Master of Minerality: Sancerre Superstar, Claude Riffault
Posted on: 04/25/18 7:30 PM
13.5 hectares. That’s the entirety of the Riffault holdings in Sancerre. While it represents only 4 tenths of 1 percent of appellation, the tremendous presence the Riffault has created here has made this tiny, humble domain feel much, much bigger.
For American audiences, Riffault has yet to enjoy the same attention as Henri Bourgeois, Boulay or Vacheron. But make no mistake, Riffault will soon belong in the same conversation. The U.S. press, for one, seems aimed at making Riffault a star. “While not yet nearly so well known as some of his colleagues in Beanue or Chavignol, Stéphane Riffault has now emerged as a reference in Sancerre that no serious wine lover should underestimate,” gushed Joel Payne. David Schildknecht, formerly of the Wine Advocate proclaimed: “make no mistake: this address in the hamlet of Maison Salle (Sury-en-Vaux) is now one of the five or six most exciting estates in the Sancerre appellation.” Not bad, right? Once you taste these wines, you’ll agree too.
Today we’re offering the Riffault’s stunning (and very limited) 2016 single vineyard releases. We’ve hammered out how important 2016 for the Loire is: Fresh, vibrant and utterly classical, this is a vintage that bore wines triumphing nuanced fruit and finesse but still retain a delicious juicy, sumptuous character. Riffault’s 2016’s are as you would expect, exceptional. Be it the tropical and smoky Chailloux, the earthier, savorier Denisottes or the sharply lemon, beholdingly graceful Desmalets…each are beautifully mineral, enthralling portraits that will entertain for the entire evening.
More About the Wine:
Too many times in the wine retail (and restaurants) we are guilty of exclusively concentrating and praising the greatest vineyards in any given appellation. But while great wine from great vineyards is deservedly what many people seek, we lose out on very good, even superb wine being made from vineyards that do not have any fame or star power. Riffault, who has southern facing plots on less than illustrious vineyards, is a superb, humbling reminder that great wine doesn’t have to be born to famous parents. The Riffault conversation should start with that fundamental fact.
Stéphane Riffault, who is barely into his thirties, has by way of excellent (and organic) viticulture (he is one of the few that exclusively hand picks his wine) and sensitive, intelligent winemaking has crafted diamonds out of gems. It doesn’t hurt that he studied and worked in Burgundy (and closely with Olivier Leflaive). His use of neutral burgundy barrels (as opposed to stainless steel) allows for a portrait rarely duplicated in Sancerre. Do not miss this amazingly exciting producer!
2016 Claude Riffault Sancerre Blanc “Les Denisottes”
From importer: Located just a stone’s throw from the estate, this vineyard parcel consists of vines of about forty years age planted in deep Terre Blanche soil. The minerality is not apparent on the eye but this Kimmeridgian soil is made up of a plethora of limestone sediments (Exogyra virgula). It is both rich and mineral. The wine is vinified and matured in smaller big barrels (600 l) barrels for 9 to 10 months.
2016 Claude Riffault Sancerre Blanc “Les Desmalets”
From importer: A neighbor of Les Chasseignes, this vineyard parcel has completely different soil. Here, on a small outcrop of 50 ares, we find superficial Terre Blanche soil. 40 centimeters deeper, the subsoil is formed from large sedimentary flagstones (Exogyra virgula), from the Kimmeridgian age of the secondary Jurassic era. The roots of the vine delve deep down between the limestone blocks, enriching the grapes, resulting in glorious fruit and great finesse. This wine is vinified and aged exclusively in barrels for 9 to 10 months.
2016 Claude Riffault Sancerre Blanc “Les Chailloux”
From importer: Quite rare in the village of Sury-en-Vaux, flint soils are found on the outskirts of the Forest of Charnes, in the Les Chailloux location. The minerality here is striking. A geological fault created these “recent” soils, formed during the Eocene era of the Tertiary period, 40 million years ago. Our vineyard contains less than one hectare of this type of soil. The vines are between 13 and 40 years old. The grapes obtained are vinified and matured exclusively in barrels for less than one year. The wine obtained is clear cut and mineral. The fruit is expressed through smoky characteristics.
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