The Wine: Saulétas Sancerre 2016
Sébastien Riffault Saulétas Sancerre is a white natural wine made from 100% biodynamic Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Sancerre, Loire Valley, France. The grapes are grown on limestone soils, 50-year-old vines harvested by hand, direct press, spontaneous fermentation in old barrels with indigenous yeasts, aged for 24 months in old barrels. Skeveldra is bottled unfined, unfiltered, with no added sulfites.
The Producer: Sébastien Riffault
Riffault’s wines are unique in the Sancerre world, but a strong reflection and true test of his vineyards and soil. Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc is known for its intense minerality, crisp texture, and citrus quality. His Sancerre wines are not like the mainstream ones, but nonetheless delicious while showcasing his 12 hectares near Sury-en-Vaux. Sébastien Riffault, son of winemaker Etienne Riffault, began his own label in 2002. The big difference between him and the rest of Sancerre is his belief in biodiversity and biodynamic principles and natural winemaking. These principles are rare to find in Sancerre where many vines and wines are made with chemicals and manipulation.
The Vineyard: An array of plants, flowers, and grass are planted in his vineyards to increase biodiversity and encourage good insects. He uses horses to plow, so the soil is carefully tilled and in the right places, which increases the amount and variety of life in the soil. Absolutely no fertilizers or chemicals are used, and his wines are certified organic by l’intégralité du Domaine en Culture Biologique, certifiée par Bureau Veritas Certification. He is a member of The Association of Vins Naturels and The Renaissance Group of Appellations.
The Winemaking: Riffault takes the natural approach here as well. Riffault leaves his grapes on the vine extremely late in order to get them completely ripe usually affected by botrytis. The wines are fermented in large, old barrels with wild yeast (except Les Quarterons is fermented in stainless steel). In spite of the crisp, intense acidity, all of the wines undergo complete malolactic fermentation. The wines are aged on their lees. They are never chaptalized or acidified. His wines are not filtered or fined. No SO2 is added (except for minimal sulfur added to Les Quarterons at the time of bottling). Wines are bottled by gravity. (source: Zev Rovine)
The Region: Loire Valley
The Loire Valley is a vast region located in western France. It stretches from the hills of Auvergne all the way to the Atlantic coast, cut in half by the Loire River. With over 4 million hectoliters of wine per year, the Loire Valley is one of France’s biggest and most diverse wine-producing regions. The Lore Valley’s production ranges from every-day quaffable and unpretentious wine to some of the country’s finest whites and reds.
The Terroir of the Loire Valley
Upper Loire sub-region: continental climate, soils are mostly flint and limestone formations. This is the land of Sauvignon Blanc, with Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé being the most famous appellations (AOC).
Touraine sub-region: continental climate, soils can be clay with flint or limestone, and chalk. Chenin Blanc is the main grape varietal for white wines, with Sauvignon Blanc coming in second. Red wines are made mostly from Cabernet Franc.
Anjou sub-region: maritime to continental climate, crumbly and soft soil formation called tuffeau. Anjou is well-known for its Chenin Blanc wines, mostly dry although there are good examples of sweet Chenin Blanc in Coteaux du Layon.
Saumur sub-region: continental to maritime climate, soils are made of tuffeau limestone in this similar to Anjou sub-region. Chenin Blanc is vinified as a sparkling wine with the champenoise method, Cabernet Franc is made into light and peppery wines.
Pays Nantais sub-region: maritime climate, the region stretches to the Atlantic Ocean. Soils are rocky with granite formations. Muscadet is the main grape varietal of this area, known for wines that are mineral, crisp, and refreshing.
The White Wines of Loire Valley
White wines represent the biggest share with about 65% of the total production. Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Melon de Bourgogne, and Chenin Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne are the most popular grape varietals in the region.
The Red Wines of Loire Valley
Loire Valley reds are very distinct in terms of their style. Light and lean, lively and fruity, easy-drinking and food-friendly, they are some of the best everyday wines on the market. Some of the best examples of this style are made from Gamay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Malbec.