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  1. Tony Ling

    Tony Ling

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  • By Jon Rimmerman
    2/13/2009, (See more on Garagiste...)

    (AKMENINE Riffault Sancerre) UPDATE: Tip of the Week

    Run do not walk to Vin Rare (or email them) to secure what you can of their 2005 Giacosa at prices that are close to European cost. I'm not sure of the provenance (you will need to press them on the grey market source to be sure of delivery) but, if sound, these are prices that will be tough to top. We have no affiliation with them, but it's worth a shot. Hurry if you are a fan of Giacosa.

    - Jon Rimmerman

    Dear Friends,

    Sebastien Riffault remains one of the more controversial producers we champion but the wines are too important to ignore (in a similar vein to Frank Cornelissen on Mt Etna). This offer probably deserves the IMPORTANT tag but too many of you will have my head when you open one of these for your mother-in-law or who asks for a "nice little Sauvignon Blanc".

    Riffault is one of the leaders in the underground movement of the young and restless. His goal is to turn wine into an oxidized experiment of sherry without any real resemblance to wine as you and I know it. He accomplishes this goal by not trying to do anything. Occasionally he stumbles and makes an actual "wine" that all of us can understand but his real strength is pushing the limit of what Sancerre is known for and his name is akin to Jayer in modern circles of the Upper Valley. As far as name dropping in France, a bottle of Riffault (not to be confused with Claude Riffault or any of the others) is met with as much anticipation from know-it-all wine geeks as a bottle of Mouton. These are examples of a different origin than even I can tolerate but (as with many of our wines) I believe the experience gives you a stronger foothold on what is happening in the world - it also gives you a better perspective on your own palate and a deeper sense of your likes and dislikes. If by some happenstance, you find yourself enamored as so many critical palates in France have become, then I will be thrilled to have made the introduction.

    WARNING: Riffault is not for those expecting a casual wine experience. These are vinous bottles of education and patience that may require 6-12 hours to open with oxygen exposure. The are 100% biodynamic, unsulfered and untreated wines that have a reputation for starting a movement in France that has spawned a multitude of copycats in Italy, Spain and even Germany. What may appear over-ripe, gloppy and oxidized upon first opening may turn into the most beautiful and complex bottle of perfumed Sancerre one can imagine - be patient and always decant as you would a pent-up red wine.

    Riffault considers 2007 the greatest vintage of his young career (not surprising given the quality of the white wine from so many other regions). I urge all of you to experiment with this set of wines, considered retail suicide by most but essential information to me.

    All are EXTREMELY LIMITED - only 5-20 cases of each for the entire US market (including restaurants). I've tried to keep prices as low as possible to encourage the addition of Riffault to your collection - I'm not sure how to search for comparative prices but these are about the same as in the Loire.

    The following comments and notes on each wine are from my esteemed colleague in France, an expert on Sancerre and the new movement - translated to the best of my ability from French. All have been released and are on the water to us now:

    "Sebastien Riffault, a mystery of a man but the wines have become legend in the Loire. I want to despise these wines, but I melt when I taste them. The "natural" aromas and flavors are bizarre to say the least but they somehow manage to be gorgeously textured and so very delicious. The prices are not terrible with a stronger dollar (Skelvedra is over $40 in Paris). Tasted with the recluse SÄbastien Riffault himself over many hours - we begin the journey above the Sauletas level with the AkmÄninÄ":

    2007 Sebastien Riffault Sancerre Blanc "Akmenine"
    "(name means: the result of stones); Very bright yellow with nose of bonbons Anglais, lightly oxidized. It is voluminous and has good acid that come with time in the air. The quality and length of the finish are remarkable with such unfiltered sediment giving dimension as a red wine. Nothing else is made in France of this quality and interest while having such an individual memory. For all collectors and open minds ($25-28 in Europe)."

    2007 Sebastien Riffault Sancerre Blanc "Skeveldra"
    "(name means: splinter/fragment) limited if no export at all - only a few dozen bottles in Paris; Amber color, with almost sherry nose. On the mouth it's a sensorial debauch, magically delicious. Swallowing is delayed because it feels so nice. Then it goes down singing hymns. Gorgeous. Maybe the finest Sancerre in 2007 to last. Quite difficult allocation to receive - most cavistes in Paris cannot purchase Skelvedra but they try every year to convince Riffault($40-45 in Paris if it is found)"

    2007 Sebastien Riffault Sancerre Blanc "Auksinis"
    "(name means: golden) limited if no export at all - not commercially available; 18 months in barrel. Light amber. Quite oxidized, mature, candied fruits, really massive, oily and voluptuous. I want to disdain this evil but my mouth keeps asking for more and more - am a lemming following the wine over the cliff? I can't explain my attraction but it must present one of France's most unique experiences - it remains delicious and pleasurable, ripe with fruit and the land of green. Genius or fowl? Riffault's highest level of Sancerre"

    2007 Sebastien Riffault Sancerre Rouge "Raudonas"
    "(limited if no export at all - not commercially available); 18 months in old barrels, without sulfites. Quite risky, deep and opaque color (a health food), bricky. Very ripe nose, Madiran fruits. Nose is clean and pure, it cannot be placed - from another era?. Tiny prickles on the tongue with bracing acids, good volume, intense and of the bizarre. The wine study for university chemists and those that need affirmation of their unknowledge of wine. You realize you know very little after its consumption. Humbling Pinot Noir"

    A few other opinions (not related to us):

    ...and the illustrious Bertrand Celse, maybe the single most important wine blog writer in the world, with a detailed walk-through of Riffault's vineyards and philosophy:

    Riffault has now been mentioned and reviewed by many of the "cool" publications in France as well as the RVF, so you can find even more information with a more intensive search.

    This set will arrive with impeccable provenance this spring (or maybe late winter) - they will ship during the first available shipping window.

    Thank you,

    Jon Rimmerman
    Seattle, WA

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