Claude Riffault | Aiming high in Sancerre

Impassioned by Sancerre and its terroirs, influenced by Burgundy and its single-parcel work, inheritor of a family domain…all of these characteristics make up a wine maker who is propelling Domaine Claude Riffault to yet more success with every passing year.

It was in Burgundy’s Beaune area that Stéphane Riffault learnt the viticultural trade by completing a BTS. Burgundy’s climats are famous, known for the richness each single parcel can bring and the diversity that can produce exceptionally different wines just metres from one another. The geological and climatic factors have a significant impact on the individual cuvées produced. In 2015, these local specialties became part of UNESCO’s world heritage. These elements of the viticultural landscape on the Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Nuits certainly influenced Stéphane who, after his BTS and some training at Château Angélus, returned to Sancerre to take up the family property. He is not the only one in the family with an affinity for Burgundy: one of his brothers, Benoît, has established himself in Puligny-Montrachet as manager of Domaine Sauzet.

Domaine Claude Riffault has been in the north of the Sancerre appellation for 4 generations now, and it is Stéphane who is taking the place of his father, Claude. He takes care of 15.3 hectares of land in Sury-en-Vaux, shared across 6 lieux-dits. There are 13 hectares of the famous Sauvignon Blanc and 2.3 of Pinot Noir, a variety that works wonders in Sancerre. As mentioned above, Stéphane sees great importance in highlighting the parcels in which his vines are grown, with each cuvée carrying the name of a certain parcel: La Noue, Les Chailloux, Les Denisottes. Terroir is what interests this producer more than anything, so much of his effort goes into making this the heart and soul of his wine.

The work carried out puts respect for the vine, its fruit, and the soil at the centre, then what happens in the winery serves to produce wines that reflect their appellation. The soil is ploughed, and every step of the process has in mind the aeration and maturity of the grapes when they’re eventually harvested. The grapes are picked by hand and sorted carefully before the white ones are pressed and the reds are put in vats. In order to highlight each lieu-dit, each parcel is vinified separately during both vinification and maturation. This brings the idea of origins to the fore.

In 2016, the domain was certified in organic growing, an important step for a domain that has always been attentive to the plant-life in its vineyards. Biodynamic work is underway, as well!

La Revue du vin de France has made a point of saying that this is one of the best domains in the north of Sancerre which, especially since the 2008 vintage, has made great progress in its production of fine wine. The cuvées are very precise, expressing the respective characters of each lieu-dit.

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