Lieux-dits are a wine lover’s Google Earth; a satellite view of an appellation focused on a tiny, representative parcel. Not all vineyards have lieux-dits, and among those that do, not all are created equal. In general, it’s a term that refers to a geologically homogenous portion of a vineyard with a self-contained story to tell about its quality or, occasionally, its significance to history. Although lieux-dits are generally not required to be formally registered, they are always named, and that name may occasionally be confused with a producer’s cuvée name, which is often similar. Different appellations have different laws regarding lieux-dits; in Alsace, for example, they are mandatory for Grand Cru AOP labels, whereas in Burgundy, Grand Crus are forbidden from using them.
In the Rhône, lieux-dits are often associated with the region’s top estates, and those that do not have an officially registered place in the French Cadastre are considered ‘les marques’ of their producers. In either case, they are ‘terroir distilled’—an extremely fine-tuned expression of an individual location. To recognize one is to recognize that within the sprawling Rhône there exists an almost microscopic essence that only a lieu-dit can reveal.
Domaine Santa Duc’s 6-bottle pack contains one of each of the following wines at $380 including tax.
At Santa Duc, in the verdant environs of Gigondas, heritage is as deep as the iron-rich soils. Six generations have leapfrogged each other as caretakers of the storybook estate at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail hills and each has brought to the party a unique respect for terroir and tradition. Yves Gras, Domaine Santa Duc’s winemaker for 32 years, became a standard bearer for innovation with his elegant wines; he replaced barrels with 3600-liter casks to tone down the oak and championed a greater percentage of Mourvèdre used in cuvées. His ongoing quest for cooler terroirs capable of producing great wines ultimately took him from the plateau of Gigondas to Châteauneuf-du-Pape (10 miles to the southwest), where he was able to purchase several choice parcels.
With the 2017 vintage, Yves’ son Benjamin Gras took over the domain and quickly proved himself to be as much a visionary as his father, switching immediately to biodynamic agriculture and building a state-of-the-art winemaking facility on the property. Benjamin has the passion, the Gras DNA, but also the educational pedigree to buoy his future: After obtaining a diploma in oenology at the University of Bourgogne in Dijon, he spent time at Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Bodega Vega-Sicilia, and the OIV MSc in Wine Management program gave him the unprecedented opportunity to visit more than two dozen wine producing countries and study their techniques, their terroirs, and their traditions.
In Southern Rhône, unexpected June rainfall caused some difficulties with mildew and farmers lost a good portion of the crop. Eventually, the damp weather dried up, replaced by a hot, dry summer, and by harvest, temperatures were high and producers had to work quickly when handling the grapes. The reds of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Vacqueyras are especially good, with dense concentration and solid structures.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a land of sunshine and wind, and these factors combine to make Rhône’s most famous appellation naturally resistant to bugs and mildew; here, pesticide-free farming is not innovation but traditional precedent. With more than 8,000 acres under vine, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the largest appellation in the Rhône; 94% of the three million gallons of wine produced each year is red, and of that, 80% of the content in every dark, heavy, distinctively-embossed bottle is Grenache, although another 12 varieties are legally permitted. These wines will never display the austere elegance of Bordeaux or the brooding sophistication of Burgundy, but they are sumptuous, opulent and hedonistically accessible throughout their youth and often remain so after many years in the cellar. That said, they can vary wildly in price and character; many are generic in style and reputation, and the wines contained within this package have been chosen especially for the specificity of their lieux-dits and their ability to express Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s quintessential goût de terroir.
1- ‘Les Saintes Vierges’ 2018 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($70) – 3 acre parcel in lieu-dit Les Saintes Vierges – Santa Duc’s first and most treasured CdP lieu-dit, located in the east side of the AOP. Vines average seventy years of age and are planted on soils rich in quartz and mica with shell debris and compacted sand from the Miocene period. The wine presents a marvelous display with aromas of anise and black plum flecked with notes of spicy cardamom; the palate is rich and filled with red fruits and silky tannins.
2- ‘Le Pied de Baud’ 2018 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($70)– 2.5 acre parcel in lieu-dit Le Pied de Baud – Benjamin Gras’ goal in winemaking is balance and tension—tension occurs when two qualities duel for dominance (in this case, fruit and acidity), and balance is achieved when they meet in the middle. From a forest-encircled parcel of superb land on the Mont Redon plateau, the wine shows sweet black raspberry syrup, spice-cake and candied lavender amid fine-grained tannins and a pronounced minerality.
3- ‘Habemus Papam’ 2018 Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($54)– 7 acres in total in lieux-dits Le Pradel and La Font du Pape – The vainglorious name means ‘We have a Pope’ and Santa Duc describes this wine as ‘episcopal’. Celestial underpinnings aside, the wine comes from two plots to the west and center of Châteauneuf-du-Pape where the earth is rich with sandy clay above and calcareous subsoil below. The cuvée is 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah with an average vine age of 60 years. The wine has a nose of violets and smoke interspersed with deep red wild berry notes and a pristine and opulent mouthfeel.
