Bertrand Graillot’s Domaine de l’Estang: Sancerre with Character

Bertrand Graillot’s Domaine de l’Estang: Sancerre with Character

Bertrand Graillot in the centuries-old cellars of Domaine de l’Estang.

As the spiritual home of steely Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre is all but a brand name today. As such, much of its output hews toward a relatively boilerplate taste profile: “correct” for the appellation and good enough for the adoring hordes, but hardly inspiring. Furthermore, Sauvignon Blanc from these climes is frequently micromanaged in its fermentation (via added yeasts and draconian temperature control) and rushed into bottle so it can be hurried into the market.

It is refreshing, then, to encounter growers here who farm responsibly and who take their time in the cellar, striving for something distinctive and personal rather than simply marketable. With holdings in Sancerre and the nearby Coteaux du Giennois appellation, young Bertrand Graillot produces wines which combine typicity and individuality in highly appealing fashion. Bertrand founded Domaine de l’Estang in 2004 after an education at viticultural school in Beaune and internships in Gevrey-Chambertin, Pommard, and Chassagne-Montrachet, and the domaine today encompasses two hectares in Sancerre and eight hectares in the Coteaux du Giennois.

Although he has not yet sought certification, Bertrand has worked organically since the beginning. He harvests primarily by hand and is moving toward 100% manual harvesting—an evolution which his partnership with a stable and supportive American importer is helping to facilitate. With its naturally stable temperature and an underground water source running through its center, the circa-1850 cellar at Domaine de l’Estang allows Bertrand to work with very little intervention, as is his preference. Fermentations occur spontaneously, and malolactic fermentation is never blocked—a double-flouting of Central Loire Sauvignon Blanc orthodoxy.

Bertrand is uninterested in caricature wines; a relatively late picker, he revels in Sauvignon Blanc’s ability to deliver its penetrating minerality on a frame more ample, more texturally compelling, and less one-dimensionally crisp. He loves, in his words, “tender wines”—not a typical descriptor for the often unrelentingly linear Sauvignon Blancs of the region. Still, the Sancerre of Domaine de l’Estang is deeply expressive of its place of origin, delivering telltale calcareous heft and drive, along with the capacity to age beautifully.

More on Domaine de l’Estang here.