Wine Offerings

Côte des Bar for the Course: Champagne Fleury, an Ecological Pioneer, Has Never Stopped Innovating; Exploring Heirloom Grape Varieties – New Releases: Nine Cuvées

The Season of Sparkles is upon us, and as has become our holiday tradition at Elie’s, this year we will showcase the wines of a favorite grower/producer. Jean-Sébastien Fleury of Champagne Fleury is an innovative young winemaker who uses the subtle alchemy of art and technique to highlight the unique terroirs in Champagne’s up-and-coming ‘Deep South’, the Côte des Bar.

In addition to pioneering ‘vines-to-wines’ biodynamics, Domaine Fleury has shaped a rigorous blending process that creates synergies from different grape varieties (some heirloom) and 40 plots in some of the lesser known terroirs of Champagne. Along with his brother Benoît and sister Morgane, Jean-Sébastien is rising to the challenges of a changing climate and an evolving market by breathing new life into old traditions.

South Rising: Aube’s Côte des Bar

There is a certain ignominy in being Aube. Ninety miles south of Épernay, there have been times when its very inclusion in the Champagne appellation has been cast into doubt: In 1908, for example, Champagne Viticole was defined as 37,000 acres in the Marne and the Aisne, with the Aube département excluded. The effervescent French do not take such face-slaps lightly, and after a series of riots, a new legal delimitation of Champagne was drawn in 1927, delineating its modern boundaries—85,000 acres that this time included the Aube and its most heralded subzone, the Côte des Bar.

Even so, the échelles des crus ranking offered none of Aube’s villages the prestige of Grand Cru or Premier Cru ranking. This didn’t help in removing the stigma of being Champagne’s Pluto, and it has only been fairly recently that progressive—even iconoclastic winemakers— have thrust the region into the spotlight. Today, the Côte des Bar makes up 23% of Champagne’s output, and the past 20 years have seen its vineyard surface grow by more than three thousand acres.


Champagne Fleury

“Let Nature and Its Rhythms Express Themselves.”

If any estate is anchored to the Côte des Bar it is Champagne Fleury, whose Courteron vineyards span 38 acres on a clay-limestone hillside along a tributary of the Seine. But, as the first Champagne house to convert to biodynamics (1989), Jean-Pierre Fleury proved that a producer can have roots in the earth while raising the mainsail to innovation.

Today, his son Jean-Sébastien Fleury has taken the winemaking rudder, and is tacking toward the future with respect for the unique situation of the Côte des Bar, which is closer to Chablis than to Reims. “The key is soil health,” he says. “We must keep the earth healthy. The structure of the soil gives back the essence of the terroir.”

In this endeavor, he is joined by his younger brother Benoît, who came on board in 2010 to manage the vineyards, intent not only on maintaining biodynamics, but also researching soil biology, biodiversity and experimenting with agro-forestry. A third sibling, Morgane, initially studied to be an actress and a sommelier in Suze-la-Rousse, runs ‘My Cave Fleury’ in Les Halles (made famous by Émile Zola’s famous novel of the same name) where she specializes in biodynamic wines.

The estate encompasses ten plots planted primarily to Pinot Noir, the oldest planted in 1970, and new cuttings are established every year to maintain the vitality that younger vines bring to Champagne. The ultimate goal, according to Jean-Sébastien is a wish “to let the nature and its rhythms express themselves.”

Appreciate the Balance and Share the Mysteries of Nature

The Japanese have long espoused a mystical connection between the earth and sky; a spectacle of nature and the subtle balance that prevails between tradition and modernity. That is a philosophy that winemaker Jean-Sébastien Fleury grew up with. His father, Jean-Pierre, who originally wanted to be an astronomer, embraced the concept that every human on earth has a small but essential role in maintaining the harmony of the universe, and fell in love with cultures founded on principles of equity, between people and with the land, and decided early to raise his family in physical and spiritual health.

Champagne is especially suited to this thought process; at its core, it is an attempt to find a nearly magical equilibrium between nature and man’s ability to enhance it. An understanding of the microcosm and the macrocosm is essential to a biodynamic vision, and as an homage to the interdependence of earth and sky, Fleury vineyard practices seemed—in the last century—as almost druidic, although they are now being embraced throughout France.

Enhancing and Understanding Terroir’s Character

Reims lies at Latitude 49°5, and Épernay at 49°; in the northern hemisphere, it is generally considered difficult to obtain quality grapes at the 50th parallel and above. The ninety mile cushion enjoyed by Côte des Bar has a pronounced effect on the grower’s ability to ripen Pinot Noir; as a result, 86% of the vineyards are planted to this varietal. Despite this, the soils of the Côte des Bar is closer to that of Chablis—Kimmeridgian marl topped by Portlandian limestone, whereas the vines near Épernay and Reims tend to be planted in Cretaceous chalk. Chablis, of course, is ground zero for Chardonnay, and it is humidity coming from the Atlantic in the west as well as continental influences with higher temperatures that make the Côte des Bar Pinot Noir country through and through. That said, local climate conditions, slope and orientation are extremely varied throughout region, and produces many individual micro-climates, so each vigneron needs to be fully attentive to his own terroir in order to make the most of it. Côte des Bar features a host of small producers whose output varies almost as much as the local landscape.

The Biodynamic Principles: Respecting Earth’s Life Forces

The Fleury family looks at the estate as a living organism and pampers it as one might a beloved family pet. “We have been cultivating our land in line with its habitat for more than thirty years, acknowledging nature’s rhythms and the influence of terrestrial and cosmic forces. At first, this agricultural principle may seem demanding and esoteric, but it is truly a virtuous circle. We envision wine as a support of nature’s creation that undeniably enhances the product we bottle. All wines are labeled ‘Organic Agriculture TM’ and ‘Biodynamic.’”

Fleury delves deeper: “A vineyard is a monoculture, so our work is directed toward increasing biodiversity. Our viticultural work is focused on both the soil and the plant. Cultivation is done by hand in addition to the application of biodynamic preparations. Vine work is synchronized with planetary and lunar cycles; this is based on the effects these heavenly bodies have on root, leaf, flower and fruit development. For example, vine suckering, de-leafing and de-budding is done on ‘leaf day’ in the lunar calendar. The grafts and harvest is done in accordance with the lunar spring, when the moon is rising, a time that favors heavy sap flow. The lunar fall, when the moon is descending, is the best time for pruning.”

Vinification at the Winery: Producing Earth’s Best

“Our slow aging process is a symbolic return to the earth,” says Jean-Sébastien Fleury, referencing the biodynamic methods that result in wines with an improved balance between sweetness and acidity compared to other wines. “In our Domain, these characteristics allow us to leave the bottles to age in our cellar for a longer time of 3 to 5 years for the Blanc de Noirs, Fleur de l’Europe and Rosé, and 6 to 10 years for the Millésimes. This slow aging process that is an essential step before revealing the wine during the tasting. Aging before beginning a new life symbolizes another cycle of nature and of the cosmos.”


Champagne’s Three Primary Grapes

The vast majority of Champagne is made from one or more of the Big Three, chosen in late 19th century as grape varieties that offer the best balance of sugar and acidity to complement the effervescence. First, Pinot Noir, which dominates the holdings in the Côte des Bar, where it is sometimes called Précoce, as it ripens early. When allowed to thrive in cool, chalky soil, Pinot Noir endows Champagne with body, punch and structure. Chardonnay is also an early ripening variety, particularly well-suited to terroirs which lie on an outcrop of chalk, and yields delicately fragrant wines with floral, citrus and mineral notes and produces wines that age well. The trio is rounded out by Meunier, a hardy grape that is compatible with soils containing more clay, such as in the Marne Valley, where it is frequently considered an insurance grape against poor vintages since it buds later and is more accepting of cooler mesoclimates.

In Pinot Noir Country: Taking Cues from Burgundy

So obsessed was the Aube on becoming part of Champagne that they fought back; 40,000 French soldiers were required to quell the violence. Still, like a child who denies his roots, the flavors of Burgundy can be tasted in most aspect of the region—traditions, architecture, cuisine and winemaking.

Most growers in Aube’s vineyard acres trained in Burgundy, and the luxurious Champagnes the region is capable of carry both the precision and minerality of Kimmeridgian limestone—often so close to the surface that no soil is evident and the vines appear to be planted in lunar bedrock—which is the identical foundation for the Grand and Premier Crus of Chablis. Puligny-Montrachet barrels are often used in cellars and biodynamics—much more prevalent in Burgundy than in Champagne—are becoming increasing indispensable to young winemakers in the Côte des Bar. It is, in part, this tension—the tug of war between Champagne and Burgundy—that creates the marvelous electricity of Côte des Bar wines.


“Planet Pinot Noir”

Champagne Fleury ‘Blanc de Noirs’, Côte des Bar Brut ($54)

Fleury’s 100% Pinot Noir Champagne is a blend of 75% vintage 2017 with reserve wine from the Fleury ‘solera’, wherein each new vintage is added to the wooden casks to create a perpetual reserve. This cuvée then ages four years on sur lattes. The wine receives a dosage of 4.9 grams per liter.

Elegant, bone dry and fresh, it offers up classic notes of white peach and iris.

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“Notes of Twilight”

Champagne Fleury ‘Boléro’, 2008 Côte des Bar Extra-Brut ($130)

Once called ‘Millésimé’, this vintage Champagne originally contained Chardonnay; in 2004, the decision was to change both the name and the content—it is now 100% Pinot Noir made from 25-year-old vines and receives no dosage.

The brainchild of Benoît Fleury, ‘Boléro’ is drawn from four plots—Charme de Fin, Champraux, Meam Bauché and Montégné. It exhibits complex scents of toasted almond, apricot and freshly-baked bread followed by a lengthy, mineral-driven finish.

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“When Mars and Venus Meet”

Champagne Fleury ‘Rosé de Saignée’, Côte des Bar Brut ($74)

The grapes see a short period of maceration before pressing. This method of production is the saignée, or bleeding, that produces a light, lyrical sparkling wine whose dosage has been gradually reduced over the years; it now stands at 2 grams per liter. The wine is 100% Pinot Noir from the 2017 harvest, from vines with an average age of 30 years.

The wine is redolent of strawberry compote and vanilla, with a rich palate that maintains both elegance and delicacy.

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“The Sun and the Moon on a Date”

Champagne Fleury ‘Fleur de l’Europe’, Côte des Bar Brut Nature ($59)

The first biodynamic cuvée in Champagne, the name references the Europe that witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall. The wine is made from 85% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay; 58% is vintage 2015, the rest a blend from the solera casks. Dosage is zero.

The wine displays silken notes of green apple and peach with warm brioche on the nose and persistent pinpoint bubbles throughout the palate.

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“Cosmic Symphony”

Champagne Fleury ‘Millésime’, 2010 Côte des Bar Extra Brut ($110)

Using a traditional Coquard press and drawing fruit from vines over 30 years old, this blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay is vinified 60% in stainless steel and 40% in oak barrels. 4 grams per liter of residual sugar is allowed.

The wine has a honey-nut nose and rich, spicy palate with hints of smoke behind citrus/apple flavors

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“Little Music of Time and Space”

Champagne Fleury ‘Sonate’, 2012 Côte des Bar Extra-Brut ‘Natural’ ($99)

A rather classic blend of 78% Pinot Noir and 22% Chardonnay, ‘Sonate’ is the fourth edition of sulfite-free wine. From plots in Champraux, Valprune and Charme de Fin, the vines average 35 years of age and dosage is zero.

The wine is loaded with aromatic richness, opening with aromas of acacia, daffodil and citrus peel behind ripe peach and a characteristic note of quince jelly.

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“Rainbow White”

Champagne Fleury ‘Cépages Blancs’, 2011 Côte des Bar Extra-Brut ($110)

100% Chardonnay, the vineyards blended to make this wine are planted in Kimmeridgian limestone in the lieux-dits of Champraux and Valprune old vines. The wine is made from the 2011 vintage and has 2 grams per liter residual sugar.

Displaying superb dried fruits aromas with licorice and praline, the wine is redolent of almonds, peach and white flowers

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Heirloom Varieties

In terms of climate and attitude, no place in Champagne is more hospitable to heirloom grapes that the Côte des Bar; overall, more than 250 acres of vineyard is dedicated to Pinot Blanc (locally called Blanc Vrai), Pinot Gris (Fromenteau), Arbane and Petit Meslier.

“Return From Eclipse”

Champagne Fleury ‘Variation’, 2015 Côte des Bar Brut Nature ‘Natural’ ($130)

Planted in 2010, harvested in 2015, this wine is made without sulfites and after five years aging, receives zero dosage. It is the second release of this unique biodynamic Pinot Blanc. The mouth is rich and alive with a bright mousse, shows apple notes, bright stone fruit, soft spice and salinity.

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The Champagne Society: December 2022 Selection

“Memory of a Star”

Champagne Fleury ‘Notes Blanches’, 2015 Côte des Bar Brut Nature (Sold Out)

Emile Fleury, who founded the domain, was a champion of Pinot Blanc—a well-known varietal in Alsace and a hidden gem in Champagne. Morgane Fleury’s vision of creating a monovarietal cuvée using 100% Pinot Blanc is a rare and expressive experience.

Made from 25-year-old vines, ‘Notes Blanches’ is from the 2015 vintage; it shows creamy lemon and toasted bread on the nose. The palate is filled with tension and elegance, with a fine mousse and mineral finish.

