The yellow flowers of spring signal the time to think about white wines, and one I always love is Sancerre, like the 2008 André Neveu Les Monts Damnés.
Winemaker André Neveu is the seventh generation of his family to produce Sancerre in the village of Chavignol. Consumers might be more familiar with the village for its goat cheese, Crottin de Chavignol, than its wine, but that will surely change with a glass of Neveu’s Sancerre.
A few weeks ago, I tasted two Neveu Sancerres, Le Grand Fricambault and Les Monts Damnés, with Michael Peters at the Brass Rail in Hoboken. Some readers might be familiar with both names, as Michael Peters was the talented chef-owner of the Brass Rail during the 1980s. He went on to have a distinguished career with restaurants in Morristown. Recently retired from that never-ending work schedule, he is selling wine for a high-quality French importer that offers the André Neveu wines.
The 2008 Le Grand Fricambault is a full-body white wine with a bushel of fruit. It offers attractive lemon and melon aromas and flavors; Sancerre’s natural acidity runs behind the rich fruit giving the wine excellent balance and length. Le Grand Fricambault will satisfy any white wine drinker. But the 2008 Les Monts Damnés is at another level.
Simply put, it is one of the best Sancerre wines I have ever had. A huge pineapple and fruit cocktail aroma billows from the glass like a Hawaiian orchard. The palate gets a Pacific Rim treatment of papaya and mango flavors with an intensity normally associated with fruit sorbets. Wines this full and rich are usually not balanced, but Neveu’s son-in-law, Thomas Dezat, made the wine with a great mineral and citrus backbone that adds complexity while providing balance. It is a remarkable wine.
Les Monts Damnés means “the damned mountains,” and the wine earned its name because of the vineyard’s steepness. Often vineyard workers slide down the mountain on a cushion than risk tumbling down it on foot. Once at the bottom, a glass of the 2008 André Neveu Les Monts Damnés Sancerre with some Crottin de Chavignol spread on a baguette would be a pleasant reward for arriving in one piece.
Aging Sancerre is not something most wine drinkers consider, but the 2008 Neveu Les Monts Damnés is an excellent candidate for cellaring. Buy a case and put most of it in your cellar to be enjoyed beginning in 2013. With the remaining bottles, treat yourself and friends this summer along with grilled chicken breasts, pork chops, or salmon. Pasta with garden broccoli, diced New Jersey tomatoes and nuggets of Chavignol goat cheese, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, will be a good partner, too.
Or just sit on a cushion and watch the sun set over a mountain while sipping the wine and picturing the pickers sliding down Les Monts Damnés holding their basket full of grapes.
The 2008 Le Grand Fricambault retails for approximately $23; the 2008 Les Monts Damnés is about $25.