While you might not think it from his quiet and measured manner, Alban Roblin is one of the rising stars of Sancerre. Since 2010 he has been managing the family domaine in the small village of Sury-en-Vaux, just half a dozen kilometres from the town of Sancerre. The domaine comprises 12 hectares, of which 10 are planted to Sauvignon Blanc and the remaining two to Pinot Noir – the source of Alban’s excellent but very small-production Sancerre Rouge.
The vineyards are almost all located in Sury-en-Vaux and neighbouring Maimbray, where the soil type is around 80% terres blanches. These chalky clay soils suffer less from excessive heat or rain than other areas and have proven to be particularly successful in the unpredictable climatic conditions brought about by climate change. The remaining 20% of his vines are planted on caillottes soils which are rich in small limestone pebbles and provide finesse and elegance. In the vineyard, Alban works to a policy of minimal intervention, ploughing soils or allowing grass to grow between rows rather than using herbicides.
In the cellar, the winemaking is as fastidious and careful as the man himself. Depending on the cuveé, Alban carries out fermentation and lees ageing in either neutral stainless steel tanks or carefully selected barrels made from locally grown oak. The fermentation temperature is carefully managed to ensure purity and fruit expression, while a mix of indigenous and selected neutral yeasts are used depending on the circumstances. Alban is a strong advocate of lees ageing, arguing that he wants to give weight, body and power to his wines in order to differentiate them from mass-produced and early-bottled Sancerre.