“Glowing wine on his palate lingered swallowed. Crushing in the winepress grapes of Burgundy. Sun’s heat it is. Seems to a secret touch telling me memory. Touched his sense moistened remembered. Hidden under wild ferns on Howth below us bay sleeping: sky. No sound. The sky… O wonder! Coolsoft with ointments her hand touched me, caressed: her eyes upon me did not turn away. Ravished over her I lay, full lips full open, kissed her mouth. Yum…. She kissed me. I was kissed. All yielding she tossed my hair. Kissed, she kissed me.” – James Joyce, ‘Ulysses’
In the Roaring Twenties, such literary eroticism had its price: ‘Ulysses’ was banned in the United States from 1922 (the year it was published) to 1933, a period of time that roughly mirrors Prohibition. James Joyce’s iconic novel follows—in minute and exhilarating detail—three Dubliners as they meander through the course of a single day, June 16, 1904, and is today considered one of the most important works of literature ever composed.
Much of the action in ‘Ulysses’ takes place in pubs, where Leopold Bloom—the novel’s main protagonist—shows a particular penchant for Burgundy. In a passage that made the very real ‘Davy Byrne’s Pub’ famous, Bloom orders a Gorgonzola sandwich along with his customary glass of Burgundy.
We won’t sell you cheese or bread, because we’re a wine shop. But while Joyce fans across the globe celebrate ‘Bloomsday 2021’ by marathon Joyce readings, pub crawls and bubbly walks through Dublin, we’ll take you on a symbolic stroll along the ancient Route de Bouze, which divides Beaune into two distinct sub-regions, North and South.
We are pleased to offer one bottle of each of the following six wines for an inclusive price of $299. Happy Father’s Day.
• • • • SOUTH • • • •
Claudie Jobard’s mother is considered one of the top oenologists in France and her father was a ‘pépiniériste viticole’ descended from generations of Burgundian vine growing experts. With a pedigree that illustrious, one expects great things from Claudie, the 8th generation in her family to work in wine. The domain was created by Claudie’s parents in the 1970s and named for her maternal grandfather, but prior to 2004, ‘Gabriel Billard’ was sold exclusively to négociants. It was Claudie’s influence that brought these wines directly to the public, under a winemaking principal that she refers to as ‘la lutte raisonnée’, or ‘the reasoned struggle’ which is conscientious organic farming without the stricture of official certification rules.
Beaune Premier Cru “Les Epenotes” – Jobard 2014 ($38): The ‘climat’ of Les Epenotes derives its name from ‘épine’—a reference to the thorn-shrubs that once grew here. The wine displays a supple, pretty nose replete with dried cherry and cassis with notes of hazelnut and cocoa; the palate is long and generous, with a hint of smoke and vanilla in the background, finishing with a delightfully rustic piquancy.
Domaine Albert Morot
Virtually synonymous with Côte de Beaune, Domaine Albert Morot was founded in 1820 by a négociant, and by 1890, the family-run business had moved into the same buildings on the Route de Bouze that they occupy today. In 2000, Françoise Choppin—the great granddaughter of the original owner Albert Morot—turned the estate over to Geoffroy Choppin de Janvry, who had prepared for his role by studying agronomy at Montpellier University. The Domaine consists of just under fifteen acres of vineyards split between seven Beaune Premier Cru vineyards: Les Teurons, Les Grèves, Les Toussaints, Les Bressandes, Les Cent-Vignes, Les Marconnets and Les Aigrots.
Beaune Premier Cru “Aigrots” – Morot 2015 ($50): Aigrots is another thorny 1er Cru, this one named for the holly shrubs in the west of Beaune where the terroir is typical of the finest Burgundies—calcareous clay, limestone and scree. The wine is expressive and bright, showing black cherry and raspberry up front with a slightly earthy undertone; moderate spice, mostly cinnamon and cola, which warms the mid-palate and leads to a clean, acidic finish filled with silky tannins.
