The Red-Headed Stepchild of Sancerre #winophiles

Lesser known but lovely - Sancerre Rouge

Lesser known but lovely – Sancerre Rouge

The End of the Road for the French Winophiles Loire Valley Tour
All good things must come to an end, but what a finish!  Our virtual tour of the Loire Valley has taken us inland all the way to the towns of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume. The climate here is fully continental, with no moderating influence from the sea. The conditions for botrytis don’t exist, so there are no more luscious, sweet dessert wines. But don’t despair! Here we have limestone soils from ancient seabeds and a climate that is perfect for flinty, mineral-driven Sauvignon Blanc based white wines.  Lesser known, but equally beautiful, Pinot Noir is grown in some communities to give us Rouge where we might usually expect Blanc.

Loire wine map. Map courtesy of allfranceinfo.

Central Vineyards really means Center of France. The Central Vineyards are the far eastern end of the Loire valley. Map courtesy of

The Other Sancerre – Rouge
Before I finish with the Central Vineyards, I’ll cover the whites, but today, I’d like to spend some quality time with a Sancerre Rouge. The community of Sancerre sits on the left bank of the Loire River, and is situated on a variety of soils very similar to those found in Burgundy. Sauvignon Blanc does beautifully in this area and is the main grape of the region. However, Pinot Noir is also well suited to the climate and the soil.  Because it’s not Burgundy and it’s not the main grape in the region, Sancerre Rouge wines can be a great bargain, offering a classic French approach to the grape at decidedly affordable prices.  They’re worth seeking out!

Lesser known - Sancerre Rouge

Lesser known – Sancerre Rouge

Domaine Claude Riffault “La Noue” Sancerre (Rouge) AOC 2010 ($25 at Zipps Liquors)
The Sancerre Rouge wines of Claude Riffault come from only 3 hectares (about 7 acres) of vines, I’m amazed we see the wines in Minnesota! The La Noue vineyard sits on a combination of Terres Blanches and Kimmeridgian marl soil. The vineyards are farmed organically with manual harvesting, vinification in tank and aging in neutral French oak barrels.

Eye: Clear, pale ruby in color
Nose: Strawberries & raspberries, but not just fruit, something underneath. Wet forest floor, olives, mushrooms, but very subtle. A little cinnamon & sage.
Mouth: Not overly fruity, the wine was bone dry and a bit astringent. Still the red fruit and forest elements show through just fine.  Not a lush wine, but not severe.  You wouldn’t mistake this for Oregon or California, it’s just too dry. I absolutely loved this wine on it’s own and also with the meal. Lastly, $25 for a single vineyard Pinot Noir with some age on it? Nice!

Coffee rub lamb chops are good if you're not 100% a lamb lover.

Coffee rub lamb chops are a good way to serve lamb to those who aren’t 100% sure about lamb.

Coffee-Rub Lamb Chops and Vegetable Tian from the Grill
As the weather warms up, I like to cook as much as possible on the grill. This year, we invested in a Primo Grill, which is a charcoal based ceramic “kamado” cooker. I’m having lots of fun cooking over a charcoal fire in a new way! Stand by for more details in coming weeks.

Lamb chops are a real favorite of mine, and I’m something of a purist. I think they’re best with just a bit of rosemary, salt & pepper.  The coffee rub was very nice, but I felt it masked the slightly gamey flavor of the lamb.  If you’re not wild about that aroma and flavor, you might enjoy the rub very much. The vegetables, on the other hand, were a complete win. I loved the barely smoky flavor they picked up from being on the grill, while cooking them together allowed the herb and vegetable flavors to meld a bit. Topped by the browned cheese with just a bit of crunch, they were irresistible and I had a second serving.

The earthy elements of the Sancerre Rouge were a perfect fit with the grilled food.  The medium-light body of the wine seemed just right on a warm summer evening. Make sure you serve the wine just a bit below “American” room temperature.  Pop the bottle in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour or so before you serve it and you’ll be fine.

Sancerre rouge with lamb chops and vegetable tian

The earthy side of the Sancerre Rouge was perfect foil to the dishes cooked on the grill

French #Winophiles Central Loire Finds

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “To Sancerre with a Tomato Salad with Parsley & Shallots”

Jeff of Food Wine Click  tells us about “The Red-Headed Stepchild of Sancerre

Jill from L’Occasion  brings us “Central Loire: Fulfilling a Fantasy”

Martin of Enofylz Wine Blog shares “2015 Domaine Franck Millet Sancerre Rose #Winophiles”

Michelle from Rockin Red Blog brings us “Diving into Loire Valley #Wine with #Winophiles: Sancerre & Pouilly-Fume”

Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Domaine Daulney Sancerre 2015 for #FrenchWinophiles”

