Sancerre is perhaps the most well-known of all of the wine regions of the Loire valley. Planted to both Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, the AOC is based around the village of Sancerre and home to Domaine Claude Riffault, a renowned wine growing estate that has been family owned and operated for five generations. Today, at barely 30 years old, Stéphane Riffault - Claude's son - is at the helm, turning out Sancerre that are the envy of many producers twice his age. As wine critic David Schildknecht put it, "make no mistake: this address in the hamlet of Maison Salle is now one of the five or six most exciting estates in the Sancerre appellation." Given that Stephane's holdings represent 4 tenths of 1 percent of the appellation, this kid is clearly doing something right.
Based in the village of Sury-en-Vaux, the domaine works 33 different parcels in 6 different lieu-dits spread across 4 villages. The 13 hectares of vines are (certified) organically farmed and no synthetic material is used. Unlike most Sancerre producers, the entire harvest is carried out by hand and an extensive sorting takes place before the grapes are crushed. Stéphane's wife, Benedicte, leads the harvest team while Stéphane manages the sorting and press during harvest. Most of the domaine's holdings are planted on the soft Kimmeridgian limestone soil called Terres Blanches with some parcels on calliottes and silex. All of the parcels are vinified separately and with the exception of the rosé, all the wines are bottled unfiltered. Having studied and worked in Burgundy (and closely with Olivier Leflaive), it's easy to see the Burgundian influence in Stéphane's wines. Riffault's wines are always crisp and high-cut with a jeweled sort of delineation that speaks to the precision and attention they receive.
La Noue is a 2.5 hectare plot of Pinot Noir on clay limestone and marl. Divided into seven plots and ranging in age from 10 to 60 years old it is the source for both the Noue Rosé and Rouge. The rosé is a combination of juice bled off the Sancerre Rouge after a 6-12 hour maceration combined with direct press Pinot Noir fermented in tank with natural yeast. In the glass, this 2017 is a light-to-almost medium bodied wine that is a delicate and shimmering pale pink. It's a study in balance: just the right amount of fruit, acid, and minerality make it a perfect fall rosé as we start to serve the seasons harvest. Hints of strawberry combine with citrus, crushed chalk and stoney minerality on the palate and the clean and laser-focused finish makes you want another sip. It's a perfect alternative to white as we enter cooler weather, with pleasing body and complexity to satisfy the most discerning rosé lover who, like us, drinks rosé all year long. It pairs perfectly with hors d'oeuvres of tangy cheeses and salty charcuterie, as well as poultry, pork and salmon.