*click on image for more info

 


Join The Champagne Society 

As a member of The Champagne Society, you’re in a select community of like-minded folks who appreciate the exceptional in life and recognize that sparkling wine is a superlative among man’s culinary creations. A bottle of Champagne is selected for you bimonthly. You will be drinking some of the best Champagne ever produced.

Click here

 


VINTAGE JOURNAL

Single Harvest

In France, under Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) rules, vintage Champagnes must be aged for three years—more than twice the required aging time for NV Champagne. The additional years on the yeast is said to add complexity and texture to the finished wine, and the price commanded by Vintage Champagne may in part be accounted for by the cellar space the wine takes up while aging.

On the other hand, a Champagne maker might prefer to release wine from a single vintage without the aging requirement; the freshness inherent in non-vintage Champagnes is one of its effervescent highlights. In this case, the wine label may announce the year, but the Champagne itself is referred to as ‘Single Harvest’ rather than ‘Vintage’.

2015

A wet winter and mild spring gave way to an exceptionally dry summer from mid-May onwards, and hot weather prevailed until mid-August, when heavy rains fell. Rains gave way to fine, cool, yet sunny weather for the first two weeks of harvest, which began on August 29th.

2012

Like 2008, 2012 was a difficult growing season, with severe frosts in the winter. March brought warmth but early bud break made the vines vulnerable. Overall, the early growing season was wet, with mildew a serious issue, however, conditions improved dramatically in the summer months. An August heatwave resulted in a rapid accumulation of sugar, but the nights remained cool, which preserved acidity. Although yields were low due to the early frost, later hail and disease pressures, the 2012 harvest was exemplary in its maturity, acidity and grape health.

2011

Following a warm, early spring and a cool, damp summer season, 2011 was one of the earliest Champagne harvests in history. Patience and fierce selection at harvest time turned out to be the winning recipe.

2010

Dry conditions hindered grape development early in the season, and after a hot summer, torrential rain in mid-August caused widespread disease pressure. The ripeness of the grapes was good and the acidity remained high despite the warm season, but as a combined consequence of the challenges of the growing season, the global financial crisis and the cellars bursting with fine 2008 and 2009 vintage bottles, few houses declared 2010 a vintage. The ones who did, did so so for a reason.

2008

Initially a difficult, damp year with widespread mildew, expectations for 2008 were low. However, drier conditions in August and a fine, warm September with cool nighttime temperatures proved to be the saving grace. Harvest began on September 15th and it quickly became known as an outstanding year, due to the finesse brought about by the fine, saline freshness and purity of fruit. A dream-come true vintage in many aspects, 2008


Notebook …

Drawing the Boundaries of the Champagne Region

To be Champagne is to be an aristocrat. Your origins may be humble and your feet may be in the dirt; your hands are scarred from pruning and your back aches from moving barrels. But your head is always in the stars.

As such, the struggle to preserve its identity has been at the heart of Champagne’s self-confidence. Although the Champagne controlled designation of origin (AOC) wasn’t recognized until 1936, defense of the designation by its producers goes back much further. Since the first bubble burst in the first glass of sparkling wine in Hautvillers Abbey, producers in Champagne have maintained that their terroirs are unique to the region and any other wine that bears the name is a pretender to their effervescent throne.

The INAO defines the concept like this: “An AOP area is born of an alliance between the natural environment and human ingenuity. From that alliance comes an AOP product with unique, inimitable characteristics, a product so different that it complements rather than competes with other products, possessing a particular identity that adds further value.”

In 1927, the viticultural boundaries of Champagne were legally defined and split into five wine-producing districts: The Aube, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims, and Vallée de la Marne. The CIVC (Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne), formed in 1941, decreed that everyone who wanted to plant vines and grow grapes to be used in the creation of Champagne had to be registered, and if you didn’t register back then, there is no out, even now. Originally, grape growing was not a profitable business and was an afterthought meant to utilize chalky slopes where grain would not grow. As a result, many farmers at that time did not register, and today, a tour along the Route Touristique de Champagne, you’ll come across unregistered fields that lie fallow between two registered vineyards.

…Yet another reason why this tiny slice of northern France, a mere 132 square miles, remains both elite and precious.

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Posted on 2022.12.01 in France, Champagne  |  Read more...

 

Que Será, Syrah in Northern Rhône by Johann Michel in Cornas & Saint-Joseph (4-Bottle Pack $299) + Southern Rhône’s Grenache in Châteauneuf-du-Pape by Grenachiste Isabel Ferrando (4-Bottle Pack, $324)

The faces of Rhône wear many expressions, and no one makes a firmer imprint on the senses than the two dynamic winemakers represented in this week’s North/South Rhône package. Though frequently conflated under an all-encompassing carpet of ‘Rhône wines’, in terms of climate, soil structure, elevation, grape varieties and overall attitude, these two regions couldn’t be more different. Whereas Northern Rhône’s steeply terraced hillsides and granite soils can only produce a handful of varieties (mainly Syrah and Viognier), Southern Rhône—being flatter and subject to milder winters, hotter summers that are often influenced by Mistral winds—is the home of some of the most complex grape blends in winedom.

There is no better path to discovering both sides of the coin than sampling two of the most intriguing winemakers in Rhône: Johann Michel in the North and Isabel Ferrando in the South. Both are representative and neither are ‘typical’; both are as iconic as they are iconoclastic. Pick your favorite or love them both equally, as we do.


Northern Rhône Vineyards: Etched into the Mountain

The vineyards of Northern Rhône may be the oldest in France, but one thing is certain: Harvesting them ages the workforce. The terraced hillside sites are so steep that the grapes sometimes have to be lowered by pulley, like on a ski slope. It’s said that, in order to make a commercially viable product on sites with sufficient sunlight to fully ripen grapes, you have either to inherit an established right-bank vineyard or produce a wine so good that you can charge an exorbitant price.

Indeed, the most famous producers of the Northern Rhône are family enterprises; these are wineries that vinify grapes they grow, but also purchase fruit from vineyards along length of the entire Rhône valley. The smallholders are the ones who put the sweat equity into these demanding sites, and traditionally, only a handful of them have bottled under their own labels.

This is beginning to change as ambitious newcomers have entered the foray as grower/producers and, at least among those who have been up to the test, have improved the overall quality of the appellation.


Que Será: Syrah

Why Syrah, Syrah? Just the facts, ma’am: Red wine from Northern Rhône is made nearly entirely from Syrah with an occasional sprinkling of Viognier for spice, and produces these bottles that can age for generations. And it is fair to say that the region sets the global standard on how Syrah is judged.

And that’s because it is terrain ideally suited for such a thick-skinned grape known for its ability to withstand drought-like conditions. It thrives in many warmer viticultural regions, true, but nowhere better than along the steep, sun-soaked terraces of Northern Rhône, where irrigation is all but impossible. Syrah also produces loose bunches of big grapes, meaning that its susceptibility to various mildew diseases is minimal: The Mistral wind, upon which Southern Rhône depends to dry out the damp, is unnecessary here, and that works out fine: By a quirk of geography, the peculiar shape of the Rhône Valley protects the northern vineyards from these strong, cold, northwesterly winds.


Northern Rhône Package $299
We are pleased to offer one bottle of each of the following four wines from Domaine Johann Michel for a package price of $299.


Domaine Johann Michel

A Syrah Master, Naturally

Give a man a bottle and he’ll drink for a day; teach him to make wine and he’ll drink for a lifetime. Still, there is something in the spirit of the man who figures it all out for himself that excites us even more.

Johann Michel developed a passion for fine wine while tasting old vintages with his grandfather, and from there, taught himself the art of vinification. Today, with his wife Emmanuelle, he works 14 acres spread between three Rhône AOP’s. This includes a scant acre in Saint-Joseph planted entirely to Syrah, two-and-a-half acres in the extreme south of Saint-Péray planted to Marsanne and Roussanne, and his most celebrated wines made from lieux-dits in the steep, granite infused slopes of Cornas.

Johann Michel

Michel may be self-taught, but the effusive praise for his product is very much the domain of experts. In what may be the most hyperbolic wine review I’ve ever read, critic Jeb Dunnuck (Northern Rhône: 2019s From Bottle, February 16th 2022) wrote: “The Cornas from Johann Michel is a majestic, full-bodied, incredibly seamless beauty that does everything right, showing the ripe, sunny style of the vintage and bringing ample fruit, richness and power with incredible focus as well as purity and freshness. It will evolve for 15 years or more, and I doubt it will ever close down. Those who like flawlessly balanced Cornas should back up the truck for this sensational wine.”

Cornas: No Country Bumpkin

A truism in the world of viticulture is that grape vines often grow in places where nothing else will. This is certainly the case among those grapes cultivated on slopes so steep as to nearly (but not quite) defy sanity. To find examples of death-defying hillside vineyards, look to the Mosel and Rhine valleys in Germany, Ribeira Sacra in Spain, the Douro in Portugal and Cornas in the Northern Rhône Valley.

One of the smallest appellations in Rhône, Cornas is, in its entirely, 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 reflect 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.

The quality of these wines is the culmination of many factors, but among the most singular is the fact that Cornas sits on a large chunk of granite. Unlike Cote Rôtie to the north, where there is plenty of schist, or Hermitage, where the granite merges into alpine soils, Cornas is almost purely Massif Central granite, giving the wines a pronounced and savory minerality.

To Stem or Not to Stem

When you see ‘whole cluster fermentation’ in a winemaker’s description, he or she is referring to a technique where entire grape bunches, including stems, go into the fermenter. In other words, the wine grapes do not go through a destemmer-crusher to destem individual berries and crush out the juice.

Advocates of whole cluster fermentation assert it produces wines with more complexity, and with additional herbal and spice flavors, toning down high acidity while adding tannic structure. The practice may be seen frequently with Pinot Noir in Burgundy and Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and in Northern Rhône, winemakers claim that it enhances the savory qualities and peppery notes of Syrah. Where grapes are fully ripened, as they tend to be in Cornas, stems bring significant tannin to the party, and so the wine requires intense fruit for balance. But by binding chemically with tartaric acid, stems tend to lower acidity in the process, so a careful balancing act must be maintained. It should be noted that the more mature the stems, brown and woody instead of green, the more subtle the influence.

Domaine Johann Michel ‘Cuvée Jana’, 2020 Cornas ($79) (Lieux-dits Chaillot / Bayonnet) (One Bottle)
Named after Johann and Emmanuelle’s daughter Jana, this blend comes from two of Michel’s favorite lieux-dits: Chaillot, which was planted in 2000 by Johann himself and nearby Bayonnet where soils are made of granitic sand. The wine shows black raspberry, licorice, sizzling bacon and campfire smoke along with integrated tannins and crunchy acidity

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Domaine Johann Michel ‘Cuvée Mère Michel’, 2020 Cornas ($152) (Lieu-dit Les Côtes) (One Bottle)
‘Mother Michel’ refers to Emmanuelle rather than Johann’s mom; we’ll leave further interpretation to Freudians. The wine was first introduced in 2016 and is not produced every year; it is Selection Massale—the replanting of new vineyards with cuttings from exceptional old vines—in this case, from the 1947 Yves Cuilleron vineyard at Chavanay. Les Côtes is a south-facing lieu-dit sits at an altitude of 900 feet and here produces an intense nose of black fruit, spices and wood smoke. On the palate, the wine is meaty and crisp with bright plum and anise, showing the sweet opulence of Syrah fruit.

*click on image for more info

 

 


Domaine Johann Michel ‘Grain Noir’, 2020 VdF Northern Rhône Rouge ‘Syrah’ ($29) (Lieu-dit Le Moulin) (One Bottle)
Johann Michel says, “The Grain Noir cuvée is produced in the commune of Cornas but outside the appellation—hence, the VdF designation. The Le Moulin vineyard is located in the north of Cornas, near the Rhône, where sandy soils and pebbles exist at an altitude between three and four hundred feet.”

The wine shows Michel’s characteristic wine power; big structure backed up with ripe, fleshy, vibrant fruitiness and finishing with silky tannins and the bite of minerality.

*click on image for more info

 

 


Saint-Joseph: Chile of the Rhône Valley, a Lot of Range

According to Joël Durand of Domaine Eric & Joël Durand, “Saint-Joseph isn’t really a Rhône wine. It’s a collection of crus.”

That describes most Rhône appellations, of course, but Saint-Joseph is unique in that, despite its long, thin size, it remains relatively unknown. Stretching more than 40 miles down the right bank of the river and taking in more than two dozen towns and villages in two departments, the Ardèche and the Loire, its strung-out geography have been likened to Chile. But while South America is known for bold, fruity Syrah, Saint-Joseph produces elegant, tightly focused reds and whites that often have more in common with the wines of Burgundy than their Chilean counterparts.

But the diversity is there: The main component in the appellation’s soils is granite, but other minerals may equally impact production. The southern portion is made up of tender gneiss and gives the wines a unique character.

Where there is less diversity is in the varietal selection; for the vast majority of Saint-Joseph’s wines, the reds are exclusively Syrah, representing about 86% of total production, while the whites, making up 14%, are Roussanne and Marsanne—as stand-alones or as a blend.

Domaine Johann Michel, 2019 Saint-Joseph ($39) (Lieu-dit Les Pras) (One Bottle)
Bold ripe black fruits, 100% destemmed grapes and matured in seasoned French oak, the plummy, generously textured wine is marked by delicately smoky, spicy hints of char and crushed peppercorn, then spice, complexity, velvety tannic grip and a powerful finish.

