Great French Sancerre, made from sauvignon blanc in France’s Loire Valley, has a racy minerality, making it very different from most sauvignon blancs made elsewhere around the world. What gets credit for that prized flintiness?

A. Le Mistral—a bracing spring wind that also dries out the air

B. Terres Blanches—white soils that combine chalk, limestone and clay

C. Sur Lie Aging—leaving the wine for a long time in contact with yeasts

D. Terra Rossa—a soil that combines sandstone and limestone with oxidized iron deposits


Terres Blanches. Terres Blances (“white earth”) is the name the French give to the soils in Sancerre’s western hills. That white earth drains well keeping the grapes from getting too plump in wet years, but it also holds moisture so that the vine has access to water in dry periods. By the way, Le Mistral is a wind common in the Rhône Valley, sur lie is sometimes used in nearby Muscadet to add roundness, and Terra Rossa soils are reddish, iron-rich soils that exist everywhere from Australia to Italy.

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