Producer Stephane Riffault (son of the titular Claude) and the Sancerre region have one thing in common—a close connection to Burgundy. For Sancerre, the relationship to Burgundy is physical. A mere hour and a half by car from Chablis, it shares some of the climatic and geological traits of this other region famed for its crisp whites. For Riffault, it’s emotional. Riffault spent time both working and studying with Burgundy producer, Leflaive. His brother, Etienne, has also found success making wine in Puligny-Montrachet and the two often share winemaking critiques and the fruit of their labor with each other. This has led to a style of Sancerre all his own, characterized by Stephane in an interview as a mix of the Burgundy and Berry zones or “Bourguichon”, which have “the unctuousness of chardonnay while keeping the freshness of sauvignon blanc.”
But this Burgundy influence only serves to highlight the beautiful Sancerre terroir, not hide it. Riffault adopts the Burgundian obsession with his land, making small batches of wine from individual plots and making sure the identity of each shines before blending. He dedicated two years to studying the intricacies of this land and the flavors it produces. The land, in this case, is “Les Chasseignes”, a local term for the chalky soil covered in piles of brittle stone that dominates the area. Riffault walks these stones with his team, hand harvesting grapes while committed to organic practices, selecting only the best berries.
The 2015 Domaine Claude Riffault Sancerre les Chasseignes is a particularly delicious and profound example of this wine. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate declared in their Loire report, this was “one of the finest Sancerres [they] had…” In my glass, there was a beautiful nose of apple and a floral talc minerality with a bit of cut grass greenness. The palate is rich and lasting with waves of crushed apple and citrus backed by a stony character that reveals a spiced note as it develops in the glass. Clean is the word that immediately came to mind for me as I tasted this Sancerre. On the nose and on the palate this is a pure, delicious wine that would pair fantastically with the goat cheeses that the Sancerre area is known for.
At only $24.95, I think this 93 point wine far outperforms its price and continues to deliver even the next day. Make room for this wine in your 2017 cellar. This is a great wine for spring and summer!