In an ideal world, one should start a tour in the small but beautifully formed hilltop town of Sancerre. This is the home of the Sauvignon Blanc grape as well as superb crottin goat’s cheese. Then head west towards the Touraine region where one encounters beautifully made reds from Cabernet Franc. They have a style and personality all of their own!
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Father and son duo, Pierre and Bertrand Riffault make the most of their fine terroir and cool climate of the region. They fashion classically fragrant, fresh and mineral Sancerre that displays all the cool, green, grassy personality of the fashionable Sauvignon Blanc so brilliantly well.
Pierre took over from his father in 1962 and set about modernising the domaine as well as expanding it. Today, it occupies 12 hectares, encompassing some of Sancerre’s finest terroir. Bertrand took over the winemaking when Pierre retired a few years back. We are pleased to say he has successfully continued the tradition of making splendidly fresh and uplifting Sancerre. His father enjoys meeting 3D Partners and showing them around the vineyard.
In 2012, we asked Bertrand Riffault to make us a couple of barrels of oak-aged Sancerre blanc. The name often given to this style of wine is fumé blanc and it’s an excellent alternative to oaked Chardonnay. The parcel of old vines where the grapes are grown is called Croix de Chambre. The result is a wine with a powerful, smoky, vanilla infused nose leading to a fresh, spicy palate of citrus and greengage fruit. Try this with smoked trout or eel or chicken in a creamy sauce. Drink within 3 to 4 years of the vintage.
The Riffaults make just a little Sancerre rosé which is a shame as this is incredibly popular. Made from 100% Pinot Noir juice that has been drawn off from the skins after 24 hours contact, it is a crisp, refreshing style with lovely berry fruit fragrance with a touch of melon. It has good concentration of delicate red fruits and a long, balanced and creamy finish. Whilst many rosés are quite frivolous, this relatively rare wine is to be savoured. Best drunk young as an aperitif or with pork, pizza or paella!
A classic. And, not surprisingly, one of our most popular wines!
Our exclusive Cuvée Caillottes comes from the middle section of the region where clay and chalky limestone dominate. The surface of the vineyards is carpeted with small white stones – hence the name Caillottes – giving the most forward and fruity style of Sancerre with a typical seam of minerality. It is crisp, aromatic and endowed with crunchy citrus, pink grapefruit and gooseberry fruit. As it ages, it loses its aromatics but takes on riper, fleshier peach and pear fruit in the mouth. Drink within three years.
Each year young winemaker Bertrand Riffault makes just five or six barrels of outstanding oak aged Sancerre rouge. Little seen outside of the region, we adore it! It illustrates the wonderful freshness and fruit of Pinot Noir, but in a slightly more forward style compared to some burgundies. Possessing a lovely herbaceous, peppery nose, it has delicious crunchy blueberry and strawberry fruit together with a spicy twist from the oak barrels. A wine for posh picnics for sure.
Our winemakers at Domaine de la Chevalerie make some of the finest Cabernet Franc wines in the region, from their imposing, beautifully kept domaine which has been in the family for almost 400 years. Despite their longevity, they are one of the most enlightened and progressive families in the region.
Their 38-hectare domaine is now almost entirely converted to biodynamic viticulture. This philosophy involves working organically, with actions carried out to the phases of the moon and planets. Natural, homeopathic preparations are made at the domaine to enliven and enrich their soils. Their wines are fresh and fruity with lovely suppleness and complexity.
Domaine de la Chevalerie is a big estate. They therefore have many parcels at their disposal, offering a number of diverse terroirs. The Bretêche is a brilliantly made cuvée from the higher slopes above the village of Restgné in Bourgueil. The vines, up to 60 years old are planted in a mix of tuffeau, limestone and clay soils with a southwest exposure. It is a fresh, lively wine with delicious, pure fruited expression.
It is deep and brooding on the nose with dark plum , spice and minerals. On the palate it is fresh and savoury with ripe black fruits, plum and blackberry, with a delicious supple, juicy quality supported by good structure. It has a long, powerful, spicy finish. This can be enjoyed fresh and young (perhaps lightly chilled), but will age gracefully for up to a decade. Try this with braised lamb, Sunday beef or even fresh Tuna steaks.
When 3D Wines first started over two decades ago, Domaine de la Cune, in the appellation of Saumur-Champigny, were the first vineyard we began to work with. The very first exclusive cuvée they made for us was from the 1992 vintage. Thus it could be said that we know the wines very well indeed!
We also know the ever smiling, affable Mary brothers very well too. Whatever the seasons throw at them, year in year out, they produce deliciously fruity wines that epitomise the French meaning of ‘terroir’ – the unique marriage of sun, soil and grape. Saumur-Champigny is made from the Cabernet Franc grape. The wines have incredible personality, with earthy fragrance and smooth, supple flavours. They are the epitome of what France does best!
Saumur-Champigny Les 3 Jean 2010
Saumur blanc Tradition 2010
Our exclusive Les 3 Jean is from older Cabernet Franc vines grown on a mix of sand, fine chalk and gravelly soils surrounding the domaine. It is so-called because father and both sons are called Jean!
Les 3 Jean displays the characteristic Cabernet Franc aromas of blackcurrant and cherry fruit overlaid with violet and warm earth. In the mouth the wine is fresh with good weight of both red and black fruits, a touch of spice and the tell tale herbaceous twist at the end. Can age really well for up to a decade or more.
Made from unoaked Chenin Blanc – the grape variety of choice in the middle Loire. It is gently perfumed with apple compote and minerals. In the mouth it is light and refreshing with honey, quince and green apple fruit. It finishes well, with good, crisp definition. This humble, but well made wine is a great match with shellfish, plaice or fish pie. Will age up to 4 years, but best drunk young and fresh.
The hotels, chambres d’hôtes and gîtes we recommend in the Loire Valley are all personally known to us and are where we stay when we visit our winemakers. They have been selected because they are convenient for the vineyards, offer a warm welcome and provide good value for money within their category.