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For those of us who like to have a stash of top-notch Loire Sauvignon Blanc within reach at all times, drinking a wine like Domaine de Bel Air’s “Cuvée Riquette” is a bit bittersweet. It’s a nearly perfect exemplar of the style we crave—stone fruit and floral lift married to scintillating minerality, deeply concentrated texture alongside zippy freshness, the variety’s signature herbaceous undertone running through it all—and it massively over delivers on its sub-$30 price tag. Basically, it drinks like a much more expensive bottling from an elite producer in next-door Sancerre. But thanks to the stresses of a turbulent growing season, it’s in painfully short supply. This refreshing yet dynamic style of Sauvignon Blanc that we love so much is increasingly hard to find in our era of ever-warmer growing seasons. So who knows when we’ll be able to offer a wine in this vanishing style, at this price, again? If you want a tremendously great value on classic Sauvignon this is your chance, and it’s an even better deal at 10% off if you grab a six-pack or two!
Domaine de Bel Air is situated in the heart of the Pouilly-Fumé appellation, their 15 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc spread across the villages Pouilly-sur-Loire and Saint Andelain. The international success of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé in the late ’90s and early 2000s meant an influx of outsiders and upstart operations, but Domaine de Bel Air is no such thing: Louis Sadon founded the domaine alongside his wife at the end of the 19th century. The Sadon family can actually trace their viticultural roots in the region back 13 generations, to the mid-1600s. That’s centuries before Sauvignon Blanc was even discovered. The family has been there every step of the way as this singular marriage of grape variety and terroir took shape. Now, Katia Mauroy-Gauliez, great-great granddaughter of Louis Sadon, heads the estate.
“Cuvée Riquette” is named for Katia’s great-grandfather. It’s an old vines bottling dedicated to, and based on, the singular “caillottes” soils the family works, a special combination of clay and pebbly limestone. Anyone familiar with Burgundy or Champagne will know the magic of that terroir duo; clay lends power and heft, limestone electric minerality and enlivening acidity. It’s that combination that so thrilled us when we first tasted “Cuvée Riquette.” So often now, Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc, be it from Pouilly or Sancerre, tends toward the opulent, the tropical. It’s simply the way things go in the climate change era, but it makes us thirst all the more for the rigorous and chiseled examples we first cut our teeth on. The 2021 vintage was brutally difficult, with spring frosts, significant rainfall, and hail, although the resulting wines are a glorious return to form for the region. The only downside is, thanks to all the difficulty that made for such beautiful stylings, yields were drastically reduced.
“Cuvée Riquette” was gently pressed into a mix of stainless steel and lined concrete tanks, further enhancing its most refreshing qualities. Serve this well-chilled in all-purpose stems and get ready for a master class in Sauvignon Blanc balance. The nose bursts with lemon oil, just-ripe white peach, pear skin, and jasmine high notes, cut through with pulverized chalk, crushed oyster shells, smoky gunflint, and seabreeze. There’s a faintly green quality, a tinge of green peppercorn or pine, but it never pushes into the over-the-top gooseberry or blackcurrant so common these days. The palate is medium-bodied, deeply resonant with further rocky minerality, underpinned by a striking throughline of salty minerality and a fine cut of acid. It’s jam-packed, ready to wow right now alongside any seafood you can think of, but with weight and complexity enough to ponder on its own. In short, it’s textbook Pouilly-Fumé, a reminder of why we love this grape and this region in the first place. I guarantee our small supply of “Cuvée Riquette” won’t last long, so we’re going deep for our personal cellars. If you’re a lover of Sauvignon Blanc, or just fantastically complex white wines at a great price, I strongly urge you to follow suit!
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