The lady had offered a sample at one of the stalls as we passed, and we had liked it. She wanted us to buy a crate, but I politely declined, offering instead to buy the opened bottle at the full price, so we could polish it off at home that evening.
Updated Saturday 24 June (please scroll to end)
Updated Saturday 23 June (please scroll to end)
Up until two days ago, I had always regarded Sancerre a safe wine for entertaining. Everyone knows the name, and this occasional tippler considers the rosé to be well balanced (usually) between sweetness and acidity, without the harsh resinous edge one associates with a lot of much cheaper offerings.
We've had a Sancerre rosé sitting in the rack since last November (about which more later) and decided on Tuesday that we would have it between ourselves.
I'm glad we made that decision, rather than offer it to guests. It was dreadful. After a glass each we gave up in disgust. Thirty minutes later, we both had a metallic burning taste on the palate. It stayed for several hours: had we been entertaining guests, it would have ruined the evening.
One sniff at the neck of the bottle confirmed my suspicions - sulphur dioxide ! The wine had been heavily overtreated with sodium metabisulphite.
(For the chemically uninitiated, metabisulphite comes as a crystalline white solid. It slowly releases its sulphur dioxide in contact with water: anyone who has made their own wine will be familiar with it as Campden tablets).
So where did we get our duff Sancerre, you may be wondering. At some dodgy back street supplier, or from the pile-em-high, sell-'em cheap basket at the supermarket ?
Far from it. It was a trophy we brought back from the Salon du Palais Gourmand at the Cagnes race course, the subject of an earlier post.
But no, the lady would not hear of that, and produced an unopened bottle of 2004 Sancerre for about €15 as I recall.
So how come it had so much sulphur dioxide, and was there any way we could have known ?
Well, this retired biochemist/food scientist is no innocent abroad when it comes to food additives. Yes, I had noticed the warning in small print on the side of the bottle "contains sulphites". You can see it (just) in the pictutre above, written vertically on the right of the label.
For a man of average weight this is less than a third of a bottle of a white wine with a concentration of 200 mg per litre.
Regular consumption of conventional wines means regularly exceeding the RDA of sulphur dioxide by a large margin.
More specifically, sulphur dioxide can cause allergic reactions in some people. It is dangerous for asthmatics even at very low levels.
It's an article written by one Jamie Goode PhD, who has his own site ( which I yet to visit!)
What caught my eye was the following statement:
Colin Berry 24 Jun 2007 14:12
A French wine-producing chateau, or its equivalents elsewhere, may produce the finest wine of its type in the world. But all that is irrelevant if the wine is sent out with an overdose of chemical preservative.