Domaine Mas Champart “Causse de Bousquet” (Saint-Chinian 2015)
Special 6-Pack Price: $135 (~$22/bottle)
Back in 1976, Isabelle Champart, a Parisian with a degree in Geography, and her husband Mathieu, from a family of farmers in Champagne, began cultivating vines on a humble 20 acre farmstead. For close to twelve years they sold their grapes to the local cooperative but once they decided to bottle under their own label of Domaine Mas Champart they gained almost instant acclaim. Since then, they’ve acquired another 40 acres planted with vines, orchards, and arable crops. Mathieu tends to the vines, Isabelle makes the wines, and this small slice of the Languedoc is their life. Once, when asked by a visitor if they had children, Isabelle swept her hand across the outside of their winery and answered immediately, “Look around. This is my child.”
The place is Saint-Chinian: A gusty, drought-ridden expanse clambering up out of the Languedoc Plain, with Mount Caroux and Mount Espinouse furnishing a picturesque backdrop. It’s there on the southern slopes of clay and limestone that Isabelle and Mathieu are creating singular and impressive wines in this ancient region that has seen a tremendous surge in quality over the past couple of decades. From the beginning the Champarts have employed sustainable and organic techniques in their farming, reflecting their desire to protect and preserve the environment.
“Causse de Bousquet” is a blend of 60% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre, and 10% Carignan from a number of plots on different terroirs to provide the aromatic complexity and originality that the Champart’s are looking for in this, what you might call their flagship wine. It owes its name to the main terroir from which it comes: “Le Bousquet” is a broad limestone plateau at close to 1,000 feet in elevation where the hard rock extends through to the surface. The stony and warm, well-drained soils here produce aromatic, fleshy wines and are where the Grenache and most of the Syrah vines are planted. A small proportion of Syrah and the Mourvèdre come from more clay-based soils where vines ripen later and provide structure to the blend.
Matured by two years of aging in both vat and barrel, the 2015 “Causse de Bousquet” is a concentrated and sunny vintage expression. The aromatics of red cherry licorice and herb-dusted stone hover above the slightest hint of grilled meat. A mouth-filling sip bellows of ripeness yet the wine never turns flabby. Indeed the lengthy finish seems to release energy as it remains. For those of us on a budget that want to enhance a cellar with a wine capable of short to medium term development, this is clearly a great buy. For pairing ideas, we can attest to the sweet ripe fruit of this wine being a handsome partner to the mild heat of Ribeye Steak con Rajas of Southwest Detroit’s El Asador.
“Clos de la Simonette” (Saint-Chinian 2015)
Special 6-Pack Price: $194 (~$32/bottle)
Absurdly low-yield blend of 65% Mourvèdre, 20% Grenache and 15% Carignan from multiple plots. The Mourvèdre is planted 750 feet above sea level on steep hillside terraces that are particularly well exposed. Many of the rows contain robust vines from Bandol. The Grenache comes from the wines’ namesake plot, the stony and well-drained “Clos de la Simonette” that is surrounded by dry-stone walls. The plot containing the Carignan has soils similar to “Simonette” but there the vines are 70 and 100 years old. The wine was aged in demi-muids after a long maceration and bottled unfiltered in September of 2017. Though this wine is easy to appreciate now for its rich and inky complexity, it ages extremely well and really shines after some decanting. It was just a couple of years ago that we finished our last bottle of the 2001 vintage and it was absolutely singing at the time. Only 4,000 bottles produced.
Domaine François Lumpp “A Vigne Rouge” (Givry Premier Cru, 2015)
Special 6-Pack Price: $297 (~$49/bottle)
For close to 30 years François Lumpp and his wife Isabelle have been leaders in the Côte Chalonnaise region of Givry, illustrating how meticulous attention to producing the highest quality fruit can create wines that rival some of the finest in the Côte de Beaune. Using cuttings of older bud wood (sélection massale) François developed his domaine around Givry’s best Premier Cru sites, emerging as a benchmark producer for this small region where quality aspirations are modest but can sometimes be memorably achieved.