Where Châteauneuf-du-Pape is sun and wind, Gigondas is forest and scrubland filled with wild lavender, sage and thyme, forming the archetypal ‘garrigue’ of Southern France. These brambly, herbal aromatics are a common in tasting notes of Gigondas wines, and it is perhaps testimonial to the phenomenal power of terroir that grapes and wildflowers can coax the same flavors from the earth: a combination of limestone soils on the Montmirail slopes to the east, and rocky, sandy, free-draining soils on the flatter, lower-lying plains to the north and west. Maximum yield in Gigondas is set at 36 hectoliters per hectare, only slightly more than the restrictions of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. As an additional quality assurance, a technique known as ‘triage’ is employed—the mandatory separation of healthy grapes from imperfect grapes.
4- ‘Les Hautes Garrigues’ 2018 Gigondas ($69) – 7 acre parcel in lieu-dit Les Hautes Garrigues – ‘Les Hautes’ is the Gras family’s legacy vines—they have existed at the heart of the domain since it was founded in 1874. Geology has been involved for far longer; the red clay and gravel soils were formed as a colluvial fan known as the Cône de la Font des Papes during alternating ice ages. The blend here is even-steven—half Grenache and half Mourvèdre from vines that are around 75 years old. The wine expresses an assertive nose of black cherries, chocolate, ginger and menthol on a background where the classic garrigue notes are omnipresent.
5- ‘Clos Derrière Vieille’ 2018 Gigondas ($54) – 8 acre parcel in lieu-dit Clos Derrière Vieille – Clos Derrière Vieille is a phoenix-from-the-ashes redux; in such poor shape was the vineyard when Santa Duc bought it in 1994 that it took years to regain its former status. Situated at an altitude above one thousand feet, and arranged in narrow terraces that follow limestone outcroppings, the soil is moisture-retaining marl and rich limestone, allowing a deep root system. The name means ‘Behind the Old Woman’, a reference to the church behind which the vineyard sprawls. 80% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre and 10%, Syrah, the wine is bright and crunchy with acidity and fruit-forward, showing dusty earth, dried cherries and Herbes de Provence.
6- ‘Aux Lieux Dits’ 2018 Gigondas ($42) – 17 acres in total in lieux-dits Goujard, le Clos Derrière Vieille, Les Pailleroudas, Les Hautes Garrigues, Les Carbonnières, Les Rocassières, Plane and Les Routes – A selection from all of Santa Duc’s vineyards may defy the spirit of the lieu-dit, but the wine becomes its own statement. It is a classic Gigondas from a powerful vintage with an intense nose of spring flowers, cassis, blackberries, wood-smoke and cherries, full, elegant and dense with a persistent finish.
Casey Affleck to Ben? Jim Belushi to John? Or God forbid, Frank Stallone to Rocky? Wine critics often regarded a château’s second label wine with a haughty sniff, referring to them as ‘little brother wines.’ Adding to the cynicism is the fact that over the years, prices have risen to the extent that a second wine from a premier estate often matches the sum once paid for the Grand Vin itself. But along with elevated tariff has come a rise in quality, and so much expertise is now poured into the production of second label wines that they may actually approach the class and character of what was once sold as the Grand Vin—and as such, the metaphor may be closer to Lionel Barrymore and his younger brother John.
Bordeaux is split in two by the Gironde Estuary, and the wines are often described by the side of the river where the châteaux are found. As the little brother is often overshadowed by the elder, so the Classified Growths of Bordeaux’s Left Bank have often basked in the brightest spotlights while those found along the Right Bank have hovered in the wings. Robert Parker Jr. may be credited (at least in part) for bringing some of these understudies center stage with critical high-fives and scores in the 90s. This is because Right Bank wines tend to be more in tune with his preferred style—plush, juicy and jammy with melt-away tannins, due in part to its soils being often better suited to soft, early-ripening Merlot rather than the austere, big-shouldered and acidic Cabernet Sauvignon that predominates in the Left Bank. An interesting feature of second labels from Left Bank estates is that they tend to mirror Right Bank virtues—often because the vignerons use a greater proportion of Merlot in the blend. In exceptional vintages (like 2018), when most vineyards reach their fully-ripened potential, second wines enjoy the best of both worlds; a prestigious name and a user-friendly style that may benefit from—but does not require—years in the cellar. Whereas the Grand Vins of these top estates may be prohibitively expensive, 2018 is an ideal vintage with which to explore their second labels and to see how tall the younger brother has grown since your last visit.
Philippe Sereys de Rothschild (owner of Château Mouton Rothschild) compares Vintage 2018 to the legendary ‘59s, which he claims are still near-perfect, with incredible depth and finesse. “It’s always interesting to try to describe a vintage with one word,” he says. “2009 is velvet; 2010 is square. And 2018? The word that comes to mind is ‘dense.’ It’s a vintage that you want to follow.”
