“Young Stephane Riffault (son of this estate’s namesake) and his thirty-some steep plots on chalk and flint around Sury-en-Vaux (north of Chavignol) represent an exciting and as yet under-recognized source of Sancerre.”– David Schildknecht, Wine Advocate
Claude Riffault (run today by Claude’s son Stéphane) is located in the hamlet of Maison Salle (Sury-en-Vaux) and is one of the most exciting estates in the Sancerre appellation. With a Burgundian influence, partial ageing in old oak for texture and a flinty minerality with almost salty freshness, this is serious Sauvignon Blanc, and I rarely call Sauvignon Blanc’ serious’!
There is a strong connection to Burgundy as Stéphane worked in Burgundy, and at Olivier Leflaive. Stéphane’s brother Benoît Riffault married into the Sauzet family and today runs the viticulture and vinification at Domaine Sauzet. The attention to detail at Claude Riffault is unusual for Sancerre; all the harvest is done by hand, yields are kept unusually low, and there is extensive sorting before crushing (supervised by Stéphane himself). The property is certified organic and biodynamic. The wines are vinified with natural yeast and vinified and aged partially in stainless steel and partially in large 600L neutral oak demi-muids, giving a textural quality to the wines. All bottles are unfiltered.
The Riffaults have 13.5 ha, spread over 33 different parcels in 8 different lieu-dits spread across four villages. All the parcels are vinified separately. Most of the vines are grown on soft limestone (Terres Blanches) with some parcels on Calliottes and Silex. Many of the parcels are south-facing, yet all the wines are crisp with a delineated minerality.
2018 Sancerre Denisottes, Claude Riffault @ £214 per case of 12 bottles in bond (£24 per bottle including all taxes)
The 40-year old vines of Les Denisottes are located on Terres Blanches soil with lots of pebbles close to the cellar. Two plots are vinified separately but blended harmoniously. The subsequent Sancerre is richer in style that works well with smoky fish and cheeses. Aged for 10 months in 600L demi muids.
2018 Sancerre Les Chailloux, Claude Riffault @ £108 per case of 6 bottles in bond (£24.25 per bottle including all taxes)
Les Chailloux comes from a very specific site at 300m altitude on white silex soil (more common in Pouilly Fumé). Stéphane has about 1ha here, and the wine is tight in youth, can age gracefully for many years and has a distinct mineral and smoky note that matches perfectly with white fish or crustaceans. It is 100% barrel fermented and aged in 600L neutral oak casks.
2018 Sancerre Monoparcelle 538, Claude Riffault @ £273 per case of 12 bottles in bond (£29.95 per bottle including all taxes)
This is a plot known previously as Cuvee Les Desmalets, but this year Stéphane has focused on an even smaller site of around half a hectare. The vines are grown on shallow Terres Blanches with a subsoil of marine sediments rich in oyster fossils (as found in Chablis). The subsequent smoky, textural wine is superb with white fish and poultry.
A Mixed Tasting Case 6 bottle case with two bottles of each of the above wines comes to £156.40, including all taxes and delivery.