June 26, 2013

Appel on wine: You may think you know your Sancerres, but fact is, you may not

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And mineral! Riffault burst yet another of my Sancerre assumptions when he explained to me how what we consider "minerality," a flinty impression of struck stones, is usually the direct result of sulfur added to wine. True minerality, he said, only expresses on the palate as salt and chalk. This is what all his wines have: thrilling pulses of saltiness and calcareous grip that come straight from the land that birthed them.

The mineral landscape of the wine is inhabited by all sorts of life forms: meringue, clafoutis, sun-baked straw, bees, strange flowers. Little in the wines is citric, nothing is green; all is amber and almandine, copper, soft yellows.

The name of "Riffault" is so common in the Loire it seems to me like a French version of "Smith," and several fine Sancerres are made by others who share Etienne and Sebastien's surname. My fear is that you will see this name listed in restaurants and think, "Oh, a Sancerre, made by a Riffault. I'm sure it's good, but I'm going to choose something more interesting." And maybe you will. But if you neglect this wine, you'll not only miss out on a fantastic wine. You'll have missed a great opportunity to get past a misapprehension about an entire place, grape and approach to life, a misapprehension always at risk of extending far beyond wine.


Joe Appel works at Rosemont Market. His blog is soulofwine.com, and he can be reached at soulofwine.appel@gmail.com


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