Wine Offerings

An Economy Tour of the Northern Rhône: Ambitious Appellations Capture Syrah’s Flavors and Emotions in Open and Easy-Going Manners (7-Bottle Sampler $249) + Saturday Sips

Join Us for Saturday Sips

Come as you are; come any time that’s convenient for you during our business hours to sample selection from this week’s selections. Our staff will be on hand to discuss nuances of the wines, the terroirs reflected, and the producers.

The price of a barrel of crude oil rises and falls on political whims, but the price of fine wine seems locked into an upward trajectory. Take that truism to the bank and take the bottle to the vault. It’s one of the reasons people invest in wine, especially in excellent vintages from top houses. But this is not to suggest that reliable bargains cannot be found in large, ambitious appellations set in ideal climates where certain noble varieties flourish … like Syrah.

As a varietal, Syrah wears many faces and goes by several names; Shiraz is the most common, of course, and is the one preferred by the New World. But Syrah may also be disguised as Balsamina, Candive, Entournerein or Hignin Noir. As varied as the names is the grape’s profile—floral in youth and then developing white and black pepper aromas and herbaceous notes as it ages. The fruit tends towards the dark flavors of blackcurrant and the spice toward licorice and cola.

Northern Rhône is the fountain from which the most spectacular Syrahs spring, especially in the Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, Cornas, Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph appellations, where the earthy, savory style can improve for many years inside the bottle. The granite slopes on which the vineyards of Northern Rhône are planted can be brutal in growers—some are so steep that pulley systems are used for grapes and equipment. Techniques like these add substantial costs to wine production, so when you see a reasonable price affixed to a bottle from Northern Rhône, be assured that the profit margin for the winemaker is probably less than a gluggable Shiraz grown on a flat plateau in Adelaide’s Riverland.

This week’s package contains examples of Northern Rhône wines that strike the ideal balance sought by people who consume rather than collect—smoky complexity, Syrah typicity, and lovely drinkability and at a price that will not require a second mortgage.

Northern Rhône Royalty: Côte-Rotie, Cornas and Hermitage

The triumvirate of Côte-Rôtie, Cornas and Hermitage rule the narrow terraces of Northern Rhône indomitably and are responsible for the world’s most superlative Syrahs. They’ve been called ‘unicorn wines’ in that the best of them are rare, and if available, very expensive.

Rolling above the town of Ampuis, the roasted slopes of Côte-Rôtie have several distinct personalities, one most suitable for wine, the others, less so. Only the south and south-east facing hillsides on right bank of the river are worth the discomfort of cultivating and picking, while those to the south—collectively known as the Côte Blonde—produce similar but earlier drinking wines than those produced on the Côte Brune to the north (although traditionally, the wines from these areas have been blended).

One of the smallest appellations in Rhône, Cornas is under three hundred acres—smaller than some single estates in Bordeaux. It produces only red wines made exclusively from Syrah—a variety that ripens with greater ease here than virtually anywhere else in Northern Rhône. Celtic for ‘burnt earth’, Cornas wines—in homage to the name or vice versa—frequently reflects smoky notes with deep, burly earth tones. Once considered ‘country wines’ of value only to those who love rusticity, the reputation of Cornas has skyrocketed in recent vintages to become one of the most sought after wines in France.

From a handful of vineyards, Hermitage is responsible for some of France’s most enduringly prestigious wines, in part by allowing the addition of 20% Viognier to its Syrah. Whether white or red, these gems are long-lived and full-bodied. Terroir, of course, is lifeblood: The granite hillside where the Hermitage vineyards are planted face south, overlooking a short section where the river Rhône flows west to east rather than north to south. This orientation means that the grapes benefit from the maximum amount of sunlight throughout the day.

The Sleeping Beauties of the Northern Rhône

A number of smaller, previously dormant areas that nestle in pockets near the big-name appellations in the Rhône have begun a remarkable comeback; this is the result of hard work by few steadfast vignerons who have saved noteworthy properties from being reclaimed by forest. It is among these parcels of land, which peek through mostly unfriendly hinterland that we make our modern-day discoveries— worthy and exciting Syrahs; the best made since the phylloxera blight wiped out the original vineyards in the 1800s.

Domaine Les 4 Vents

Formerly Le Domaine de Lucie, the 25-acre domain was renamed when Nancy Cellier joined her sister Lucie Fourel at the helm of the family estate in Crozes-Hermitage. The new name was borrowed from the nearby auberge (country inn) once owned by Lucie and Nancy’s great grandparents.

Sisters Nancy and Lucie Fourel, Domaine les 4 Vents

Before returning to the estate, Lucie spent a few years as an apprentice with different wineries in the Rhône Valley—time she spent developing both the philosophy and practices for bio-dynamic farming and natural vinification for which the domain has obtained certification. Lucie does not use sulfur during the winemaking process and only just before bottling does she add a minimal dose and the wines are fermented using only indigenous yeasts.

“We are in perpetual search of respecting the environment,” says Lucie. “Our interventions in the vineyard or in the cellar aim to accompany the grapes, then the wine, towards its most authentic expression”.


Crozes-Hermitage is the largest of the Northern Rhône appellations, but it labors in the shadow of its storied namesake Hermitage without pretentions of equality. Price reflects that, of course, and the wine itself does hold at least some measure of the magnificence found in its massive, long-lived neighbor. The wine-growing region has a continental climate distinct from the Southern Rhône, and its sheer size adds to the diversity of its terroir. Soils south and southwest toward Gervans largely consisting of granite and clay, while Tain-l’Hermitage is primarily made up of rocks, sand, and clay. The flatter topography in the southern Crozes-Hermitage area is primarily alluvial soil due to Rhône river deposits.

Domaine Les 4 Vents ‘Les Pitchounettes’, 2020 Crozes-Hermitage Rouge ($28)
‘Les Pitchounettes” is a cuvée that originates from relatively young vines in the lieu-dit Les Chassis near the village of Mercurol where the soil is a sandy-silty alluvial clay with a lot of surface river stones. Yields are very low, typically around 30 hectoliters per hectare and harvesting is done by hand. The grapes are de-stemmed and the juice is left to macerate with the skins for three weeks with very little rémontage or pigéage (pumping over or punching down the cap). The wine shows classic Syrah flavors of black fruit and smoky pepper accented by cedar, vanilla and tobacco.



Domaine Eric et Joël Durand

Like Domaine Les 4 Vents, this is a sibling operation: Brothers Éric and Joël Durand produce wine from fifty acres of vines about six miles south of Tain l’Hermitage.

First joining forces in 1996, the brothers are devoted to ‘the polycultural family business of cultivating grapes’. The domain itself is based in Châteaubourg in the Ardèche; their Syrah, Marsanne and Roussanne grapes farmed over the appellations of Cornas, Saint-Péray and Saint-Joseph in addition to the IGP of Collines Rhodaniennes.

The brothers are firm believers that in order to make great wine, you must begin with great grapes, and to achieve this, “you must have impeccable vineyards.”

Éric and Joël Durand, Domaine Durand

Says Éric, “We work hard in each of parcels, not only managing the plants, but also maintaining and rebuilding the terraces on which they are planted. On these predominantly granitic slopes, we find that the noble Syrah grape finds fantastic expression.”


St-Joseph covers a lot of territory and multiple terroirs; it encompasses 26 communes and stretches from Chavanay in the north to Châteaubourg in the south, roughly 30 miles in length. The reds from the region tend to be light for Rhônes, a result of soils containing less granite and vines that face east rather than south. But in strong vintages, they are spectacular.

Saint-Joseph reds must be 90% Syrah, but are allowed have up to 10% Marsanne or Roussanne as a blend, although in practice, most are pure Syrah showing classic notes of roasted meat and sweet spices. Most are ready to rock upon release, but may benefit from a bit of short-term cellaring, generally less than a year, although a select few may rival a great Côte-Rôtie or Hermitage.

Domaine Eric et Joël Durand, 2020 Saint-Joseph ‘Les Coteaux’ Rouge ($35)
‘Les Coteaux’ means ‘the hills’, and true its name, the lieu-dit is found on a granitic slope where the vines are between 20 and 30 years old. The wine shows iron, iodine and smoky gravel behind rich blackberry extract with a rich cocoa and crushed stone finish.







Saint-Péray may be Northern Rhône’s biggest curiosity, an appellation known for whites and sparkling wine. These anomalies are predominantly produced from Marsanne, while Roussanne makes up the remainder of the vine space. Found near the southernmost limit of Northern Rhône region, it encompasses a mere 185 acres of vines.

Made via ‘méthode traditionelle’, the sparkling wines of Saint-Péray are relatively light-bodied, as are the still whites. This is due in part to limestone-rich soils and also to the immediate local topography, where the climate is not as hot as most locations in the valley.

Domaine Eric et Joël Durand, 2020 Saint-Péray Blanc ($30)
A blend of 50% Marsanne and 50% Roussanne grown in clay and limestone soils, the wine appears mid-gold in color and exhibits summery freshness on both nose and palate. Flavors of apricot and ripe stone fruits balance orange citrus to create a dynamic interplay of richness and zing with beautiful intensity beneath and a long, elegant finish.





Martin Texier
Domaine de l’Amandier

Martin Texier is the son of the well-known natural wine producer, Éric Texier, but for a while, he resisted the lure of the vine by studying economics, then becoming an accomplished DJ. But the family fate/curse began to show up in New York, where he learned about the trade via internships at Uva Wines in Brooklyn and Flatiron Wines in Manhattan.

He began making wine in 2014, and now owns twelve acres near Saint-Julien-en-Saint-Alban, where he raises classic Rhône varieties, red and white. Soils are varied; clay, limestone, gneiss, schist and granite allowing a wide range of styles of wine.

Says Martin, “My passion is to revive the local traditions of working the natural way, both in the vines and in the cellar, which includes native yeast fermentations and no sulfur.”

Martin Texier, Domaine de l’Amandier

Martin considers himself an artisanal, organic winemaker pushing for a new wave of natural, non-manipulated wines, and his winery is part of a community of thriving craft producers of (among other things) cheese and honey. The results he has been getting this early in his career are clear testament not only to his skills, but to his commitment to the planet: “A good winemaker isn’t an artist but a poet. As a grower, you can have an impact on your product by knowing your land, your trees, your vines and the weather. I don’t think you can create a good wine, but only create an environment from which a good wine can spring.”

Côtes-du-Rhône Brézème

Brézème sit on the northern tip of Côtes du Rhône, alone in that it has no official status. It owes its official acceptance to history, as the Brézème name on wine labels predates the establishment of the appellations system in the 1930s.

The growing zone is located around the town of Livron-sur-Drôme on the northern bank of the Drôme river just before it flows into the Rhône. Although the potential vineyard area reportedly spans 200 acres, only around fifty acres are currently directed to the production of Brézème wine.

Predominantly Syrah, the vineyards are found on south-facing hillsides immediately overlooking the Drôme river just east of Livron, although vineyard land extends to the terraces of Fontgrand, three miles to the north.

Soils are generally limestone-marl, and depending on the location, they may also be rich in ferrous minerals, sand and pebbles.

Martin Texier ‘Vigne de la Carrière’, 2020 Côtes-du-Rhône Brézème Rouge ($37)
An organic and low sulfur Syrah that showcases the character of Brézème’s  limestone slopes with impressive fruit density: Plum jam and ripe blackberries mixed with violet appears on the nose, and the palate  is evidence of the ripeness of the vintage without become cloying or overly dense.





Martin Texier ‘Vigne du Coteaux’, 2021 Côtes-du-Rhône Brézème Blanc ($49)
This Roussanne comes from Texier’s young vines in the cooler, more limestone-driven vineyards of Brézème. The vines are farmed organically; the grapes are fermented whole-cluster, then pressed and fermented on native yeasts, followed by lees-aging in concrete without stirring and only minimal sulfur added at bottling. It is a remarkably complex and textured wine from vines so young, revealing exotic spices, melon and a salty edge to the finish.




Collines Rhodanienne IGP

‘IGP’ is the Europe-wide equivalent of ‘Vin de Pays’, a classification that focuses on geographical origin rather than style and tradition, giving winemakers greater stylistic freedom than ‘AOP’. Collines Rhodaniennes is in the northern Rhône Valley, and covers an area from Lyon to Montélimar and includes some of southern France’s most famous AOP appellations, including Côte Rôtie, Condrieu and Hermitage.


