Fallen out of love with Sancerre? The wines of Domaine Claude Riffault will rekindle the romance – appropriately enough, given Stéphane Riffault’s resemblance to TV heartthrob Poldark, played by Aidan Turner.

Richly textured, energetic and acutely site specific, Riffault’s Sancerres stand head and shoulders above the majority produced in this celebrated but broadly unambitious appellation. Alongside François Chidaine (Montlouis), Vincent Foreau (Vouvray) and Michel Delhommeau (Muscadet), Stéphane – who took the reins from his father in 2015 – is one of the superstars of Stannary’s Loire portfolio.

Stéphane’s brother Benoît is winemaker at Domaine Etienne Sauzet in Puligny, and it’s invariably remarked on that there’s a Burgundian sensibility to Stéphane’s approach. The two single-vineyard cuvées offered today spent some 14 months on lees in barrels of various sizes. They were vinified with ambient yeast, and bottled un-fined and only gently filtered.

The differences between the two are therefore a function purely of terroir. The linear and precise Chailloux hails from a cool site with flinty soils, while the more voluminous and expressive Denisottes is informed by deep terres blanches (Kimmeridgian marl).

2021 was an extremely challenging vintage in Sancerre, just as it was in Burgundy and for much of France. Frost and a cool, wet late-spring/early-summer resulted in a tiny harvest; 70% below average at the domaine (and around 50% for the region as a whole). But – again, like Burgundy – there’s a winning energy, cut and level of detail to the wines. 2021 will please classicists after a series of high-quality but warmer vintages.

2021 Sancerre ‘Les Denisottes’
£168/6 btls IB

This is a gorgeous, medium-bodied Sauvignon combining varietal notes of nettles, grass and gooseberry with stony minerality. More rounded and approachable than Les Chailloux, but boasting the shimmering the acidity that is a hallmark of the best wines of the 2021 vintage, this will drink well straight off the bat. Like all Riffault’s wines, its texture and complexity make it a rewarding match for a range of dishes from Thai curries to creamy fish pie.

2021 Sancerre ‘Les Chailloux’
£174/6 btls IB

The only parcel on flint, the 2021 Sancerre Chailloux is truly flinty in its appearance both from the soil and the fact that it’s still on lees when tasted. If you like driven and precise wines with the precision of a laser, make this your target within the Riffault range. Expect gooseberry, citrus, nettles and fresh pineapple and the merest touch of wood. Mineral, firm and taut. A real terroir expression but for those that like their wines a little riper and tender, head towards one of the cuvées planted on limestone and clay.
92-94 (Rebecca Gibb MW, Vinous)
Drink 2023 to 2028

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