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Southern Rhône: To Blend or Not to Blend

The magic of the blend is the keystone in Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s rock-solid reputation; fifteen varieties are legally permitted in the appellation, and the proportion of each used in the final cuvée is a reflection of the vineyard’s potential, the estate’s philosophy and the vigneron’s artistry. The palette is juice, the canvas is the élevage and on opening day—and for many years to come—the exhibition wears the familiar embossed insignia of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape bottle.

But is blending always the goal in Châteauneuf-du-Pape? Red wine comprises 95% of Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s output, and most of it is built around the Big Four—Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and more recently, Cinsault. But as a quartet, they are hardly equal: As of 2014, 73% of the vineyards in the appellation were planted to Grenache, with Mourvèdre making up about 7% and Syrah, just under three percent—a number that may soon be supplanted by Cinsault as Syrah continues to lose popularity in the region. Even so, so dominant is Grenache in most blends that a winemaker would likely have to provide a vivisection of varietal profiles to explain how each trace addition affects the final cuvée. The blending spectrum in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, therefore, covers extremes: Château de Beaucastel frequently uses all the allowable grapes in their cuvée while another of Châteauneuf’s most important names, Château Rayas, uses only Grenache.

Grenache: Captures the Sun

Despite its potential for splendor in the glass, Grenache has never made the leap into the rarified atmosphere of the ‘noble’ grapes. But in the right hands, grown in the correct lieu-dit and farmed correctly, it can be as expressive of terroir as Pinot Noir and as complex and age-worthy as Cabernet Sauvignon. In Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it produces most favorably on sandy soils that provide delicacy and finesse, but where there is also limestone for structure, red clay for the development of rich (but not harsh) tannins and the small stones known as ‘galets’ for power.

For a grape that produces such bold and muscular wines, Grenache is thin-skinned and not overly acidic, so it must be picked at an optimum period of phenolic ripeness to avoid becoming flabby and aggressively alcoholic. Vine age is of extreme importance for Grenache, with younger cultivars making pale-colored and often mediocre wines—60 -100 years appears to be an ideal age for producing wine of consistently good quality.


Southern Rhône Package $324
We are pleased to offer one of each of the following four wines from Domaine Saint Préfert for a package price of $324.


Domaine Saint Préfert

The Grenachiste

If a ‘Grenachiste’ is a loyalist who fights for Grenache, it would be hard to find a High Priestess more qualified than Isabel Ferrando. A former banker who learned winemaking at Domaine Raspail-Ay in Gigondas, she purchased the seventy-year old Domaine Saint-Préfert from the Serre family (one of the region’s first domains to estate bottle) in 2003. That year, the property stood at a little over thirty acres, all in the Les Serres lieu-dit south of the village of Châteauneuf.

Isabel Ferrando

Once a successful first vintage was in the cellar, Ferrando began to purchase more land in the appellation, expanding her holdings to its current 55 acres. Among her acquisitions was a small parcel of old-vine Grenache vines that became Domaine Ferrando Colombis. Meanwhile, in 2013, Domaine Saint Préfert earned its certification for using 100% biodynamic farming, an agricultural technique that is somewhat easier pull off in Châteauneuf thanks to the sporadic but predictable Mistral winds that naturally protect vines from pests and mildew.

Still, it is Ferrando’s ever-growing expertise and hands-on winemaking that produces her outstanding portfolio. Says ‘The Grenachiste’: “There is no secret formula to making great wines in Châteauneuf. I work with a young team who is always open to new ideas. We rely on tradition without being trapped by it, working with whole-cluster fermentations without added yeasts because we discovered that it increased freshness in the wines and lowered alcohol, giving the wines vibrancy. Aging occurs in a mix of concrete and used foudres for up to 18 months.”

Domaine Saint Préfert ‘Collection Charles Giraud’, 2019 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($159) (One Bottle)
60% Grenache, 35% Mourvèdre and 5% Syrah, Isabel Ferrando’s ‘tête de cuvée’ is made from the oldest vines in two parcels—les Serres and le Cristia. The former features the famous, multipurpose galet stones of Châteauneuf that retain heat and night and protect the soil from erosion. Le Cristia is a sandy block with drainage ideal for Mourvèdre’s root system, which does not produce well otherwise. The wine shows concentrated boysenberry and violet pastille and candied fruit and bright, chewy back-end lift. As Auguste Favier was Isabel Ferrando’s maternal grandfather, Charles Giraud was her father’s father.

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Domaine Saint Préfert ‘Réserve Auguste Favier’, 2019 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($82) (One Bottle)
The label’s eponymous Auguste Favier was Isabel Ferrando’ maternal grandfather; the lieu-dit that produces this blend— 85% Grenache and 15% Cinsault—is also named for an original owner. Les Serres, a vineyard in the southernmost part of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, takes its name from Fernand Serre, who planted it in 1928. The grapes are hand-picked and vinified separately; the Grenache is aged in cement and the Cinsault in 600L barrels. Floral and exotic, the wine expresses a full-bodied core of blackberry draped with a lacy texture, showing rich cassis and raspberry coulis flecked with the garrigue herbs that are native to the area. A long, elegant finish with a surprisingly tannic edge.

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Domaine Saint Préfert ‘Classique’, 2019 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($53) (One Bottle)
With a base cuvée of 85% Grenache and 5% each of Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault, aged entirely in concrete tanks, is classic varietal choice as well as in name. Vinified from middle-aged vines—30 years old, tops—this wine is an expression of exuberance crammed with juicy raspberry and bright cherry and light hints of licorice. The sharp subcurrents of smoke and minerality provide a clue that these vines, and the wines they produce, will continue to improve with age.

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Domaine Saint Préfert “Clos Beatus Ille’, 2020 Côtes-du-Rhône ($30) (One Bottle)
‘Beatus Ille’ is Latin for ‘Happy Man’—it’s a line from Horace’s 2nd Epode and no doubt includes happy women as well. The wine is 85% Grenache blended with about 15% Cinsault from two parcels—La Lionne in the Sorgues district, just at the southern border of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and another parcel in Vedène. It also contains a bit of Syrah from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. A supple and affordable entryway into Isabel Ferrando’s world, the wine shows the traits of the great Crus in Southern Rhône in an approachable package; cassis, plum and fresh red berries with hints of Asian spice and truffles.

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Available Other Cuvées by Isabel Ferrando

Top: 1. Domaine Préfert (Isabel Ferrando), Châteauneuf-du-Pape ‘Colombis’ 2019, 2. Domaine Saint Préfert, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2020, 3. Domaine Préfert (Isabel Ferrando), Châteauneuf-du-Pape ‘F601’ 2018
Bottom: 4. Domaine Saint Préfert, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2020 Magnum, 5. Domaine Saint Préfert, Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc’Cuvée Spéciale Vieilles Clairettes’ 2019 Magnum

Please, click on image for the rest of her wines


Rhône Vintage Journal

2020

The main features of the year were drought, heat and a very early harvest. Thankfully there were heavy rains in October, November and December 2019 which created reserves for the vines to draw on. There were also welcome rains in May and June that helped sustain the plants. The rest of the year, however, was exceptionally dry. The vineyards roused early thanks to warm weather in March, but mercifully there were no spring frosts here. They held on to this lead throughout the year, resulting in the earliest vintage since 2003.

Northern Rhône: A reliably fresh, balanced and approachable vintage – a return to classicism after a series of powerful years. Excellent white wines.

Southern Rhône: Fresh, juicy and immediate reds with lower alcohol than recent years, though some lack concentration. Beautiful white wines.

2019

Marking the fifth consecutive vintage in which the wines of Northern Rhône can be considered very good or even truly exceptional, 2019 endured an abnormally hot and dry growing season by historical standards (though by current measures, increasingly typical). It began with pockets of spring hail and frost, but nothing so major as to precipitate a short crop. The hot, dry summer that followed definitely induced some angst among the growers, who noted that it was critical to maintain healthy vine canopies to protect the grapes from the heat and sun. Fortunately, for those making such a viticultural move, there was basically no rain during the summer, meaning that mildew that might have formed under the canopies was a non-issue. Also, while it was definitely hot, temperatures were not excessive. Well-timed and beneficial rains in late August and early September helped freshen the vineyards and keep acidity levels sound.

Northern Rhône: A very hot, dry growing season resulting in some rich, opulent reds – sometimes overripe and alcoholic. Côte-Rôtie leads the pack, with Hermitage and Cornas not far behind.

Southern Rhône: A swelteringly hot, very dry year that was surprisingly successful, especially in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, both reds and whites. Elsewhere there are mixed results; some excellent wines, others with unbalanced alcohol or tough tannins.

 

 

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Posted on 2022.11.11 in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes-du-Rhône, Saint-Joseph, Cornas, France, Wine-Aid Packages, Southern Rhone, Northern Rhone  |  Read more...

 

Thanksgiving Feast Wine Matchup Pack: Nine Picks to Enhance the Food, Reawaken the Appetite and Renew Weary Taste Buds ($299) + New Arrival: Sparkling Burgundy From Young Puligny-Montrachet Vines

A true masterpiece is composed of many elements, and all the details must be in precise balance: The forearm musculature on Michelangelo’s ‘David’ for example—the intake of breath in the nostril of Sanmartino’s ‘Veiled Christ.’ This is as true for a magnificent meal as it is for a sculpture, and any constituent of your Thanksgiving Day spread that’s treated as an afterthought may glare more than the successes.

Naturally, we consider wine to be an indispensable part of this annual meal, not only to reinforce the overall sensory enjoyment, but as a nod to a greater sense of appreciation for things that we, as human beings, get right.

It’s possible to overanalyze your wine choices, of course—many of the other elements of a Thanksgiving feast are as fixed as the solar system. Wine is one factor that is not only less preordained, but can (and should) change with vintages and tastes. Our suggestions for Thanksgiving 2022 are culled from new arrivals and old standbys, and are offered as interval highlights at various stages of the meal. They reflect the balance that all cooks, winemakers and artists strive for in rhythm, emphasis, unity and variety.

In addition, the regional origins of these wines are diverse, but they all have something in common: They come from countries that don’t celebrate Thanksgiving on the third Thursday of November. As a nod to their culture, we’ve listed a few native dishes that have evolved with the style of wine, with the idea that they might be a way to shake up the status quo of the traditional Thanksgiving menu.


SERVE BEFORE DINNER

When your guests arrive, an icebreaker does not need to contain ice, but the appropriate chill is always appreciated. Red wines, in particular, tend to be served too warm. In this case, the light and perfumed Gamay-based wine from the Marionnet family in Touraine hits its refreshing high water mark around 55°F, somewhat lower than the typical household room temperature. Likewise, the tendency is to transfer white wine directly from refrigerator to glass, which is too cold to appreciate the nuance of an Alsatian Riesling. Give it ten or fifteen minutes to pick up some ambient room warmth—it will show much better.

1 – WHITE

Domaine Mann ‘Happy Lemon’, 2020 Alsace Riesling ($27)

In Alsace, winegrowers claim that it takes a minimum of fifteen years for grape vines to showcase the true potential of their terroir, and in the meantime, most of them bottle young harvests as a blend with juice from older vines. No so with ‘Happy Lemon’, a wine which playfully celebrates the youth of the Riesling from which it’s made. Selection Massale cuttings from prized vines are planted at high density to produce a highly aromatic wine that is fermented on indigenous yeasts and allowed to age on the lees for a year prior to bottling. As the name suggests, citrus notes are the predominate feature of both bouquet and palate.

The wine would pair marvelously with Truite au Bleu, an Alsatian dish in which, prior to being poached, a fresh trout first soaks in vinegar, turning the natural exterior of the fish blue.

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Domaine Mann (Alsace)

After stints in Côte-Rôtie and Champagne, where he learned the value of biodynamics from Bertrand Gautherot, Sébastien Mann has been making wine at the family estate since 2009, taking over from his father. He says, “I think that thanks to biodynamics, we have succeeded in bringing an additional element to our vines. My father made wines essentially linked to the earth; I have a much more holistic style, linked to the stars.”

Domaine Mann’s 32 acres were founded upon the theory that in order to produce terroir-driven wines with aging potential, legally allowable yields have to be cut in half. From the outset, the estate produced 35 cuvées, one for each parcel.

“The style of the wines changed very quickly when I came on board,” Sébastien maintains. “95% of the wines we produce now are dry. It was not an easy task, since Alsace is one of the warmest and driest regions in France. Grapes can easily ripen with a high sugar level. I don’t think my father could imagine that with biodynamics we would be able to achieve such a great evolution, achieving phenolic maturity while making dry wines.”


2 – SEMI-DRY WHITE

Ludovic Chanson ‘Les Pêchers’, 2019 Montlouis-sur-Loire White Demi-Sec ($37)

Montlouis-sur-Loire sits on a promontory between the Loire and the Cher rivers. Having specialized in Chenin Blanc for centuries, it produces a wine so unique that when the AOC system developed in the 1940s, it retained its own appellation. There are now about fifty producers.

During the 2019 harvest, Ludovic Chanson recognized botrytis on the grapes and it was a matter for celebration, like the wine. ‘Noble rot’ lends depth and complex layers of fruit and savory tones to the finished wine, which lists as having 17g residual sugar and 32ppm total SO2. A classic example of semi-dry Chenin blanc.

This wine would be a beautiful foil for a spread of charcuterie, especially andouillette, one of the specialties of nearby Tours.