Domaine Georges Vernay

Few winemakers can claim to have brought home wine scores of 100 points, and even fewer can be credited with saving an appellation and a grape variety. Enter the Vernay family: Founded by Françis Vernay in 1937 in the heart of Condrieu, the efforts of Françis were instrumental in the creation of the official Condrieu appellation in 1940. Francis was succeeded by his son Georges, who played a key role in restricting the geographical boundaries of Condrieu and has been honored as having saved the appellation, which grows Viognier exclusively, from extinction.

In 1996, when her brothers showed little desire to take over the family estate Georges’ daughter Christine came on board as winemaker and General Manager of the estate and is now considered one of the great winemakers in France; several of her wines have recently been awarded the coveted 100/100 in top wine publications. Sadly, Georges Vernay passed away at the age of 92 in 2017.

Christine Vernay, Domaine Georges Vernay

Under Christine’s direction, the fifteen-acre estate expanded their lineup by introducing a new from the Saint-Joseph appellation, La Dame Brune. Their best vines are planted on steep, hillside terroirs with granite and sandy soils. All work in the vineyards is organic and the winery was certified organic in 2019.

Christine says (with pride rather than bitterness), “Twenty years ago, it was rare for women to take over a wine estate, so I wasn’t even considered as a future manager. As the daughter of the so-called Pope of Condrieu who believed in the potential of the Viognier white grape variety from the 1970s, I only started working on this project at the age of 39. My father had saved the Condrieu appellation, pinning his hopes on the vineyard rather than cherry plantations or the cultivation of Ratte potatoes and peas, which were favored by many farmers at the time.”

Domaine Georges Vernay ‘Fleurs de Mai – Syrah’ Christine Vernay, 2019 Collines Rhodanienne IGP Rouge ($34)
From 50-year-old Syrah vines planted adjacent to Condrieu, the grapes ferment in stainless steel and barrel and then age about 8 months in wooden vats. The profile is nearly identical to a top Côte-Rôtie, with an opening whiff of violet and cherry puree giving way to savory game and cassis notes.





Domaine Stéphane Ogier

Rooted in Ampuis for seven generations, the Ogier family is blessed with some truly remarkable soil. Under the direction of Stéphane Ogier, the estate manages 27 acres in some of the top Côte-Rôtie terroirs—Lancement, Côte-Rozier and La Viallière. Among the ironies inherent in having seen so much change in the region is that back in the 1950s, the family’s apricots sold for more than their grapes.

In the past twenty years, the winery has grown from producing 15,000 bottles annually to more than a quarter million in 2022, and is widely regarded as a reference point for the appellation.

Stéphane Ogier, Domaine Michel et Stéphane Ogier

Having decided at the age of six to pursue winemaking, Stéphane Ogier first studied viticulture and oenology in Beaune and then did practical trainings with some of the best winemakers in Burgundy and abroad. During this time, he grew his philosophy of winemaking and his laser-like focus on terroir and now farms 12 individual parcels in Côte-Rôtie as well as others in Condrieu, Côtes du Rhône and Vienne.

Of particular interest is his holding in Collines Rhodanienne, of which Stéphane says: “It’s the same land as Côte Rôtie but not in the appellation. My first vintage was 1991, and the wine is made the same way as the Côte Rôties.”

Stéphane Ogier ‘La Rosine – Syrah’, 2018 Collines Rhodanienne IGP Rouge ($38)
An exquisitely detailed, vineyard-designated wine from a steep-pitched, granite-rich parcel two miles from the famed Côte Blonde. La Rosine is said to be Stéphane Ogier’s ‘secret weapon’ in his vineyard-specific arsenal. All the pedigree of a Northern Rhône powerhouse without the price tag; it blends scents of anise, black olives, cola and plums, revealing substantial complexity in the full, fruit-centered body.





Domaine François & Fils


Getting It Right in Côte Rôtie: ‘A Great Deal of Freshness and Elegance’

The François family paints an interesting portrait—their main occupation is farmhouse cheese making made using milk from their herd of cows. Wine appears to have begun as an afterthought, and even today, they sell all but their finest grapes to négociants.

Brothers Erwan and Yoann François, Domaine François & Fils

Yoann François was the main catalyst in expanding the family’s wine label; of the ten acres they own, he champions their Côte-Rôtie which is made using grapes from three south-facing parcels, ‘Les Rochains’, ‘Rozier’ and ‘Le Bourrier’, accounting in total for account for about 3.7 acres. All three lieux-dits are located in the ‘Côte Brune’ region where vineyards are very steep and soils are composed of mineral-rich mica-schist—a good base for the 30-year-old vines of Syrah and Viognier. The vines are planted at a density of 8,000 to 9,000 per hectare and yields are 35 to 40 hectoliters per hectare.

Côte Rôtie: Single Site (Lieu-dit) Revival

Lieux-dits are a wine lover’s Google Earth; a satellite view of an appellation focused on a tiny, representative parcel. Not all vineyards have lieux-dits, and among those that do, not all are created equal. In general, it’s a term that refers to a geologically homogenous portion of a vineyard with a self-contained story to tell about its quality or, occasionally, its significance to history. Although lieux-dits are generally not required to be formally registered, they are always named, and that name may occasionally be confused with a producer’s cuvée name, which is often similar. Different appellations have different laws regarding lieux-dits; in Alsace, for example, they are mandatory for Grand Cru AOP labels, whereas in Burgundy, Grand Crus are forbidden from using them.

In the Rhône, lieux-dits are often associated with the region’s top estates, and those that do not have an officially registered place in the French Cadastre are considered ‘les marques’ of their producers. In either case, they are ‘terroir distilled’—an extremely fine-tuned expression of an individual location. To recognize one is to recognize that within the sprawling Rhône there exists an almost microscopic essence that only a lieu-dit can reveal.


François & Fils, 2019 Côte-Rôtie ($67)
This traditional co-ferment contains 4% Viognier to add perfume to the Syrah; it shows finessed aromatics, powerful spice and balanced structure, violet, white pepper, black fruit and nutmeg, drawing a bit from each of the four Côte Brune lieux-dits that make it up: Le Bourrier, Fongeant, Janet and Rozier.






François & Fils, 2019 Côte-Rôtie ‘Rozier’ ($81)
Rozier, in the Côte Brune, offers a perfect south-west exposition and vines around fifteen years old. The wine shows sunbaked earth and iron behind plush, plump notes of cassis balanced by a zesty spine of acidity and finishing long with hints of licorice and chocolate.






François & Fils, 2019 Côte-Rôtie ‘Les Rochins’ ($108)
Les Rochins is a very steep parcel next to La Landonne and Rozier and folded into schist soils with iron and clay, producing dark, full-bodied wines that an benefit with some bottle age. This one shows ripe black cherries, incense, brambly blueberries and roasted meat along with loads of ultra-ripe tannins.





Vintage Journal


Like most of France in 2021, the Rhône Valley suffered from a difficult growing season. The winter and early spring was relatively dry, although temperatures were so mild that there was premature vine growth. This was followed by a series of hard frosts that dramatically cut yields, and the bunches that remained intact were subject to disease during an unusually humid summer. Cloudy skies prevented even ripening and brought devastating storms in July and August. The grapes were slow to reach phenolic ripeness and, as a result, the harvest was later, longer and slower than normal. The wines have good structure and acidity and although alcohol was lower than in other years, there was still enough to assure body. For the big red appellations like Saint-Joseph and Hermitage, black and white pepper notes come through strongly, but the wines themselves tended to be more restrained, favoring elegance over bombast. The whites are fresh, elegant and aromatic rather overblown.


The most notable features of 2020 are beginning to sound like a ‘new normal’: Drought, heat and an early harvest. Gratefully, heavy rains in the previous October, November and December that created reserves the vines could draw from. Rain fell in May and June, although the rest of the growing season was exceptionally dry. Guillaume Sorrel (Domaine Marc Sorrel) went as far as to say that 2019 precipitation saved his 2020 vintage.

The vineyards roused early thanks to warm weather in March, but mercifully there were no spring frosts. Northern Rhône held on to this lead throughout the year, resulting in the earliest vintage since 2003. Warm days were balanced by even cooler nights, which allowed the bunches to ripen gradually and evenly, producing small, healthy and perfectly formed berries. Syrah yielded clean, fresh fruit flavors, silky tannins and refreshing acidity while Northern Rhône whites made from the typically lower acid varieties of Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne saw enhanced perfume, vibrancy, texture and freshness.


2019 marked the fifth consecutive vintage in which the wines of Northern Rhône are rated very good and some, truly exceptional. It was yet another vintage marked by an intense summer heat wave, however, with hardly any other viticultural challenges to contend with most growers able to embrace yet another ‘solaire vintage’ and ushered in a sizable crop of beautifully healthy and balanced grapes.


2018’s ‘en primeur’ Cliff’s Notes: “Very hot and dry, resulting in a plentiful ripe crop. Many wines with low acidity and potent alcohol, but those that could achieve balance made impressive wines.”

In slightly greater detail, both the winter and spring were wet and mild but despite some light rain falling during flowering, it was still reasonably successful. Unexpected rainfall in June did cause some difficulties with mildew and rot, but it was mostly restricted to Southern Rhône. The rot meant many producers had to spray but, unfortunately, a large amount of the crop was still lost. Eventually, the damp weather dried up and a hot, dry summer took its place. By the time it came to harvest, temperatures were high and producers had to work quickly when handling the grapes.

In Northern Rhône, the harvest was shorter than in the south as the grapes ripened rapidly making excessive alcohol a potential issue. Picking began early September and lasted through to the middle of the month. Despite the hot year, the whites still retained a fresh character as well as being concentrated, while the reds ranged from black-fruit powerhouses to friendlier red-fruited wines. Although some wines did suffer a touch from too much alcohol and a lack of acidity, many were successful with interesting characters and capacity to age.



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Posted on 2023.05.25 in Saint-Péray, Côtes-du-Rhône, Saint-Joseph, Cornas, Côte Rôtie, Hermitage, Brézème, France, Saturday Sips Wines, Wine-Aid Packages, Northern Rhone  |  Read more...


A Dozen Reasons to Drink Beaujolais: Complex And Easy-Going Reds by Six Producers in Twelve Appellations including Ten Crus (Memorial Day Dozen $399)

Join us for Saturday Sips

Come as you are; come any time that’s convenient for you during our business hours to sample selection from this week’s selections. Our staff will be on hand to discuss nuances of the wines, the terroirs reflected, and the producers.

“First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.”

Donovan’s cryptic 1967 nod to Buddhist philosophy might be applied equally to the evolution of Beaujolais in the minds of many wine drinkers: The immensely ‘likeable’ wine offers a perfect introduction to the hedonistic pleasures of French wine, but once tastes expand, it may seem somewhat simplistic and one-dimensional. Lacking the snob appeal of pricey Burgundy or window-dressing Bordeaux, Beaujolais can be shoved to a back burner and remembered primarily for the fun, early-release Kool-Aid known as Beaujolais Nouveau. But once palates expand to appreciate nuance of grape variety and the technicality of cellar styles, the world becomes larger and a return to the beauty of Beaujolais is a transcendental joy.

Top row: Marie-Élodie Zighera (Clos de Mez), Pierre-Marie Chermette (Domaines Chermette), Claude-Édouard Geoffray (Château Thivin)
Bottom row: Laura Lardy, Valentin Montanet (La Soeur Cadette), Guy Breton

This week’s package includes a sampling from various quality strata in Beaujolais. Each will leave its own unique imprint on the senses; each is made by vignerons who are representative of the current mood in the appellation as well as the historical significance. These are ideal wines with which to celebrate Memorial Day—lodestars for light, bright red wines that are best served with a significant chill.

The Original Thirst Quenching Wine 

Nobody loves pretense more than the French, and nobody is better than the French at putting pretense aside for a moment to savor life’s pleasures. ‘Vins de soif’ are wines that Americans call ‘quaffers’ and are meant to satisfy the most primal of gustatory needs: Thirst quenching. This is not to say that the enjoyment level of vins de soif is restricted to the basics; often they contain elements that are universally appealing—sensations of sweetness and a profusion of fruit and spice.

No place on earth is more representative of these qualities than Beaujolais, the original vin de quaff. Overlapping both Burgundy and the Rhône, paying homage to both while owing allegiance to neither, the picturesque vineyards of Beaujolais are planted almost exclusively to Gamay and have been producing accessible, fruit-forward wines since the Romans first established trading routes along the Saône valley.

Arguably, these are not special occasion wines, but rather, every day wines. And along with their universal appeal comes a universal truth: We are granted far more ‘every days’ than we are highlight moments.

