Domaine Etienne Sauzet's 2018 Burgundies

August 03, 2020

If you're a fan of these elegant white burgundies, here's an overview of Sauzet and their 2018 growing season.


The history of this domaine dates to the beginning of the 20th century, when Etienne Sauzet inherited and bought several plots of vines in the village of Puligny-Montrachet. The vines passed through the family to Jeanine Boillot, Sauzet’s granddaughter. Jeanine and her husband, Gérard Boudot, managed the domaine, making many modernizations including improved vinification techniques and biodynamic farming. Today the domaine has been passed to their daughter Emilie and her husband, Benoît Riffault, who continue to produce white wines that are among the most sought-after in all of Burgundy. Although the winemaking techniques have been modernized, M. Sauzet’s traditions of estate-bottling and of aging the wines on their lees for 10-12 months to “nourish them” are still respected and result in superbly finished, fruity, and full-bodied wines. After four generations, Sauzet is still synonymous with high-quality, elegant, Burgundian Chardonnay.

Emilie & Benoit Riffault

Emilie and Benoit Riffault represent the fourth generation of family winemakers in Puligny-Montrachet, following in the footsteps of Etienne Sauzet. Emilie, the great-granddaughter of Etienne Sauzet, took over the Domaine from her parents Jeanine Gérard Boudot, along with her husband Benoit. After four generations, Sauzet is still synonymous with high-quality, elegant Burgundian Chardonnay. In the words of Emilie, “At every moment, it’s a pride to walk on the mystical lands of Puligny, this ground, this earth which gave birth to our wines. This territory is a deep fastener to me, a direct link to my family.”


The domaine of Etienne Sauzet follows sustainable, organic, and biodynamic practices across their 37 acres distributed between Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, and Cormot-le-Grand in the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune. Much of these holdings are in the heart of the prestigious premier cru vineyards of Puligny-Montrachet. The age of the vines ranges from 23-74 years, and the resulting fruit reaches a high degree of ripeness in these well-placed vineyards. The average yield is 3-3.5 tons per acre.


Gérard Boudot's son-in-law Benoît Riffault described the 2018 vintage as "one where the growing season itself was not really especially problematic. Like every season there were challenges but from strictly a viticultural perspective, it was relatively straightforward as conditions were basically hot and very dry. There was a bit of hydric stress but not more than that because in Puligny we have the benefit, or the curse in some vintages, of having a high-water table. As is often the case though, determining when to begin picking and where exactly are the toughest decisions of all. Ultimately, we chose to commence on the 25th and as it turns out, I'm very happy that we began so early as it paid dividends.


One big surprise though were the yields because while it was obvious the crop would be reasonably abundant, the volume in juice surprised us considerably. Depending on the sector and the appellation, the yields came in between 45 and 60 hl/ha. Potential alcohols were perfectly good but not especially high at between 12.5 and 13.2% though there wasn't much malic acidity. However, because of that the malos did not have much effect on the pHs because they ranged, post-malo, from 3.25 to 3.32, which is not really dissimilar to what we obtained in 2017.


Among recent vintages, I would compare the style of the 2018s to that of 2011 though with a bit more body and energy. Or, if one goes back in time, a comparison to 1982 is perfectly apt." I repeat for the benefit of readers that the domaine is now sealing the bottle necks with wax for the 1ers and grands crus. I would also point out again that as of 2013 the domaine is using corks with a diameter of 25 mm (24 is normal) from cork bark that is a minimum of 12 years old.


Lastly, Riffault noted that for those wines in bottle, they were put there in December 2019 and January 2020.


The estate has been bottling 100% of its production since the early 1950s. Although the winemaking technique is more modern today, M. Sauzet’s tradition of aging the wines on their lees for 10-12 months to “nourish them” is still followed. The wine is left on the lees as long as possible in order to extract all the flavor and richness out of them. Indigenous yeasts are utilized and the temperature of the cellar is lowered to 64-68ºF during vinification. Fining is with bentonite and casein or col de poisson. Filtration is with lenticular filters, which utilize cellulose. The domaine uses approximately 20- 25% new oak for the premier crus. Sauzet wines are superbly finished, fruity, full-bodied, and authoritative examples of white Burgundy. In the words of Robert Parker Jr., “This is one of the most serious estates in Burgundy. The wines are usually among the very best made...They are textbook white Burgundies, brimming with flavor, yet elegant and well-balanced.”

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