Breathtaking Sauvignon Blanc

Last week and this, I am featuring two inexpensive yet flavor-packed wines imported by the maverick Robert Kacher.

His specialty is France, and my new Wine of the Week, his 2009 Domaine Alain Assadet Menetou-Salon Blanc ($16) from the Loire Valley, is typical of the sort of artisanal wines he has made his forte.

They couldn't be more different from the sort of mass-market, lowest-common-denominator wines that dominate supermarket shelves. Rather, they are wines of verve and personality, and while they won't appeal to every palate, that doesn't matter. If you are only bringing in a hundred cases, you can afford to appeal to the discriminating consumer. You don't need to be in every wine warehouse; just a few wine-centric restaurants and specialty retailers will suffice.

Kacher's approach is deceptively simple: "I'm interested in a high concentration of flavor. I'm not interested in overextraction. And I've learned that all the concentration and flavor intensity you have in a wine really doesn't come from the winery but from farming properly, and harvesting as late as possible, taking risks and producing low yields."

But low yields mean less revenue, at least in the short term, and therefore these sorts of dedicated artisanal producers are few and far between.

Kacher also only deals with domaine-grown fruit because "if you're buying grapes, you're buying juice, and you don't control a thing."

Menetou-Salon is a small appellation just southwest of the more famous Sancerre. The area is favored with a high proportion of sauvignon-blanc-friendly limestone soil, and its reputation is growing fast.

And this particular example is a fine indication of why—it's the most exotic sauvignon blanc I have ever encountered. A long, cold fermentation combined with long skin contact results in a concentration of ripe fruit flavors I'd never imagined was possible in a sauvignon blanc. This is, quite simply, an astounding wine.

When to Drink: Now

Breathing/Decanting: Not necessary

Food Pairing: Shellfish, especially oysters; any seafood

Grape: Sauvignon blanc

Appellation: Menetou-Salon

Region: Loire Valley

Country: France

Price: An astounding $16


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