Think about classic Sancerre – the opposite!
You’d recognize Sébastien Riffault’s vineyard in the Loire Valley’s Sancerre region from afar: that’s the one richly planted with flowers and grass amongst the vine rows promoting a balanced biodynamic soil. He introduced a whole different kind of Sauvignon Blanc the world (or let alone the natural wine world) had been used to: overripe grapes, affected by botrytis, old oak barrels. The result something truly unique – strongly recommended to try them all!
Sébastien Riffault took over the vineyard at the age of only 21 from his father. He started with a 2-acre parcel as it was not common in the Loire Valley’s Sancerre region to follow organic or biodynamic practices. Mostly conventional viticulture, “clean”, bald rows of vine is still the standard around there. As opposed to ones like Riffault’s which you already recognize from a distance, planted with colorful flowers and herbs in between the vines.
Soon after he started organic viticulture, he turned to biodynamic in 2004 and is practicing it ever since. He ploughs with two horses which he often lends to neighbours 🙂
What makes Sébastien’s wines so special is that he starts the harvest much later than his fellow winemakers. He aims to present Sauvignon Blanc in its original, pure form – far from the usual. He goes against all Sancerre rules: lets the grapes overripe and be affected by botrytis, a type of fungus seen in case of Tokaji Aszú. This gives these natural juices a distinctive scent which many specialists would judge as faulty. The Riffault wines are in fact one of a kind and of special character, however, once you’ve got sucked into this world, you may never leave again!
Sébastien follows low-intervention methods in the cellar, as well. No sulphites, no fining or filtration, he even bottles by gravity. There’s one single crowd pleaser of his Sauvignon Blancs, the Les Quarterons where he adds a tiny bit of sulphite as opposed to the Skeveldra, Saulétas and the Auksinins trilogy (or any other of his selection), focusing on three different kinds of soil types. Despite of their amber color, they are no skin contact wines. He offers one title of orange wine, the Auksinis Maceration, a deep, tannic version of its original. A funky Pinot Noir makes the list complete with its earthy and berry tones.
Wondering where these titles come from? Sébastien’s wife, Jurate is Lithuanian and they all translate to different soil types, colors and characteristics. A bit of a change in the fully Francophone region.