Viticulture on this small domaine is always done manually with no use of synthetic products. Hand harvesting and sorting is done to ensure selection of the most quality fruit. Work in the cellar reflects the work in the vineyards. From vine cloning to bottling, everything at Domaine François Lumpp is done in order for the terroir of Givry to express itself. Aging takes place in oak barrels ranging from new to third-use for about a year. The wines are then bottled with respect to the lunar calendar.
The best examples of Givry can have substantial structure, depth, and complexity and can be expected to develop nicely in a proper cellar. The Premier Cru “A Vigne Rouge,” from a six acre plot of Oxfordian superior Nantoux limestone benches separated by thin marl on an ideally exposed and well-drained mid-slope, is clearly one of these. Notably ripe yet extraordinarily fresh, a glass emanates with aromas of crunchy cranberry, redcurrant, and an earthy spice.
In an interview with Allen Meadows, François describes the 2015 vintage as “an extremely hot yet somewhat curious vintage in that it’s one that could make you think that the wines lack acidity or would be top heavy but they’re not at all. I believe the reason is that while it was certainly hot, temperatures never got too hot for too long. Moreover, even though there was very little malic acidity there was almost as much tartaric as we had in 2014, which nobody describes as being too ripe or lacking acidity. As usual, it isn’t the technical figures of alcohol and acidity that really count as the most important criterion is how the wines taste. This is why the vintage is somewhat curious because the 2015s are so fresh that it’s almost difficult to reconcile the growing season conditions and supposedly less than ideal acidities with how vibrant the wines taste. We chose to begin picking on the 31st of Augustand brought in a super clean and reasonably abundant crop of around 40 hl/ha in pinot that averaged right at 13.5% in terms of potential alcohols. The fruit, in both chardonnay and pinot, had very thick skins and this imparted plenty of concentration and you can easily taste it as both the reds and whites have dense textures. The whites should be accessible young and while the reds should also be approachable young they should also age very well for those who wish to hold them.”
“Crausot” (Givry Premier Cru, 2015) Red
Special 6-Pack Price: $297 (~$49/bottle)
From a 2.2 acre plot of 25-year-old Pinot Noir vines growing out of Oxfordian Nantoux limestone, fine marl and clay. The vines see ideal southern sun exposure at 905 feet above sea level. Rich, hearty, and intense, this is a broad-shouldered wine with plenty of power beneath nuanced fragrance.
“Crausot” (Givry Premier Cru, 2015) White
Special 6-Pack Price: $297 (~$49/bottle)
From a 1.5 acre plot of 25-year-old Chardonnay vines growing out of Bathonian, Oolitic, and Sublithographic limestone, and clay. The vines see southeastern sun exposure at 932 feet above sea level. Orchard fruits give way to citrus and flowers. Ripe, fresh, and elegant with loads of complexity and a lengthy finish.
“Clos des Vignes Rondes” (Givry 2015) White
Special 6-Pack Price: $248 (~$41/bottle)
From a 1.4 acre plot of 35-year-old Chardonnay vines growing out of Bathonian, Oolitic, and Sublithographic limestone, and clay. The vines see southeastern sun exposure at 1148 feet above sea level. Given the slightly higher elevation it makes sense that green apple shows a bit more dominant among the lemon and floral aspects. Lovely mineral finish.
Stop by any time between now and Valentine’s Day to taste a Champagne ideal for sharing with your sweetheart or anyone that just loves good wine. Pickup a bottle or two at special discount prices.
The Grower/Producer Champagne Goutorbe-Bouillot is a small estate located in the village of Damery just west of the Premier Cru of Dizy. Their 20 acres are spread over 30 parcels in the Vallée de la Marne where the grape variety of Pinot Meunier is the traditional dominant vine. The average age of the vineyard parcels is around 35 years, though some parcels are almost a century old.
