2010 Domaine Claude Riffault Sancerre Les Boucauds

Year: 2010
Appellation: Loire Valley
Country: France
Wine Spectator: 90
Wine Advocate: 92
White Wine
Alcohol by Volume: 13.0%
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"A lean, lime- and flint-driven style, with tangy thyme, chive and pippin apple notes driving through the finish. Drink now. 5,000 cases made." (WS)

"From a pebbly but deep "Terre Blanche" Kimmeridgian site with mixed age of vines next to the winery, and accounting for nearly half of this estate's production, the Riffault 2010 Sancerre Les Boucauds is matured largely in tank, supplemented by around 20% barrel. Clear and bright, its lime, white currant, and grapefruit suffused with chalk and tinged with citrus zest, pear skin, and salt, this displays such purity and ripeness that a nearly sweet impression is engendered on its silken palate, yet at the same time one of animation, invigoration, dynamic interplay and refreshment. This outstanding value should perform brilliantly for at least half a dozen years.

I was delighted to at last meet young Stephane Riffault (son of this 36-acre estate's namesake) and to taste his entire range of wines, one so unexpectedly extensive that - while I tasted the 2011 and 2010 collections complete - shortage of time and of sample bottles from earlier vintages at his cellar meant that I was by no means able to fill in all of the gaps in my experience since tasting for issue 190. While I could rest relatively easy not having tasted the 2009s, I was sorry that I could experience only one additional wine - but what a one! - of 2008, the vintage from which Riffault's Les Boucauds had so memorably introduced me to this domaine. If - as there is ample reason to anticipate - this young vigneron's expertise only increases; and, more proximately, his 2010s go the way of (let alone surpass) the bottle evolution of the two 2008s I have experienced ... then watch out! Make no mistake: this address in the hamlet of Maison Salle (outside Sury-en-Vaux) is now one of the five or six most exciting estates in the Sancerre appellation. All fruit has since 2008 been picked by hand and sorted on a vibrating belt. Three state-of-the-art presses are employed to permit the leisurely, gentle pressing Riffault deems essential and which no doubt accounts for some of the striking clarity, purity, and textural refinement of his results. He ferments most of his whites in stainless steel but certain lots in non-new barrel ("above all for the sake of texture by working the lees," he explains); while his Pinots ferment exclusively in cement before being transferred to barrel. Harvest in 2011 began September 5 and finished by the 15th, with results whose consistent success (as judged prior to bottling, anyway) should not be overlooked simply due to my notes being juxtaposed with those on an exceptional 2010 collection which Riffault, too, is willing to concede that he nailed! (I made most of my notes on Riffault's sites and regimen of elevage while tasting his 2010s, and I have retained the resulting general observations as part of my tasting notes on the wines from that vintage.) " (WA)

Winery Notes:
Domaine Claude Riffault is one of the shining stars of the Sancerre appellation. Sancerre, predominantly known for the production of world-class Sauvignon Blanc, is located in the eastern Loire Valley. Geographically and geologically, it is closer to Chablis (in Burgundy) than most of the rest of the Loire Valley. Made up primarily of broken limestone and fl int (called “silex”) soils, this region produces white wines of amazing purity and cut, often with smoky aromas.

The domaine, which has been family-owned and run for 5 generations, is now in the hands of Claude’s son Stéphane who is working the soil in a much more organic fashion than his father. The family owns 33 different (and quite small) plots on steep hillsides in four different villages. Part of the vineyard is made up of limestone soil which produces white wines with great fruit and explosive aromas. They also own a smaller amount of vines on fl int soil which produces wines of incredible minerality and precision. The vines are all vinified by plot and by soil type before some are assembled to make a small number of bottlings.

100% Sauvignon Blanc from limestone soils on hillsides. Hand harvested and fermented in stainless steel tanks to maintain the fruit and freshness of the wine. Produced from 30-40 year old vines.