2014 Sébastien Riffault Les Quarterons
My first introduction to Sébastien Riffault came from reading “Natural Wine” by Master of Wine Isabelle Legeron, someone who has championed natural wines from day one and is forever using Sébastien as a great example of someone who defies the commercial/industrial degradation that Sancerre has suffered over the years.
In February 2017 I was lucky enough to meet Sébastien in person and taste through his wines, and a few months later I was lucky enough to share a bottle with Laura and Ed at Pasture in Auckland, who had their ‘natural wine epiphany’ drinking a bottle of 2010 Akmèniné at Restaurant Relæ in Copenhagen. From then on they’ve been dead-set on pouring only natural wines, and from then on I’ve been dead-set on bringing these wines to New Zealand. Finally the time has come!
The Riffault family have been farming their 10 hectare plot in Sury-en-Vaux for two generations now, beginning with his father Etienne. The vineyard has been farmed Organically since day one and is now certified Biodynamic too. The vineyard is located on a hillside plot and is abundant in both silex (flint), clay and limestone.
Once you’ve tried the wines from Riffault you almost need to redefine what it is that Sancerre means to you. All Sauvignon Blanc, yes, but what sets these wines apart is their low yields and concentration, their oxidative handling and richness, and their botrytis influence and depth.
Les Quarterons is a 10% botrytis-influenced Sauvignon Blanc, fermented (to dry) and matured in stainless steel then old French oak barriques for 12 months. Consider this one the most approachable cuvée in terms of its similarity to Sancerre Blanc.
All the Riffault wines are fabulous interplays on physiological ripeness, botrytis influence, complexities from wild ferment, textures and retention of natural acidity - totally unlike anything else.