Wine flight: Saget la Perrière

I had originally written this for a local publication a few years ago but the editors never got around to publishing it. So I decided to make it a blog post.

Arnaud Saget was just a few months into his role as director generale for Saget la Perrière when the global financial crisis claimed a victim close to home, its American distributor, Chateau & Estate.

That left Saget unmoored to the American market, one of the company’s largest. As he searched for a new distributor, the disruption in supply caused one New York restaurant to drop Saget in favor of other distributors that had stock. That restaurant had been buying 700 cases. “We had to retool and establish the brand again,” he said.

Saget eventually signed on with Pasternak, and steadied its business. But he added that, unexpectedly, Texas, and its maturing culinary culture, played an important role in expanding Saget’s client base. Arnaud’s family has owned Saget la Perrière for nine generations, producing wine from six estates over 890 acres in France’s bucolic Loire Valley

I met Arnaud at a tasting lunch held at Oceanaire Seafood Room at the Galleria that featured seven of the family’s wines. For me, Saget’s strong suit is its white varietals – five of the seven we tasted were white, each with clean flavors of minerals and fruit, stripped of any cloying sweetness. Mostly priced between $12 and $22 – the Le Domaine Saget Pouilly-Fumé is the most expensive at $29 — these versatile wines are food-friendly but also full-bodied enough to be sipped on their own, a chilled glass on a Sunday afternoon among friends.

All of the selections were from 2012 and we began with the Guy Saget La Petite Perrière Sauvignon Blanc, which had a creamy taste and an unexpected slight vegetal taste, which I found pleasant. Next was the Domaine de la Perrière Sancerre, made of sauvignon blanc grapes but whose flintiness is reminiscent of a riesling. The Pouilly-Fumé had a much deeper, heartier taste.

We tasted two reds at lunch, a Chinon and a Pinot Noir. Pinor Noir is frequently a go-to wine for me, versatile enough to be paired with seafood and a lot of meats and flavorful enough to be enjoyed alone. Saget’s pinot has the tell-tale ruby color, with a light vanilla taste. The Chinon was full of tannins and spice.

All in all, the Saget wines are easy-to-drink and at price points that encourage consumption.

To complement the white wines, we were served an Alaska Red King Crab salad as a first course, Pan-Broiled Alaska Weathervane scallops, and Seared Wild Alaska Halibut. The pinot noir was paired with a Grilled Bering Sea Wild Coho Salmon.

Saget is now back in France and in between marketing visits, and I messaged him to find out about his Texas tour. Saget called it “very successful,” especially with retailers and restaurateurs in Austin. “I don’t remember working a market for a day, selling wines to every visited account,” he says.

SAGET LA PERRIERE: (Suggested retail price):

— Muscadet de Sèvre & Maine sur Lie Les Cilssages d’Or ($14)

— Marie de Beauregard AOC Vouvray ($18)

— Guy Saget La Petite Perrière Sauvignon Blanc ($12)

— Guy Saget La Petite Perrière Sancerre ($22)

— Le Domaine Saget Pouilly-Fumé ($29)

— Guy Saget La Petite Perrière Pinot Noir ($13.50)

— Marie de Beauregard Chinon ($17.99)