• • • • NORTH • • • •
Beaune Premier Cru “Toussaints” – Morot 2016 ($49): More from Morot! Les Toussaints, means ‘all saints’ and lies in the northern sector of Beaune surrounded by some of Beaune’s larger and better-known Premier Crus, including Grèves, Bressandes and Cents-Vignes. Wines from the north tend to be fresher and more elegant than those from the south; this one shows notes of macerating black cherries mingled with rose-petals, lychee and spices accented by chocolate. The structure is powerful and rounded and the finish is satisfyingly long.
Beaune Premier Cru “Cent-Vignes” – Morot 2015 ($50): This Morot selection hails from the base of the Beaune hillsides, where the lightweight, sandy-textured is typical of lower vineyards where there is an accumulation of scree. The wine is medium-bodied and aromatic; the vividness of the nose is outstanding, and the on the palate, the fruit tends toward the red side of the spectrum, with tart cherry and wild raspberry along with a soil-driven earthiness.
The family estate of Rapet dates to 1765; today, the domain’s 35 acres of vines stretch across the villages of Pernand-Vergelesses, Beaune, Savigny-lès-Beaune, Chorey-lès-Beaune and Aloxe-Corton. Current owner Vincent Rapet is known for a classical approach to winemaking, both in the field and in the cellar. Along with his wife Sylvette he oversees parcels in three Grand Crus, Corton-Charlemagne, Corton, and Corton Pougets, and nine in Premier Cru vineyards. His Pinot Noir-based wines see an average 15-day maceration period followed by maturation in 228-liter oak barriques, of which about 30% are new wood.
Beaune Premier Cru “Clos du Roi” – Rapet 2014 ($46): Clos du Roi is a small vineyard, but without doubt one of the best plots in Beaune. Once owned by the dukes of Burgundy and highly favored at Versailles, the site enjoys a perfect south/south-easterly exposure. This produces wines with sinew, rich and flirtatious with flavors of glacé cherries, crushed stone, licorice and mint. A friendly mouthfeel with sweet oak and austere minerality to rein it in.
Paul Pernot’s grandfather was a négociant in Puligny and the fifteen acres he owned had been in the family for over two centuries. Ironically, the ground was largely unsuited to vines—at least, until the advent of modern technology (tractors) allowed the hard limestone surface rock to be worked. Founded in 1959, Domaine Paul Pernot proceeded to do exactly that, and today, 65% of his property is found within the commune of Puligny-Montrachet, including plots in Les Folatières, Les Pucelles, Clos de la Garenne and Champ Canet, and two Grand Cru parcels: Bienvenues Bâtard-Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet. As such, he is one of the top growers in Puligny.
Beaune Lieu-dit “Clos du Dessus des Marconnets” Monopole – Pernot 2015 ($49): Among the 35% of Pernot land not in Puligny, Les Marconnets sits on the east-facing slope of Mont Battois hill in the southern part of the Savigny-lès-Beaune. The wine is round and racy, showing a nice brick rim in the glass behind a pungent nose of plum and truffle and a fragrant herbal thread that winds through. A brilliant example of the lieu-dit, with floral high tones, mineral purity and a vibrant, beautifully integrated tannic structure.
A few miles north of Lyon lies Beaujolais, a storied French wine appellation that overlaps both Burgundy and the Rhône, paying homage to both while owing allegiance to neither. The picturesque vineyards are planted almost exclusively to Gamay for reds and have been producing accessible, fruit-forward wines since the Romans first established trading routes along the Saône valley. Nearby Lyon is said to be ‘a city of three rivers’—the Rhône and Saône rivers that converge here, and then, the river of cool Beaujolais wine that drenches its food-centered heart. With 4300 restaurants (including twenty that boast Michelin stars), Lyon is host to such internationally renowned chefs as Paul Bocuse and Guy Lassausaie, and has rightly been nicknamed ‘The Gastronomic Capital of the World.’
Beaujolais is filled with rolling hills and bucolic villages, unique in France in that relatively inexpensive land has allowed a number of dynamic new wine producers to enter the business. In the flatter south, easy-drinking wines are generally made using technique known as carbonic maceration, an anaerobic form of closed-tank fermentation that imparts specific, recognizable flavors (notably, bubblegum and Concord grape). Often sold under the Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages appellations, such wines tend to be simple, high in acid and low in tannin, and are ideal for the local bistro fare. Beaujolais’ suppler wines generally come from the north, where the granite hills are filled with rich clay and limestone. These wines are age-worthy, and show much more complexity and depth. The top of Beaujolais’ classification pyramid is found in the north, especially in the appellations known as ‘Cru Beaujolais’: Brouilly, Chénas, Chiroubles, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Regnié and Saint-Amour. Each are distinct wines with definable characteristics and individual histories; what they have in common beyond Beaujolais real estate is that they are the pinnacle of Gamay’s glory in the world of wine.
