Look to the north when visiting a wine producer in the small village of Chavignol in the central Loire, and you will most likely be confronted by the imposing face of Sancerre’s unofficial top cru, the dramatically named Les Monts Damnés (the ‘Hills of the Damned’) – or, to give it its full title, La Côte des Monts Damnés.
Although not the steepest vineyard in the world (that ‘honour’ is usually credited to the 65° slope of the Bremmer Calmont vineyard in the Mosel), the 45° slopes of Les Monts Damnés make viticulture here challenging at best. But the results are outstanding; it is viewed by many as the source of Sancerre’s finest wines.
Scroll down for 14 top Les Montes Damnés wines to try
Unlike the wines of the Médoc and Burgundy, the appellation system for Sancerre is relatively simple, with no officially designated premier cru or grand cru vineyards. It appears there is a reluctance to emphasise individual hamlets or specific ‘lieu-dit’ sites that might divert consumers from the easily identifiable Sancerre brand.
Chavignol and Les Monts Damnés have historically had a strong reputation for wine, while Chavignol itself is also rightly famous for Crottin de Chavignol, its distinctive AP goat’s cheese, which is perfect with a crisp glass of Sancerre.
Like Burgundy’s Chablis, Sancerre is a name widely recognised by white wine drinkers around the world. These two appellations share many similarities yet have significant differences. Both are focused on a single grape variety, are situated at cooler northerly latitudes, and are marked by strong terroir influence driven by geological factors dating back more than 150 million years.
Sancerre Les Monts Damnés leading producers
Clos La Néore
Anthony & David Girard
Other top Sancerre lieux-dits
Clos de la Poussie (Bué),
La Grande Côte (Amigny),
Le Cul de Beaujeu (Chavignol),
Le Chêne Marchand,
Le Grand Chemarin