Clos de Mez

Marie-Élodie Zighera has roots in the past; a metaphor that is not really a metaphor since her oldest vines were planted so long ago that when France entered the First World War, they were already producing.

“Vines have been in my maternal family for four generations,” she says. “The grapes they grew were delivered to the cooperative cellar by my grandmother and mother up until I arrived at the domain as a winegrower. However, this did not deter my grandmother or mother from taking great care of our 17-hectare vineyard. At that time, I was living in Paris with my family and we would come to Fleurie for the holidays. I used to love this time so much, being in close contact with nature.”

With a drive to turn this love into a vocation, Zighera studied viticulture; after graduation, she found work in a number of vineyards. Among them was Clos Vougeot, where she concluded that she could not hope to make such wines from her family holding.

Then came the eureka moment: “A professional tasting of old vintages was held and I was invited to attend during my work placement at Vougeot. With a Morgon 1911, the unanimous opinion was that it was magnificent wine; that it had aged as well as a Burgundy. I finally knew what type of wine I wanted to make and most importantly I realized it was possible. I had another strong advantage too: the freedom to imagine without guidelines being imposed. I set up my business in 2006 and named the domain Clos de Mez, a shortened version of my name.”

Zighera makes wine in Fleurie and Morgon, where the average age of vines in her plots is 45 years. Her Fleurie holding outlines a hilly landscape, where Gamay vines follow the contours of the slopes of Fût d’Avenas, the mountain passes of Durbize, Labourons and Raymont Peak. She says, “Legend recounts that a Roman legionary once passed through here, leaving his name to the site and to the village. Our vines in Fleurie are found in the southern part of the appellation, bordering Morgon. Facing South/South-East, they stand at an altitude of about 300 meters. The soils of Fleurie La Dot and Fleurie Mademoiselle M, which originate from acid rock, are deep and provide good drainage. Rose colored granite is widely predominant here and is found in the form sand called saprolite.”

Cru Morgon

Morgon, on the western side of the Saône, may only appear on the label of a Gamay-based red wine; even so, the appellation allows the addition of up to 15% white wine grapes: Chardonnay, Aligoté or Melon de Bourgogne. Nevertheless, the wines of Morgon wind up being among the most full-bodied in Beaujolais, with the potential to improve in the cellar so consistently that the French describe wines from other AOPs that display this quality by saying, “It Morgons …”

The vineyards occupy slightly under five square miles surrounding the commune of Villié-Morgon, with the vines of Fleurie and Chiroubles directly to the north and Brouilly and Regnié along the southern border.

Clos de Mez, 2017 Morgon-Château Gaillard ($32)
Chateau Gaillard is a lieu-dit that passed to Marie-Élodie from her grandmother. Adjacent to the border of Morgon where it borders Fleurie, the plot of 60+ year old vines with very low yields giving a wine of great depth and ageing potential. Grapes are sorted as they are picked in each plot of the vineyard; the grapes are moved to the vats by a system of gravity where whole-bunch pre-fermentation maceration at cold temperature is carried out for few days, followed by alcoholic fermentation interspersed by cap-punching and pumping-over. The wine offers ripe, black-fruit character with lively acidity and an expansive finish.



Cru Fleurie

Each of the Beaujolais crus wears its own face; where Morgon is bold and handsome and Saint-Amour is a fairyland of delicate beauty. Fleurie—covering an unbroken area of three square miles—represents Beaujolais’ elegance. The terroir is built around pinkish granite that is unique to this part of Beaujolais, with the higher elevations accounting for thinner, acidic soils that produce graceful and aromatic wines. Below the main village, the wines are grown in deeper, richer, clay-heavy soils and the wines themselves are richer and deeper and appropriate for the cellar. The technique known as gridding, which involves extracting more color and tannin from the skins of the grapes, is proprietary to Fleurie.

Clos de Mez ‘Mademoiselle M’, 2020 Fleurie ($28)
La Dot refers to the dowry that Marie-Élodie’s grandmother received, and this wine pays homage to her. From a plot of 50-year-old vines located in the southern sector of Fleurie, close to the border of Morgon, it is produced from gnarled old goblet pruned vines grown on decomposed sandy pink granite and made from very low yields. 40 to 50% of this wine is matured in barrels for 9 months, leading to a dense, somewhat balsamic style of Fleurie with dark fruit notes and spicy complexity.



Pierre-Marie Chermette – Vissoux

When a winemaker tries to bottle something for everyone, he/she is not always successful. The father, daughter and son team of Martine, Pierre-Marie and Jean-Etienne Chermette of Domaine du Vissoux are the exception to prove the rule, producing high quality white, red and Beaujolais rosé from crus such as Brouilly, Fleurie, Moulin-à-Vent, Saint-Amour, Crémants de Bourgogne as well as hand crafted fruit liqueurs, cassis and vine peach with ginger.

The family is considered a beacon of Beaujolais excellence, able to broadcast the region’s varied terroirs with authority: Old vines, diligent but traditional vinification and élevage in foudre are the rudiments of their approach.

Cru Moulin-à-Vent 

At the top of Beaujolais, geographically and (arguably) in terms of quality, Moulin-à-Vent’s oddly toxic soils produce wines of great merit. Manganese exists here in quantities not found anywhere else in Beaujolais; it retards leaf growth and creates smaller bunches, resulting in wines of phenomenal concentration that can be cellared for a decade or more.

Pierre-Marie Chermette Vissoux ‘Les Trois Roches’, 2021 Moulin-à-Vent ($33)
The three ‘Roches’ referred to are the trio of lieux-dits from which the grapes are drawn; the Rochegrès plot, La Rochelle, which overlooks the old moulin-à-vent windmill, and Roche Noire. According to Pierre-Marie, “The east-facing Rochegrès gives the wine finesse and supple tannins; south-east facing La Rochelle gives the cuvée its framework with power and depth while the Roche Noire grapes contribute liveliness and fruit.”

The manganese-rich subsoil results in a wine that is supple, redolent of wild berries, spices, rose petals and orange rind showing, sparkling tangy acids and melting tannins.



Cru Brouilly

Nestled along slopes of a dormant volcano, Brouilly is the most southerly of the Beaujolais Crus. The proximity of the volcano has left the area saturated with rare blue diorite, a phenomenon that leaves the soil thin and stony—an ideal underbelly for deeply rooted, low yielding vines with an excellent concentration of flavor. The best vineyards of Brouilly are planted on the south-east-facing slopes of the mountain, where the vineyards are protected from winds from the nearby Beaujolais hills by Mont Brouilly itself, and are instead subject to early morning sunlight.

Brouilly covers land in six communes surrounding Mont Brouilly, none of which (unusual for a Beaujolais cru) are named Brouilly. The area gets its name from the hill, which in turn takes its name from a Roman lieutenant, Brulius, who is thought to have planted vines here some 2000 years ago.

Pierre-Marie Chermette Vissoux, 2020 Brouilly–Pierreux ($31)
A textbook-perfect Brouilly from south-facing vines planted on granite scree. The lieu-dit name ‘Pierreux’ comes from the French word for stones, illustrating the make-up of the soil. The wine undergoes traditional Beaujolais processing, half-carbonic maceration with two pump-overs per day; 10 to 12 days of maceration in concrete tanks follow with no chaptalization, natural yeasting and bottling using a minimum of Sulfur. The wine is crisp, fruit-forward and juicy with expressive aromas of ripe raspberries and wild strawberry, savory spice and zesty acidity.



Cru Saint-Amour

The remarkable terroir of Saint-Amour sounds less romantic than the name, being predominantly Piedmont deposits, granite, limestone and clay. But this poetry-inspiring appellation, the most northerly of the ten Beaujolais cru areas, is located just to the south of the Mâconnais appellations of Pouilly-Fuissé and Saint-Veran.

As suits the name, the wines of Saint-Amour are light and delicate, the result of dry, warm winds from the north that keeps soils feathery-textured. Although Gamay is the predominant variety grown, it’s no wonder that this appellation produces more white wines than the other Beaujolais cru, although these Chardonnay/Aligoté –based wines often wear generic labels or are listed under the Saint-Veran (Burgundy) appellation that slightly overlaps Saint-Amour.

Pierre-Marie Chermette – Vissoux, 2020 Saint-Amour Les Champs Grillé ($32)
Les Champs-Grillés is a south-facing lieu-dit where the soil is made of noble granites that tend to give the wines full bodies that may be mistaken for a Moulin à Vent. The wine shows this weight, beginning with aromas of raspberries, rose petals, warm spices and orange rind and moving to a crunch mid-palate with crunchy red fruit and nicely integrated tannins.





Brooding Beaujolais is an oxymoron; buoyant Beaujolais is a requirement. The broadest of all the classifications in Beaujolais, seeing such a designation on a wine label means that the grapes are generally grown in the southern part of the appellation and vinified using carbonic or semi-carbonic maceration, leaving dominant, candy-like notes.

Beaujolais’ climate is similar to Burgundy—moderate continental—and the main difference in the output is that whereas Burgundy’s Pinot Noir is fickle and difficult to ripen, Beaujolais’ rock star Gamay is an early-budding, early-ripening and vigorous cultivar. As such, outputs (if not controlled) can be overly prodigious.

Pierre-Marie Chermette Vissoux ‘Origine Vieilles Vignes’, 2021 Beaujolais ($20)
First released in 1988 as a cuvée of non-chaptalized Beaujolais Nouveau made using grapes from old vines, the wine comes from 20 acres of Gamay in Saint Vérand. The plot enjoys south-western exposure on dark granitic soil and the vines, between 35 and 100 years old, rely on Guyot and Cordon de Royat pruning. The wine is so inky you might mistake it for Syrah; but the fruit remains red punchy, and as Jancis Robinson says, “It is wine for drinking rather than contemplating.”



Château Thivin

Château Thivin is the oldest wine-growing estate in Mont-Brouilly, and they pride themselves as offering a château on a ‘human scale’ where six generations of the Geoffray family have been cultivating grapes since 1877 when Zaccharie Geoffray purchased the estate. His son Claude expanded the property over the next few decades, and his son (also named Claude) boosted the prestige of the zone in the face of the Great Depression when he played a pivotal role in the creation of the Côte de Brouilly appellation.

Thivin’s parcels are predominantly south-facing and are planted entirely with Gamay vines that now average 50 years of age. As a nod to biodynamics, the soil is plowed and composted regularly while cover crops are left between some rows to encourage microbiotic activity; no insecticides are used. According to Claude-Édouard Geoffray, “On a slope where grades reach 48% and the surface is crumbly, implementing these techniques is essential to safeguard the soil from erosion, but it isn’t easy! Each section of the vineyard is harvested and vinified separately to preserve the unique characteristics afforded by variations in exposure and altitude.”

In 2014, Claude-Édouard’s wife Sonja introduced a small herd of dwarf sheep to the Château’s walled vineyard. She says, “These little sheep, of the Ushant breed, graze in among the vines after the grape harvest until the buds burst, helping to maintain the green cover between the rows of vines,” adding, “During the growing period, the sheep are moved to the tree-lined meadow alongside the plot.”

Cru Côte de Brouilly

To suggest that Côte de Brouilly erupts with flavor is more than a metaphor; the appellation sits on the slope of an extinct volcano. Making up but a small fraction of the Brouilly appellation, Côte de Brouilly draws its unique terroir from volcanic blue diorite, which provides the thin, well-drained soil that causes vines to struggle and the resulting wine—concentrated and intense—to shine. The vineyards of Côte de Brouilly are found on the south and east slopes of Mont Brouilly, protected from winds from the nearby Beaujolais hills by the volcano itself. They enjoy morning sunlight maximized by the steep slopes of the vineyards. This hastens ripening so that the vineyards of Côte de Brouilly are among the first to be harvested in Beaujolais.

Château Thivin ‘Cuvée Zaccharie’, 2021 Côte de Brouilly ($64)
Thivin’s flagship wine is an homage to Zaccharie Geoffray and comes from a selection of the estate’s best terroirs on the south-eastern slopes of Colline de Brouilly, where the terroir is built from fine, well-drained soil igneous origin (diorite porphyry) mixed with clay. The east and south-facing vines planted at high density and pruned into low goblets—Thivin relies on ‘green picking’ to obtain a lower, concentrated yield. The wine matures for 11 months in barrels. In spite of the substantial tannins that anchor this wine, it shows liveliness and alacrity, blending pepper, small macerated black fruit and mineral tones seamlessly.



Laura Lardy

“I tried to escape the winemaking fate, but to no avail,” says Laura Lardy. “After a couple of years trying my hand at something else, I went back to the family estate in 2015. And in 2017, when I was 27, the first vintage of my own wine was born.”

