Time was when Sancerre was synonymous with summer, then, from nowhere in the mid-Eighties, Cloudy Bay and New Zealand sauvignon blanc blew Sancerre away. This was shortly followed by cheaper and in many cases better value sauvignon blancs from Chile, South Africa and, latterly, Australia. Does its disappearance mean Sancerre is not the thirst-quenchingly delicious summer drink it used to be?

Time was when Sancerre was synonymous with summer, then, from nowhere in the mid-Eighties, Cloudy Bay and New Zealand sauvignon blanc blew Sancerre away. This was shortly followed by cheaper and in many cases better value sauvignon blancs from Chile, South Africa and, latterly, Australia. Does its disappearance mean Sancerre is not the thirst-quenchingly delicious summer drink it used to be?

Sancerre is made from sauvignon, but the grape is only half the story. Sauvignon blanc is grown along the Loire River throughout Touraine, but it reaches its apogee in the eastern Loire, at Sancerre and Pouilly, because of that region's chalk, flint and marl soils. At its best, and with meticulous vineyard management and skilled handling in the cellar, Sancerre combines the piercing, aromatic fruit qualities of the grape variety with the dry-as-a-bone, minerally, stony character derived from its special location - what the French call terroir. Sancerre should be able to achieve this because it's not a mass-produced wine.

The trouble is that not enough Sancerre succeeds. Not only did it suffer a trio of difficult vintages before the 2002, but our insatiable thirst for sauvignon has encouraged producers to stretch their limited resources. Given the choice between Sancerre and New World sauvignon, I would take the New World three times out of four. I suspect I'm not alone, so perhaps it's not surprising that Sancerre is not as ubiquitous as it used to be.

But the 2002 vintage is an opportunity for Sancerre. Hailed by growers as a saviour, those who managed to cut out the rot and keep down the yields, which tended to be high, were able to produce excellent wines, some say on a par with the great vintages of 1996 and 1989. So while prices may be high, the best growers have produced genuinely high-quality whites.

2002 Sancerre: my pick

Chavignol, Paul Thomas, £8.49, Majestic

Intense flavour and pure fruit quality with an elegantly dry aftertaste.

Domaine Naudet, £9.49, Waitrose

A fine estate-grown wine; fresh, floral and aromatic, but with a flinty dryness and tongue-tingling bite.

Domaine Franck Millet, £12.99, Wimbledon Winecellars (020-8540 9979)

An ultra-stylish dry white with an opulently zingy, grapefruit-zesty richness.

Domaine de la Tonnellerie, Gérard et Hubert Thirot, £9.49, Oddbins

A fresh and enticing, smoky-scented dry white with juicy flavour intensity and crisp, zesty acidity.

Christian Lauverjat, Moulin des Vrillières, £10.99, The Haslemere Cellar (01428 645081)

Fine, zesty-fresh dry white, combining character and richness with an attractively tangy finish.

La Croix au Garde Domaine Henry Pellé, £11.50, D Byrne & Co, Clitheroe (01200 423152)

Masterful; its assertive, gooseberryish opulence and richness is balanced by mouthwatering finesse.

Vincent Pinard, Cuvée Flores, £9.25-£9.95, Great Western Wines, Bath (01225 322800)

Subtle, dry, flinty style with crisp, lemony acidity from one of Sancerre's best producers.

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