Edmund Vatan is thought of in many circles as the single greatest producer in Sancerre, tenderly fashioning a minute amount of wine that is renowned for its purity, depth, expression of terroir, and surprisingly for Sancerre, profound ageability. His masterpiece in Sancerre has been on the list at restaurant Taillevent in Paris for over 40 years.
Sadly, according to our sources, nearly 60 years after he planted his vines in Sancerre's most heralded vineyard, Monts Damnés (see sidebar), the Sage of Sancerre has decided to throw in the towel. This might be the last batch of his wine that ever reaches the public...
While he has been cutting back his production since the mid-1990s, in 2003 and 2004 the amount of wine that has been released has dropped sharply, adding fuel to fiery rumors that his inevitable retirement is imminent.
It also makes perfect sense that 2005 is the year.
Like Michael Jordan draining "The Shot" over Bryon Russell with seconds remaining in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA finals and stepping off the court into retirement, it's hard to imagine Vatan not walking away after a Perfect 10 Loire vintage whose ripeness is an ideal partner to his unique style.
For the many passionate Vatan-lovers, all you need to know is that we have secured a small but substantial parcel of some of the last of his 2005 Sancerre and are pleased to be able to celebrate the man and his wines by offering them at the lowest price in the nation. Many of you, however, have probably not had the opportunity to try Vatan's wines and the reason is simple: they are excruciatingly rare.
In a good year, his 3.6 acre parcel within Monts Damnés, called "Clos la Néore," may produce 500 cases of Sancerre. In 2004, about 50 cases were made available for the entire U.S. market. New York State was allotted only 15: that's 180 measly bottles for every restaurant and retailer from Battery Park to Buffalo.
Now is your chance to acquire what almost certainly will be the final public effort of a master.
Like Jordan (and so many other aging star athletes in the last 10 years) Vatan *may* return for one final swansong. However, while there's a possibility that Edmund will make a bit of wine in 2006, it will almost certainly be for friends and family only, especially since the rainy autumn required draconian selection to avoid rotten grapes.
The 2005 will be drinking long after he has stepped off the stage for good. Conservatively, Vatan's Sancerre will drink superbly over the next 10+ years, though my guess it will steadily improve into its 20s. A thrilling marriage of hedonistic luxury and cerebral complexity, 2005 Clos la Neore is equal parts Hollywood diva and Teutonic philosopher.
Here are our tasting notes: "The nose quietly opens with what develops into a crescendo of melon, grapefruit, stone fruits and bright citrus notes all woven around a wild florality and an exotic spice-infused lanolin. On the palate the wine is massive and dense, with lime-dominated citrus notes, minerals and a soft herb perfume that lingers on the strong finish. The acidity is structured and intense, keeping the wine precise. This is a bottle to open and drink as slowly as you can, because it evolves in the glass with a beguiling charm not unlike great Burgundy."
It's at once such a clean, strong and pure expression of Sancerre's Monts Damnés vineyard and at the same time so undeniably unique.