Sancerre, or the true flavour of the earth

In some ways, Sancerre is a condensed version of the French concept of terroir. Its landscape is distinctive with the village clustered around the top of a hillside crowned with flint pebbles that have survived erosion for several thousands of centuries.

Here, geologists refer to an inversion of relief where the softer surrounding marl and limestone have been eroded whilst the harder flint has protected the land on the Sancerre hill-top.


The hills west of the village cover Jurassic limestone and marl sediment and form steep inclines with small valleys like the one in Chavignol scooped from their midst. The asymmetrical shape of the landform is described as a cuesta and there is no denying that the area’s geological history has shaped the current topography, forming a home for just over 3,000 bearing hectares, 80% of which produce white Sauvignon wines.


The unique chemistry between the vineyard sites and the climate coupled with this exceptional geology and the multiple layers of soils – terres blanches, caillottes and clay-silica referred to as flint – are what make the vineyards of Sancerre so complex. That complexity is further enhanced by many other factors, including aspect, incline and vine age.


All of which provides additional proof of vines’ incredible ability to display myriad personas and to render so many nuances under a single banner – in this case Sancerre – from a single grape variety for each of the three colours. As the French author Colette*, who was born 50 km from Sancerre, once said: “In the plant kingdom, only vines can teach us the true flavour of the earth”.