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Domaine Ludovic Chanson  (Loire)

‘Song’ is an ideal name for this beautiful fifteen acre estate: It means ‘song’. It’s also the surname of the owner, Ludovic Chanson, who took over from retiring winemaker Alex Mathur in 2009. The vineyards lie on the plateau near the village of Husseau, a five-minute drive outside of Montlouis. Most of Chanson’s property is planted in Chenin Blanc; the rest to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Soils are clay heavy with a deep limestone base and many of the parcels are littered with silex and flint and the average vine is about 40 years old.

Song trusts his processes and focuses on farming; the estate was converted to organic before Ludovic took over, and he has since achieved certification. Harvesting is done by hand in small baskets, with one pass for the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and multiple passes for the Chenin Blanc, depending on the cuvée for which the grapes are being picked.


3 – RED

Domaine de la Charmoise ‘First Harvest’, 2021 Touraine ‘natural’ ($24)

Undergoing a light filtration just prior to bottling, this wine is whole-cluster fermented in cement without sulfur, non-indigenous yeast or pigeage—a French term meaning ‘to punch down the cap.’ When crushed grapes ferment in vats, the skins rise to the surface to create a thick cap that may or may not be punched down; here, the technique is avoided and the result is a wine that is more complex than is typical for a Loire Gamay, largely because without sulfur, the yeasts have a longer time to work and release secondary aromas and flavors. The wine is medium ruby ​​in color with aromas of plum, cherry, dried flowers and spices; dry on the palate with moderate tannin and acidity, and additional notes of grilled meat and forest floor.

This would pair well with an iconic Touraine specialty, rillettes of pork spread on a slice of fresh baguette.

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Domaine de la Charmoise  (Touraine-Loire)

Domaine de la Charmoise nestles deep with the forests of La Sologne, home to the great Limousin oak trees that makes the best of French wine barrels. But the Marionnets, who run the domain, both father (Henry) and son (Jean-Sébastien), eschew wood as ‘unnatural’ in their winemaking process.

The family has owned the estate since the mid-19th century and unlike so many of their counterparts in France, they kept control throughout the 20th century and now, well into the 21st. Domaine de la Charmoise’s 150 acres are mostly dedicated to Sauvignon Blanc and Gamay and grow at the highest point between the Loire and Cher rivers, where a combination of situation and geology provides plenty of sunshine and shelter against spring frost. Having recently succeeded his father in managing the estate, Henry’s son Jean-Sébastien has brought his own perspective to Domaine de la Charmoise, expanding the range to include Côt (Malbec) and Chenin Blanc as well as some Loire’s rare varieties. To be sure, however, Henry’s presence is still widely felt, especially in the vineyard.


TOAST

A post-pandemic world has as much to toast as it has to mourn, so take a moment with your guests to toast our survival and perhaps, to commemorate those who were not so fortunate.

France’s ingenious champenoise method and ancestral method make the quintessential toasting wine, but such singular improvements have been made throughout the world of bubbles that now is an ideal time to expand your horizons beyond the familiar world of Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blends. Even Cava, Spain’s answer to Champagne, relies primarily on Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel-lo grapes, but there’s another dimension to Spanish sparklers that takes a different, and exciting, route.

An ideal pairing for high-quality Spanish cured ham, jamón, layered atop a pa-amb-tomàquet—grilled bread rubbed with tomato and drizzled with olive oil, a daily staple at our home.

4 – SPARKLING

Can Sumoi ‘Ancestral Montònega’, 2021 Brut Nature ($27)

100% Montònega, a pink-skinned clone of Parellada grown in Pla de Manlleu in Penedès, and produces a wine that shimmers with citrus and fennel notes and the Mediterranean herbs that grow along the Catalunyan coast. This beguiling citrus-herb profile is the result of the ancestral method, made without additives, stabilization or filtration.

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Can Sumoi  (Catalunya, Spain)

At two thousand feet above sea level in the Serra de l’Home mountain range, Can Sumoi is the highest estate in the Penedès; Mallorca and the Ebro Delta are visible from the rooftop of the winery’s 350-year-old farmhouse. Below, vineyards sprawl across limestone-rich soil between stands of oak and white pine, which to the ecology-driven Pepe Raventós, share equal importance with the vines. “Forests,” he says, “protect the biodiversity of the estate; they are the green lungs of the world.”

The wines of Can Sumoi are also green insofar as they are produced using Certified Organic methods; vineyards are tended with natural compost, free of pesticides and with minimal intervention; a herd of sheep and goats is allowed to graze semi-freely among the vines. Certain esoteric biodynamic techniques may sound strange to laymen (such as timing vineyard activity to the phases of the moon) but to Raventós, whose family has lived here for 21 generation, they make perfect sense: “When the moon is ascendant, plant fluids concentrate more towards the roots of plants, and that’s when you want to do the pruning—so you don’t damage the plant.”


SERVE WITH DINNER

When the curtain rises on the main event, cast and crew must be on cue; no more dress rehearsal holidays, this is opening night. And although we’d only recommend diva wines for this important matchup, the fact is that fancy-costume labels should not be a deciding factor when there are plenty of remarkable main-floor wines available for mezzanine prices.

5 – WHITE

Domaine des Ardoisières ‘Argile’, 2020 IGP Vin de Allobroges ‘St-Pierre de Soucy’ White ($36)

A blend of superstar Chardonnay (40%) and lesser known Jacquère (40%) and Mondeuse Blanc (20%) from Savoie in eastern France, a region in the mountainous areas just south of Lac Léman on the border with Switzerland. Jacquère is a clean, high-acid alpine variety while Mondeuse Blanche, nearing extinction, is found in a small foothold in the Bugey sub-region halfway between Annecy and Lyon. Vines are planted to a mix of shale marl, hard black shale, and clay soil and the wine ferments in a mix of stainless-steel tanks and French oak barriques, then aged in used barrels for about eight months before bottling. The wine shows beautiful weight and tension, with smoke on the nose, ripe citrus on the palate, and salinity on the finish.

This would be wonderful alongside Raclette, a Swiss-style cheese that is melted and served with potatoes.

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Domaine de Ardoisières  (Savoie)

To the white clay (Argile Blanc) of Bauges foothills, Brice Ormont brings expertise from his native Champagne. Domaine des Ardoisières was created in 1998 by the iconic grower Michel Grisard; Brice Ormont joined the team in 2005 and took over upon Grisard’s retirement five years later. The vineyard was planted on slopes up to 60% in grade with local grape varieties like Jacquère, Mondeuse, Altesse, and Persan. So steep is the region that Ormont claims that it receives two hours less sunlight per day, an hour in the morning and another in the evening. “You’d think that ripening grapes would be a problem but this is not the case,” Ormont insists. “Seven of our acres face the rising sun in the east and seven more face the setting sun in the west, with the east-facing vineyards reaching incredibly high temperatures of up to 120°F during the day when the sun bounces off the schist rock and magnifies the temperature. During summer the working day stops at 1 pm as working these south-facing slopes in the afternoon is physically impossible.”


6 – ROSÉ

Domaine Philippe Gilbert, 2021 Menetou-Salon Rosé ($30)

Menetou-Salon is an AOP in the Centre-Val de Loire with vineyards extending over 820 acres and covering 10 communes, including Menetou-Salon itself. Only 3600 bottles of Menetou-Salon Rosé reach American shores each year, so if you can serve it, you are in an exclusive club. 100% Pinot Noir, this wine displays crisp strawberry and raspberry highlights with a bit of smoke and earth on the nose.

Such a rose would go nicely with game; wild turkey as opposed to farm-raised would be a great change-up for any Thanksgiving, although more typically Menetou-Salon would be Geline de Touraine, a small black hen that is highly prized in Loire.

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Domaine Philippe Gilbert  (Centre-Loire)

At the helm of Domaine Philippe Gilbert is Phillipe himself, a self-styled ‘dramaturg’ who has written and produced for the stage. Today he is a foremost winemaker, having returned to the village of Faucards in Menetou-Salon to run the family estate, a winery whose history dates back to 1778 and his forefather François Gilbert. His 67 acres, sprinkled across prime sectors of Menetou-Salon, make it one of the most important in the appellation.

The soils beneath the estate are Kimmeridgean, similar to Sancerre and Chablis. With the assistance of his colleague, Jean-Philippe Louis, Philippe Gilbert has plunged headlong into the system of biodynamic viticulture and the domain is now certified as an organic producer.


7 – RED

Château du Moulin-à-Vent, 2019 Moulin-à-Vent ‘Champ de Cour’ ($57)

Beaujolais is an always-safe go-to wine with turkey, but it’s even safer if you upgrade from Village-level Beaujolais to Cru, and best of all if you can find a lieu-dit. ‘Champ de Cours’ is a parcel found on a slight slope between the hills of the famous windmill and Fleurie, with an eastern exposure that is fully sheltered from the winds. Granite surface rocks force the roots to dig down deeply to seek their nutrients; clay-rich soil contains five specific minerals that give the wine a unique character. Dominated by explosion of red fruit with roasted pepper and saffron notes, it is a full-bodied wine of considerable elegance with lively tannins and superb length to make it a worthy table-mate for the variety of flavors that your Thanksgiving spread will contain.

Frisée with lardons and pomegranate seeds and dried cherries, especially with goat cheese, is a standard salad course in Beaujolais.

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Château du Moulin-à-Vent  (Beaujolais)

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.

In the 18th century Château du Moulin-à-Vent was called Château des Thorins, named for the renowned vines on the hillsides of Thorins. A Mâconnais proverb runs, “Every wine is good with a meal, but a meal cannot be enjoyed without Thorins.” The estate was purchased in 2009 by the Parinet family, who has made a marvelous effort to extract the most from the chemical-rich terroir—the underlying granite soil contains iron oxide, copper and, of course, manganese.


8 – RED

Domaine Michel Juillot, 2020 Burgundy ($30)

100% Pinot Noir from 26- and 41-year-old vines planted on clay limestone and marl soils. Temperature controlled fermentation is used (and only natural yeasts) in an open top fermenter. Aged 12 months in oak barrels. Ripe aromas of black raspberry, cherry and earth give way to exceptionally rich, suave and solidly dense flavors that are surprisingly powerful in context of what is typical for the appellation.

Beef from white Charolais cattle would appear on the Burgundian feast table before turkey, but cold ham with fresh parsley—ham parsley—would satisfy a regional inclusion on the side board.

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Domaine Michel Juillot  (Burgundy)

Based in the village of Mercurey in Burgundy’s Côte Chalonnaise, Juillot’s 77 acres roll across a good piece of Burgundy, including plots in the Corton Les Perrières and Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru climats and six Premier Cru vineyard parcels in Mercurey. Breaking rules in a region where tradition is sacrosanct is a risky venture. Fortunately, shored up by world travels, especially to the new world, Laurent Juillot (founder Michel’s grandson) returned to Burgundy with notions of how to innovate successfully. Among the changes he brought to the domain was a switch to sustainable agriculture while maintaining a regimen of hand-picking fruit and relying on indigenous yeasts. He has excelled in his single-parcel cuvées.


SERVE AFTER DINNER

On Thanksgiving, there are those who consider dessert an entirely separate meal, generally offered after a breather and, in the case of football fans, a nail-biter game. Hedonism is a given, and a sugar blast from confections is as easy as pie or as complex and elaborate as your inner pastry chef can concoct.

Fortunately for the wine decision, Spain offers a wide array of honeyed, nutty, unctuous and wildly satisfying dessert-style wines which stand up to nearly anything you can put in front of them, and work equally well as a stand-alone for sipping.

9 – WHITE DESSERT

Gutiérrez Colosía, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry ‘Pedro Ximénez’ ($37)

While responsible for perhaps the world’s sweetest wine, Andalusia’s Pedro Ximénez is among the most harmonious on the palate. This is the result of the natural process of ‘raisining’—drying the grapes in the sun—a technique that concentrates the sugars but preserves the natural acidity.

Aged an average of 4 years in solera, the bouquet of Colosía’s example is reminiscent of dried figs and dates accompanied by the aromas of honey, grape syrup, jam and candied fruit, with finishing notes of toasted coffee, dark chocolate, cocoa and licorice.

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Bodegas Gutiérrez Colosía (Andalucía, Spain)

“In Sanlúcar they talk about being close to the sea, but nobody is closer to the sea than we are.” – Juan Carlos Gutierrez.

Sea air, of course, is critical to the production of sherry, and that is why the official name of Jerez-Xérès-Sherry is restricted for use outside the DO. Gutiérrez Colosía are heirs to a long viticulture and wine producing tradition. Seated in the historic city of El Puerto de Santa María and perched on the banks of Río Guadalete (River of Oblivion), their first Bodega was built in 1838 and it has been preserved almost as such to this day. It was acquired by José Gutiérrez Dosal in the 1920s, and in 1969, and in 1997, Gutiérrez Colosía made the transition from almacenista to bottling their own sherries.


NEW ARRIVAL

Crémant de Bourgogne

Burgundy with Bubbles

Like the vast appellation ‘Bourgogne’, the Appellation Régionale ‘Crémant de Bourgogne’ includes effervescent wines made by the traditional method and includes commues up and down the length of Burgundy. There are, in fact, 300 producing communes in Yonne, the Côte-d’Or and Saône-et-Loire and 85 in the Department of Rhône, spanning more than five thousand acres. Allowable grapes are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, with the secondary varieties Aligoté, Melon and Sacy permitted in delineated quantities depending on the wine’s color—white or rosé. Terroirs are understandably varied, ranging from the chalky subsoil of Joigny in the north to the granites of southern Burgundy and especially, the limestones and marls of the Côtes where most Crémant de Bourgogne originates.

