Jean Christophe Mandard Blog by Will Nicolson


Jean Christophe & Jean Baptiste Mandard.

I’ll admit it, I got excited by Sauvignon Blanc. There you go, it’s out there, I said it by my own free will. Now, just to be clear, I don’t have anything against Sauvignon Blanc, and I do like Sauvignon Blanc, especially the Bordeaux style blended with Semillon. It’s just that it is a grape variety that is so common now and widely drunk that you take it for granted. The excitement disappears and over the years I’ve found buzz in other varieties like Gruner Veltliner, Falanghina and Godello. My wife and I also started our careers in Majestic Wine where Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs were stacked to the ceiling and sold at a rate that would send Jason Leitch into a tailspin. Just seeing a bottle of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder and lead to sleep paralysis with a mountain of The Ned Sauvignon Blanc bearing down on me.


The moment of excitement was triggered in February by Jean-Christophe and his son Jean-Baptiste Mandard when they showed me their Touraine Sauvignon Blanc. It was green and tingly with sharp green and citrus fruit, perfectly balanced and fresh on the finish. It was like going back 20 years and tasting Sauvignon Blanc again for the first time. It was everything Sauvignon Blanc should be. We then tasted the Touraine Chenonceaux which was an appellation I’d heard about but hadn’t knowingly tried. This is where the excitement rose to another level. The AOC was established in 2011 and Sauvignon Blanc is the only permitted white grape variety.


It is situated due east of Tours, along the Cher River and is already producing wines at the same level as Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. Mandard’s was intense, textured and bursting with green and tangy citrus fruit flavours. It is aged on its lees for six months yet still finishes with delicate freshness and lightness that is quite remarkable. Given the price of even a basic Sancerre, this is phenomenal value.  I was then presented with another first. A white wine made from Orbois or Arbois as it is commonly known. This was not unlike Chenin Blanc with a lovely weight and honeyed texture behind the fleshy apple and quince flavours. Very zippy, fresh and mineral on the palate. Another outstanding wine.


After my excitement levels had returned to their normal non-existent state, I tasted a large selection of wines from Sancerre. Sancerre has long been held up as the pinnacle of Sauvignon Blanc and it is a region that, without doubt, produces terrific wines. The problem with Sancerre now is that, like many wine-producing regions, it only produces a certain amount of wine and when the demand outstrips the supply, prices rise. Prices of Sancerre, not helped by several small harvests and massive demand in America, have far outstripped inflation and they now look terrible value. Others will disagree, but the issue I have with Sancerre is that I don’t find it a unique enough style or one that is so much better than Pouilly Fume or Touraine Chenonceaux for example, that the price can be justified. As a consumer, I can switch and be just as happy. Chablis is another region that has faced the same issue but although there are alternatives to Chablis, Chablis remains a unique expression of Chardonnay.


I came away from Mandard knowing that not only had I found a great Touraine Sauvignon Blanc, but I’d also found a perfect alternative to Sancerre.