Domaine Claude Riffault is today one of Sancerre’s most impressive producers and is now run by Stéphane Riffault, son of Claude. After studying in Burgundy, Stéphane worked with Olivier Leflaive in Chassagne-Montrachet, moving to Chateau Angelus in Bordeaux, before taking the reins at his family domaine. He drew on many of these experiences as he set out to produce some of the most exceptional wines in the appellation.
Stéphane embarked on numerous changes and improvements upon taking over the running of the domaine. Taking a cue from Burgundy he began creating wines based on their terroir (his father had produced only a single Sancerre across all the parcels), separating the parcels based on location, soil type, and vine age. He also converted the vineyards to organic and biodynamic viticulture (certified with Biodyvin).
The wines are made to an exacting standard. Grapes are hand harvested and extensively sorted in the cellar before gentle pressing. Native yeast fermentations occur in concrete vats before the wine is transferred to neutral oak barrels, casks, and foudres. They are then aged on their fine lees for 10-18 months, producing wines of wonderful texture and complexity.
Les Chailloux, a deeply expressive wine, comes from flint soils (a rarity in Sancerre) and offers mineral, flint, and saline notes. Les Denisottes, a more gourmand wine, is grown on the classic terres blanches (Kimmeridgian limestone), offering a richer style with more fruit, but still backed by minerality and tension. The seriously delicious Monoparcelle 538 is a single parcel of 50-year-old vines grown on very shallow and pebbly Kimmeridgian limestone - it spent 18 months in oak casks, resulting in an impressively age-worthy style and tastes very much like a cross between Burgundy and Sancerre.
We tasted these earlier in the year and they display beautiful purity of fruit, texture and depth that is rare for Sauvignon Blanc, and are backed by laser like tension, bracing acidity, and distinct mineral notes. We can’t recommend them highly enough.