According to Bordeaux wine merchant and vigneron François Thienpont: “In 2018, we saw a very specific weather pattern. The first half was very rainy, and then, after mid-July, it was dry. That means that we didn’t have any vines suffering hydric-stress. They weren’t affected by the drought and the vines were able to do the job for the grapes. It was easy. It was absolutely awesome!”
Located at the northern end of the Haut-Médoc in an undulating sea of quartz, pebbles, clay and limestone, the wines of Saint-Estèphe are known for both finesse and longevity. Accounting for nearly 8% of total Médoc production, the terroir of Saint-Estèphe is considered among the most favorable in Bordeaux—the limestone is ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon, while the heavier, moisture-retaining clay favors Merlot; the two varietals that make up the lion’s share of Bordeaux blends.
1- Château Calon-Ségur
‘Troisième Cru’ is a mouthful, and so is a glass of this wine from the northernmost classified growth in the Médoc. Calon-Ségur is recognizable by the heart on the label, a result of the original owner Marquis de Ségur (who also owned Châteaux Lafite and Latour) declaring, “My heart belongs to Calon.” Presumably, the current owners, the Gasquetons, feel the same way. Their vines are planted on deep gravel beds interspersed with sand and clay, and the Grand Vin has a higher-than-usual percent of Cabernet Franc, up to 15%.
Le Marquis de Calon-Ségur (2018 Saint-Estèphe) ($40)offers an entirely different interpretation of the terroir, being 75% Merlot. Under the careful eye of oenologist Éric Boissenot, Calon-Ségur’s second wine offers blackcurrant syrup, Damson plums, garrigue herbs and a beautiful mid-palate of licorice and dark chocolate.
2- Château Montrose
In English, it’s ‘Mount Pink’—a reference to the wild heather that blooms on the slopes. But red is the color for which the château is famous since its wines are a blend of four red grape varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Although (according to the 1855 Classification of the Médoc), Montrose is a Second Growth, or Deuxième Cru, it often rivals the First Growth class in quality and reputation. In the hands of the Charmoule family for 100 years, Montrose is known for its powerful, big bodied wines.
Montrose’s Second Label is La Dame de Montrose, the 2018 ($69), noteworthy for being more than fifty percent Merlot. This proves itself in the wine’s silky and seductive mantle, laced with mulberry, black currant and cassis notes; the tannins are gripping but pleasant and the richness of the finish is remarkable.
3- Château Cos d’Estournel
The name ‘d’Estournel’ has been attached to this estate since long before the Classification of 1855 listed it as a Second Growth, but the ‘Cos’ has been around even longer: it is an ancient Gascon word denoting a hill of pebbles. Composing 170 acres subdivided into 30 parcels, the château is nearly as famous for its oriental façade and a trio of golden sandstone pagodas than it is for its wines. Even d’Estournel’s Grand Vin tends to have a higher percentage of Merlot than do those of its next-door neighbor Château Lafite-Rothschild.
The blend, around 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 38% Merlot (the remaining 2% is Cab Franc), is mirrored in its second Label, Pagodes de Cos. The 2018 ($68) is about as serious as a second wine gets, vibrant and approachable, with of baked black cherries, plum preserves and crème de cassis with hints of cigar box, tilled soil and wood smoke plus a touch of crushed rocks.
The most singularly revered appellation on earth; Pauillac is to wine what The Beatles are to pop music. Though fewer than ten square miles in total, three of the top five châteaux in the 1855 Médoc Classification are located here, and so varied is the topography that each estate is able to market the individual nature, in style and substance, of their wares. And it is this trio of skills—growing, producing and selling—that has made the region almost a cliché, synonymous with elite wine, where futures sell for exorbitant rates long before the wine is even in the bottle.
4- Château Pédesclaux
Pédesclaux is classified as a Fifth Growth, and the original accuracy of that designation may be confirmed by the fact that the Pédesclaux family was well-regarded as négociants at the time, and Edmond Pedesclaux was one of the brokers who actually helped determine the 1855 Classification. That said, there has not been a Pédesclaux at the helm since the nineteenth century, but the various owners since have slowly but steadily improved the plots they owned while purchasing additional vineyards. Part of the overall plan has involved planting more Cabernet Sauvignon (to which the terroir is particularly suited) and removing rows of Merlot.
As demonstrated by the Merlot-heavy Fleur de Pédesclaux (2018 Pauillac) ($26), it is to be hoped that they do not carry the Merlot decimation too far: The wine is nicely dense and sapid, showing velvety red currant and crushed strawberry along with earthy undertones of truffles and wild herbs.
