France Wine

Sébastien Riffault – A Sancerre like no other

Sancerre’s wines normally spark up adjectives such as aromatic, herbaceous, zesty, lean or austere. Yet, the Sauvignon Blanc that Sébastien Riffault proposes breaks with all of those expectations. Notes of apricot marmalade, candied lemon and chamomile destroy any notion with which we used to consider Sancerre. 

Sébastien works biodynamically and naturally, this means no chemicals, no filtration, fining or added sulphur. Our numerous posts in the past have covered repetitively how this tends to yield wines that respect the terroir-driven character of the wine. Still, what Sébastien does truly different and radically changes the flavour profile of his Sauvignon is picking very late, around mid-October. By this time a large proportion of the harvest is affected by botrytis, giving a honeyed, candied fruit aroma to the wines. In the past, this procedure was commonplace in the Loire, but the difficulty to control the development of botrytis on the grapes while preventing grey rot from tainting the wines with mouldy aromas motivated producers in Sancerre to pick earlier.

The resultant candied and floral aromas work very well with the mineral and reductive character of the Sauvignon varietal in this region. The aromas of matchstick and crushed flint merge harmoniously into a long finish. Riffault’s second biggest influence on the wine comes from the ageing: two years in tanks and one year in old oak barrels with the lees before bottling. The textural astringency that the lees ageing produces is akin to that of skin macerated wines (orange wines), although this is not one. 

Tasting notes

Sébastien Riffault- Akmèniné 2016 (30% botrytis)
Nose:Very difficult to verbalise. Honey, matchstick, flint. Candied fruit (citrous, orange or lemons), dried apricots or apricot marmalade. Chamomile. Intense and interesting. The botrytis makes a unique wine.
Palate:Apple juice, apricot marmalade, lime. The lime carries over all the way to the finish, where the floral notes are revealed. Long finish.
Structure:High acidity, a tiny bit of RS, medium alcohol, full bodied. Texture from the lees. A unique wine.

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