As part of the strategy by Crémant de Bourgogne producers to boost the quality of the appellation, the Eminent and Grand Eminent denomination were introduced in 2013. These wines must meet a number of specifications, the most important of which is the amount of time they are aged on laths* to bring out the subtle aromas of the varietals. The Crémant de Bourgogne Eminent denomination requires minimum aging of 24 months, while the Crémant de Bourgogne Grand Eminent denomination calls for 36.


* The term ‘aged on laths’ appears frequently in the technical sheets of Crémant and refers to the wooden supports that enable bottles to be piled on their sides after the liqueur de Tirage has been added to the base wine in the bottles to produce secondary fermentation . CO2 is generated and must have a minimum pressure of 3.5 bar. Higher pressures (4-6 bar) make for a finer mousse.

Puligny-Montrachet:  The Helen of Troy of Chardonnay

Although as a paradigm, Puligny-Montrachet has been likened to Helen of Troy, in modern times, it might be more appropriate to consider it the Marilyn Monroe of Chardonnay. It is certainly a cultural gold standard and as far as we know, nobody alive ever actually saw the face that launched all those ships. Home to four Grand Cru vineyards and 17 Premier Cru sites, the village was simply Puligny until 1879, when the Montrachet section was added in homage to its iconic Grand Cru vineyard, Le Montrachet.

The combination of topography, soil structure and climate heightened by the trial and error of many generations of winemakers has resulted in a detailed map of the area, marking those sites best suited to quality viticulture. A high content of limestone on which the vines grow give these wines a pronounced minerality that is more typical of Puligny’s profile than the more accessible wines of neighboring Chassagne and the more perfumed wines of Meursault.

 

Domaine Chavy-Chouet

Puligny-Montrachet into Crémant de Bourgogne

Spreading across 37 acres and five communes of the Côte de Beaune—Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault, Saint-Aubin, Volnay and Pommard—Domaine Chavy-Chouet has been family-owned and managed for seven generations, but it was not until Romaric Chavy took the reins in 2014 that the wines reached top-tier status. His youthful appearance is deceiving: Only twenty-two when he took over from his father, he already had a decade’s worth of training under his belt. Starting wine school at 12, he went on to work as an apprentice for his godfather François Mikulski in Meursault, then did stints in South Africa, Spain, Greece and Languedoc.

In part, the wine’s status is due to the age of the vines, which now average more than forty years, but it is undeniably a result of a switch to earth-friendly winemaking. Says Romaric, “Although we do not choose to pursue certification at this point, we are organic and follow the principals of reasoned control. Our regimen is resolutely non-interventionist and includes plowing by horse rather than tractor. After harvest and sorting, the fruit is lightly pressed and allowed to settle; the must is then passes by gravity into tank and is fermented over indigenous yeasts. To maintain purity, there is no batonnage and our wine ages on its lees in Gillet barrels with a maximum of 20% new oak for 9-12 months and is bottled unfined and with only a light filtration if necessary.”

Chavy-Chouet, Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blancs Brut ($33)
From a scant acre of young Chardonnay vines (seven years) in Puligny-Montrachet, the wine shows pure, taut Puligny fruit—a yeasty, mineral-driven nose with crisp apple peel and candied lemon gives over to an exquisitely delicate palate with notes of lime, pink grapefruit and white flower blossoms and pave the way to a clean, precise finish with beautiful length.

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Marsannay, Modest But Fully Realized Burgundy. Côte d’Or’s Northernmost Edge Coming of Age in The Hands of Four Praiseworthy Producers (8-Bottle Pack $399)

Thanks to its proximity to Dijon, Marsannay is known as the ‘Porte d’Or’ or the Golden Gate to the Côte de Nuits. In showcasing a specific wine region, we try to emphasize wines that reflect both the spirit of the appellation and the skill and reputation of the winemakers. The four producers represented in this week’s eight-bottle pack have established their place not only in Marsannay, but in the Burgundy vigneron hierarchy.


Marsannay, Modest But Fully Realized Burgundy

Marsannay—the northernmost village in Burgundy’s heart—is a stellar introduction to the galaxy of possibilities offered by the Côte d’Or. That is because, as a fairly new invention within the wine hierarchy (Marsannay only achieved Village status in 1987, prior to which its grapes were used for regional wines), price has not yet caught up to quality, even among other Village-level wines.

Perhaps more than in any other wine region, Burgundy’s fans are label-obsessed and purchase accordingly—and appropriately. Since Marsannay contains none of the storied Grand or Premier Crus in the carefully delineated Burgundy classification system, these wines represent unparalleled value, especially since many individual estates have forged new commitments to improve what history and nature has provided.

The Rehabilitation of Marsannay

Having been offered an upgraded seat in Burgundy’s Villages section, Marsannay has set to work ensuring that it remains worthy of the promotion. Many people still think of it as primarily rosé country, and it is, in fact, the only village entitled to produce in all three tones, red, white and blush. And there is no reason for it to entirely shed this reputation.

Stretching from Fixin at its southern end to Dijon in the north, three villages (Marsannay-la-Côte, Chenôve and Couchey) contain vineyards that are allowed to declare themselves Marsannay. All three are on the hill that continues north from Gevrey-Chambertin, where the best vineyards are on gentle slopes that face east or southeast and feature terroirs rich in fossil-rich Bajocian limestone. As can be witnessed throughout the Côte d’Or, inferior vines come from the east side of Route Nationale 74 (now called, prosaically, the D974).

In the case of Marsannay, any red or white wine produced east of the road only merits Bourgogne status; technically, the rosés are labeled ‘Marsannay Rosé.’

With new status comes heightened responsibilities, and winemakers in Marsannay find themselves with both the need and the means to rehabilitate reputations once maligned in the Côte de Nuits. Beyond technical investments in state-of-the-art equipment, new theories about working the soil, machines for optical sorting and for pressing and maturing wine, there have been human investments in both field and cellar.  Even so, at the heart of it, is Burgundy’s table-stakes: Reverence for the past, nods to the future and above all, a heartfelt respect for terroir and the commitment to identify the best parcels and vinifying those grapes separately.

Fight for Recognition: Pinotism Reigns

‘Pinotism’ is a term coined by the great Andrew Jeffords in describing the cult-like affection that Burgundy lovers have for their pet Pinot Noir, a finicky, difficult-to-ripen grape that commands loyalty like no other red wine variety, in part from the elusive mystery of its rocks-and-roses sensuality, and also—paradoxically—because the opposite is also true: Pinot Noir can appear as a sparkling, white, red or rosé; it goes with nearly everything, salmon to steak, which explains its popularity in restaurants.

In Burgundy, Pinot Noir reaches its fascinating apogee because of its most admirable trait: Given the correct environment, Pinot Noir can reflect the site where it is grown with greater clarity than any other varietal.

In Marsannay—a village once known for its Gamay—it is now the most widely planted grape, as integral to rosé (which also contains Pinot Gris and around 10% Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc) as it is to the robust reds of Chenôve and Couchey. In all, 445 acres of Marsannay’s vineyards are dedicated to red and rosé wine production with 69 acres used for Chardonnay-based whites.


This Week’s Package

We are pleased to offer one bottle of each of the following four producers in eight wines for a package price of $399.

Domaine Charles Audoin

Nobody knows the terroir of Marsannay quite like the Audoins. Having worked the soil and sold to négociants for multiple generations, 1972 heralded the year when the domain started bottling its own product. Under the management of Charles Audoin, the Audoin name on the label coincided with the expansion of the holdings from 6 acres to nearly 35.

Charles’s son Cyril took the reins in 2009, but Charles still remains active in the day to day operations, particularly in the vineyards. Cyril chose to keep the domain under his father’s name, as he credits his father with bringing the most change and attention to the property.

Says Cyril, “Farming at the domain falls under the sustainable lutte raisonnée method, and we farm almost exclusively with organic practices. I have chosen to farm with the environment in mind, and all harvesting is done by hand with selective sorting done at several stages. Our wines are made in a very traditional manner—reds see a varying degree of whole cluster inclusion during ferments, though rarely more than 30%, and in some years, there is no stem inclusion at all. This is dependent on the vintage and ripeness of the fruit and stems. Extractions are on the lighter side, keeping with our focus on allowing the fruit to show the elegance and grace of our terroir.” Élevage for all their wines is carried out in barrel, mostly neutral but with varying degrees of new oak depending on the cuvée.

Although the domain owns and bottles a couple of wines from Village-level sites in both Gevrey-Chambertin & Fixin, the heart of the domain is in Marsannay, where they produce seven different red bottlings, four whites and a rosé (as well an Aligoté). Of those bottlings, seven Pinots and Chardonnays are from single sites; 3 whites and 4 reds.

Domaine Charles Audoin ‘Cuvée Marie Ragonneau’, 2018 Marsannay ($44)
Named after Cyril’s great-grandmother, the blend originates from several top Audoin old vine parcels—Champs-Salomon, Les Crais, La Pucine, Herbues and Les Echezeaux. It’s intended as a representation of the village rather than a single vineyard. Tart cherry, cranberry and raspberry weave through a taut mineral core with black pepper and earth notes emerging on a mineral-driven finish.

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Domaine Charles Audoin, 2017 Marsannay ‘Les Longeroies’ ($50)
Les Longeroies is the largest of the Marsannay appellation lieux-dits; it sits on the northern side of town, halfway up the hill and just south of Clos du Roy. At higher elevations, the berries get smaller and are more susceptible to the uneven sizes (called millerandage), whereas the grapes produce larger, denser bunches on the deeper soils below. The wine is delicate and expressive, revealing notes of cherry, raspberry, violets, mushroom, and damp earth layered with fine tannins and bright acidity, ending with a seamless finish framed with minerals and earth.

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Domaine Charles Audoin ‘Cuvée Marie Charlie’, 2019 Marsannay Blanc ($44)
100% Chardonnay from Charme aux Prêtres and Clos du Roy, as well as a small portion of grapes from Les Récilles, Le Poiset and Les Crais. The bunches are 100% destemmed and cold macerated, and not crushed during pneumatic pressing in order to preserve the aroma and freshness. The wine then spends a year in 20% new oak barrels from the Vosges and six months in tanks, after which the wine is bottled without fining or filtration. The wine shows notes of honeysuckle and citrus while the oak provides a touch of toasted vanilla.

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Domaine Jean-Michel Guillon & Fils

The pilot of Domaine Guillon & Fils is indeed a pilot: When he first established himself in Burgundy in 1980, he flew planes for the French Navy—neither he, nor anyone in his family, had ever been involved in the wine trade. But he loved Burgundy, so he took an analytical approach and studied what experienced masters in the region did (including Rousseau, Dugat-Py and Denis Bachelet) and built up relationships that ultimately led to his acquisitions of vineyards. Today, the domain covers 35 acres including parcels in the Grand Cru sites of Clos de Vougeot and Mazis­Chambertin.

In 2005 his son Alexis joined the business, and today carries forward the family legacy. He says, “Our goal is to produce succulent wines that retain a clear sense of style and grace while remaining identifiably Pinot Noir. This can only be attained by attention to detail in the vineyard with yields kept low to produce the best fruit, and scrupulous vinification methods using 100% of the finest new oak. This is an approach we carry across the entire range of our wines, including the Marsannay.”

Domaine Jean-Michel Guillon & Fils, 2018 Marsannay ‘Clos des Portes’ Monopole ($60)
Jean Michel purchased the entire Clos des Portes lieu-dit in 2005, making it a monopole. Farmed at yields similar to his Grand Crus, it’s said to resemble Gevrey-Chambertin before a Marsannay. Either way, it is a delicious and concentrated wine with lovely black raspberry fruit, spice, garrigue and fine nuances of raspberry pulp, lime and hints of hibiscus and jasmine.

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Domaine Jean-Michel Guillon & Fils, 2018 Marsannay ‘Les Quenicières’ ($57)
A discreet application of wood serves as a backdrop for the pretty plum, violet, earth and slightly gamy aromas; there is a mild touch of austerity to a balanced and refreshing finish.

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Domaine Lécheneaut

Having been founded in the 1950s by Fernand Lécheneaut, the domain launched modestly, with five acres of vineyard in Nuits-Saint-Georges, Chambolle-Musigny and Morey-Saint-Denis. During these early years, Lécheneaut sold bulk wine to négociants, but in 1985, his sons Philippe and Vincent took over and brought with them an expanded vision. They grew their vineyard holdings while they began to bottle at the estate. The new Lécheneaut plots, including several Premier Cru vineyards in Chambolle-Musigny and Gevrey-Chambertin, speckle the map of the Côte de Nuits from north to south, but judiciously—many of the holdings are under an acre. With vines in 23 appellations, the total land under their management is around thirty acres.

As the Lécheneaut brothers approach retirement, Vincent’s son Jules has joined the team with a view toward combining lessons learned in his experiences working vines in Oregon with the exceptional terroir his family nurtures. He says, “The essence of our terroir philosophy is that a given wine should demonstrate—through its weight, smell, taste and nuance—its place of birth. Failing to prepare for this goal even before the first root stock goes into the ground can compromise the results years down the line. In the vineyard, Burgundian sensibility is a practice that involves ecology, and soil is only one part of that. Of equal importance is a thorough understanding of the site and which clone will best mirror the available orientation, the local topography and the climate.”