5- Château Pichon Baron
‘When you’re number two, you try harder’ is an aphorism that may hold true in automobile rentals, but in the Médoc, the chances are slim that any Deuxième Cru will have its seat upgraded any time soon. But it is arguable to suggest that Pichon Baron is first among seconds, and it boasts a terroir essentially identical to Château Latour, immediately next door. Originally part of a larger estate (Château Pichon Longueville) the property was subdivided in 1850 between the owner’s children, among them, Baron Raoul de Pichon Longueville.
Les Griffons de Pichon Baron (2018 Pauillac) ($57) is Château Pichon Baron’s second label, 52% Cabernet Sauvignon and 48% Merlot. It is filled with the cedar-and-camphor tinged cassis that is trademark of Pauillac Cabernet, well-balanced by the plummy lushness of Merlot fruit, everything wrapped in a delightful cloak of fine-grained tannins and elegant oak.
6- Château Pichon Longueville – Comtesse de Lalande
Virginie, the Comtesse de Lalande, and her two sisters also received as inheritance a portion of the Château Pichon Longueville estate. Once considered unusual for using a much higher proportion of Merlot in the final blend, the estate has, over the years, complied to more ‘Pauillac’ standards; today, the Grand Vin may contain up to 75% Cabernet Sauvignon.
The château’s second label, Réserve de la Comtesse (2018 Pauillac) ($61), representing 41% of the total crop, is a return to the roots: 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. It opens slowly to offer glimpses of dusty soil, Sichuan pepper, garrigue and tobacco over a core of warm black cherries, cassis and blackberry pie plus a waft of toast and star anise.
Great things come in small packages, especially when big money is involved. The smallest of the major Médoc appellations (under four square miles), it also boasts (through a series of real estate deals between the large estates and the small ones) an astonishing pedigree: Fully 95% of the appellation sits on classified acreage. Key to the desirability of the wines produced here is the seamless fusion of concentration and elegance; the wines are of a style historically referred to as masculine, but more in the mode of a Knight Templar than a brawny warrior. This blend of finesse and fortitude comes in part from the preponderance of gravel in the best vineyards, allowing natural drainage in the wet years, radiating warmth in cool vintages, extending the growing season and allowing vine roots to extend deeply into the earth.
7- Château Ducru-Beaucaillou
There’s more to the name than a lovely rhyme; it encapsulates both the original owner and the timeless terroir. Bertrand Ducru purchased the estate in 1795, where the vineyards are peppered with quartz pebbles, forcing the vines to struggle for nutrients. This results in reduced yields and small, concentrated grapes that are packed with nuanced mineral notes. In French, ‘beaux cailloux’ means ‘beautiful pebbles’. The average age of Ducru vines is 35 years, but there is at least one parcel (Les Sadons) where the vines are over a century old.
The estate does not market La Croix Ducru-Beaucaillou (2018 Saint Julien) ($65) as a ‘second wine’ because it comes from a different source: an inland vineyard on the south bank of the ‘La Mouline’ stream close to Château Talbot; it was previously sold as Château Terrey-Gros-Caillou. With two thirds Cabernet Sauvignon the wine is muscular yet fresh, displaying a full range of berry flavors steeped in spice (clove especially) and smoky charcoal.
In terms of size and renown, Margaux is a vastly important appellation, with 21 Cru Classé properties from the 1855 Bordeaux Classification within its borders and more acres under vine than any other Haut-Médoc AOP but Saint-Estèphe. As feminine as the name are the wines of Margaux, at least by traditional standards—they are famous for their perfumed fragrance and lilting, delicate expression of terroir; in cooler vintages, they may come across as lightweights compared to the powerhouses of Pauillac, but in fine vintages like 2018, they are incomparable in grace and depth.
8- Château d’Issan
The roots of Château d’Issan’ vines delve deeply into Margaux’s gravel, but not as deeply as the roots of the estate delve into history. One of the oldest producing châteaux in Bordeaux, wines from d’Issan vineyards were used to toast the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry the Second. Oddly perhaps, although Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant varietal today, when d’Issan was classified as a Third Growth in 1855, the wine was produced entirely from a grape that is now all but extinct in Bordeaux: Tarney Coulant.
Blason d’Issan (2018 Margaux) ($36) was introduced as a second label in 1995, and fulfills a textbook role within this category: Made from the estate’s youngest vines with equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it is fruity and accessible, offering a bouquet of blackberry and cranberry laced with undergrowth, mint, lavender and tobacco leading to full, fruity mid-palate and a mineral-driven finish.
As a stand-alone appellation, Pessac-Léognan is still in the bloom of youth; it was formally established in 1987 in recognition of the truly outstanding long-lived red and white wines of northern Graves. The appellation includes the only red-wine producer outside the Haut-Médoc to be classified in 1855, the Premier Cru Château Haut-Brion. Soils here, as in most of Graves, are filled with gravel and sand, a terroir that favors Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc over Merlot, which prefers clay.