To an outsider, Laura Lardy’s career seems a bit inevitable; she is the fourth generation of a Fleurie winemaking family. Her father Lucien and brother Yohan are both active vignerons, making wines under their respective names, and Laura herself recalls how she was always keen on following her father in the vineyards from a tender age. Her path diverges in her devotion to organics–she started to convert the 13 acres of vines she rents from her father as soon as she took them over, led by the conviction that preserving the indigenous yeasts on the grape skins and respecting the soils leads to fewer chemical interventions in the cellar as well as a more faithful terroir reflection in the wine.

“I knew that if I was to make wine, it would have to be this way, no matter how hard it is in the beginning,” Laura asserts. “I try to be as respectful of the environment in my daily life, so it’s obvious I want to be just as careful about the ecology and waste management in my work.”

Cru Chénas

Wine from Chénas may be considered the rarest among the Crus, both in terms of quantity and the rarified flavors owed, in part, to the quartz found in certain parcels. Straddling the communes of Chénas and La Chapelle-de-Guinchay, it offers the smallest surface area of the Crus, although there are a dozen named lieux-dits that each display a unique personality.

Named for the ancient oak forests that once blanketed the commune (cleared first by the Gallo-Romans and then by local monks), the vines that replaced them are planted exclusively to Gamay, which offers Chénas wines characteristic notes of small black fruit, peony and spices highlighted by soft tannins.

Laura Lardy ‘La Fayarde’, 2020 Chénas ($37)
The wine originates from 40-year-old vines planted on sand and granite with a north-east exposure. True to Laura’s philosophy, grapes are hand-harvested and sorted, then spontaneously fermented in whole bunches in concrete tanks using traditional carbonic maceration. Following this is a slow press directly into old barrels where the wine rests for 6 months, then is bottled without fining or filtration, using minimum sulfur. The wine shows ripe black currant and blackberry, offering rich tannins and pronounced acidity, making this a wine that will respond well to aging.




Of the three Beaujolais classifications, Beaujolais-Villages occupies the middle spot in terms of quality. To qualify, the wine generally hails from more esteemed terroirs in the northern half of Beaujolais, and from one of 38 villages that have not been named ‘Cru’ appellations. They are expressive wines with more structure and complexity than generic Beaujolais, though not as exclusive as those from the ten Crus.

Accounting for about a quarter of all Beaujolais production, Villages-level wines are most often produced by négociants and vinified using stricter rules as to yields and technique.

Laura Lardy ‘Gourde à Gamay’, 2020 Beaujolais-Villages ($25)
Grapes for this cuvée come from granitic soils in the Lantignié commune. In typical Beaujolais style, the hand-harvested fruit is carbonic macerated as whole bunches in concrete tanks with indigenous yeast, then pressed and matured for 10 months in concrete. It is bottled unfined, with a small dose of Sulfur. The wine is bone-dry, of course, but gives an impression of sweetness through the ripe red fruit; there is a touch of earth, as is characteristic of Villages-level Beaujolais, light and refreshing.



La Soeur Cadette

Valentin Montanet is a grower/maker in the small village of Saint-Père along a little creek to the southeast of Vézelay, a geographic appendage of Chablis. In 1997, the Institut National des Appellations d’Origines awarded Vézelay its own AOP, and in 2010, Valentin joined his parents at Domaine de la Cadette and now manages it, espousing his parents’ philosophy of organic farming and natural vinification to craft refreshing, mineral-driven whites and reds.

The family’s Vézelay vineyards are deep in the Morvan, the great mountain range that runs west by northwest of the Côte d’Or. The land here is quite exceptional: The creation of the granite massif of the Morvan has uplifted a marl and limestone strata, revealing fossilized marine deposits. Vézelay soils are not the same as those of Chablis; instead of the Kimmeridgean clay, the clays here range from blue and gray to red, sometimes replaced by shallow limestone. While the climate is slightly cooler than in Chablis, the vines enjoy great sun exposure, lending a balance between generous fruit and deep mineral structure.

Cru Juliénas

Juliénas, at the northern end of the Crus, is also among the most elevated. Slopes are steep, but this verticality is ideal for sunshine basking, allowing grapes to ripen easily here, giving the wines more flesh and backbone. The terroir is as varied as any in a single Cru, with less granite and more ‘blue stone’—a friable, decomposed volcanic schist that the locals call ‘terre pourrie’, or ‘rotten rock.’ The many soils of Juliénas produce such an array of wines that there is no true Juliénas style, although they can be counted on to display a heart of stone and a soul of fresh forward fruit.

La Soeur Cadette, 2021 Juliénas ($34)
When weather ruined his 2016 Burgundy harvest, Valentin Montanet turned disaster into opportunity by acting on a long-held dream: To make Beaujolais, a tradition he has continued ever since. The thread of Burgundy remains evident in the bottles, which originate from six acres with vines 40 years old, but the wine is distinctly Juliénas—graceful, with crunch, fruit and minerality.





Guy Breton

Guy Breton took over the family domain from his grandfather in 1986—up until then, the family had been selling their fruit to the large cooperative wineries which dominated the region. The rise of imported yeast cultures to impart flavor and aroma, the use of high-tech carbonic maceration and the widespread commercialization of Beaujolais Nouveau played hell with the region’s reputation, and to much of the wine world, Beaujolais came to be seen as one-dimensional, lacking any expression of the native terroir.

Following the example of traditionalist Jules Chauvet, Guy and three other local vignerons initiated a ‘back-to-nature’ movement, calling for called for a return to the old practices of viticulture and vinification. This began with old vines and refusing to use synthetic herbicides or pesticides. They harvested late and sorted rigorously to remove all but the healthiest grapes, adding minimal doses of sulfur dioxide or none at all, and refusing both chaptalization and filtration.

“The end result allows my wine to express itself naturally,” he says, “without make-up or plastic surgery: rustic, spicy, loaded with schist minerals and at the same time, refreshing and deep-down delicious.”

Cru Chiroubles

Chiroubles is relatively tiny, with fewer than a thousand acres under vine, but it is a mouse that roars. This is due mostly to elevation: Chiroubles vineyards are the highest in Beaujolais, with some planted 1500 feet above the Saône River valley. Taking advantage of extreme diurnal shifts between the warm days and cold nights, the same soils that produce Fleurie to its immediate north here build wines that are lighter and fresher, often with pronounced floral characteristics.

Guy Breton ‘Cuvée Léa’, 2020 Chiroubles ($39)
Guy Breton loves to vinify in a style that is light, bright and juicy—as such, the high-altitude, steep, decomposed granite slopes and old vines of Chiroubles are well suited. From three, recently acquired acres of 60-year-old vines, ‘Cuvée Léa’ shows floral, succulent aromatics bursting with notes of forest berries, and so delicate on its feet that it serves as a user-friendly counterpoint to some of the more structured Cru wines from Beaujolais.



Cru Régnié

Many Beaujolais wines are best consumed in their youth, and this is a quality emphasized with gusto by Régnié, the youngest of the Beaujolais crus. In fact, it wasn’t until 1988 that a group of 120 wine growers lobbied to get the appellation officially recognized, pointing out the newcomer in the family has plenty to offer: Its favorable geographical location between its two brothers, Brouilly and Morgon, allows the production of wines of a unique fruitiness.

Often called the ‘Prince of the Crus,’ Régnié’s terroir is distinguished by the pink granite soils found high in the Beaujolais hills. Here, at some of the highest altitudes in the region, vines are planted on coarse, sandy soils that are highly permeable and drain freely, an environment which is well suited to the Gamay grape variety.

Further down the slopes, higher proportions of clay with better water storage capabilities lead to a slightly more structured style of wine. The variation within the vineyard area allows growers to produce everything from fresh, light wines to heavier, more age-worthy examples of Régnié.

Guy Breton, 2020 Régnié ($36)
The vineyards of Régnié sit high on the slope between Brouilly and Morgon, and the wines often show the perfume and brightness of the former along with the mineral-driven structure typical of the latter. Add to that Breton’s house style, wines are designed to be drunk with abandon. As Breton himself puts it, “ At first, a dollop of supple, juicy fruit evokes the sandy layer of topsoil into which these Gamay vines—many of them a century old—sink their roots. Then a granite kick, full of gritty spice, clutches the palate with gusto, conjuring the stony bedrock beneath.”



The Nazi-Defying Kir Cocktail: Burgundy’s Version of ‘Victory Garden’

The classically refreshing Kir cocktail is made with one part crème de cassis and four parts dry white wine, ideally Aligoté. It was named after Felix Kir, a Catholic priest and decorated member of the French resistance. When Nazi soldiers marched into Dijon, Burgundy, in 1940, many local officials fled. Kir remained in the city, helping more than 4,000 prisoners of war escape from a nearby camp. It is said that when Nazis confiscated Burgundy’s iconic red wines, Kir defiantly devised his namesake cocktail by combining the available dry white wine, Aligoté, with blackcurrant liqueur in an attempt to mimic the color of Burgundy’s Pinot Noirs.

It is the sort of story you hope against hope is true. While Americans were planting victory gardens, the French were fighting in the underground and advancing the cause of liberté, égalité, fraternité … and Aligoté, which combined with crème de cassis becomes one of the most delightful summertime aperitifs of all time.

Domaines Chermette, Crème de Cassis – Beaujolais Blackcurrant Liqueur ($21) 375ml
Produced from homegrown Noir de Bourgogne blackcurrants harvested each July; this type of currant produces small, concentrated, strongly-flavored berries and is different from everyday ‘eating’ blackcurrants. The fruit is crushed, then steeped in neutral sugar beet alcohol for two months, then blended with beet sugar. The crème de cassis is brought to the correct alcohol by volume by adding neutral alcohol or water—the art lies in finding the correct balance between fruit juice, sugar and alcohol. Bottling takes place throughout the year because, the more recently the crème has been made, the better it is.


Domaine Adélie, 2020 ‘Champ Renard’ Bourgogne-Aligoté Blanc ($28)
Comprising 20 acres of various Mercurey lieux-dits (including the Premier Cru, Champ Martin), Domaine Adélie was named for the daughter of Albéric Bichot, lead négociant at the famous Hospices de Beaune and owner of five other prestigious estates in Burgundy. He was voted best winemaker by the International Wine Challenge in three of the past ten years.

‘Champ Renard’ is a lieu-dit located at the entrance to Mercurey. The soils are sandy loam and clay/limestone. Bichot vinifies Aligoté according to the same exacting standards he uses with Chardonnay; slow fermentation over six to eight weeks, then eight months in stainless. Fresh flavors of citrus and dried apples meld into a delicate nutty mid-palate nuanced by spice.



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Posted on 2023.05.18 in Chirouble, Morgon, Beaujolais-Villages, France, Saturday Sips Wines, Wine-Aid Packages  |  Read more...


‘Mercurey’ Rising: Four Producers Soar in Another Côte Chalonnaise Hidden Gem With Red and White (5-Red & 3-White Sampler $399)

Join us for Saturday Sips

Come as you are; come any time that’s convenient for you during our business hours to sample selection from this week’s selections. Our staff will be on hand to discuss nuances of the wines, the terroirs reflected, and the producers.

This week, we continue our trek through Burgundy’s ‘fringe’ appellations, moving southward to Mercurey, just below Rully, where the vineyards festoon marl-limestone hillsides that formed in the Upper and Middle Jurassic period. The soils of Mercurey are ideally constructed as an ideal environment for Pinot Noir and the red wines of this region are prized for their complexity and ability to age. Chardonnay-based Mercurey are more rare and much sought out; there are small pockets of terroir in Mercurey that are structured like the best vineyards of the Côte de Beaune.

The package contains eight bottles, both white and red; an ode to the diversity of Mercurey—an appellation that offers among the widest range of expressions in Burgundy.

Exploring Burgundy’s Periphery: Mercurey

Shaped like a vast amphitheater, the vineyards of Mercurey owe their terroir to the hundreds of millions of years they spent submerged beneath a prehistoric sea. Marine sediment gradually built up, forming clay, marl and finally, limestone. This geological diversity has paired with a variety of exposures and altitudes to create a remarkable cradle for wine: Mercurey is the most important appellation in Côte Chalonnaise by far.

The appellation, created in 1936, covers the wines of Mercurey itself plus those of neighboring Saint-Martin-sous-Montaigu. Mercurey is the most prolific of the five Chalonnaise communal appellations, producing more wine than its neighbors Rully and Givry combined. This large output comes from a dense patchwork of vineyards covering around 1600 acres of rolling limestone hillsides. Around a quarter of these vineyards are classified as Premier Cru, accounting for 32 officially recognized and delimited climats; wines from these sites may append their vineyard names to the Mercurey Premier Cru appellation title.