Domaine Lécheneaut, 2018 Marsannay ‘Les Sampagny’ ($72)
Les Sampagny, facing east southeast, is found on a Couchey hillside where the soils lie on bedded sediment strata from the mid-Jurassic, with marls of oestra acuminate. With a production of 1500 bottles, this is a highly allocated wine that shows ripe cherry and blackberry compote enmeshed in a matrix of supple tannins and bright acidity.

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Domaine Collotte

Philippe Collotte is a tall, quiet and unassuming man, said to be cut from the Gary Cooper cloth; his wines, perhaps, do the talking. Specializing in lower yields, intensive selection before and at harvest and de-stemmed fruit, he bottles everything unfiltered from old vines, most over fifty years and one parcel planted in 1947. Tillage is done by plowing, without chemical weed-killers with yields are well below the appellation’s allowances. All fermentations are done with indigenous yeasts.

Recently, having completed viticulture school, Philippe’s daughter Isabelle has joined her father and specializes in making the family’s superb Marsannay blancs. She speaks with great enthusiasm about the estate: “There was a time when Domaine Collotte in Marsannay-la-Côte only had three hectares of vineyards. In recent years it has grown considerably. In 2015 there was 13 hectares (32 acres) under vines; in 2016 there was 15 hectares (37 acres) and in 2017, 17 hectares (42 acres). And that’s is about as much as we can handle. There is a limit to what we can do with our resources and still do a good job with our terroirs.”

Domaine Collotte, 2019 Marsannay ‘Les Boivins’ ($41)
The rounded hilltop in Marsannay where Les Boivins sits is similar to the one in Gevrey where the top Premier Crus reside. Boivins occupies the same relative position as Combe aux Moines in Gevrey. The soil is likewise the same: Crinoidal limestone rich in fossilized sea urchins and starfish. The grapes are 100% de-stemmed and spend 18 months in élevage, resulting in an open-knit bouquet with crushed strawberry mixed with orange pith and loamy aromas of pine, black olive and sweet cherries with hints of spice.

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Domaine Collotte ‘Cuvée Vieilles Vignes’, 2019 Marsannay ($31)
Cuvée Vieilles Vignes is assembled from five different terroirs with Collotte control, Combereau, Favières, Grasses Têtes, Boivins and Récilles where vines average 50 years old. Completely destemmed, the wine’s fruit expression is ‘joie de vivre’; medium-bodied with supple, grainy tannins, bright acidity and red cherry and blackberry fruit through to the finish.

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Other Producers

The following wines are also available. These older vintages have been kept at optimal conditions and will demonstrate the amazing ability of well-made and properly-curated Marsannay to mature and evolve.

Domaine Bart

Fifteen years ago, the winegrowers of Marsannay started the process of having part of the appellation upgraded to Premier Cru. At Domaine Bart, which produces as many as nine different Marsannay bottlings in a given vintage, it is believed that 25% and 30% of the appellation is up for this bump upstairs.  Pierre Bart, the sixth generation to run Domaine Bart, says, “We are trying to show which climats would be of interest and which ones should remain in the village appellation. My guess is that there will be five or six Premier Crus. probably the largest ones like Champs Perdrix, Champ Salomon, Clos du Roi, Longeroies and Montagne.”

The Bart domain covers 54 acres, mostly in Marsannay, but with a few parcels in Fixin, Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny and Santenay. “My grandmother comes from the same family as Domaine Bruno Clair,” explains Pierre Bart. “Part of the vines come from that side of the family, part from my grandfather’s side. The Bonnes Mares and the Chambertin Clos de Bèze mainly come from my grandmother. 35 years ago, when my uncle arrived at the domain, the style of the wines changed. He increased the size of the holding, mainly in Marsannay. He chose to improve quality, both in terms of equipment and in winemaking. Since then we haven’t changed our vision a single iota.”

Domaine Bart, 2015 Marsannay ‘Les Echezots’ ($68)
Les Echezots sits at one of the highest elevations in Marsannay, with parts of the vineyard at over 900 feet as it snuggles against the Bois des Francs forest. Because of this, it is the last plot that the Bart family harvests in a given year. Echezots benefits from stronger winds, which keeps rot and other maladies away from the grapes. Domaine Bart considers this their ‘brightest’ wine; it is always made in 600-liter demi-muids instead of the standard sized Burgundy barrel. It displays wild strawberries and slight smokiness above a velvety-textured body where the acidity, though sharp, is enveloped in the fruit.

 


Domaine Bart, 2015 Marsannay ‘Au Champ Salomon’ ($78)
Situated in the southern part of Marsannay, Au Champ Salomon is one of the premier vineyards in Couchey. The vineyard is planted mid-slope, producing wines that combine power and elegance with a propensity to age extremely well. It shows a complex, mature bouquet of wild mushrooms and earthy aromas with a rich burst of fruit in the mid-palate and a shivery minerality on the finish.

 

 

 


Domaine Méo-Camuzet

Located amid the rolling hills of Vosne-Romanée, Méo-Camuzet covers 35 acres in some of the most prestigious appellations and crus of Burgundy. As a rule, Burgundy is highly parceled land, making it rare for anyone to have enough vines to be able to bottle one Grand Cru—the Méos have six.

Étienne Camuzet and Jean Méo, after whom the estate is named, were politicians—Méo served as a member of Charles De Gaulle’s cabinet and Camuzet represented the Côte d’Or in Paris. As a result, the stewardship of the vines was left to the métayeurs, or share-croppers. When, in 1985, Jean-Nicolas Méo took over as director of sales and the cellar, he opted to put the vineyards in the capable hands of Christian Faurois, son of one of domain’s métayeurs, who had dedicated himself to these vineyards since 1973.

In the wines, Jean-Nicolas aims for balance and purity of fruit. “Delicate and fine even in their youth”, he says, “the concentration and intensity make them ideal for long cellar; they are a Burgundy lover’s dream. We bottle six Grand Crus from Richebourg, Clos de Vougeot, Echézeaux, Corton Clos Rognet, Corton Les Perrières, and Corton La Vigne au Saint, ten premier crus from the communes of Vosne-Romanée, Nuits-St-Georges, Chambolle-Musigny, and Fixin several village wines and one Bourgogne Rouge.”

His Marsannay comes from a parcel where the vine age averages more than sixty years.

Méo-Camuzet Frère & Sœurs, 2015 Marsannay ($150)
A négoce label (otherwise known as a négociant or micro-négoce), indicates a wine merchant who purchases grapes, juice, or finished wines and vinifies/bottles them under his/her own name. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and remains plush on the attack, offering a mix of sweet dark berries, black cherries, dark soil tones, espresso and a smoky top-note.

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Méo-Camuzet Frère & Sœurs, 2013 Marsannay ($150)
Again, a négoce label: One reason a winemaker may choose to operate this way is that vineyard sites, especially in prestigious regions, are extremely expensive, so a simple way for winemakers to cut costs is by purchasing fruit from an existing grower. The wine offers mature red berry fruit, raspberry jam, a little sour cherry; there is some green tea mid-palate and modest tannins.

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Domaine Bizot

Jean-Yves Bizot is a professor of viticulture and oenology in Beaune who lives in Vosne- Romanée across the street from the old residence of the legendary winemaker Henri Jayer. With neighboring parcels in Vosne, the two vignerons used to discuss technique while working their vines and Bizot decided to adapt some of Jayer’s tricks in his own cellar, such as cooler temperatures for pre-fermentation. He still swears by his own methods, including the exclusive use of whole clusters grown organically and his refusal to use sulfur during vinification and élevage.

Bizot generally produces tiny quantities of under-the-radar Burgundy, but the distinct and rigorous philosophy he has forged for his domain ensure that it will be a model for future generations.

Recently, the professor made two purchases in the far north of the Côtes-de-Nuits, terroir that he believes are under-valued by the current generation, although they were highly regarded in past centuries. Both old-vine vineyards are just south of Dijon: Bourgogne Le Chapitre and in Marsannay, Clos du Roy.

Domaine Bizot, 2014 Marsannay ‘Clos de Roy’ ($140)
Clos du Roy, located in Chenôve, is the northernmost lieu-dit in Marsannay; it sits at vineyard sits at 900 feet and faces southeast.  Soils are light, gravelly, calcium-rich ‘grèzes litée ‘near the top of the slope with red sandy marl toward the bottom. The wine is filled with savory notes of earth, herbs and forest floor with a touch of menthol and dried coriander; the core fruit remains, evolve into berry compote.

 

 

 


Domaine Denis Mortet

The name Henri Jayer resurfaces in the Mortet story as well. An iconic figure in Burgundy who started his career working with his father at Domaine Charles Mortet, Denis Mortet took over the winemaking duties in the 1980s, at which time, he met Henri Jayer, leading to a lifelong friendship… and mentorship. In 1991, when Charles Mortet retired, he split his holdings between his two sons. Denis took his vineyard inheritance and launched Domaine Denis Mortet; his wines drew influence and techniques from Jayer. When Denis died suddenly in 1999, his son Arnaud took the helm with a similar respect for both his father’s skills and those of his father’s mentor.

With the assistance of his sister Clémence and his mother Laurence, Arnaud Mortet has enhanced the quality of the farming for which the original estate was known. At the same time, he has evolved the style of the wines, reducing new wood, lessening the level of extraction and fine-tuning vinification to a point where the wines are considerably more elegant and chiseled than in the past, but without losing the tremendous grain and sensual quality that has made Mortet one of the ongoing leaders of the Jayer school.

Domaine Denis Mortet, 2006 Marsannay ‘Les Longeroies’ ($150)
For a fuller description of the climat, see below ‘Les Longeroies’. The northern portion of Marsannay rests on a large block of rock with younger oolite at the very top of the slopes. These rocks include White Oolite at the top and hard, pink Prémeaux limestone below. The middle and lower portions include sandy marl and ancient alluvium from the old Ouche riverbed. The wine is elegant and structured, showing glossy cherry inflected with minerality; of Mortet’s 2006 in particular, Jancis Robinson said, “Arnaud Mortet is clearly determined to live up to the high standards of his late father Denis.”

 


Domaine Denis Mortet, 2005 Marsannay ‘Les Longeroies’ ($160)
Les Longeroies—a combination of the words for ‘long’ and ‘narrow’—is an 89-acre vineyard more than a half a mile long from north to south and sitting at an elevation exceeding nine hundred feet. It is divided into three parcels: Dessus des Longeroies, Bas des Longeroies, and En Montchenevoy. Slopes, facing southeast, are moderate. Mortet’s 2005 example is filled with exquisite dense fruit and is still developing despite nearly two decades in the bottle.

 

 


NEW ARRIVALS

Maranges (Côte de Beaune, Red Burgundy)

As Marsannay is the northernmost appellation in the Côte de Nuits, Maranges in the southernmost wine-producing commune in the Côte de Beaune. Technically, of course, Maranges is inside the Saône et Loire administrative district, the Côte d’Or, but the local geology and wine style here mean that it continues to be considered a part of the Côte de Beaune.

Granted AOC status in 1989, the zone is formed from three communes; Cheilly-lès-Maranges, Dezize-lès-Maranges and Sampigny-lès-Maranges.

Maranges has a handful of Premier Cru vineyards clustered between its villages, and they run contiguously with those of neighboring Santenay to the east, where the soils are reminiscent of those further up the Côte d’Or escarpment, containing a relatively high level of limestone and clay.

Domaine Bertrand Bachelet

Maranges 2019

Bertrand Bachelet took over the family estate from his father Jean-Louis in 2011, making him the fourth generation in an unbroken line of winegrowers. Like the generations that came before, he was driven by passion, both for making wine and for finding the voice of the terroir.  Bachelet currently covers 32 acres stretching from in Dezize-lès-Maranges (one of the three villages that makes up the Maranges appellation) to Pommard in the Côte de Beaune.

Relatively unknown until recently, the increasing prices of more established villages has opened the door for smaller, relatively young appellations like Maranges to strut their stuff. From a terroir perspective, Maranges is similar to the rest of the Côte, the more clay dominated vineyards of the plains giving way to the limestone slope that rises into the distance.

While managing the vines, Bachelet applies the principles of lutte raisonnée, with as little intervention in the winery as possible. For his red wines, the fruit is partially or completely destemmed and a gentle extraction is employed—a technique particularly useful for Maranges grapes, of which Bachelet says, “It can be quite sturdy so I try to bring out the fruit profile more. The amount of new oak I use ranges from 20% to 50%, according to the vineyard site.”

Domaine Bertrand Bachelet, 2019 Maranges Premier Cru La Fussière ($45)
The hundred-acre La Fussière is the most important vineyard in Maranges, located near Cheilly and Dezize-lès-Maranges at the very southern end of the Côte d’Or. The climat has an unusual aspect: the Côte d’Or hillside curves westward at this end, which means that the hillside of Maranges faces directly south rather than the usual southeast, giving the vines all-day exposure to sunlight, helping with ripening and ensuring that the wines are richly perfumed and full-bodied. This one is soft and vibrant, with classic Burgundian cherry and plum.

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Domaine Bertrand Bachelet, 2019 Maranges ($37)
100% Pinot Noir in clay and limestone soil; extractions are made with minimal intervention, just some pigeage and remontage, the placed in barrels for one year using about 10% new oak. The wine shows a silky texture, fresh and elegant with airy aromas that exhibit background nuances of earth, flowers and spice.

