The 79-year-old Edmond Vatan has been making what is largely considered to be the world's top Sancerre for an entire generation. The Sancerres from his Clos la Neore vineyard are renowned for their purity, depth, expression of terroir, and surprisingly for Sancerre, their profound ageability. Though wonderful in their youth, a Vatan Sancerre will only improve over the next decade - or two or three?
He treasures his legendary vineyard, a tiny 2.5-acre plot (that's one-fifth the size of Central Park's Great Lawn and smaller than many Westchester back yards!) that Vatan himself planted over 60 years ago and that sits in the sweet spot of the steep slopes of the legendary "Damned Mountain" otherwise known as the Monts Damnes vineyard.
John Gilman refers to Vatan as the "Henri Jayer of Sancerre" - we've compared him to Michael Jordan (nearly the same, no?), not only because of his extraordinary talent but also because of the extreme anxiety with which his fans now watch his every harvest, never knowing when he'll decide that he has spoken his last "Sancerre" and like Jordan, walk off the court for good.
Many of you, no doubt, remember I likened Vatan's likely exit after the 2005 vintage to Michael Jordan draining "the Shot" with only seconds remaining in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA finals. Like Jordan however, Vatan has found it hard to walk away from his life's work, and luckily, his 2006 effort is more Bulls take II rather than Washington Wizards fade away.
Regardless of whether the analogy works for you, the world of wine fanatics and collectors is truly grateful for Vatan's return - this is the master playing the game simply for the love of it.
What should those of you who delighted in the 2005 expect for 2006? The latest vintage (and once again, you just have to wonder... the last?) takes the unabashedly opulent layers of glazed fruit of 2005 and compresses them; here they are leaner, with more clarity and a heightened precision that is invigorating. The fruit is fresh and crisp: green apple and lime (especially intense in 2006) with notes of crushed herbs, fresh mint, nuts and a vivid florality. The entire framework of the wine is finer, sleeker, and more cut.
John Gilman, in "A View from the Cellar," writes that "at this early stage this is one 2006 that seems very likely of giving the legend-in-the-making 2005 a serious run for its money." We definitely agree. That said, when Vatan makes a wine it is the authentic stamp of the vintage; every one should be taken seriously. In that regard, those looking to backfill their cellars with Vatan before it's all gone should seriously consider the few bottles of 2003 we have in stock - see sidebar for pricing and tasting notes.
Will Vatan make wine in 2007? We hope so, but it's anyone's guess - he is nearing 80 after all and the Clos la Neore is quite steep. One thing is clear: While he takes considerable pride at the appearance of his wines in top 3-star French restaurants - who wouldn't? - Vatan certainly doesn't need to bolster his reputation any further. (By the way, he personally recommends Taillevent in Paris as a great place to drink his wines - where they've been for over 40 years).