Beating The Heat
2020: Healthy and Ripe, Surprising Levels of Freshness

François Labet, a négociant whose family has lived in Beaune for 300 years, summarizes the 2020 vintage like this: “An intellectually-challenging vintage; the reds in particular defy easy categorization because the impact of that season varied considerably by terroir. Producers had key decisions to make, especially when to pick and that significantly affected both the style and quality of the resulting wines.

And this is because the most notable feature of this vintage was its early and rapid harvest: Many domains began picking the week of August 17th and while August harvests have been frequent in the 21st century (there were none in the prior century), this was for many domains the first time they had not only started, but completed a harvest before the end of August.

The resulting wines (particularly from earlier harvests where sugars were high and acids intact) are remarkable, both for whites and reds. The season was hot and dry, but water tables were healthy from the mild and wet preceding winter.

Beaune and Côte Chalonnaise were particularly fortunate and Chef de Cave Frédéric Weber (Bouchard Père et Fils) describes 2020 as a concentrated and strong vintage: “It reminds me of 2016 for its vibrancy and energy; the wines are voluptuous and structured. A great vintage for the future, like the ‘18s.”

Domaine Michel Juillot


The vineyards of Domaine Michel Juillot spread across the Côte Chalonnaise and Côte de Beaune and include 50 acres of Pinot Noir and twenty-five of Chardonnay. Of the sites, located in twenty individual appellations, half are Premier Cru.

Says fourth-generation winemaker Laurent Juillot: “Between our parcels, we do not differentiate the care we provide. We are convinced that our added value is in the terroir alone. The difference between a Premier Cru, a Village or a Bourgogne generic wine comes from the soil, the earth, the sun and the grape in its environment. We respect them all equally and treat them accordingly.”

Laurent Juillot, Domaine Michel Juillot

Laurent is the grandson of Michel Juillot, and it was with the elder Juillot’s blessing that the estate, under Laurent’s direction, began to move toward sustainable agriculture. As a true gauge of quality, he ferments on native yeasts alone, as he believes that this is the only way to faithfully transcribe into a single-parcel cuvée the true expression of that unique climat. Current production is 180,000 bottles.

Domaine Michel Juillot, 2020 Mercurey Premier Cru Clos des Barraults Rouge ($53)
Michel Juillot has the largest holding in Clos des Barraults and produces the most well-known Pinot Noir bottling from the site. The wine spends 18 months in oak barrels specifically built for Juillot, 30% of them new, which allows a soft wood undertone to follow the palate through raspberry jelly, spicy Morello cherry and a pleasant leatheriness that arises from the integrated tannins.




Domaine Michel Juillot, 2020 Mercurey Premier Cru Clos des Barraults Blanc ($53)
Clos des Barraults is a 12-acre climat, one of several Premier Crus lining the south-facing hill above the village of Mercurey. Barraults terroir is a classic Burgundian blend of clay, limestone and marl with a high proportion of lightly-colored gravel and pebbles. The southern exposure ensures good ripening with prolonged exposure to the softer morning sun. The wine is 100% Chardonnay and similarly soft, with vanilla-crème behind tropical fruit and bright, plucky acidity.





Frédéric Gueugneau may be seen as an archetype in the new blood that has infused Mercurey over the past decade. As a young man in the village of Fontaines (which sits between Mercurey and Rully) he was a laborer in the vineyards of Gouffier, which consisted of thirteen acres spread across eight appellations. Then under the direction of Jérôme Gouffier, the estate had been in the same family for two centuries.

Frédéric Gueugneau, Gouffier

In 2011, upon the death of Gouffier, Gueugneau was asked by his neighbors to take over the day-to-day management of the estate, bringing with him the eight years of experience he’d gained at La Chabliesienne, a wine cooperative in Chablis. He began by reinvigorating the farming philosophy, introducing organic practices; along with his partner Benoît Pagot, Gueugneau brought fresh thinking to the vines and to Gouffier itself—a picturesque estate that finds focus in a stunning, stone-domed cellar that once served as a bunker in the time of Napoleon.

Another unique feature of Gouffier is its close alliance with a single cooper. Doreau Tonneliers of Cognac is instrumental in finding the perfect match between barrel and wine, and in fact, nearly 20% of the wood used to make the barrels used by Gueugneau and Pagot comes from the forest just beyond the property’s walls.

Gouffier, 2020 Mercurey Premier Cru Clos l’Evêque Rouge ($49)
In English, Évêque means Bishop and this Premier Cru climat once belonged to the Bishopric of Chalon-sur-Saône. The site is situated in the Mercurey fault-line at an elevation reaching one thousand feet. The wine is elegant, tinged with notes of cherry pit and forest floor underscored by wild bramble berries and finishing lean, dry and chalky.





Gouffier, 2020 Mercurey Les Murgers ($41)
‘Murgers’ refers to the stones that were removed from the plot to enable vine planting; Gouffier’s three-acre, east-facing plot is rich in loamy topsoil with deeper layers of clay that relies on deeper rocks to supply adequate drainage. Vines are pruned according to the Guyot Poussard method, which takes sap flow into account and reduces the damage that pruning may cause. The wine’s forward bouquet of cherries and raspberries are touched with sweet soil tones and subtle hints of smoke girded by silky tannins and integrated acidity.



Château de Chamirey


In 1934, the Marquis de Jouennes began to bottle the wines of Château de Chamirey at the domain; when his son-in-law Bertrand Devillard took over, he expanded the holdings to the present size and today, Amaury and Aurore Devillard stand proudly as the fifth generation of the family to manage the estate.

Enrico Peyron, Winemaker at Château de Chamirey

Of the 95 acres that encompass de Chamirey’s vineyards, about 70 are dedicated to Pinot Noir and the rest to Chardonnay; of the total, 21 acres are Premier Cru and about eight represent the acres for which de Chamirey is best known, Monopole wines, including those of Clos du Roi and La Mission. The peculiarly Burgundian term ‘Monopole’ dates back to Napoleonic inheritance laws that saw properties so subdivided (even down to individual rows of vines) that a lone grower was often not able to provide commercial grape quantities to négociants. A ‘Monopole’ wine represents a single area, often a lieu-dit vineyard, controlled by a single winery.

Château de Chamirey, 2020 Mercurey Premier Cru Clos du Roi Rouge ($52)
To elicit the maximum extraction of color and phenolics, the Pinot Noir is held pre-fermentation between 4 and 6 days, following which a full two week maceration concentrates tannins and aromatics. Clos du Roi is a southwest-facing, concave slope divided into 4 adjacent plots for a total of 7.6 acres planted between 1970 and 2002. The nose shows expressive strawberry and raspberry notes behind pie spices (cinnamon and nutmeg); the palate is cherries, plums, cassis, licorice and candied citrus peel.



Château de Chamirey, 2020 Mercurey Premier Cru La Mission ‘Monopole’ Blanc  ($54)
La Mission is composed of three small plots totaling 4.75 acres and owned at 100% by Château de Chamirey; vines were planted between 1961 and 1997. Fermentation and aging take place in traditional Burgundian 228-liter barrels (15% of new) from the Allier and Vosges forests. The wine spends three months in tanks and goes through a light filtration before bottling; it shows a rich, rounded, golden character and carries the oak influence well.



Domaine Adélie

Domaine Adélie, comprising 20 acres of various Mercurey lieu-dits (including the Premier Cru, Champ Martin), was named for the daughter of Albéric Bichot, lead négociant at the famous Hospices de Beaune and owner of five other prestigious estates in Burgundy. He was voted best winemaker by the International Wine Challenge in three of the past ten years.

Albéric Bichot, Domaine Adélie

“Respect for the terroir and for nature is essential for us,” says Bichot. “We practice sustainable and organic viticulture. Starting with the 2018 vintage, the wines of Domaine Adélie will bear the certified ‘organic wine’ label.”

With this recognition comes a commitment to sustainable agriculture and a reverence for the uniqueness of each parcel and its stewardship. Despite the accolades, Albéric downplays the grandeur of his hallowed vineyards, preferring to talk about wine as a beverage to be enjoyed with friends, not over-analyzed or intellectualized.

Domaine Adélie, 2020 Mercurey ‘en Pierre Milley’ Rouge ($58)
From a 5-acre lieu-dit where the vine age averages 35 years old, the soil is rich in clay above bedrock that consists of compacted limestone with a few areas that are predominantly marl. The nose shows forward fruit with notes of wild berries, plum and peach while the velvety and smooth with a long, nicely balanced finish.





Domaine Adélie, 2020 Mercurey ‘Les Champs Michaux’ Blanc ($58)
The lieu-dit ‘Les Champs Michaux’ is a three-acre site planted on calcareous clay where the Chardonnay vines, on average, are twenty years old. The wine is silken in the mouth with aromas of pears, green apples, peach and spring flowers. There is good depth and longevity with a persistent mineral finish.







Burgundy’s Other White Grape
Aligoté Makes Its Case in Mercuery 

“Aligoté!” sounds like a cry of triumph; something you’d shout after making a goal in the World Cup. In fact, perennially overshadowed by its sexier cousin Chardonnay and even its half-sister Pinot Gris (they share a father, Pinot Noir), there was a time when the opposite was true:

“Before phylloxera,” says Jérôme Castagnier, proprietor of Domaine Castagnier in Morey-Saint-Denis, “Aligoté was planted everywhere, literally. But after the outbreak abated, thanks primarily to American root stock, French growers took stock and realized that Chardonnay and Pinot Noir commanded higher market prices, so that’s what was re-planted. In fact, in some regions, Aligoté was banned altogether.”

Post-phylloxera Aligoté exists under the basic Bourgogne Aligoté appellation established in 1937 and, for the most part, produces inexpensive and simple wines, especially when planted in the less-valued soils of the Saône Valley flatlands. But true Aligoté fans, including Les Aligoteurs (a group of French producers and wine lovers who promote Burgundy’s all-but-forgotten white grape variety) believe that the grape better expresses the terroir of thinner, rockier, hillside soils. A cross between Pinot Noir and the ancient white varietal Gouais Blanc, Aligoté’s profile includes descriptors ranging from fruit-driven and floral to herbal and sharp with acidity. In either case, it is the essential base for the classic cocktail Kir when blended with Cassis.

The grape is on full display in Bouzeron in the Côte Chalonnaise, which is a region that draws more interest from America than it does in its native France. Pockets of Aligoté exist throughout Burgundy, often on the fringes of the priciest real estate. It often presents itself as an ‘every day’ wine, and let’s raise a toast to that, since we have more ‘every’ days than we do special occasions. “Aligoté!”

Domaine Adélie, 2020 ‘Champ Renard’ Bourgogne-Aligoté Blanc ($28)
100% Aligoté grown in the Champ Renard” lieu-dit located at the entrance of the village of Mercurey; the vineyard is worked with the same organic spirit and vinified using the same, traditional methods as the Chardonnay. The wine is dry and perfumed, showing notes peach, citrus and acacia flowers.






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Posted on 2023.05.15 in Mercurey, France, Saturday Sips Wines, Wine-Aid Packages  |  Read more...


Burgundy With A Southern Accent: Four Producers Elevate Underestimated Côte Chalonnaise’s Givry to New Qualitative Heights

Join us for Saturday Sips

It is a pleasure to announce that we intend to make ‘Saturday Sips’ a permanent fixture of our Saturdays for the foreseeable future. Come at any time during our regular business hours and sample a few of the wines that we feature in our weekly newsletter. Along with the sips, our staff, along with myself, will be on hand to discuss the nuances of terroirs and the appellations that produced the wines we will taste.

Burgundy attracts as many investors as it does wine lovers; it’s no secret that the hallowed hills of eastern France produce some of the most sophisticated, terroir-influenced wines in the world—a product known for longevity, sensual appeal, and as a somewhat unpleasant side-effect, astronomical prices.

But by sheer volume, Burgundy is far less about shelf-dressers like Domaine Leroy’s Musigny and DRC’s Romanée-Conti Grand Crus, and more about the rustic wines of the countryside. These wines represent superb value in both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, especially in villages like Mercurey, Montagny, Rully and Givry.

Givry is among these lesser-known names that we’ll be exploring this week; sensational examples of an appellation that produces extremely good wines that often fly beneath Sotheby’s radar, although they would be still be excellent wines at any price point.

