as I have been drinking wine. The domaine is part of the Neal Rosenthal Portfolio, which in my opinion, is inherent proof of its quality, as I think the Rosenthal Portfolio contains some of the most interesting, terroir-driven wines available to consumers in the United States. Rosenthal has represented Lucien Crochet since 1981, and which speaks to the continued quality exhibited by the domaine's wines. The Pinot Rosé takes rosé to another level, and the domaine produces 5 different cuvées of Sancerre Blanc which serve as a reference point for what world class Sauvignon Blanc should be. While no one would ever claim that Sancerre should be recognized for its red wines instead of its whites, a great Sancerre Rouge from a producer such as Lucien Crochet can be an eye-opening experience. 

As is the case throughout Sancerre, Pinot Noir comprises a small amount of the total vineyard plantings at the domaine of Lucien Crochet. Just over 22 acres of the domaine's vines are planted to Pinot Noir, while almost 72 acres are dedicated to Sauvignon Blanc. Still, Lucien Crochet's "La Croix du Roy" Sancerre Rouge is an experience that no lover of Pinot Noir should miss out on. Aromas of dark cherry intermix with earthy, herbaceous notes on the nose, leading to brightly acidic flavors of red fruit on the palate. The finish is quite compelling, with lingering notes of cherry and spice, balanced by a touch of minerality. This is definitely a more rustic expression of Pinot Noir than one might find in the Russian River Valley, but it makes for an excellent pairing alongside salmon roasted with thyme and sautéed vegetables.

A bottle of Lucien Crochet's "La Croix du Roy" Sancerre Rouge will cost you approximately $30, so this isn't a recommendation for a Pinot Noir substitute that will be easier on your wallet. However, finding a quality bottle of Pinot Noir for under $15 (and in most cases under $20) is a challenge in and of itself these days. If you're going to fall in love with Pinot, recognize that it's going to be an expensive love affair, or at least a temptation that you won't be able to indulge very often. With that being said, being a lover of Pinot Noir should involve exploring expressions of the grape across all the geographies that can support its successful cultivation. There isn't a lot of Sancerre Rouge out there, but what is out there is delicious, and won't put too big a dent in your wallet. And if you can find it, Lucien Crochet's "La Croix du Roy" Sancerre Rouge is a good place to start your journey.

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