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Côte de Nuits Vintage Journal

2019: Concentrated and Vibrant

Excitement around the 2019 Burgundy vintage remains high, although the summer put climate change front and center; much of the crop was lost due to vines either being too stressed or grapes being sunburnt. The berries that did survive were, in general, richly concentrated. The red wines are, in general, complex, richly fruit-forward and refined, with the best examples likely to cellar well. The whites are also extremely concentrated, rich, and ripe, but without losing the crucial balance and elegance. In both categories, small yields means limited allocations, particularly of the top wines, and demand is high.

2018: Solar, Voluptuous with Immediate Appeal

Noteworthy for having the hottest and driest growing seasons since the intense heatwave of 2003, 2018 provided perfect weather during flowering and again at harvest, with some drought between. The crop was among the biggest in years with the red wines of Côte de Nuits acclaimed for being mostly complex wines, enjoyable young, with good potential to age.

2017: Supple and Accessible

Low yields may or may not produce excellent vintages, but high yielding vintages like 2017 tend to produce what the French refer to as ‘restaurant wines,’ meaning that they offer plenty of fragrance, attractive fruit, lacy tannins, reasonably strong terroir characters and an overall air of approachability. 2017 was the most consistent growing season in several years, and many of the vines that had suffered badly in the previous year’s frosts went into overdrive and were, in some cases, overladen with fruit. Some producers chose to green harvest to counter this problem, as too much fruit can result in a lack of concentration in the individual berries. The Pinot Noir harvest began in early September and was finished before the heavy rains of October set it, leading to some spectacular wines.

2015: Ripe, Vivacious, Structured and Age-Worthy

An ideal growing season until 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.

2014: Fresh, Vital and Energetic,  with More Length Than Amplitude

A warm, dry spring led to early bud break, but in late June, hailstorms decimated some vineyards in the north, causing reduced yields and (the silver lining) more highly concentrated wines. A drying wind and a sunny September made this vintage especially friendly to Chardonnay while the Pinot Noir produced wines with a freshness ideal for early drinking, but the best examples tended to have enough character and structure to warrant long-term cellaring.

2006: Fleshy, with Fruit and Ripe Tannins

The ‘Vintage of the Century’ (2005) is a tough act to follow, and as a result, many of the top red wines from 2006 have been overlooked. Some tough weather spells throughout the growing season cut into yields, with a freak July hailstorm that devastated some vineyards, but for the most part, Côte de Nuits red wines were pretty and aromatic examples, light on their feet up front, with the best examples reaching their peak about now.

2005: Well-Endowed, Full and Structured, Destined For Long Aging

t’s hard to find a bad word to say about  the Côte de Nuits’ 2005 vintage—the wines are full and texturally smooth, while retaining freshness and elegance. But to rank as a truly outstanding vintage, a wine requires more, and 2005 delivered, an unusually harmonious and complex balance of fine elements to edge the synergies into the ethereal.

Christophe Roumier (of Domaine Georges & Christophe Roumier) says, “The weather for red Burgundy 2005 in the Côte de Nuits was perfect, a vintner’s dream. Summer came early, with warm weather in June and a cool August that was notably dry. A little rain in September was just sufficient to give a last boost to the maturation, but not to dilute the grapes. The evolution of the sugar and acidity was excellent, encouraged by slow maturation, yielding good sugar levels and ripe tannins while retaining the acidity. This generosity is unusual, and adjustments were, in this case, entirely unnecessary.”

 

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Posted on 2022.11.03 in Marsannay, Maranges, France, Burgundy, Wine-Aid Packages  |  Read more...

 

Bandol: The Aristocrat of Provence. Legacy Domaine de la Bégude with an Assorted Selection in 6-Bottle Package ($242) + Taming of the Bestial Bandol, Eight Seminal Producers + NEW ARRIVAL: The Combined Second White Wines of Twin Sisters Châteaux Haut-Brion & La Mission Haut Brion

Conventional wisdom has taught us that wine grapes fare best in places where nothing else will grow; rocky, water-starved soil on precipitous hillsides make vine roots work harder, ramifying and branching off in a search of nutrients and, in consequence, producing small grapes loaded with character.

Cue Bandol, the sea-and-sun-kissed region along the French Riviera which is not only good country for grapes, it’s good country for the soul.

Made up of eight wine-loving communes surrounding a cozy fishing village, Bandol breaks the Provençal mold by producing red wines that not only outstrip the region’s legendary rosé, but make up the majority of the appellation’s output. In part that’s due to the ability of Bandol vignerons to push Mourvèdre—generally treated as a blending grape in the Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape —to superlative new heights.

This week’s package contains a number of exemplary wines from eight top producers; they represent the scope of style and quality from this beautiful corner of France, which proudly claims to be the home of Mourvèdre’s peak expression.


Bandol: Between Earth and Sea

It may be impossible to find a region where the winemaking pedigree is more impressive; Phoenicians were fermenting grapes here 2500 years ago, long before the Romans showed up and named the wine ‘Massilia.’ As the late-afternoon Bandol heat sends wafts of violet, black pepper and thyme into the air above an azure sea, it’s easy to see why this seacoast resort town has been both a destination and a home since prehistory.

About an hour’s drive east from Marseille, the microclimate that sets Bandol apart from the rest of Provence is the result of altitude and its natural amphitheater; the vines are planted on steep hills where the soils are composed of limestone, red clay and silica sand and the vines are protected from the harshest winds by the natural bowl formed in the low coastal mountain ranges between La Ciotat and Toulon. This combination of features makes it ideal for ripening finicky, late-budding Mourvèdre, which might otherwise be challenged by the proximity of the Mediterranean.


Mourvèdre in Bandol: Center Stage

The ecological niche that makes Bandol’s Mourvèdre unparalleled in the world is the work of both man and nature. While Syrah and Grenache are planted on Bandol’s cooler, north-facing slopes, Mourvèdre is strategically placed on warmer, south-facing slopes to help nudge along the ripening process—the varietal is notorious for the time it needs to reach the level of phenolic ripeness required for the big, brooding, spicy, age-worthy reds for which the appellation is famous. Even so, the vines cling desperately to the slopes, making mechanical harvesting impossible. But hand-gathering is preferred in any case, ensuring a finer selection of grapes, in better condition and with smaller yields.

Meanwhile, the variety itself seems custom-designed for Bandol; Mourvèdre is an upright bush vine that forms a short stumpy trunk that will stand up to the Mistral winds. Bandol growers give preference to goblet pruning in order to reduce the amount of foliage and to help the low-producing vine bear triangular bunches with small, tight grapes bunches.


The Vigneron’s Savoir-Faire : Refusing to Do It the Easy Way

To say that Bandol’s climate is ideal for Mourvèdre is not to say that growers have a smooth path to success: On the contrary, constant vigilance is table-stakes for successful winemaking operations; understanding the AOP regulations is a task in itself; following them is that much harder. For example, young vines intended for the production of red wines are not allowed to contribute until the eighth leaf has appeared on their trunk, and from that point, during every stage of cultivation, yields are controlled. Vine density must be at least 5,000 per hectare while spur pruning (leaving two-bud spurs on the trunk) is required. Chaptalization (adding sugar to unfermented grapes to increase the wine’s alcohol content) is banned, as is ‘any enrichment or concentration operation, even within the limits of the legal prescriptions in force.’

Things don’t get any easier in the cellar. Technology may have lightened certain workloads, allowing better control and new progress in quality, but the old ways reign supreme. Maturation is an essential factor in red wine production, and here, the vigneron’s know-how is irreplaceable. The primary goal in producing Bandol is to achieve balance through a process of slow, natural stabilization, and at each stage, wines are carefully selected and tasted and are accepted only if they meet the requirements of their status. A blind tasting test is carried out in June of the first year following harvest to allow the wine growers to examine the evolution of the vintage. It’s considered a ‘mock exam’ from which each wine grower learns critical lessons.


This Week’s Package

Johnny Be Good but Bégude be better. This week we are proud to package six bottles from Domaine de la Bégude, Mourvèdre’s ground-zero, where a conservatory nurtures more than 150 varieties of the grape and the personality in the various wines stamps the entire region.

Domaine de la Bégude

“Quality is the Sum of the Details”

In with the old, in with the new: In September, 2022, after 25 years of ownership, Guillaume and Soledad Tari sold Domaine de la Bégude to the Roulleau family, who then became the fifth family to own the wine estate since the Middle Ages. Christian Roulleau immediately appointed Laurent Fortin as Managing Director. Fortin, who has managed Château Dauzac (also Roulleau-owned) since 2016, says, “The Roulleau family fell in love with this site, these exceptional terroirs set in the garrigue and these wines with strong personality. We are following in the footsteps of the Tari family to make La Bégude shine at the top of the Bandol appellation. The challenge is exciting, in the continuity of Château Dauzac, to build a family group of inspired vineyards.”

The synergy between the Tari and Roulleau clans has been immediately apparent, both in viticultural dynamism and in the pioneering spirit that shares the common value of respect for nature and biodiversity. Under the Tari family, Bégude was a place of natural agro-forestry, home to the International Conservatory of Mourvèdre, which farms an exceptional vine collection of 150 Mourvèdre varieties, the largest in the world. Going forward, the intention is to reinforce and maintain this collection.

The estate itself encompasses more than 1200 acres, of which 75 are under vine—65% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache and 10% Cinsault, now at an average age of 25 years. The vineyards sit at elevations exceeding 1300 feet, and as such, are among the highest in the appellation. The plan is to increase the cultivation to 100 acres over the next few years and to continue to produce Bégude’s hallmark rich, acidic, fruit-driven wines that develop in the cellar with elegance. The Roulleaus are proud to age their own wines in the old chapel of Miséricorde of Conil, dating from the 7th century—a vestige of the presence of the Abbey of Saint Victor on the estate.

Domaine de la Bégude ‘Cadet de la Bégude’, 2020 IGP Méditerranée ($25)
4 Bottles

A nice declassified Bandol made from young vines (around 10 years old) and without oak, 34% Mourvèdre, 33% Grenache, 33% Cinsault. Scents of black cherries, with hints of mint, lavender and spice gives rise to a warm and dense palate with an evocative, herbal finish.

*click image for more info

 

 


Domaine de la Bégude ‘La Brulade’, 2017 Bandol ($99)
1 Bottle

95% Mourvèdre, 5% Grenache grown on clay marl. ‘La Brulade’ is the name of a select slope located at an altitude of 1300 feet overlooking the Mediterranean Sea between La Baie d’Amour in the south and La Sainte Baume in the north, one of the highest parcels in Bandol; the wine is only made in exceptional vintages. With 24 months of foudre aging behind firm and tannic fruit, the wine is dark and brooding and shows blackberry, boysenberry, licorice and peppery garrigue. It should continue to develop nuance for years to come.

*click image for more info

 


Domaine de la Bégude ‘L’Irréductible’, 2020 Bandol Rosé ($43)
1 Bottle

90% Mourvèdre and 10% Grenache from vines averaging 45 years of age, it is a quintessential Bandol rosé with expressive red berry notes along with nectarine and orange pith softening the finely integrated minerality and closing whiff of iodine and saline … as if from a sea breeze.

*click image for more info

 

 

 


Other Bandol Producers 

A further selection from our favorite producers in Bandol—estates that have delivered reliably over the years and whom we trust with the assured bonhomie of old friends:

Domaine Roche Redonne

All About Balance

Founded in 1979 by Henri and Geneviève Tournier, Roche Redonne is situated among the Bandol foothills surrounded by olive groves and garrigue scrub just outside the pretty village of La Cadière d’Azu. The 30-acre vineyard is farmed using organic methods and the vines now average more than 40 years old, with the youngest vines at 20 years and the oldest at 60 years. The yields are kept low, and in fitting with the appellation laws, the steeply hilled vineyards are harvested by hand.

Domaine Roche Redonne ‘Cuvée Les Bartavelles’, 2019 Bandol ($69)
‘Bartavelles’ means ‘Royal Partridges’, and there is certainly a noble delivery here: On the nose, lovely scents of ripe black fruit, licorice and sweet spice waft above a powerful, full-bodied palate with notes of blueberry, wild herbs and peppery spice.

 

 

 

 

 


Domaine de la Bastide Blanche

A Diversity of Bandol’s Terroirs

Michel and Louis Bronzo purchased Bastide Blanche in the ‘70s in the belief that the terroir could produce a wine to rival those of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. With that in mind, the brothers planted Carignan, Cinsault, Clairette, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah. Vintage 1993 proved to be their breakaway year, putting both Bandol and themselves on the wine map. The estate is located in the foothills of Sainte-Baume Mountain, five miles from the Mediterranean Sea on land that is primarily limestone scree.

Domaine de la Bastide Blanche, 2018 Bandol ($30)
72% Mourvèdre, 20% Grenache, 6% Cinsault, 1% Syrah and 1% Carignan. A muscular core of earthy dark fruit is highlighted by classic leather, garrigue, underbrush and sweet black raspberry notes.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Taming of the Bestial Bandol: Transporting Pleasures

With AOP standards that exceed those of Burgundy and Bordeaux, the third ‘B’ in age-worthy French reds is, unmistakably, Bandol. Much smaller than the first two, the wines of Bandol are built primarily around Mourvèdre; 50% of Bandol must be composed of this grape, but assemblages frequently contain 95% Mourvèdre—only because the law requires two varieties in any bottle, white, red or pink. The truth is, many Bandol vignerons would like to get rid of this stricture to allow for 100% Mourvèdre wines.