Heading South to Côte Chalonnaise: Another Side of Burgundy

The legend of Snow White and Rose Red may have originated with the Brothers Grimm in Germany, but a modern reenactment can be found in the vineyards of Côte Chalonnaise. In this tale, the star performers are Pinot Noir as Rose Red and as Snow White, Chardonnay. Aligoté is an understudy, except in Bouzeron—the only appellation Village that is entirely produced from this ancient variety.

Sandwiched between the Côte de Beaune and the rolling hills of the Mâconnais, the Côte Chalonnaise is 16 miles long by four miles wide; the finest vines are planted on southeast slopes and produce red, rosé and white wines from 44 communes within cantons of Buxy, Chagny, Givry and Mont-Saint-Vincent. Like Beaune to the north, the soils of northern Côte Chalonnaise are limestone-dominated with outcrops of lias and trias formations. In the south, the limestone is marly, with sand and flint clays at the foot of the slopes. When graced with long, dry summers, Pinot Noir ripens beautifully, producing wines that (like Rose Red) are sassy, lively and cheerful while Chardonnay, sending roots deep into Burgundy’s clay, is more like Snow White: a homebody, redolent of gentle flowers with a suggestion of warm bread and honey. But in fairness to literary and vinicultural history, Côte Chalonnaise was already staging these heroines half a millennia before the Brothers Grimm penned their first ‘Once upon a time.’

Givry: Burgundy’s New Promised Land

Located near the center of the Côte Chalonnaise, ‘Givry’ as an appellation covers not only Givry itself, but also the communes of Dracy-le-Fort and Jambles. The best vineyards sit on the south-facing, limestone-rich slopes immediately west of Givry itself. It is small, but top-heavy with Premier Cru vineyards, with 30 properties thus designated.

80% of these top sites are planted to Pinot Noir; only 24 acres grow Premier Cru white. Most of the Premier Cru vineyards boast terroirs based in brown soils derived from the breakdown of Oxfordian Jurassic limestone and clay where vines are planted facing east-south-east or due south at altitudes between 800 and 900 feet. As a result, the red wines of Givry tend to be fresh and expressive, showing strawberry and raspberry jam, fresh berries and delicate wisps of spice framed by supple tannins and refreshing acidity.

Critics have referred to these marvelous little villages in southern Burgundy as a ‘promised land.’ Our promise is that each of these wines over-produce for their price point.

2015 – Broad-Beamed with Aging Potential

The 2015 vintage was an extraordinary one throughout the Côte d’Or and Côte Chalonnaise. The red wines are truly great: rich, powerful and statuesque but almost always underpinned by juicy acidity. The distinctive characters of the region’s diverse terroirs, which can be occluded by over-ripeness in warm years, are articulately expressed. Nor, despite its richness and amplitude, is this a facile vintage. These are wines built for the long haul, with serious reserves of ripe tannins hidden behind their generous fruit: they deserve patience, and—if they briefly shut down in bottle—they demand it.

Although some vignerons have drawn comparisons between Vintage 2015 and the excellent Vintage 2005, yields were lower in 2015 and the wines are more concentrated. Others look to 1990 for an analogy. Perhaps the last word should go to Volnay’s Michel Lafarge, one of the Côte d’Or’s most thoughtful and experienced observers, who draws parallels with 1929s which he tasted as a young man in his family’s cellars, “No other vintage in the past 60 years is really comparable.”

2015 began as an ideal growing season, then excessive July heat began to pose some problems, which were eased by intermittent rains in August. Results were excellent overall with lush, ripe, broad-beamed wines produced in most Premier Cru sites.

François, Son Pierre, Daughter Anne-Cécile, and Isabelle Lumpp, Domaine François Lumpp

Lumpp and his brother inherited their family property in 1977; in 1991 François founded his own label with his wife Isabelle and planted cuttings of older, selected bud wood (Sélection Massale) in Givry’s best Premier Cru sites, situated on the mid to upper level slopes of the hills. At harvest, pickers sort the grapes carefully at each vine, and then they are checked again on the sorting table. François aims to pick at optimum ripeness, favoring the bright acidic profiles of wines which have developed on the vine rather than masked by their time in barrel.

Domaine François Lumpp, 2015 Givry Premier Cru A Vigne Rouge ($63)
A full-bore representation of Lumpp’s finesse, a wine from his 6-acre Premier Cru site ‘A Vigne Rouge’ that manages to be both notably ripe yet elegantly cool with an airy combination of earth, red currant and discreet spice nuances. A beautifully refined mouth leading to a lingering and complex finale.





Domaine François Lumpp, 2015 Givry Premier Cru Crausot ($72)
Perhaps Givry’s best terroir for Chardonnay and one of François Lumpp’s highest-elevation parcels, the Climat ‘Crausot’, with a 2.5-acre holding, also produces elegant, ample Pinot Noir with juicy red berry up front, licorice and pie spice in the background.






2020 – Dramatic, Concentrated with Surprising Levels of Freshness

François Labet, a négociant whose family has lived in Beaune for 300 years, summarizes the 2020 vintage like this: “An intellectually-challenging vintage; the reds in particular defy easy categorization because the impact of that season varied considerably by terroir. Producers had key decisions to make, especially when to pick and that significantly affected both the style and quality of the resulting wines.

And this is because the most notable feature of this vintage was its early and rapid harvest: Many domains began picking the week of August 17th and while August harvests have been frequent in the 21st century (there were none in the prior century), this was for many domains the first time they had not only started, but completed a harvest before the end of August.

The resulting wines (particularly from earlier harvests where sugars were high and acids intact) are remarkable, both for whites and reds. The season was hot and dry, but water tables were healthy from the mild and wet preceding winter.

Beaune and Côte Chalonnaise were particularly fortunate and Chef de Cave Frédéric Weber (Bouchard Père et Fils) describes 2020 as a concentrated and strong vintage: “It reminds me of 2016 for its vibrancy and energy; the wines are voluptuous and structured. A great vintage for the future, like the ‘18s.”


Domaine de la Ferté

Domaine de la Ferté is one of five estates owned by the Devillard family (which also includes Château de Chamirey and Domaine des Perdrix); Ferté covers a relatively small area of six acres spread over three plots, two in the village appellation of Clos Mortière and one in Servoisine Premier Cru. It thrives under the direction of oenologist and ‘chef de culture’ Enrico Peyron.

Enrico Peyron, Winemaker at Domaine de la Ferté

Peyron says, “We are privileged to grow in some of most renowned Premier Crus of the appellation; we plant with 4000 vines per acre, a high-density that is Burgundian tradition that ensures high quality wine. The grapes are harvested with great care and experience and limited use of treatment products, while the average age of our vines is 35 years.”

Domaine de la Ferté, 2020 Givry ($43)
A Village-level wine from Pinot Noir vines planted in 1985; the vineyard is surrounded by two Premier Crus and features south-east exposures in deep clay soils. The wine is aged 9 months in 228-liter Burgundian barrels of which 20% are new and shows fresh notes of wild strawberries and supple pie cherries behind a bit of cola and mineral crispness.





Domaine de la Ferté, 2020 Givry Premier Cru Clos de la Servoisine ($49)
Servoisine is a south-facing Climat planted sixty years ago; the wine displays luscious notes of sweet cherries, cassis, licorice and loamy soil. This is a marvelous, full-bodied and concentrated wine with powdery tannins and lively acidity.






Domaine du Cellier aux Moines

Overlooking one of Givry’s historic Premier Crus, the Cellier aux Moines was magnificently restored by Catherine and Philippe Pascal and their three children. Pascal is the former CEO of Veuve Clicquot and the Moët Hennessey Group, and after retiring from the company, he began a search throughout Burgundy for a restoration project, ultimately settling on an overgrown vineyard slopes of Givry’s ancient monastery, La Ferté Abbey, which had produced wine in the region going back nine centuries.

“The vineyards and the monastic cellar were in terribly bad shape,” says Pascal, “but we realized that this ancient estate presented a unique opportunity to rediscover a star appellation for Pinot Noir. Despite Givry’s reputation as a bit player in the Burgundy wine scene, I must insist that the area has been unfairly underrated.”

Philippe Pascal and Viticulturist / Winemaker Guillaume Marko, Domaine du Cellier aux Moines

In 2015, Guillaume Marko joined the Domaine as head of vineyards and winemaking operations. Holding a DNO (Diplôme National d’Œnologie) from Dijon University, Guillaume trained during few years in famous wine estates of Côte de Nuits, including Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Marko maintains: “The challenges have been many—reclaiming the steep, bush-covered hillsides, mapping soils, converting to biodynamic winemaking and constructing an entirely new gravity-fed winery—but the results have been remarkable: In my opinion, and that of many critics, Domaine du Cellier aux Moines now produces some of the most coveted wines in Givry.”

Domaine du Cellier aux Moines, 2020 Givry Premier Cru Clos du Cellier ($87)
One of Givry’s historic Premier Crus, Clos du Cellier is twelve acres replanted with superior selections of Pinot Noir. The intensity of the wine’s garnet color is matched by the complexity of the aromas, evoking violets, tart cherry conserve and damp forest floor. There is vibrant tension between texture and acidity and a long aftertaste with dusty tannins and notes candied Morello cherry.



Domaine du Cellier aux Moines, 2020 Givry Premier Cru Clos du Cellier ‘Les Dessus’ ($176)
From the upper slopes of the vineyard, where the soils are characterized by harder, less decomposed limestone, this wine saw a full 23 months of élevage before bottling. Mingling scents of red berries and plums with notions of peony, rose and bergamot introduce a medium to full-bodied wine with a bright core of fruit and a beautifully perfumed finish.




Domaine du Cellier aux Moines, 2020 Givry Clos Pascal ‘Monopole’ Rouge ($288)
Just above the Clos du Cellier is another tiny plot (two-thirds of an acre) surrounded by thick walls which had been left fallow since the phylloxera crisis. Replanted in 2010, it was named ‘Clos Pascal.’ The wine shows nicely lifted raspberry tones with ripe cherry beneath, along with a touch of sandalwood and refined tannins.




Reaching Peak: Two Decades in The Making
2003 Givry Premier Cru: Domaine Joblot ‘Clos de la Servoisine’ 

Juliette Joblot is the fourth generation in the Joblot clan to farm the family domain in Givry’s unique amphitheater. The estate was founded by Charles Joblot after the First World War, although it not until the 1960s that Marc (Charles’s son) began to bottle the wine under the Joblot imprint. Marc passed the property to his sons Jean-Marc and Vincent in the 1970s, who truly forged the estate’s reputation. When Juliette, took over she brought the ecological revolution to the vineyard and tweaked the house style: Unlike the many growers in the area who determine the ripeness of their grapes based on sugar levels, Juliette bases her picking decisions on acidity levels. During the harvest, severe sorting takes place in the vineyards, and Juliette is known to drop up to 40% of a vintage if it does not meet her standards.

Juliette Joblot, Domaine Joblot

In the cellar, 90% of the Pinot Noir is de-stemmed, and long, cool macerations are encouraged. The Chardonnay from the ‘En Vau’ lieu-dit vineyard as well as the fruit that contributes to the cuvée ‘Mademoiselle’ is pressed slowly to preserve freshness and to avoid off-flavors that may result from aggressive handling. Each parcel is vinified separately and each cuvée undergoes natural fermentation in an identical manner so that the character of the individual terroirs come through.

Although the wines drink well on release, they have a track record for aging 20-25 years in good vintages, meaning that the following wine is an ideal cross-section of what a mature Joblot red represents.

Domaine Joblot, 2003 Givry Premier Cru Clos de la Servoisine ($98)
Twenty years into it, the excellent 2003 vintage has grown up. In its youth, Servoisine red wines from 2003 displayed plenty of energy, refreshing acidity, plumpish body and a good quality of ripe and silky tannin. Today, these sunny wines are no less lovely and are certainly more complex; as the fruit recedes, the bones of earth begin to poke through, although the purity and precision remains. The acidity is more apparent and the style is both mellow and brisk with a touch of austerity manifested as cool minerality and edge.



Bottle Size Matters: When Aging Wine, The Bigger, The Better

When making a wine purchase for immediate serving, the primary information you’re after may be the number of glasses in a given bottle. For a standard bottle, you’ll get about five five-ounce glasses of wine, while a magnum—1.5L or 50 ounces will fill 10 glasses. Logically, a half-bottle equals 2.5 five-ounce pours. But there is more to consider when you buy a wine that you intend to leave in bottle to mature, since format has an effect on a wine’s ability to age. This is the result of oxygen exchange relative to the amount of wine in the bottle. A magnum has about the same ullage (the space between the top of the liquid and the bottom of the cork) as a standard 750ml bottle. However, it has twice the volume of wine, so the ratio of wine to oxygen is significantly impacted and, by extension, so is the aging potential of the wine and the speed at which it occurs.

