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Sébastien Riffault

Sancerre, Loire, France

Like many corners of the Loire, Sancerre has a winemaking history much-forgotten by the current stewards of the land. With the industrialization of winemaking alongside a growing international platform for French wines, Sancerre solidified itself as the quintessential “type-cast” of French whites; anybody can make it, so long as the finished product is entirely homogeneous: bone-dry, whipping acidity, mineral, and green. 

The elders of the region, or those with long family lineages, might remember a different type of wine being produced in Sancerre - one which reflected the climate and long-rooted traditions of the area. Harvests were carried out with a high percentage of botrytised grapes, in turn producing wines of power, complexity, roundness and generosity. 

After returning to his father’s winery in 2004, and taking over some of the vines for himself (and later converting those vines to organic and biodynamic in 2007), Sebastien Riffault lost a few friends and customers with his decision to return to those forgotten traditions. Managing his vineyards with his trusty draught horse, Sebastien picks his grapes nearly a month and a half after his neighbours, allowing for the development of botrytis through nearly half his harvest. 

In the cellar Sebastien exercises patience; each of his wines spends at least 3 years in the chai before bottling, with that time divided between tank and barrel. It’s an uncommon approach for this rather abused region of the Loire, and one which, in our opinion, sets Sebastien in a class all his own. When they do finally reach the shelves, the wines are purposeful: immensely complex, broad, open, satisfying, and rich in their history and representation of place.