Perhaps more famous for its grassy, citrus, highly aromatic and racy Sauvignon blanc, Sancerre is also home to Pinot Noir, which dominated the hills here until the devastating phylloxera wiped them out in the 1880s. Its production has since remained fairly small, with the rise of Sauvignon as a grape that would define its place in the world's modern marketplace.
Sébastien Riffault is one of the early adopters of natural winemaking in the area, and his wines tend to have a highly bortrytised grape content, which was traditionally done in the past. His Raudonas, named using his wife's native language of Lithuanian (which means "red"), is a 100% natural Pinot Noir grown biodynamically on clay-limestone soil. Whole bunch fermentation with natural yeasts is adopted here with close to 20-30% of the grape clusters kissed by the noble rot. The final wine is then aged in used, neutral oak barrels for 24 months before bottling with no fining, no filtration, and naturally, no sulphur.
We cracked open the 2007 Raudonas yesterday (one of Riffault's first few vintages) and while the ruby red of its youth has transformed into more of a vermillion-garnet core, the typical strawberries and and raspberry notes of a Sancerre rouge, be it natural or not, were very much present. Sour plums, sour cherry, mandarin peel and some herbal notes also filled the nose, with very little funk but in fact quite floral with a touch of VA. On the palate, the wine was tart with flavours of red currant, tart cherries, a little smoky, and perhaps a touch earthy too, supported by a vibrant acidity. A joy to drink truly and none of the really green characters that we encountered in his 2012 version tasted just a few months ago with KMVT were there.
A check on the biodynamic calendar showed that it was a fruit day. Perhaps this played an important role? Not quite scientific as far as modern science goes, but how do we explain its consistent refusal to play nice (we have tried the same vintage over the years and jotted notes) on leaf and root days?
As this can be a cloudy wine, we did leave it to stand in the fridge for a few days and were very gentle with the pouring motion so that the fine sediments in the bottle don't get stirred up much. The first few pours should be crystal clear if you're careful but you can also use a decanter to do the job - just drink it really fast before oxidation sets in and change its dainty, fragile red fruited flavours into a more savoury one. Fancy trying some? Just drop us a message. Happy Sunday!