Sauvignon Blanc from Little-Known Menetou-Salon: Domaine Phillipe Gilbert

Menetou-Salon is an appellation and a village at the eastern end of the Loire. The Menetou Salon is a neighbor to Sancerre, about 25 miles to the west. Hubby and I tried a Sauvignon Blanc imported by Neal Rosenthal from Domaine Philippe Gilbert, 2010 vintage. Domaine Philippe Gilbert is a family operation consisting of 67 acres and 28 vineyards, farmed  using “biodynamic” procedures for growing their fruit, following a philosophy from Austrian Rudolf Steiner from the 1920s. Steiner saw wine as spiritual food. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are grown and hand-harvested.

Menetou-Salon

Menetou-Salon (look to right below Sancerre)

Near the eastern end of the Valley, not far from Sancerre and Pouilly Fume, lies the village of Menetou-Salon, where vineyards have existed since at least the 11th century. It is here that Philippe Gilbert and his winemaker Jean-Philippe Louis take the same varietal used in Burgundy, Pinot Noir, and “try to stay out of the way and work with Mother Nature,” said Gilbert

The pair have embraced biodynamic methods for their 67 acres of vineyards that lay above Kimmeridgian limestone alternating with softer marl. The method of organic farming emphasizes the use of manure and composting while excluding artificial chemicals and pesticides.

“When you use chemicals say against mildew, you know how it works. It says ‘Put it on’ and it’s good for 10 days and you’re covered. You can stay home for 10 days and not think,” Gilbert said.

“When you’re in biodynamics, It doesn’t work like this anymore. If you don’t like to go into the vineyard, then don’t do biodynamics. Because you have to go, you have to think, you have to study, you have to share. It is more work, but it is also more peaceful and better for the earth.”

Unlike most other Loire winemakers, Domaine Philippe Gilbert makes just four wines – two whites, a rose and a red. The red Les Renardieres 2007 made from 25-year-old vines shows plenty of dark berries, a bit of spice and smoke with soft tannins. Source: Reuters

Domaine Phillippe Gilbert Menetou-Salon Blanc

Domaine Phillippe Gilbert Menetou-Salon Blanc

You will not see the words “Sauvignon Blanc” anywhere on the label. On the front label you see the Domaine name,  Menetou-Salon, Appellation Controlée and the vintage date, neither does the label say “blanc” although this is Domaine Phillipe Gilbert’s Menetou-Salon Blanc.

From the Back Label: “Each wine bearing the “Rosenthal Wine Merchant mark has been produced in limited quantities by a dedicated artisan. The growers with whom I work follow traditional methods and produce their wines in as natural a manner as possible. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the wines I select are unfined and unfiltered. Therefore, you may find that a sediment forms in the bottle. This is a natural occurence. All my wines are shipped from the estates at which they were bottled to the point of distribution in the United States with every care taken to protect them from the vagaries of temperature fluctuation.”

So let me ask you what you learned from the back label about this wine which you might buy – which I did buy? I learned absolutely nothing and assume you learned the same. While it is nice to know Rosenthal takes great care to find small producers, it would be advantageous to the shopper to know what’s in the bottle. It isn’t apparent to everyone that the wine would be Sauvignon Blanc due to the appellation. Irritating.

My Review: This Sauvignon Blanc is typical of classic Loire unoaked Sauvignons. The color is greenish-gold, bouquet is grapefruit, honeydew, lime, mandarin orange and florals – beautiful, with the whiff of steeliness in the nose that sets these wines apart. The Kimmerdigian (clay-limestone) soil of the area provides the crisp, bright and lively vigor on the palate, compliments of a racy acidity. Elegant and clean, this is a a nice aperitif or accompaniment to shellfish, oil-dressed or cream-sauced pastas, asparagus, and goat cheese. If you love sushi, Menetou-Salon is perfect.

If your Sauvignon Blanc of choice is from New Zealand, you are in for a different experience with this wine. The grassiness of a New Zealand SB is not here, nor the fruit basket extraction, but getting to know the fresh clean attributes of these French Loire’s will add to  your palate experience and your pleasure. The Loire and Bordeaux are home to Sauvignon Blanc heritage.

For an extensive write-up on Sauvignon Blanc from around the world, try this.

 

Pronunciation Tips:

Bordeaux: (bor-doe) (bor rhymes with for) (doe rhymes with foe)

Domaine Phillipe Gilbert (Doh-main Fee-leep Gill-bare)

Loire (low-ah – said quickly together) (low has the sound of tow) (ah has the sound of law without the ‘w.’)

Kimmerdigian (Kimmer-ridgen)

Menetou-Salon (Men-neh-too Sah-lown)

Sancerre (sawn-sehr)

Sauvignon Blanc (Sew-ven-yawn Blawnk) (sew rhymes with tow) (ven rhymes with ben) (yawn rhymes with lawn) blawnk has the ‘law’ sound in it – blawnk, rhyming with clonk. In France, Blanc does not sound the ‘c,’ so it is heard as Blan with a slight nasal ‘n’ sound. In the U.S. ‘blawnk’ is appropriate.

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2 comments for “Sauvignon Blanc from Little-Known Menetou-Salon: Domaine Phillipe Gilbert

  1. Neil Barham
    November 7, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    Actually the back labels tells you all you need to know. INTEGRITY is what it says. Too many importers cheat the buying public by creating mystical estates that don’t actually exist, so the buyer thinks they are receiving an estate wine, these type care little about integrity of the growing winemaking processes. Sure they put Sauvignon Blanc on the label meaning that label was added for this market since it is against the law to put those words on a AOC Menetou-Salon wine. The retailer, restaurant server can answer your questions or your iPhone can get invaluable in pursuit of finding the ‘real’ wines on the shelf.

    P.S. I love your review and your enthusiasm for great wholesome authentic wines.

    • November 11, 2015 at 9:18 pm

      Hi Neil, you are right about the label saying enough, but as a wine manager for a major retail store in my state, I can tell you, many people won’t have a clue what’s in the bottle, or know anything about the region. I know Rosenthal’s wines well, but I know some/many would not –– but this is the French way and their history trumps ours.

      Thanks so much for your nice comment, and I apologize for taking so long to answer. I’ve recently moved this blog to Maggie Villines

      I appreciate your visit and hope to you come to visit my new venture.

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