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. Château du Moulin-à-Vent, Moulin-à-Vent – Le Moulin-à-Vent 2018, ($40), comes from an exceptional vintage and is one of the château’s signature wines, sumptuous and expressive. It shows juicy black fruits, lavender and a myriad spices from the partial oak-aging.
Chiroubles is relatively tiny, with fewer than a thousand acres under vine, but it is a mouse that roars. This is due mostly to elevation; Chiroubles vineyards are the highest in Beaujolais, with some planted 1500 feet above the Saône River valley. Taking advantage of extreme diurnal shifts between the warm days and cold nights, the same soils that produce Fleurie to its immediate north here build wines that are lighter and fresher, often with pronounced floral characteristics.
Daniel Bouland is an artisan in the style of old-school winemakers. He works his vines by hand, and many are grown in small plots known as lieu-dits—portions of a vineyard with specific topographic or historical significance. Better known for his Morgons, Daniel Bouland ‘Cuve No 11’, Chiroubles-Chatenay 2019, ($36), hails from such a lieu-dit (Chatenay) in the neighboring appellation of Chiroubles, on a steep hillside site composed of friable sandstone. Such terroir produces beautiful, fragrant, sappy Gamay wines with the structure of many Burgundies. It has a nose of violets and thyme, a rich mid-palate of cherry and cranberry underscored by orange peel, Damson plum and crisp minerality.
To suggest that Côte de Brouilly erupts with flavor is more than a metaphor; the appellation sits on the slope of an extinct volcano. Making up but a small fraction of the Brouilly appellation, Côte de Brouilly draws its unique terroir from volcanic blue diorite, which provides the thin, well-drained soil that causes vines to struggle and the resulting wine—concentrated and intense—to shine. The vineyards of Côte de Brouilly are found on the south and east slopes of Mont Brouilly, protected from winds from the nearby Beaujolais hills by the volcano itself. They enjoy morning sunlight maximized by the steep slopes of the vineyards. This hastens ripening so that the vineyards of Côte de Brouilly are among the first to be harvested in Beaujolais.
Domaine de la Voûte des Crozes, Côte de Brouilly 2019, ($23). So highly is La Voûte des Crozes winemaker Nicole Chanrion regarded in Côte-de-Brouilly that in 2000, she was elected president of the appellation. With oversight of all aspects of the process, from winter pruning, to managing the canopy, hand-harvesting and fermentation, she produces a wine whose tannins match ripeness of the fruit. Ample and layered with a succulent core of black-cherry, the acid remains front and center while a streak of minerality reflects the volcanic schist terroir.
The artisan vigneron reappears in Côte de Brouilly with Daniel Bouland ‘Cuvée Mélanie Cuve No 1’, Côte de Brouilly 2019, ($36), a wine comparable in complexity, depth and cellaring potential to a Côte de Beaune. Another lieu-dit gem, this wine shows kirsch fragrances along with cassis, blackberry and smoke. Like all of Bouland’s wines, this one is made from hand-harvested grapes, vinified with full clusters and bottled unfiltered.
The wines of Saint-Amour are light and delicate, the result of dry, warm winds from the north that keeps soils feathery-textured; although Gamay is the predominant varietal, it’s no wonder that this appellation produces more white wines than the other Beaujolais cru, although these Chardonnay/Aligoté -based wines often wear generic labels or are listed under the Saint-Véran (Burgundy) appellation that slightly overlaps Saint-Amour.