The following wines from this week’s selection are also available in magnums.

2020 Domaine du Cellier aux Moines, Givry Premier Cru Clos du Cellier ‘Les Dessus’ ($360) 1.5 Liter

2020 Domaine du Cellier aux Moines, Givry Clos Pascal ‘Monopole’ ($600) 1.5 Liter

2017 Domaine du Cellier aux Moines, Givry Clos Pascal ‘Monopole’ ($450) 1.5 Liter

2019 Domaine de la Ferté, Givry Premier Cru Clos de la Servoisine ($140) 1.5 Liter

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Posted on 2023.05.06 in Givry, France, Saturday Sips Wines, Burgundy  |  Read more...


Lure of The Loire: A Range of Red Grapes, Soils and Microclimates Allow for A Diversity of Wines and Styles by an Upstart Generation 12-Bottle Sampler $369

The media engine behind French wine seems driven primarily by two wheels—Burgundy and Bordeaux—while the Loire is often relegated to third-wheel status. And it’s not from want of praise: The vivid, crisp, hauntingly aromatic and almost supernaturally focused wines of the Loire Valley are arguably the pinnacle of each particular varietal.

And there are many. 24 varieties flourish throughout the Valley (including indigenous, newly-revived grapes such as Pineau d’Aunis) alongside the Big Four, Melon de Bourgogne, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin, and Cabernet Franc. The Loire Valley is the biggest producer of white wine in France and the second biggest producer of sparkling wines; it encompasses four sub-regions with more than 51 appellations surrounding the Loire River and its tributaries, flowing from the east around Sancerre to the west toward Muscadet on the Atlantic coast at the mouth of the river.

The Loire is also a hot-bed for experimental winemakers, some of whom have chosen to forgo the hidebound restrictions of the French wine bureaucracy and produce wines on their own terms, opting to use the all-encompassing Vin de France appellation on their labels rather than the prestigious AOPs they’d otherwise be entitled to. Lovers of natural wine know that the Loire was an early pioneer in the movement, and that such producers make wine with organic and/or biodynamic fruit, native yeasts, and a commitment to low-intervention viniculture as a bid for sustainability in the face of changing environment.

These upstart young winemakers have not only been flying under the mainstream radar, they have created their own generation of satellites—fans that recognize wine as an agricultural product as well as a cultural phenomenon, and are drawn to their dedication to natural farming.

This week’s wine package looks upward toward the light that vignerons in two specific Loire appellations—Anjou-Saumur and Touraine—are shining on technique, innovation and originality.

Anjou-Saumur: Driving a Full-on Revolution

In France, where plenty of revolutionaries wound up with their heads in a guillotine basket, ‘revolution’ is not a word to be used lightly. Still, Richard Leroy of Domaine Sophie et Richard Leroy in Bellevigne-en-Layon, Anjou, uses it easily: “There’s a revolution happening in wine right now,” he says, referring to Anjou, once an epicenter for sweet wines like Coteaux du Layon and Quarts de Chaume.

Over the past twenty years, Anjou has become a hub for a different kind of wine—those made with a minimum of artifice in the cellar, free from historical baggage about what they should taste like and often produced by first-generation winemakers with no family ties to wine.

Another phase of the revolution is the revival of Chenin, which fell out of favor during the second half of the last century as did the native red wine grape, Grolleau. Mark Angeli of La Ferme de la Sansonnière,who arrived in 1989, claims, “Dry Chenin had been gone from Anjou for 50 years, and the few reds being made were mostly rot-gut. Appellation rules required them to be made from the two Cabernets—Franc and Sauvignon—even though old-vine parcels of Grolleau and Pineau d’Aunis thrived throughout the area.”

The region has been attracting maverick winemakers who recognize the scant precedent for complex, dry wines made from Chenin Blanc and Grolleau, and who have been happy to bottle their rule-busting wines, farmed organically, under the relatively lowly ‘Anjou’ appellation  or even labeled simply as ‘Vin de France.’

Touraine: The Original Breeding Ground of Natural Wines & Pioneering Winemakers

Most people are more familiar with the Loire’s bookends, Muscadet and Sancerre. But between them lie 79 AOPs representing what InterLoire (the official organization of producers, merchants and traders involved in the production and promotion of Loire wines) calls, “The most extensive, diversified and original vineyards in Europe.”

The AOP covering Touraine stretches from Anjou to the west to the Sologne in the east, converging near the point where the Loire River and its tributaries meet. It covers 104 communes in Indre-et-Loire and 42 in Loir-et-Cher.

Most of the vineyards are located southeast of Tours on the slopes that dominate the Cher River and the land between the Cher and the Loire. With nearly 13,000 acres under vine, the climate varies dramatically as you move inland; oceanic conditions dominate the west, becoming more continental as you move east. These climatic differences combined with varied soils determine the choice of grape variety planted (with later-ripening varieties grown in the west and earlier-ripening ones in the east) and account for the wide variety of wine styles produced.

Among these styles are the personal statement’ wines of natural winemakers, who have found in Touraine a vibrant opportunity for self-expression as well as terroir that, through minimal intervention, display their origins perhaps even more faithfully than their rule-bound AOP counterparts.


Cabernet Franc

Who’s your daddy? Biologically, both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot share Cabernet Franc as a parent, and the grape itself displays characteristics inherited by both. In cooler climates, Cabernet Franc shows off graphite and red licorice notes, while in warm regions, it exhibits tobacco and leather aromas. There is also a vegetal edge, which may strike the palate as tasting of green pepper or jalapeño.

In Bordeaux, it is generally a minor component of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends, although in Pomerol and Saint-Émilion it adopts a larger, more highly-regarded role. Cheval Blanc, for example, is typically around two-thirds Cabernet Franc while Ausone is an even split between Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

With the Loire Valley’s cool, inland climates it becomes a star performer. The appellations of Chinon (in Touraine) along with Saumur and Saumur-Champigny (in Anjou) are important bastions of Cabernet Franc, where the wine is prized for forward aromas of ripe summer berries and sweet spices.

The local Loire Valley name for Cabernet Franc is Breton; a reference to the man credited with bringing the variety to popularity in the 17th Century.

Manoir de la Tête Rouge (Anjou-Saumur)

Intense, driven and passionate, Guillaume Reynouard is the fox in charge of the chicken coop—as well as being a winemaker, he is president of the Syndicat des Vins Saumur and has a particular enmity for growers who rip out Pineau d’Aunis in favor of easier-to-grow varieties.

Taking charge of Domaine Manoir de la Tête Rouge in 1995, Guillaume soon converted to organics and was certified Biodynamic in 2010. The estate enjoys remarkably productive clay/ limestone terroir and he takes pride in ‘living vineyards’ where the soil is worked by hand to ensure that roots go deep and grass grows between rows to promote insect and other plant life; synthetic chemicals are prohibited. In the cellar, grapes are fully destemmed, indigenous yeasts are preferred, with no additions and very minimal sulfur use.

Guillaume Reynouard, Manoir de la Tête Rouge


According to Reynouard, “Responsible agriculture is a way of life and of thinking. When growing grapes, I aspire to act sensibly for the planet—a state of mind that develops naturally from a respectful relationship with nature. Knowing how to adapt to a changing environment requires constant questioning while the planting of forgotten varieties such as Pineau d’Aunis, the incorporation of trees into the cultivation of the vine (agroforestry) and the gradual abandonment of ‘modern’ oenology are avenues that I have followed for more than 20 years.”


Manoir de la Tête Rouge ‘l’Enchentoir’, 2018 Saumur-Puy-Notre-Dame ‘natural’ ($43)
In the sub-appellation Saumur-Puy-Notre-Dame, ‘l’Enchentoir’ is a venerable Cabernet Franc lieu-dit. Planted over Turonian limestone in 1959 using sélections massales, the pressed wine is aged in 300-liter barriques for one year plus another six months in Béton cuves (pre-cast concrete tanks). It displays depth and delicacy, showing blackberry and cherry over violets, rose petals and savory herbs.



Manoir de la Tête Rouge ‘Tête de Lard’, 2018 Saumur-Puy-Notre-Dame ($27)
100% Cabernet Franc from two parcels averaging 20 years of age, ‘Tête de Lard’—Head of Bacon’—is fermented on native yeasts and spends a year in used 300-liter barrels. The final blend is done in concrete tanks, where the wine rests for 4 months before bottling. Filled with ripe tones of blueberry and cassis with a slight vegetal edge, this is a natural wine suited for the cellar, but one that should be tasted every couple years to keep an eye on the progress.



Manoir de la Tête Rouge ‘Bagatelle’, 2020 Saumur Rouge ($21)
A bagatelle is something easy; something that requires little effort. This is not a comment on the precision that is de rigeur in Guillaume Reynouard’s winemaking, especially since the tech sheet for this wine specifies the terroir as 30% Jurassic limestone, 60% Turonian limestone and 10% silt, and the vines as being pruned in alternating Guyot-Poussard. Rather, the wine itself is created simply and naturally, macerated three weeks without yeasting, without chaptalization and without additives, then matured without sulfur. These minuses equal an ultimate plus; a pure Cabernet Franc with aromas of plum, raspberry, and cherry with notes of red pepper, spice, and graphite with silky tannins and bright acidity.


Le Sot de l’Ange (Touraine)

Although the label’s name roughly translates to ‘Idiot Angel’, winemaker Quentin Bourse is anything but. Before taking over a friend’s estate in time for the 2013 vintage, Bourse worked in various fields (some wine related; others not) including numerous internships in the surrounding area. Having learned technique from both natural and conventional producers, notably a six-month stage at the famed Vouvray producer Domaine Huet, his winemaking philosophy was shaped by philosophy and a relentless work ethic that leans toward innovation and the sort of perfectionism that is often at the root of natural wines—at least the ones that shine.

Unusual for the neighborhood, Bourse’s estate is certified biodynamic. Ranging across 30 acres, he is especially attracted to indigenous varieties that capitalize on the clay and silica soils for which the region is famous. In many of his parcels, white silex stones litter the rows making it look as if the terroir is seeping from the earth.

Quentin Bourse, Le Sot de l’Ange


He shares a cellar with old-school producer Pascal Pibaleau, where his grapes are painstakingly sorted four times before whole-cluster fermentation with indigenous yeasts in tank, and then a slow, gentle pressing that in some cases lasts five or more hours. Aging occurs either entirely in tank, neutral barriques, or amphorae depending on the cuvée, and zero sulfur is added during the winemaking process for the reds; a touch is added for the whites.


Le Sot de l’Ange ‘Karadras’, 2018 VdF Loire-Touraine Cabernet Franc ‘natural’ ($24)
‘Karadras’ is 88% Cabernet Franc and 12% Côt; the name proves to be somewhat inexplicable since it appears in different spellings on different bottlings. What remains the same is that after being manually destemmed in wicker baskets, the fruit ferments in open wooden tanks and comes out the other end with a classic profile; a bit of color from the Côt, herbaceous notes from the Cab Franc. It offers dusty plum, soil, cocoa, and brambles; the palate is lively and fresh, lifted by crunchy acidity framing the ripe high-toned blue fruits, juicy plum and earthy spices.




‘Côt by any other name would smell like Malbec.’ With apologies to the Bard, the renaissance of this dark, potent grape in the Loire sees a remarkable change in profile. In southwest France—Cahors in particular—the variety produces heavy wines that are not only amenable to long periods of aging, they virtually demand it. In the Cher Valley, in the heart of Touraine, the grape finds a kinder, gentler environment where it produces a different sort of wine; less aggressively tannic with fresh aromas of black cherry and cassis. In part, it is the climate, but the fiercer aspects Côt as they appear in Cahors’ ‘black wines’ are tempered in the field, where vines are pruned short with a vendange vert after véraison. To avoid the additional tannins of oak, most of the grapes are fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks with a few barriques blended in.


Le Sot de l’Ange ‘Le Jardin’, 2018 IGP Val-de-Loire ‘Côte’ ‘natural’ ($45)
100% Côt from an interesting lieu-dit with two distinct soil types—one section with clay and silex soils and the second with clay and limestone. The wine is vinified using whole-cluster fermentation in concrete tank; malolactic fermentation and élevage occur in terra cotta amphorae for 24 months. The wine shows aromas of freshly-picked bramble fruits, blackberry and currant, with slight Szechuan pepper notes and a touch of clove; a fresh, gripping palate.