Christy from Confessions of a Culinary Diva shares “The French #Winophiles – Getting Sideways with 2013 Domaine du Pré Semelé Sancerre Rouge”

Next month we move on to Bordeaux! Here are the dates for upcoming meetings:

  • July 16th – Medoc, Haute Medoc
  • August 20th – St. Emilion/St. Emilion Satelites
  • September 17th – Graves and Entre-Deux-Mers

Join us for our upcoming events by emailing your post title to Christy at or Jill at

Roasting the vegetables over a charcoal fire adds just a touch of that smoky element

Roasting the vegetables over a charcoal fire adds just a touch of that smoky element

Lamb Chops with Summer Vegetable Tian

Note: For best flavor, apply the rub to your lamb chops the day before and store in the refrigerator.

The coffee rub recipe is originally from Ed. C. Mitchell’s “Smoke It Like a Pro”
The vegetable Tian was inspired by Maria Zihammou’s “French Bistro”

Grilled Coffee-Rub Lamb Chops Ingredients

  • 8 lamb chops, about 2 lbs. total
  • 3 Tbsp. freshly ground coffee
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt or sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder

Summer Vegetable Tian Ingredients

  • 2 zucchini squash
  • 1 eggplant
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 red onion, peeled
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 Tbsp Herbes de Provence (or use fresh)
  • 1 generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 oz. gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs

Starting the day before, or at least 4 hours before cooking

  • Trim excess fat from the lamb chops.
  • Mix the ingredients for the rub
  • Apply the rub liberally to all sides of the lamb chops.
  • Place in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Meal Day

  • Slice all the vegetables in 1/4″ slices.
  • Mix the EVOO, garlic, Herbes de Provence, and black pepper in a small bowl.
  • Mix the cheese and the breadcrumbs
  • If you want to cook your vegetables on the grill, a cast iron skillet works great. Otherwise, you can use a baking dish and use the oven.
  • Arrange the vegetables in layers, alternating eggplant, red pepper, onion, zucchini, tomato. There are lots of ways to do this depending on the size of your pan.  I arranged mine in a circle in the skillet.
  • Scatter the herb/garlic/oil mixture over the vegetables
  • Set up your grill for 2 zones of heat.  On a gas grill, keep 1 zone on high, one zone on medium. On a charcoal grill, aim for 450 F, with 1 side set for direct heat and one side for indirect heat.
  • Place the vegetable skillet on the indirect heat side of the grill and close the grill.
  • After 20 minutes, sprinkle the cheese mixture over the top of the vegetables
  • After 15 more minutes, start grilling the lamb chops over the direct heat side of the grill. For medium rare, you’ll need about 3 minutes per side.
  • Remove the food from the grill, cover the lamb chops with foil for 10 minutes before serving.
  • Enjoy!

sancerre_rouge_lamb_ratatouille_winophiles 20160603 87

13 Responses to “The Red-Headed Stepchild of Sancerre #winophiles”
  1. Great post Jeff. I’m looking forward to your thoughts on the Primo Grill. I’ll have to try a Sancerre Rouge!

  2. I am going to have to track down a Sancerre Rouge, Jeff! Thanks for the tip.

  3. Wendy Klik says:

    I couldn’t find any reds from Sancerre here in Michigan or at least not at the stores in which I looked. I love the tian on the grill idea.

  4. My mouth is watering for lamb at 7:30 in the morning! Glad you tried the rouge. Looking forward to more grilled recipes on your new Primo Grill.

  5. So gorgeous Jeff – I can’t wait to hear more about your Primo Grill – we’ll have to exchange tips since it is so similar to BGE!

    I was so impressed with the Sancerre Rouge – the spouse was also, we never associate Sancerre with Pinot so it was a revelation.

    Lovely photos – I need lessons from you on how to capture the beauty of the wine in the glass and how to keep the glasses so clear and dust free!

    • Thanks, Christy. Glad you also loved the Sancerre Rouge, definitely a “find”. And yes, let’s share on the Kamado front. I’m particularly interested in recipes outside of the standard “American BBQ” style. I’ve got nothing against ribs, pulled pork, etc… I’d just like to see more variety.

  6. Hey Jeff, great write-up! Sancerre rouge is one of my favorites! Just wondering: what made you opt for the Primo? Did you consider the Big Green Egg? I will be making a similar purchase this fall in Texas….

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Jeff of Food Wine Click tells us about “The Red-Headed Stepchild of Sancerre” […]

  2. […] Jeff of Food Wine Click  tells us about “The Red-Headed Stepchild of Sancerre” […]

  3. […] cruise down the Loire river, stopping in each of the major sub-regions. My prior posts are here for Central, Touraine, Anjou-Saumur, and Nantais. This month, we’re revisiting wines of Anjou and Saumur. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: