It’s Sauvignon Blanc Jim…..but not as we know it.
If you seek a traditional sleek, linear Sancerre with aromas and flavours of vivid gooseberry, peach and minerals this wine is not going to be for you. If however, you seek a wine which enchants you with its idiosyncratic tics, provides a counterpoint to regional typicity and sends you to a beautifully geeky corner of the space/wine continuum, you should be pretty chuffed to have some of this light, golden hued nectar in your glass.
Sebastien Riffault farms his 2 hectares of vines according to organic/biodynamic principals at Sury-en-Vaux overlooking the town of Sancerre and makes his wines at nearby at his father, Etienne Riffault’s winery just outside of the village. The steeply sloped vineyard lies with a South/South-West aspect on limestone/clay soils over a flinty base.
The 0.7 hectare Skeveldra plot consists of 45 year-old Sauvignon Blanc vines and the name is Lithuanian for “stone”….Silex (flint) in the case of this particular plot. Sebastien’s Lithuanian wife Juraté has the honor of naming the vineyard plots hence the slightly foreign sounding names. Biodynamic preparations 500 & 501 are used in the vineyard though Sebastien has no plans to go through the certification process…… he has gained an organic certification since 2006 though.
Tiny yields, harvested by hand…..I would presume fairly late?…..extended skin contact, wild yeast ferment, fermented in an oxidative style in open-top vats, very low sulphur regime, extended time on lees and aging in large, seasoned oak….you get the picture….it ain’t gunna taste like your typical Sancerre.
Light gold in hue with aromas of poached quince and pears, custard apple and lemon oil. A beautifully detailed wine aromatically….plenty of character and rich smells flowing from the glass. Hints of dried honey, crushed quartz and flint smoke, softly spiced oak, rye bread, honeysuckle and jasmine. Lighter notes of butterscotch, apple pie and a curious manzanilla-like nuance.
A lively entry on the palate with a vivid initial impression of rich, smooth poached quince and pear fruits with a dab of lemon oil. There is spicy oak immediately apparent on the palate but it segues with the rich fruit beautifully and never seems obtrusive. Again hints of dried honey, struck flint, jasmine and honeysuckle along with nougat, clotted cream and lemon curd. The sherry notes make their presence felt again on the palate adding to the wines complexity.
A shimmering line of crystalline acidity crackles through the wine giving structure and drive and the finish trails off impressively with memories of citrus, white flowers and softly spiced oak. I can’t promise that you’ll drift off into a state of catatonic bliss like I did sitting on my porch watching the sunset, but I promise that you will find a thought-provoking, delicious wine that harks back to what Sancerre must have been like 50 or 60 years ago……and that sort of shit is important.
Individual, beautifully geeky drinking….give it a decant.
Price: $75 – Closure: Cork – Alcohol: 13% – Source: Cellar – Importer: Eurocentric