The Bailly family has been synonymous with winegrowing in Sancerre since 1700. Sylvain Bailly brought Domaine Croix Saint Ursin to its greatness in the 1950’s, and today, his son, Jacques, runs the estate with the help of his wife, Marie-Hélène, and their daughter Sonia, who joined the domaine as winemaker in 2007. Based in Bué, one of the Sancerre AOC’s finest communes, the Baillys farm 19 hectares spread over 23 small parcels within both Sancerre and the nearby AOC of Quincy. Among their holdings are the great vineyards of Grand Chemarin, Le Château, Les Chasseignes, and the famous Chêne Marchand—the latter of which has evolved from its original name Choix Marchand, or “Merchant’s Choice,” the first selection which the purveyors kept for themselves. The soils around Sancerre are composed of two types: chalky limestone with little top-soil from the upper hillsides, which lends an intense floral bouquet and finesse to the wines; and clay-based soils scarce in chalk but rich in topsoil, which imparts a full, rich texture and greater age-ability. Domaine Croix Saint Ursin’s terroirs are sustainably farmed and composed of roughly 60% chalky soils and 40% clay-based soils. This variation enables the Baillys to grow Pinot Noir (for both red and rosé) in the clay soils and to split the Sauvignon vineyards between both the chalk and the clay-based parcels.
The wines are vinified in separate lots based upon a number of factors, namely vineyard site. Parcels with similar sun exposures, soil types and vine ages are fermented together. In all, there are approximately 12 separate vats used to ferment the juice from the 23 vineyard parcels. The whites and the rosé are made the same way: the must is left to settle for 18-48 hours after which time the fermentation begins and is temperature-controlled at 18°C to preserve the primary aromas of the grapes. The first racking takes place in January or February after which time the wines are aged on fine lees until bottling. They are then assembled, cold-stabilized, lightly filtered and bottled. As for the Sancerre rouge, after de-stemming, the grapes undergo a cool maceration (14-16°C) for 48 hours, helping to fix the color, tannin and aromas. The alcoholic fermentation then lasts from 10 to 18 days before the wine is pressed half into tanks and half into neutral barrels. The Sancerre rouge then ages 10 to 20 months before being bottled unfiltered.
For more information, please see: www.sylvain-bailly.com.