Generations of wine growers, passionate about their craft, have forged Prieur family’s history in the Sancerre wine region by farming great vineyards located in the most prestigious terroirs of the area.
The uniqueness of the wines of Sancerre comes from the marriage of a specific terroir and the two grape varieties selected by Prieur first generation: Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
The history of the Prieur family domaine has unfolded in prestigious Sancerre terroirs such as Les Monts Damnés, Les Bouffants and le Chêne Marchand over eleven generations.
The Domaine is still family managed by siblings Bruno and Thierry and covers roughly 15 hectares (12 hectares of which are planted with Sauvignon Blanc and 3 with Pinot Noir). Bruno’s son Sebastien is also involved in the project.
Both grapes have been cultivated in the region for centuries, but it’s only been in the last 80 years or so that Sauvignon Blanc has begun to dominate; before that, the region produced mostly red wines from Pinot Noir and Gamay.
Domaine Pierre Prieur & Fils is committed to environmental conservation and has received “High Environmental Value” certification since 2014 and in conversion to organic farming since 2020.
“High Environmental Value” (HEV) is a voluntary approach that aims to identify and promote particularly environmentally-friendly practices.
Established in 2012 by the French Ministry of Ecology and Agriculture, HEV covers three key areas.
- biodiversity conservation
- plant protection strategy
- management of fertilization use
The High Environmental Value certification guarantees that the wine producer respects the ecosystem of the land on which he or she grows vines and produces wine.
It preserves biodiversity through areas referred to “environmental corridors” that allow nature – wildlife, flora, insects – to flourish.
The Pierre Prieur & Fils domaine was certified Level 3 of HEV in July 2014, the highest level of sustainable agriculture.
This certification is the recognition of many years of hard work. For example, this grower doesn’t use herbicides and the vines are worked by hand under the vine stock, in order to encourage soil life.
Through biodiversity and the adoption of alternative methods, the Prieurs have significantly reduced, or even eliminated, the use of acaricides, insecticides and fungicides.
All this allows the vine to feed itself better, in order to produce better quality grapes, and thereby allow us to produce authentic terroir driven wines.In 2023 the Domaine will gain the full organic certification.
Due to its long and eventful geological history, the topography of Sancerre region is hilly and therefore conducive to the cultivation of the vine. It also boasts a large variety of soils which stamp their character on the wines from Sancerre. The region has three main terroirs:
- The “terres blanches”: clay-limestone soils that create well-structured, rich and complex wines
- The “caillottes”: stony limestone soils that create fruity wines from an earliest age
- The “silex”: a particular type of flinty-clay soils which create fleshy, well-structured wines with a characteristic mineral bouquet
The 3 soils types go in succession west to east: terres blanches, then caillottes around the town, then silex next to the river (this latter area is the closest to the Pouilly-Fumè appellation). But even that is a simplification, with the exact soil mix varying constantly – and clay is the theme which unites them all, and which would certainly most affect plant performance.
The fruit sourced for Sancerre’s wines generally speaking come from one of the following 14 communes: Bannay, Bué, Crézancy, Menetou-Râtel, Ménétréol, Montigny, Saint-Satur, Sainte-Gemme, Sancerre, Sury-en-Vaux, Thauvenay, Veaugues, Verdigny, and Vinon.
The Prieur’s domain is located in Verdigny.
The paradox of this appellation is that the best sub district doesn’t lie within the 14 communes, but it’s Chavignol where the famed vineyards of Monts Damnés and Cul de Beaujeu are located.
When it comes to the harvest time, the Prieur family sticks to the usual bread and butter: the grape berries are tasted to determine their maturity level and thereby establish the date of the harvest, plot by plot.
Harvesting is carried out entirely by hand which respects the integrity of the grapes and helps to retain the aromatic finesse of our two grape varieties.
The grapes are taken from the vineyard plot to the winery as quickly possible in order to preserve the delicate aromas of the Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. Once in the winery, vinification is carried out with as little human intervention as possible, keeping each plot separate to obtain the pure expression of each terroir.
The Sancerre wine region is very well known for its white wines and has reached a status of a brand in itself, a nearly ubiquitous glass-pour at restaurants all over the world. Let’s not forget that this relatively small region, situated within the eastern boundaries of the Loire Valley, is just about a two-hour drive south of Paris and this has boosted the sales and popularity of its wines.
In the earlier part of the 20th century, before Sancerre’s popularity had skyrocketed, grape farmers also would typically produce goat cheese—the rocky hills of Sancerre are a natural habitat for these animals. Today, growers are more focused on winemaking, but the traditional pairing of the region’s famed Crottin de Chavignol cheese, a round, slightly firm, natural-rind cheese with a nutty flavor, alongside a good Sancerre, cannot be topped.
Nonetheless, Sancerre is a Pinot Noir soil. Originally mainly planted with Pinot Noir, this wine district was basically destroyed in 1886 by phylloxera, a vine disease.
The winemakers replanted Sauvignon at first, a grape variety best adapted to the climate and to the soil types, and seemed to turn their back to Pinot Noir. Sauvignon Blanc took off and the increasing demand by bistrots in Paris forced the growers to invest in more hectares planted of this variety. In 1936 the official appellation decree was created and limited only to the almighty Sauvignon while only in 1959 the production of rose and reds has been recognized by allowing wines made of Pinot Noir. In the beginning the reds used to be mainly thin and weedy, marked by a light profile with flavors of bell pepper and green herbs. Sometimes, a producer would throw wood at the problem and fail.
Useless to say climate change had its impact for sure and Burgundy wine lovers should take note. The modern era of Sancerre Pinot Noir did not begin until the 1990s when a number of talented Sancerre vignerons began turning to more attentive viticulture of Pinot Noir and vinifying more serious, robust Pinot Noir wines.
These wines are succulent in rich black cherry tones, lifted by good acidity that comes from picking the grapes at just the right moment, and not from under-ripeness. They show all that effort put into growing Pinot Noir in the chalk soils of Sancerre was worth it—that there was a logic to putting the red vines among the ocean of Sauvignon Blanc
In 2016, the vineyard’s area was 2960 hectares in total, 75% planted with Sauvignon and 25% planted with Pinot Noir.
In a nutshell