9- Château Smith Haut Lafitte
Rated as a red wine ‘Grand Cru Classé’ in the 1959 Classification of Graves, the château sits on a low hill of pebbles and sand deposited by the Garonne River, offering grape vines not only superb drainage, but also reflected sunshine to lengthen the day’s ripening period. The estate is not to be confused with Château Lafite Rothschild (the Pauillac superstar) with which it has no connection, but both were named for their elevated physical status—‘la fite’ is an ancient dialectical word for hill.
Le Petit Haut Lafitte (2018 Pessac-Léognan Rouge) ($45) was introduced in 2010 from lots identified during the blending of the Grand Vin, and has an unusual distinction of being involved in the baking soda industry, as the carbon dioxide released in fermentation is recycled by the estate. The wine, with a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot, is very friendly, with cassis and black currant in the foreground shored up by chocolate, menthol, smoke and nutty oak.
Châteaux’ Second Wines 2018 9-bottle pack contains one of each of the above listed wines at $495, tax is included.
Champagne Valentin Leflaive
Cuvée 15 I 50 – Grand Cru ‘Le Mesnil sur Oger’ – Blanc de Blancs – Extra Brut
Price for Members of The Champagne Society: $93
That is certainly the case with the partnership between Erick de Sousa from the Côte des Blancs and one of Burgundy’s most heralded producers, Olivier Leflaive. The fortuitous collaboration arose after one of de Sousa’s frequent trips to Leflaive’s Puligny-Montrachet vineyard, when Olivier suggested that the two old friends combine talent and passions and create a unique new label, and Champagne Valentin Leflaive was born.
Winemaker Olivier Leflaive’s family has been rooted in the village of Puligny-Montrachet since 1717. In 1982, after a successful career in the music business, Olivier became the co-manager of Domaine Leflaive, and two years later, launched his own wine production company with the help of his uncle Vincent, his brother Patrick and later his cousin Anne-Claude. ‘Olivier Leflaive Frères’ soon established itself among the finest of haute-couture Burgundian producers. Steeped in local tradition, Olivier strongly believes that the best way to taste his wines is to serve them with simple local fare.
Erick De Sousa is the third generation of Portuguese vignerons to create wine in the Grand Cru village of Avize in the Côte Des Blancs. He farms 22 acres in the vicinity of Avize, with plots in Oger, Cramant and Chouilly and additionally, in the Montagne de Reims near Aÿ and Ambonnay as well as a small holding in the Vallée de la Marne. An early pioneer of biodynamics, his old-vine (the oldest dates to 1932) vineyards are ploughed by horse and he is committed to extensive lees ageing, full malolactic fermentation and aging reserve wines in wood. His adherence to biodynamics is founded on a keen understanding of his terroir: “I wanted to give back to the soil what it has given me over the years. Without the soil of Champagne, our domain would not exist.”
The Valentin Leflaive partners chose Oger as their base of operation, one of the most prestigious appellations in the Côte des Blancs. The vineyards of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, planted almost exclusively to Chardonnay, grow on east-facings slopes near the village, with some southeast-facing slopes to the northwest. The inclination varies from higher elevations near the forested crest of Côte des Blancs hill to the flat expanse below the village. Champagne from this appellation is mineral-driven and richly sumptuous.
As a wine term, ‘terroir’ transcends nationality. It leapfrogs appellations and vaults borders; it is a small package within a warehouse of nuances. Literally, it may mean ‘dirt’, but only in the context under which soil exists as part of a larger system. Terroir encompasses climate, topography, biodiversity, and in some cases, cultural heritage. Defined more accurately than ‘soil’, terroir can be translated as a ‘sense of place.’ According to the theory of terroir, the essence of a wine from a specific location should be identifiable based on this location.
With one of the richest and most complex geologies in France, Beaujolais has further refined the mechanics of terroir into a celebration of their micro-terroirs, variously known as ‘lieux-dits’ or ‘climats’. At the request of the Inter-Beaujolais Council, a nine-year analysis was done by a soil mapping agency to assist winegrowers and négociants in highlighting the region’s ability to express itself in plot-by-plot cuvées. Although physically small, Beaujolais contains over three hundred individual soil types representing over 500 million years of geological history, and unlike Bordeaux, the Loire or the Rhône, there is but a single grape variety used in the production of all its red wines: Gamay. Whether Cru, Beaujolais-Villages or simply Beaujolais, Gamay has a chameleon’s ability to draw inspiration from the earth and change its face to suit the mood, displaying the sensuous simplicity of an easy-drinking summer wine or the brooding complexities of a cellared gem.
