Henri Bourgeois Sancerre d’Antan 2018

£37.99

“Tasted in early March, the 2018 Sancerre d’Antan offers a deep, rich and concentrated yet pure and flinty bouquet with characteristic sur-lie aromas and a bouquet that is pretty reminiscent of a fine Burgundy. Based on up to 80+-year-old, very low-yielding vines and aged in used barrels (including two rackings), this is a full-bodied, rich and juicy Sancerre with textural salinity and a long, intense and mouth-filling finish. This is a rich and intense yet also refined and vital 2018 and one of the exciting wines of the vintage. Bottled without fining or filtration. Drink; 2021-2029. 93 points

Henri Bourgeois, run by the 10th generation, namely Arnaud, Lionel and Jean-Christophe Bourgeois but still also their father, Jean-Marie, remains a reliably outstanding producer in the Sancerre appellation. I tasted numerous wines from several vintages (2015-2019) in the past few weeks and months and didn’t detect any weak or disappointing bottling but several superb Sancerres. Two of the finest are the Côte des Monts Damnés and the Chapelle des Augustins, but I’d also recommend La Bourgeoise, the more so since all these are Sancerres in the lower or medium price range of the series, whereas the more expensive single-vineyard wines (Famille Bourgeois, yellow capsules) still don’t fascinate me in the same way. I find more purity, coolness and drama (or tension) in the nervy Henri Bourgeois bottlings yet more fruit intensity and richness in the special Famille selections from vineyards that are roughly one or more hectares in size, planted in the later 1980s (Le Cotelin, Les Côtes aux Valets) or in the 1970s (Les Ruchons on silex-ich soils). Please don’t forget that the Chavignol-based Bourgeois family, which works on a mosaic of many plots that are worked in respect of and in order to express their particular origins in the wines, not only produces a reliably excellent Pouilly-Fumé as well, La Demoiselle de Bourgeois, but also a remarkably fine Sancerre Pinot Noir from the Kimmeridgian marls of the Monts Damnés slopes, 2015 Le Graveron. There are many more Pinots from Bourgeois available that I haven’t tasted yet, though.

From what I have tasted, Bourgeois represents the superb qualities of the last five vintages exemplarily. I have no idea about the 2020s yet, though, but I also appreciate the 2016s and 2015s and even the delicacy of 2014 a lot. 2019, 2018 and 2017 were all abnormal early vintages, and namely 2018 and 2019 were characterized by an “exceptional sanitary state” of the grapes during the harvest. The 2019 harvest started on September 13 under slightly cooler conditions than in 2018, when the first grapes were picked on September 10. Whereas the 2019 harvest went until October 3rd, the harvest was slightly shorter (yet more generous in terms of quantity) the year before, when the last press ran on September 28. In 2017, the harvest started on September 11 and was finished 15 days later but, due to severe spring frost, brought the smallest yields since 1945. Whereas the 2018 wines are similar to the 2015s and 2009s (or, speaking of red wines only, even to the legendary 1947s), the Bourgeois family compares 2017 with the excellent 1996, “one of the top 10 vintages of the 20th century.”

2019 was the first vintage when Henri Bourgeois used their own, terroir-specific yeast selections. The domain is currently in the process to become a certified organic producer, so further improvements are very likely to come, even though the so-called “classic vintages” seem to be over. Global warming is finally also affecting the wine style of the Sancerrois.”

Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate (03/21)

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