Pineau d’Aunis

“Pineau d’Aunis is a regional grape found mostly around Anjou and Touraine in the Loire Valley,” says Arthur Hon, the U.S. spokesperson for Loire Valley Wines. “It can be used for still red, still rosé or sparkling rosé, though it’s more commonly blended and used for regional rosé.”

Named after the Prieure d’Aunis, a priory located halfway between Saumur and Champigny, d’Aunis is Loire’s birth child, and however well the adopted clan has done—Gamay, Cabernet Franc, Malbec—this grape may exemplify the terroirs of the Valley better than any. Still, it can be a problem child: Pineau d’Aunis is prone to producing irregular yields and with tightly packed bunches, it is highly susceptible to rot, including botrytis. It is also sensitive to the soil conditions it is grown in, requiring a balance of clay, sand and gravel as ideal conditions.


Manoir de la Tête Rouge ‘K’ Sa Tête’, 2020 VdF Loire-Saumur ‘Pineau d’Aunis’ Guillaume Reynouard ($27)
100% Pineau d’Aunis from the lieu-dit de l’Enchentoir where soils are treated using Maria Thun’s biodynamic advice; this includes cow-horn dung in the spring and horn silica after closure of the cluster (a somewhat exacting process that is exactly what is sounds like, using cow-horns filled with manure and/or silica). Maceration lasts 12 days in concrete tanks without yeasting, chaptalization or additives. The wine spends six months in oak barrels and bottling is done in June with 20 mg of added sulfur. This is a textbook Pineau d’Aunis with black pepper, green pepper and jalapeño on the nose with a palate that expands to include sweet, perfectly ripe blueberries.




Grolleau is the Loire Valley’s workhorse grape, used most often in the production of rosé. Although it remains one of the Loire’s most planted red-wine varieties, new plantings have dropped steadily for the last 50 years. While Grolleau is high yielding, providing a steady, reliable harvest, it poses several challenges for growers as it is susceptible to disease and not a particularly flavorful stand-alone variety. It is a dark grape on the vine, but thin-skinned, meaning that there is not much chance for color extraction, so it is rarely used to produce red wines.

Grolleau-based wines tend to be high in acid, moderate in alcohol, and may show aromas of strawberry, raspberry and cherry; as a rosé, it is reminiscent of watermelon, tangerine, rose petals and red candy.


Manoir de la Tête Rouge ‘À Tue Tête’, 2021 VdF Loire-Saumur ‘Grolleau Gris’ Guillaume Reynouard ‘natural’ ($25)
Vin de France is the most basic quality tier for wines from France, typically uncomplicated everyday drinks, likely blends, but occasionally are made from unlisted, unqualified varieties. Loosely translated to ‘loudly’, ‘À Tue Tête’ is a rare bottling from an even more rare variety, Grolleau Gris, which is a pink-skinned mutation of Grolleau. Handled with the biodynamic tool-kit, the wine shows red cherry, sandalwood and a bit of tropical fruit.


Le Sot de l’Ange ‘OG Grolleau’, 2020 IGP Val-de-Loire ‘natural’ ($39)
IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée) is a quality category used for French wine positioned between Vin de France and Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP). (The category superseded Vin de Pays in 2009.) Most significant in commercial terms is the fact that the wines may be varietals and labeled as such. ‘OG Grolleau’ comes from single parcel of old-vine Grolleau planted between 1945 and 1976; grapes are de-stemmed, given ten days of maceration, aged in amphorae and used oak barrels, then bottled without sulfur. Blueberry and violet dominate the nose while the palate resolves itself in a mineral crunchiness with beautiful acidity.




Ever since Philippe de Bourgogne cast Gamay from the bosom of Burgundy six centuries ago, the variety has been derided and even despised outside its spiritual home, Beaujolais. Folks who were soured by the sweet and fruity Nouveau cult may bring that prejudice into Touraine, but that would be a mistake: Although once in the shadow of Anjou Gamay, select vignerons in Touraine have made monster strides with Gamay over the past couple decades and these wines now edge out the Gamays of Anjou in depth and complexity. They tend to be medium-bodied with a musky tone that share center stage with aromas of fern and capers intermingled with flinty minerals and plummy notes.

Clos Roussely (Touraine)

Clos Roussely was once a lowly outbuilding of the great fortification at Angé-sur-Cher and as it happens, its five-foot-thick Tuffeau walls serve to insulate the winery as efficiently as they once held off Attila the Hun. Not only that, but the 250-year-old hand-dug caves beneath it are ideal for aging the remarkable wines of Vincent Roussely. The transition from barn to vignoble began in 1917, when Anatole Roussely became the first of four generations to dedicate his life to detail; Vincent Roussely, his great-grandson, today works this remarkable terroir—22 acres of clay and limestone peppered with pockets of silex.

“It was my childhood dream to work these soils,” says Roussely, who inherited the estate in 2001. “The terroir is ideal for Sauvignon Blanc, which makes up about 80% of our plantings, but at the heart of Roussely is a small plot of old-vine Gamay. We also have Côt (Malbec), Pineau d’Aunis and a little Cabernet Franc. We have always farmed organically, both for the health of the vines and out of social responsibility, but we were officially certified in 2007.”

Vincent Roussely, Clos Roussely


The old-school methodology runs through every aspect of the winemaking process. Grapes are hand-harvested and are subject to slow, natural fermentation in the cool catacombs; Gamay undergoes the familiar Méthode Beaujolais, partial carbonic maceration in which some whole grapes are kept intact and begin alcoholic fermentation within the confines of their skins.

Evolving from tradition to technology, Roussely continues to experiment, using concrete eggs for some of his fermentations. “Innovative adaptation means more than simply exploring new techniques,” he says. “It also involves a commitment to ecological responsibility. Right now, about 65% of Loire Valley vineyards are organic and it’s our goal to see that number at 100% by 2030.”


Clos Roussely ‘Canaille’, 2021 VdF Loire-Touraine ‘Gamay’ ($21)
‘Canaille’ is the French word for ‘scoundrel.’ 100% Gamay from vines between 25 and 50 years old grown organically on clay and limestone. Aged six months in stainless steel, the old vines add a striking depth to this exuberant Gamay, replete with notes of crushed raspberry, black cherry and nutmeg.





Domaine Marie Thibault (Touraine)

“I grew up in the Loire Valley, but unlike many vignerons working in the Loire, I did not come from a winemaking family,” says Marie Thibault, adding, “But also unlike many of them, I have degrees in both biology and oenology.”

Marie Thibault began making wine in the early 2000s, working for a time with François Chidaine in Montlouis, where she fell in love with Chenin. In 2011, she founded her own nine-acre estate on a single windy slope in Azay-le-Rideau, a lesser known commune of Touraine. She immediately converted to organics and has been certified with Ecocert since 2014. Among the natural elements in her vineyards is the flock of two dozen ewes that graze between the vine rows during the autumn; every ten days, they are penned inside a new hectare to keep the soil naturally fertile and the grass clipped.

Marie Thibault, Domaine Marie Thibault © Jean-Yves Bardin


“My vineyard is small, but the soils are extremely varied and as such, so are the grapes I grow. I work with Côt (Malbec), and have a special love for Gamay, Grolleau, Chenin and Sauvignon Blanc. Most of my vines are at least 50 years old. I compensate for small production by purchasing from organic estates nearby.”


Domaine Marie Thibault ‘Les Grandes Vignes’, 2018 VdF Loire-Touraine ‘Gamay’ ‘natural’ ($41)
Thibault’s unique lens on Gamay is seen in this example produced from 50+ year-old vines she discovered growing adjacent to her plot on flinty silex soil. The vines were untrained and un-trellised, and harvest was exceptionally labor-intensive. She allows a 10-month maceration in order to shows off the Gamay’s savory side, with crisp rhubarb, earthy red berry notes and fine-grained, well-integrated tannins showcased.



Jérémy Quastana (Touraine)

Jérémy Quastana is a young vigneron who trained under Olivier Lemasson for a few years before snagging five acres of his own near Lemasson’s main plot in the Loir-et-Cher not far from Cheverny. Prior to that, Jeremy learned the trade at Marcel Lapierre’s Beaujolais winery and did a six-month internship at Clos Ouvert in Chile.

Jérémy Quastana, photo: Alberto Rodriguez


Quastana farms a single plot composed of young-vine Gamay, middle-aged Côt and old-vine Gamay planted on a gentle slope of clay over silex. Jeremy has not applied for AOP recognition, since—like many natural winemakers—he knows the challenge of following commission rules. His wines are unembellished—fresh, pure juice that may serve as a perfect aperitif on a warm day, but which always qualify as a serious approach to winemaking the natural way.



Syrah, in France most often associated with the sultry climes of the Northern and Southern Rhône; Côte Rôtie means ‘roasted slope’ to give an indication of how hot this area gets. In Hermitage, the grape produces prestigious wines packed with sun-ripened fruit flavors and lots of potential for aging—these wines are deep, black, tannic and powerful wines.

In the Loire, it is not widely planted, but when vinified using the carbonic maceration technique of Beaujolais, it produces a similar sort of fruity, wonderful concoction that shows off a more delicate side.


Jérémy Quastana ‘Syrah’, 2021 VdF Loire-Touraine ‘natural’ ($30)
Some mystery surrounds the origin of these grapes since the Quastanas will purchase grapes on occasion. Wherever this Syrah originated, it is unique interpretation, filled with wild strawberries, white pepper and a pleasant grassiness behind sparks of acidity. Tannins are subdued, and this is an immediate wine that is best consumed young.




Notebook …

The Gesture of Being ‘Natural’: Wine in The ‘Raw’

In wine, ‘natural’ is a concept before it’s a style. It refers to a philosophy; an attitude. It may involve a regimen of rituals or it may be as simple as a gesture, but the goal, in nearly every case, is the purest expression of fruit that a winemaker, working within a given vineyard, can fashion. Not all natural wines are created equal, and some are clearly better than others, but of course, neither is every estate the same, nor every soil type, nor each individual vigneron’s ideology.

The theory is sound: To reveal the most honest nuances in a grape’s nature, especially when reared in a specific environment, the less intervention used, the better. If flaws arise in the final product—off-flavors, rogue, or ‘stuck’ fermentation (when nature takes its course), it may often be laid at the door of inexperience. Natural wine purists often claim that this technique is ancient and that making wine without preservatives is the historical precedent. That’s not entirely true, of course; using sulfites to kill bacteria or errant yeast strains dates to the 8th century BCE. What is fact, however, is that some ‘natural’ wines are wonderful and others are not, and that the most successful arise from an overall organoleptic perspective may be those better called ‘low-intervention’ wine, or ‘raw’ wine—terminology now adopted by many vignerons and sommeliers.

At its most dogmatic and (arguably) most OCD, natural wines come from vineyards not sprayed with pesticides or herbicides, where the grapes are picked by hand and fermented with native yeast; they are fined via gravity and use no additives to preserve or shore up flavor, including sugar and sulfites. Winemakers who prefer to eliminate the very real risk of contaminating an entire harvest may use small amounts of sulfites to preserve and stabilize (10 to 35 parts per million) and in natural wine circles, this is generally considered an acceptable amount, especially if the estate maintains a biodynamic approach to vineyard management.

In all things wine, ‘balance’ is a key to the kingdom; it is a term interchangeable with harmony, and may reference acid, alcohol level, grape sugars and tannin, but also, to a scale in which the long-term health of the product is considered along with the flavors inherent on release. More than just a current radar blip in trendy social capital a naturalistic approach to winemaking is not only more honest, but better for a sustainable environment: It’s a nod to the past and a gesture to the future.

VdF & IGP Designations: Forgoing Restrictions

Wines in France are classified into one of three categories: AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protegée, formerly AOC), IGP (formerly Vin de Pays) and Vin de France. AOP wines are identified only by the names of their appellations, usually without varietal descriptions; the next level, IGP, comes from broader regions, and may be identified by varietal names; and the lowest level has no indication of origin at all.

Vin de France is a catch-all. Produced often at high yields, most Vins de France are low-priced, but hidden within them are top wines, pushed out of the appellation system, that can be every bit as good as the best in the AOP. They can be hard to identify, because origins aren’t obvious – many indicate only the names of producer and cuvée – and while they may seem expensive for this lowly category, they can offer remarkable interest. With only a few high-flying Vins de France, this is a small class, but it’s well worth investigating.



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Posted on 2023.05.02 in Saumur-Champigny, Tooraine, Anjou, France, Wine-Aid Packages, Loire  |  Read more...



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