Daniel Bouland has been called reclusive and solitary—he has also been called the best artisanal vigneron in Beaujolais. When collectors compare him to more flamboyant regional names like Foillard and Lapierre, it is always favorably, at least in part because of his obsessive respect for micro-terroirs—in French, ‘pur’ terroir. Working with fewer than twenty acres of impeccably cultivated vines in the Morgon lieux-dits of Corcelette, Bellevue and Delys, plus small parcels in Chiroubles and Côte de Brouilly, Bouland’s wines are approachable upon release, but created with such a backbone that his terroir’s mineral nuances will continue to become more pronounced with five or more years in the cellar. These long-haul wines frequently come from very old vines (some approaching a hundred years of age) whose naturally low yields Bouland hand-harvests and ferments on native yeasts. Equally interesting are his younger vines, which are propagated using an old-school technique known as ‘Selection Massale’ wherein new plants are grown with cuttings from exceptional old vines from the same lieu-dit. More difficult than the clonal selection vines which have been dominant since the 1960’s, Selection Massale tends to produce vines that are less uniform and better able to express terroir, a feat at which Daniel Bouland is a master.
With a mere eight hundred acres under vine, Chiroubles is slightly west of center among the northern crus of Beaujolais. The soil structure here—sandy, eroded granite—is similar to Morgon, but the vineyards sit at higher elevations, where there is a more pronounced diurnal temperature shift than in the rest of Beaujolais. The wines tend to be lighter and fresher and are often considered emblematic of Beaujolais’ image as a whole.
2019 Daniel Bouland ‘Chatenay – Cuve No 11’ Chiroubles ($36): The lieu-dit of Chatenay sits high upon the hill of Chiroubles where soils are sandy and friable, producing an archetypal regional wine; aromas of violets and herbs form top-notes while below them, cherry and subtler spice are front and center. Tannins remain in the background and lead to an appealingly long finish.
Nestled along slopes of a dormant volcano, Côte de Brouilly is one of the ten Beaujolais Cru appellations. It’s also among the smallest and most southerly. The proximity of the volcano has left the soil saturated with rare blue diorite, a phenomenon that leaves the soil thin and stony—an ideal underbelly for deeply rooted, low yielding vines with an excellent concentration of flavor. The best vineyards of Brouilly are planted on the south-east-facing slopes of Mont Brouilly. These vineyards are protected from winds from the nearby Beaujolais hills by Mont Brouilly itself, and are instead subject to early morning sunlight.
2019 Daniel Bouland ‘Cuvée Mélanie Cuve No 1’ Côte de Brouilly ($36) originates in the volcanic blue schist lieu-dit called ‘Tête Noire’. Named for Daniel Bouland’s daughter, the wine is grape-jelly purple with well-marked and velvety tannins and a pronounced, soil-driven minerality. Very floral on the nose and fresh, juicy and fruity on the tongue, it shows a well-ripened cherry, bright blackberry and damson character.
Morgon covers fewer than five square miles, yet contains six distinct and identified ‘climats’, making it, perhaps, the wine world’s poster child for micro-terroir. Morgon wines tend to be dark and chewy with a marked ability to age—so distinctly, in fact, that a French expression ‘il morgonne’ is used to describe a wine that is well-served with cellar time. The soils of Morgon may range in texture from sandy loams to heavy clay, but all are rich in iron that lend earthy depths to the wines rarely found in the other Beaujolais Crus.
First and foremost, Daniel Bouland is a Morgon vigneron who understands the shine and shadow of Morgon’s terroirs as well as any producer alive; his cuvées are brawny and bold, but never overpowering thanks to a winemaker’s gift for restraint where required and an innate ability to highlight Beaujolais’ most cherished trait: Approachability. The contrast between two climats within Morgon’s ‘Bellevue’ and ‘Les Delys’ vineyards demonstrate Bouland’s deft hand at coaxing individual and identifiable greatness from the dirt beneath his feet.
2019 Daniel Bouland ‘Bellevue – Cailloux Cuve No 3’ Morgon ($37) is layered, succulent and concentrated with revealing aromas of raspberries, cherries and wild plums underscored by a bit of flint-smoke and sweet, earthy richness. The deep fruit core easily rides the powdery tannins, uplifted by bright acids.
2019 Daniel Bouland ‘Les Delys – Foudre No 8’ Morgon ($39): On the label, it announces in bold blue: ‘Vignes plantées en 1926.’ And in fact, these vines—gnarled, globe-shaped works of tortured art (see picture)—are nearly a century old. From them emerges a wine displaying a labyrinthine of sweet and savory layers; baking chocolate, grilled meat and a bouquet of wild herbs wrapped around a succulent cornucopia of ripe plum, blueberry, orange peel and cranberry. Foudre No 8 is among Bouland’s most age-worthy wines; Beaujolais’ 2019 growing season provided fierce heat throughout the summer and cool rains in the early fall, leading to concentration and freshness in the best of the cru wines—among which this one certainly numbers.
Bouland’s 8-bottle pack contains two of each of the above listed four wines at $314; tax is included.
The legend of Snow White and Rose Red may have originated with the Brothers Grimm in Germany, but a modern reenactment can be found in the vineyards of Côte Chalonnaise. In this tale, the star performers are Pinot Noir as Rose Red and as Snow White, Chardonnay. Aligoté is an understudy, except in Bouzeron—the only appellation Village that is entirely produced from this ancient variety.