Pinot Meunier has a reputation as being Champagne’s workhorse grape, it is widely used in non-vintage blends because its fruitiness and early development help soften the wines and make them more approachable when young. But many of the growers that focus on the quality of fruit before any thoughts of cellar work are able to produce Champagne of great distinction with Pinot Meunier as the base. Goutorbe-Bouillot is clearly one of them.
~$44 Champagne Goutorbe-Bouillot “Carte d’Or”
Cuvée “Carte d’Or” is a non-vintage blend of 60% Pinot Meunier, 20% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay. The reserve portion is about half of the blend and comes from a solera system started in 1980. To add a precision to its vibe of creamy and delicate orchard fruits the wine does not undergo malolactic fermentation. “Carte d’Or” spends three years on the lees before disgorgement and has a dosage of eight grams per liter. It is a seriously crowd-pleasing bottle of bubbles.
~$58 Champagne Goutorbe-Bouillot “Rosé”
Goutorbe-Bouillot “Rosé” is a similar blend to the “Carte d’Or” but gets its deep sunset hue and marked dark fruit energy from the addition of about six to eight percent of red wine made from Pinot Meunier. The Pinot Meunier portion of the wine comes from vines of 60 years in age, adding concentration and complexity. Goutorbe-Bouillot “Rosé” also does not go through malolactic fermentation and has a slightly smaller dosage of seven grams per liter. It’s voluptuous with a monumental finish. Only about 3,500 bottles are produced each year.
$153 Champagne Goutorbe-Bouillot “Clos des Monnaies” 2010
The Clos des Monnaies was first planted by Jules Goutorbe in 1930 and is one of only a score of walled vineyards in Champagne. It is just a little over a half acre in size and was named for the Roman coins found on the site. A blend of 50% Pinot Meunier and 50% Chardonnay, fermentation and aging takes place in neutral oak barrels and after 50 months on the lees, the wine is disgorged and rests for a year in bottle before release. A dosage of four grams per liter brings this wine into the Extra-Brut classification. All the freshness and energy are there coupled with a rich and round palate beneath a market Sunday of complex aromatics. Just 1282 bottles of the 2010 vintage were produced.
Silvio Giamello “Vicenziana” (Barbaresco 2014)
Special 6-Pack Price: $194 (~$32/bottle)
Value is so much more than price.
What makes a Nebbiolo-based wine from Italy’s Barbaresco region so special? It’s a tale of a grape variety wholly adapted to the specific soils and climate of the region. No other wine is so pale red with a slight bricking on the edges even when relatively young. No other wine has that specific, intoxicating aromatic blend of dried rose, cherry licorice, and warm slate coupled with a palate that is both structured and delicate. To have access to such a singular and thrilling wine is proof enough that there is some order to the universe and a value proposition in and of itself. For this wine to be just over $30 is a downright marvel.
From a tiny plot of 40-50 year old vines on less than five acres, Silvio Giamello is crafting a classic, old-school Nebbiolo. With elegance, complexity, and a lengthy finish, this is showcase “feminine” Piedmont Nebbiolo when compared to some of the bruisers of Barolo. If you’ve never heard of Silvio Giamello, it’s most likely because he has no interest in self promotion and makes very little wine – 5,000 bottles of Barbaresco in a highly productive year.
The Giamello estate lies in the northernmost part of Barbaresco in Ovello, one of the famed Barbaresco crus. The lieu-dit Vicenziana started out as the Giamello family farm that included small parcels of vines, grain, forest, and pastures where their animals grazed. These clay soils with lime-rich marl produced such quality wine that eventually much of the estate was wisely replanted to vines. Yet even with this prime terroir the family still sold most of the fruit to Langhe négociants. It wasn’t until the 1990s that fourth generation winemaker Silvio decided to bottle the estate’s wines for more than just the family’s consumption.
Today Silvio Giamello and his wife Marina Camia run the estate very traditionally. All work in the vineyard is natural and chemical-free and the wines are vinified using natural yeast. Vicenziana Barbaresco is fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks and then aged in 2,000-3,000 liter, Slavonian oak botti for two to three years. While this wine drinks well now, it does have the potential to develop in a proper cellar for another five to ten years.