Mourvèdre naturally produces a smaller crop of grapes than either Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon, but even so, Bandol restricts the production per acre to levels much lower than either Burgundy and Bordeaux. There is a saying in Bandol: “One vine, one bottle,” which speaks to this extremely low-yield type of viticulture. Additionally, Mourvèdre vines must be at least eight years old before they are allowed to be used for red Bandol wine, double the minimum age required for vines in Burgundy and Bordeaux. Bandol red wine must also be aged in barrel a minimum of 18 months, though many producers age their wines much longer.

The effect of all these regulations ensures the highest possible quality for Bandol reds and the most expressive potential for their star variety, which tends to be aggressively tannic in its youth, viticulturally and oenologically. Lower yields, older vines, and extended aging helps moderate and soften Mourvèdre’s forceful profile, leading to wines of finesse with remarkable ageability, as this selection of Bandol wines with a few years of correct cellaring will demonstrate:


Château Pradeaux

Resolutely Old School

Situated on the outskirts of the town of Saint Cyr-sur-Mer, directly on the Mediterranean between Toulon and Marseilles, Château Pradeaux has been in the hands of the Portalis family since the French Revolution. In fact, Jean-Marie-Etienne Portalis helped draft the Napoleonic Code and assisted at the negotiation of the Concordat under Napoleon the First. Today, the domain is run by Cyrille Portalis, who continues to maintain the quality traditions of his forbears, assisted by his wife Magali, and their sons Etienne and Edouard. Although vineyards are planted almost exclusively to old-vine Mourvèdre, Château Pradeaux Bandol Rosé is composed of Cinsault as well.

Château Pradeaux, 2015 Bandol ($50)
95% Mourvèdre, 5% Cinsault. In contrast to the three years preceding it, the 2015 vintage yielded a classic and deeply typical Pradeaux Bandol: a wine of grainy, spicy fruit, medium in weight but rippling with underlying power, and with an intoxicating aromatic overlay of violets and smoked meats.

 

 

 

 

 


Château Pradeaux ‘Cuvée Vesprée’, 2020 Bandol Rosé ($46)
95% Mourvèdre, 5% Cinsault. After spending a year on the lees in demi-muids and concrete eggs, the wine shows the creamy redolence of the richest rosé; the nose offers orange peel, grilled plums, wild strawberry. Dry and gently acidic, it finishes with the tang of dried garden herbs.

 

 

 

 


Château Pradeaux, 2021 Bandol Rosé ($37)
80% Mourvèdre, 20% Cinsault. The wine is a coppery, flamingo-pink, with more extraction and tannin than your typical Bandol rosé. It shows round and ripe on the palate, medium to full-bodied, with cherry and lime notes and a long, almost dusty finish. It is a limited production wine, as most of the Mourvèdre production at Château Pradeaux is used to make the formidable Bandol Rouge.

 

 

 


Domaine Tempier

Single Vineyards Reveal Terroir and Old Settled Down Vines

Robert Parker Jr. once referred to Domaine Tempier’s rosé as ‘the world’s greatest’, but the backstory isn’t bad either: Gifted the property by her father in 1936 upon her marriage to Lucien Peyraud, Lucie ‘Lulu’ Tempier found herself the owner of an active Bandol farm near Le Plan du Castellet that had been in the family since 1834. Her husband did extensive research into the terroir, and immediately halted the ongoing effort to tear out Mourvèdre vines in favor of higher-yielding varieties. In went new Mourvèdre, some of which are still producing.

With the assistance of neighboring vignerons, Lucien worked with the I.N.A.O. to establish Bandol as its own AOC, whereupon a large-scale replanting of Mourvèdre ensued across the region, As a result, Lucien will forever be celebrated as the Godfather of Bandol as well as the man who revived Mourvèdre to its former glory. Part of that glory includes their three single-vineyard releases, La Migoua, La Tourtin, and Cabassaou.

Domaine Tempier ‘La Migoua’, 2016 Bandol ($85)
50% Mourvèdre, 20% Grenache, 26% Cinsault, 4% Syrah. La Migoua’s terroir is primarily made up of heterogeneous clay that varies in color between red, ochre, and blue. At 885 feet, it sits at the highest altitude of all Tempier’s vineyards. The 60 acres are surrounded by garrigue and pine forest, and the grapes produce earthy, gamey wines. La Migoua has the smallest amount of Mourvèdre in the blend, with the highest percentage of Grenache of the three cuvées.

 

 


Domaine Tempier ‘La Tourtine’, 2016 Bandol ($85)
80% Mourvèdre, 10% Grenache, 10% Cinsault. La Tourtine sits just above Cabassaou, where the soil is more homogeneous and rich with clay. As a result, the 30-acre La Tourtine produces powerful, tannic wines with gorgeous fruit character.

 

 

 

 

 


Domaine Tempier ‘Cabassaou’, 2016 Bandol ($129)
95% Mourvèdre, 4% Syrah, 1% Cinsault. At 4 acres, Cabassaou is the smallest Tempier vineyard, but with the oldest vines, now surpassing fifty years. It sits lower on the hillside where it is protected from the strength of the Mistral, enjoying temperate breezes and maximum sunshine, which is evidenced by is ripeness, density and power in the wines.

 

 

 


Domaine du Groś Noré

A Vineyard with a View

‘Gros’ means big, but as for ‘Noré, the translators are silent. But ‘big’ is the operative word anyway since it describes the proprietor in body, mind and legend.  A former boxer and an avid hunter, Alain Pascal spent many years as a grower who sold his Bandol fruit to Domaine Ott and Château de Pibarnon. Along with his father, he bottled wine for family consumption only. But in 1997, after his father’s death, Alain launched Domaine du Groś Noré, and now, along with his brother Guy, bottles 5000 cases annually drawn from his forty acres of prime Cadière d’Azur vineyard.

The brothers work within the strictures of the region and often, beyond them, leaving the grapes to mature fully on the vine, lending great intensity to the fruit, and where appellation law demands that each blend includes at least 50% Mourvèdre, Alain ups the assemblage ante to 80%. The wine reflects the man; big and bold up front, while underneath is a core of character—depth, complexity, soul and finesse.

Domaine du Groś Noré, 2011 Bandol ($79)
80% Mourvèdre, 15% Grenache, 5% Cinsault. The 35-acre vineyard contains vines of about 30 years in age. With a decade under its belt, the harsh tannins have softened and the wine has given over its aggressive fruit to cool notes of eucalyptus and fresh fennel.

 

 

 

 

 


Domaine du Groś Noré ‘Cuvée Antoinette’, 2010 Bandol ($99)
95% Mourvèdre, 5% Cinsault/Grenache from a small, two-acre vineyard. Black cherry and stewed plum notes remain to enliven balsa, tobacco, game, graphite and iron.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Domaine du Groś Noré ‘Cuvée Antoinette’, 2013 Bandol ($99)
95% Mourvèdre, 5% Cinsault/Grenache. A beautiful composition with notes of underbrush and mushroom behind the dark red fruits and spice. The tannins are resolved and the acidity is suitably tempered.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Domaine de la Tour du Bon

 “Crossing Time in a Poetic Space”

Sitting pretty at an elevation of 500 feet on 35 acres of red earth, clay, sand, and gravel over a sturdy limestone plateau in Le Brûlat du Castellet in the northwestern corner of Bandol, Domaine de la Tour du Bon is the culmination of commitment and sweat equity. The property, cleared by plough, has been a full-time farm since 1925 and has been worked by the Hocquard family since 1968. At the helm is Agnès Henry, who spent a number of years at the apron strings of a hired winemaker, but when she decided to approach the job herself, she found that her person expression of terroir was quite unique. The wines she claims as her own have both power and precision in equal measure, but effectively display the finesse and charm of her lyrically named vineyards, La Rémoise (The Dweller), Saint Ferréol (a local saint), Ensoleillade (Place Bathed in Sunshine), Clos des Aïeux (Clos of the Forefathers), l’Aire (the Aerie) and Bellevue (Beautiful View).

Domaine de La Tour du Bon, 2016 Bandol ($38)
55% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache, 15% Cinsault, 5% Carignan. Agnès Henry explains the assemblage: “The Grenache counters the Mourvèdre’s tannin, rusticity, and spice while adding higher-toned notes; Carignan for freshness and Cinsault to bind it all together harmoniously.”

 

 

 

 


Domaine de La Tour du Bon ‘En Sol’, 2017 IGP Méditerranée ($85)
A half-acre site produces this extraordinary non-blended Mourvèdre, but since it breaks Bandol AOP regulations requiring a two-grape minimum, Henry has chosen to declassify the wine and release it as IGP Méditerranée. Grippy yet accessible tannins underscore flavors of ripe dark fruit, berries, scorched earth and a touch of smoked meat.

 

 

 


Domaine de Terrebrune

“Philosophy, Rigor, and Respect”

Owning a winery may be the whispered dream of many sommeliers, but Georges Delille put his francs where his mouth was. In 1963, he bought an idyllic property in Ollioules, just east of Bandol, framed by the Mediterranean and the Big Brian mountain (Gros-Cerveau). The site was dotted with olive groves and scenic views, but no vines. Georges spent ten years renovating the property; he terraced hillsides, refashioned the masonry, replanted vineyards following the advice of Lucien Peyraud, designated soils to lie dormant and regenerate, and built a new cellar. In 1980, his son Reynald joined him after attending winemaking school, and together they launched their first bottled vintage of Domaine de Terrebrune, which Reynald named in honor of the rich, brown soils they farm.

There is plenty of diversity in this soil, though. Throughout Terrebrune’s 75 acres, beneath the layers of clay and earth, blue, fissured limestone is at work, lending a more noticeable minerality to the wine. Reynald’s personal credo of “Philosophy, rigor, and respect” is not a catch-phrase, but an ideology for living.

Domaine de Terrebrune, 2016 Bandol ($54)
85% Mourvèdre, 10% Grenache, 5% Cinsault grown in limestone-pebbled brown clay above blue limestone bedrock. A full-bodied dose of Terrebrune terroir that should continue to mature and drink well for another two decades. Shows blackberries, dark cherries and cedar with hints of black pepper, game, licorice and dark chocolate.

 

 

 


NEW ARRIVALS

La Clarté de Haut-Brion 2019

The Combined Second White Wines of Twin Sisters
Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut Brion

Often referred to as the ‘Lord of Graves’, Haut-Brion sealed its reputation for quality in 1855 when its red wine was classified as a First Growth along with three prestigious Médoc properties. A new classification of Graves red wines was carried out in 1953, with dry white wines added in the 1959 update.

It’s fair to say that the creation of the Pessac-Léognan appellation in 1987 changed the appellation’s direction. Located in the north of Graves and intended to cover the district’s finest dry red and white wines, it contains many of its most respected producers, including Haut-Brion and its co-owned neighbor, the recent star performer La Mission Haut-Brion. Pessac-Léognan extends from the parish of Pessac and the southern outskirts of the city around 5 miles south to Léognan.

Founded in the 16th century, Haut-Brion has been owned by the Dillon family since 1935. As is the pattern in Bordeaux, the estate produces second labels: Le Clarence de Haut-Brion for red wines, meant to be drunk earlier than its big brother, and La Clarté de Haut-Brion, made in tiny quantities and originating in part from the vines of La Mission Haut-Brion.

Bordeaux’s Pessac-Léognan 2019: Outstanding with Excellent Balance

The winter of 2018-2019 was mild and dry, and in the spring, flowering took place under ideal conditions, without the poor fruit set of coulure or millerandage. During the summer, regular rainfall was conducive to growth, leading the vines to develop an impressive leaf canopy. A series of successive heatwaves hit midsummer, and July was the third hottest in history, with temperatures reaching a record-breaking 108°F. Fortunately, rain fell by month’s end, followed by cool nights in August. Véraison was slow but uninterrupted and September was marked by fine, dry and sunny conditions interspersed by welcomed rainfall. Thanks to this ideal spell of weather, all the grape varieties were harvested at peak ripeness and at a leisurely pace.

Jean-Philippe Delmas, who took over management of Château Haut-Brion in 2006, expressed his delight with the 2019 vintage: “It is a rich, dramatic and unusually powerful vintage, a great success for both Château Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion.”

In discussing his white wines, he says, “The weather conditions are pointing to more Sauvignon Blanc in our assemblage; Sémillon tends to lose its acidity rapidly in warm vintages. The vineyard team are working to mitigate the effects of climate change and minimize the quantities of copper employed in treatments throughout the year. White grapes are whole-cluster pressed with great attention to pH, the musts protected with dry ice, and bottled with some 25 parts per million free sulfites, without much in the way of dissolved carbon dioxide.”

Château Haut-Brion & Château La Mission Haut-Brion ‘La Clarté de Haut-Brion’, 2019 Pessac-Léognan Blanc ($119)
Describing 2019 La Clarté, he says, “Aromas of confit citrus fruit, peaches, grapefruit and pastry cream make the 2019 La Clarté de Haut-Brion full-bodied, deep and fleshy, with a satiny attack and an ample core of fruit underpinned by lively acids and chalky structure. Overall the wine is richer and headier in style than its 2018 predecessor.”

*click image for more info

 

 

 

 

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Posted on 2022.10.27 in Bandol, Pessac-Léognan, Graves, France, Bordeaux, Wine-Aid Packages, Provence  |  Read more...

 


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