Sandwiched between the Côte de Beaune and the rolling hills of the Mâconnais, the Côte Chalonnaise is 16 miles long by four miles wide; the finest vines are planted on southeast slopes and produce red, rosé and white wines from 44 communes within cantons of Buxy, Chagny, Givry and Mont-Saint-Vincent. Like Beaune to the north, the soils of northern Côte Chalonnaise are limestone-dominated with outcrops of lias and trias formations. In the south, the limestone is marly, with sand and flint clays at the foot of the slopes. When graced with long, dry summers, Pinot Noir ripens beautifully, producing wines that (like Rose Red) are sassy, lively and cheerful while Chardonnay, sending roots deep into Burgundy’s clay, is more like Snow White: a homebody, redolent of gentle flowers with a suggestion of warm bread and honey. But in fairness to literary and vinicultural hisotry, Côte Chalonnaise was already staging these heroines half a millennia before the Brothers Grimm penned their first ‘Once upon a time.’
The additional sunshine south of Beaune is what raises Aligoté’s stock value in the Côte Chalonnaise; in Bouzeron especially, the grape turns golden in the long summer growing season and the acidity to sugar balance is better than almost anywhere else in Burgundy. One of the five appellations Villages in the Côte Chalonnaise (and the closest to the Côte-d’Or), Bouzeroncontains no Premier Cru sites, but produces white wines distinct enough to have become virtually synonymous with the ancient varietal Aligoté.
“Chardonnay is not my reference; Aligoté is,” says Villaine owner and winemaker Pierre de Benoist. “My aunt and uncle bought Villaine in 1971, when it was just eight hectares (20 acres). Today we have 21 hectares (52 acres), of which ten are planted to Aligoté.”
Bouzeron 2018 (White) ($41)is a lovely, nuanced wine with gunflint sparks in the nose along with white flowers and vanilla; the palate opens wide with creamy lemon pudding and honeyed croissant and finishes cleanly.
The four villages of Buxy, Montagny-lès-Buxy, Jully-lès-Buxy and Saint-Vallerin form a sort of confederacy on Côte Chalonnaise’s southern tip; Montagny the only one of five Chalonnaise communal appellations devoted exclusively to white wines produced from Chardonnay. High levels of limestone in the local soils impart the highly prized minerality to the wines, but also make them somewhat more acidic. As a result, the juice is often fermented or matured in oak barrels, adding depth and complexity and mellowing the bite.
Headquartered in Givry, Cellier aux Moines is one of the oldest domains in Burgundy. Established by Cistercian monks, it has been surrounded by its Clos for nine centuries. In 2004, the estate was purchased by Philippe and Catherine Pascal; in 2015, Guillaume Marko joined the domain as head of vineyards and winemaking.
Montagny Premier Cru – Les Combes 2018 (White) ($44). 2018 was an opulent vintage in Montagny, and the wine boasts many white flower aromatic—look for acacia, honeysuckle and lemon-balm. White peach and pear appear in the palate along with an engaging nuttiness adding an earthy edge to the overall delicacy and finesse.
As is the case throughout the wine world, quirks of geology and geography make the appellation. They combine in Mercurey, in the center of the Côte Chalonnaise, to make it one of the premiere growing locations in Burgundy. Tucked away within the ‘Golden Valley’ and its several proximate vales, the vines are protected from damp winds and thrive in marl and calcic soils.
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 (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, especially Mercurey Premier Cru – Clos des Barraults 2018 (White) ($42). Juillot is regarded as a virtuoso of Chardonnay, and this wine is sufficient evidence: It leads with silken, sensuous and subtle scents of apple and spicy peach while the palate displays pineapple and honey with candied lemon on a textured, creamy finish.
The wines of vigneron Philippe Garrey have been called profound, and regardless of art form, such a descriptor is the pinnacle of praise. With roots in the southern end of the Mercurey appellation now six-generations deep, Garrey quietly maintains his scant eleven acres entirely alone, and has no wish to expand; like most winemakers, he believes that his wines must express his unique terroir, but also, to ensure that they are equally representative of his family’s name and reputation.
Mercurey ‘Vieilles Vignes’ 2017 (Red) ($39) is a blend of two parcels, one with 80-year-old vines and a second where the vines range from sixty to seventy years of age. An intense purplish-red hue introduces a pungent nose that suggests black cherry and truffles and a silky, broad and layered mouthfeel follows with beautifully integrated tannins.
Home to both Pinot Noir-based reds and Chardonnay-based whites, Rully is also the epicenter for the unusual, delightful Crémant de Bourgogne a sparkler made from either (or both) varieties. The wide variety of terroirs contained within the appellation contains ideal cradles for Burgundy’s premiere grapes: To coddle Pinot Noir, it provides lime-rich soils with little clay, and for Chardonnay, clay and limestone mixed. As such, Rully is home to 23 Premier Cru sites and dozens of named, widely acclaimed lieux-dits.