Modern Rioja’s storied history began in the mid-1800s when local winemakers adopted the methods of Bordeaux and began aging their wines in wooden casks. Since then, the region has tended to spotlight the amount of time the wine spent in oak barrels, effectively putting a supporting actor in the leading role. But as Nobel Prize winning poet Bob Dylan often says, the times they are a-changin’. In June of 2017 The Consejo Regulador in Rioja announced the introduction of a “Singular Vineyard” designation to be known as Viñedos Singulares. Soon the quality of Rioja wine can be linked to a specific terroir.
In practice, these “Singular Vineyards” are nothing new for brothers Arturo and Kike de Miguel Blanco, third generation viticulturalists that produce wine for Artuke Bodegas y Viñedos. These two young men have completely refocused the family winery to cultivate small vineyard plots in and around their village of Abalos in the high elevation foothills of the Cantabrian Mountains. Yet they currently have no plans to adopt the new labeling to their own wines, believing that the laws were thrown together too hastily, without enough study of the soils and history of the land.
Although the brothers are already working somewhat outside the established regulations of Rioja, their wines clearly reveal the characteristics of the Alavesa sub-zone, the northernmost and smallest of the three Rioja sub-zones, where the cooling influence of the Atlantic Ocean meets the warmer interior. This unique climate has the effect of ripening Tempranillo grapes with slightly thinner skins, yielding wines with superb fruit and freshness.
“Finca de los Locos” (Rioja, 2015)
Special 6-Pack Price: $194 (~$32/bottle)
Arturo and Kike’s grandfather was regarded as crazy (loco) for purchasing this single vineyard located on a high terrace around 1,600 feet in elevation overlooking the Ebro river in Baños de Ebro. The plot consists of nearly 40-year-old vines growing in a sandy, gritty soil over a chalky limestone subsoil. A blend of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Graciano that is aged for 13 months in both 500 and 3500 liter French oak barrels, this wine shows it’s Atlantic climate mainly on the palate as ripe red fruit immediately turns crunchy to lead into a lengthy mineral finish. Aromatically complex, a noseful is rewarded with plums, minty herbs, dark chocolate, baked earth, and cherry blossoms. You could do worse things than pairing “Finca de los Locos” with some fatty red lamb chops.
“La Condenada” (Rioja, 2015)
Special 6-Pack Price: $405 (~$67/bottle) only 24 bottles available
From a single plot of sandy soil with a substrata of sandstone planted in 1920. The Blanco family purchased this nearly abandoned vineyard in 2012 and began to tend the majority of Tempranillo along with around 20% of other grapes, both red and white, including Graciano and Calagrano. All grapes are harvested and fermented together, and then matured in a 600-liter oak barrel for 14 months. The result is a wine that is concentrated and silky and brimming with a potpourri of heady aromatics.
“Artuke” (Rioja, 2016)
Special 6-Pack Price: $86 (~$14/bottle)
“Artuke” is made with the carbonic maceration method, a wine-making technique used to enhance aromatics and produce light, fresh, fruity wines preferred by Basques in the northern sub-zone of Alavesa. It is a blend of mainly Tempranillo grapes, fermented and aged in cement and stainless steel. Candied red berries follow behind a burst of violets and cinnamon on the nose. There is minimal tannic structure which allows this red wine to take a relatively deep chill and also makes it quite a versatile pairing with food: tuna, pretty much anything made with zucchini, fried chicken, gooey cheese sandwiches, pizza, etc…
“Pies Negros” (Rioja, 2015)
Special 6-Pack Price: $130 (~$22/bottle)
A blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano from vines as old as 95 years, Pies Negros means Black Feet, a reference to the archaic method of crushing the grapes using one’s feet – a technique that the brothers are determined to use to this day, as they believe the gentle crushing helps to maintain the purity of the fruit. After fermentation, the wine is aged for 14 months in a combination of new and older 225 liter oak barrels, resulting in a wine that’s full of mature, dark red fruits and a touch of spice with a firm finish.