Michel and Lucette Briday founded this property in 1976 with 15 acres. Today, managed by Michel’s son and daughter-in-law Stéphane and Sandrine, it has grown to 38 acres spread across the municipalities of Rully, Bouzeron, and Mercurey. In defining their vinicultural philosophy, Michel Briday quotes Justin Godard: “In truth no product requires as much varied work, or sustained attention as wine.” In part, this involves adhering to the Terra Vitis charter, which aims to respect the soil, to manage the vineyard in a considered way and have each step of production checked by an approved and independent body.
Rully Premier Cru – Champs Cloux 2017 (Red) ($39) is, quite literally, the fruit of the Bridays’ labor, dominated by aromas of blackberries, violets and spices above complex notes of leather, fur, and undergrowth. This is a well-structured wine combining both power and finesse.
Givry sits at the heart of the Chalonnaise, so it’s fitting that its pulse pumps mostly red wine; the limestone-rich slopes to the west of Givry village—with soil exposed by numerous quarries—are predominately planted to Pinot Noir and contain a remarkable number of first growth sites. Within the appellation are 27 individual Premier Crus representing around a sixth of its 541 acres. Yet, another face exists: Although it accounts for a much smaller proportion of Givry’s output, Chardonnay-based whites, generally planted on clay soils, are renowned for spicy sophistication, often with subtle notes of anise and saline.
In Burgundy, finding an old-school vigneron who plants and nurtures his own vines is increasingly difficult. François Lumpp is one such winemaker. Having launched his own label in 1991 with cuttings from older bud wood, his domain’s focus is on Premier Cru climats within Givry—he is entirely a man of the appellation.
Givry ‘Clos des Vignes Rondes’ 2015 (White) ($39)comes from an acre-and-half late-ripening hillside parcel over a thousand feet above sea level and displays lovely aromas of apple peel, damp pavement, citrus and butterscotch and flavors that echo the nose. Length is remarkable and the acidity succulent; the wine is mature, but may continue to improve.
By the time Louis Ragot established vines in Givry in the middle of the eighteenth century, his family had already been Burgundian farmers for a century. His domain, once called Ragot Frères, became Domaine Ragot when cousins Jean-Paul and Jean-Pierre Ragot took over. Despite the new name, adherence to tradition remains paramount: All the fruit is hand-harvested and the clusters manually destemmed. Only indigenous yeasts are used, which preserves the integrity of the vineyard’s character.
Givry Premier Cru – Clos Jus 2014 (Red) ($39) comes from an East-facing two-acre site at the top end of Givry where red clay soils produce a wine that is expressive and bright and shows black cherry and raspberry up front, a slightly earthy undertone with moderate spice at the finish, mostly cinnamon and cola.
This 7-pack contains one bottle of each of the above featured wines at a price of $299, tax included. We are offering the following wine, in magnum, for a special price to add to the purchase.
Overlooking one of Givry’s historic Premier Crus, the Cellier aux Moines (magnificently restored by Catherine and Philippe Pascal), Clos Pascal was recovered and planted to Pinot Noir in 2010. With a scant two-thirds of an acre, the south-facing vines, at high density of 5300 vines per acre, are tressed rather than hedged and tended using sustainable agriculture.
The wine itself is luxurious; fine lace and silk suspended within a bottle. The intensity of the garnet color is matched by the complexity of the aromas, evoking violets, tart cherry conserve and damp forest floor. There is vibrant tension between texture and acidity. Long aftertaste, with dusty tannins and notes candied Morello cherry.
This is a ‘vin de garde’—a wine meant for aging. As such, a magnum is the ideal size since during the aging process, twice as much wine is exposed to the same amount of air, keeping the wine fresher as it develops complexity through the years.
A note on vintages: Nowhere in France is vintage more important than in Burgundy, and this package contains gems from several different harvests. A brief overview of growing conditions in the Côte Chalonnaise during the vintages offered in the package is as follows:
2014: A warm, dry spring led to early bud break, but in late June, hailstorms decimated some vineyards in the north, causing reduced yields and (a silver lining), more highly concentrated wines. A drying wind and a sunny September made this vintage especially friendly to Chardonnay.
2015: 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.
2017: Considered a very fine vintage in the Côte Chalonnaise with excellent yields. Noted differences between wines from north and wines from the south are stylistic rather than in quality, which remains high. Wines from the north are nicely scented with a sensational balance of fruit and acid while those from the south are juicy, rich and indulgent.
2018: In general, 2018 was a heatwave year; grapes flowered in May, and the summer was long, dry and record-breaking hot. Yet even the growers were surprised at the brightness the harvest yielded; common descriptors for the Chardonnays are “great tension and freshness’ and for the Pinot Noirs “vivid with expressive fruit and richness.”