Pierre-Marie Chermette was raised in the vineyard; his fondest memories of the family home in Vissoux was riding the tractor. He pursued it as his life’s work, earning a National Diploma of Oenologist from Dijon at the age of 20. Two years later, he convinced his father to stop selling the fruits of his labor to merchants, and developed the market for estate bottled wines. Over the years, Pierre-Marie diversified the number of appellations the family worked, and is now responsible for nearly 75 acres. For obvious reasons, Pierre-Marie Chermette, Saint-Amour-Les Champs Grilles 2018, ($30) is marketed for Valentine’s Day, for which it is perfectly suited: The nose is rose petals and cherry blossoms, and the palate is filled with lush red fruits and chocolate layered across gentle tannins.
Morgon, on the western side of the Saône, may only appear on the label of a Gamay-based red wine; even so, the appellation allows the addition of up to 15% white wine grapes: Chardonnay, Aligoté or Melon de Bourgogne. Nevertheless, the wines of Morgon wind up being among the most full-bodied in Beaujolais, with the potential to improve in the cellar so consistently that the French describe wines from other AOPs that display this quality by saying, “It Morgons…” The vineyards occupy slightly under five square miles surrounding the commune of Villié-Morgon, with the vines of Fleurie and Chiroubles directly to the north and Brouilly and Regnié along the southern border.
Marie-Élodie Zighera-Confuron is the proprietor of Clos de Mez, and maintains the vineyards’ matriarchal lineage. She explains, “Vines have been in my maternal family for four generations. The grapes they grew were delivered to the cooperative cellar by my grandmother and mother, up until I arrived at the domain as a winegrower. However, this did not deter my grandmother or mother from taking great care of the vineyard.” Clos de Mez, Morgon-Château Gaillard 2012, ($22)is not to be confused with Normandy’s Château Gaillard; here it is a lieu-dit in the northern part of Morgon bordering on Fleurie. The vines are all over 60 years old; they produce a distinctive, meaty wine that has been compared to a Rhône for its dark cherry profile enlivened by licorice, plum and a taut, mineral-tinged acidity.
As mentioned, each of the Beaujolais crus wears its own pretty face; where Morgon is bold and handsome and Saint-Amour is a fairyland of delicate beauty, Fleurie—covering an unbroken area of three square miles—represents Beaujolais’ elegance. The terroir is built around pinkish granite that is unique to this part of Beaujolais, with the higher elevations accounting for thinner, acidic soils that produce graceful and aromatic wines. Below the main village, the wines are grown in deeper, richer, clay-heavy soils and the wines themselves are richer and deeper and appropriate for the cellar. The technique known as gridding, which involves extracting more color and tannin from the skins of the grapes, is proprietary to Fleurie.
Clos de Mez, Fleurie-La Dot 2012, ($22)sees the return of Marie-Élodie Zighera-Confuron to her native Fleurie, where La Dot refers to a plot of vines, now fifty years old, that her grandmother once received as a dowry. White flowers and cut grass waft through the nose and lead to a beautiful palate of pomegranate and raspberry; the wine finishes with granitic acidity and a dusting of baking spices.
Pierre-Marie Chermette, Fleurie-Poncié 2017 ($27) also reintroduces the tractor-fan turned enologist from Le Vissoux. Although the family estate is in Saint-Vérand, in the Golden Stone area of Rhône, the luscious Fleurie from the lieu-dit Poncié is a paean to the sandy slopes of pink granite north of the town itself. The wine is resplendent with sweet red cherries, dried flowers and ripe strawberries enveloped in silky tannins.
Of the three Beaujolais classifications, Villages occupies the middle spot in terms of quality. To qualify, the wine generally hails from more esteemed terroirs in the northern half of Beaujolais, from one of 38 villages that have not been named ‘cru’ appellations. They are expressive wines with more structure and complexity than generic Beaujolais, though not as exclusive as those from the ten crus. Accounting for about a quarter of all Beaujolais production, Villages wines are most often produced by négociants and vinified using stricter rules as to yields and technique.
Jean Foillard, Beaujolais-Villages 2019, ($27), is a solid example of the classification, brilliant red with a purplish tint, offering round, juicy mouth-filling strawberry and cherry flavors with spice in the background and a rustic, lightly tannic finish. A disciple of traditionalist Jules Chauvet, who eschewed the styles touted by commercial brands, Jean Foillard produces wines that are sumptuous and complex, with a velvety lushness that makes them irresistible in their youth.
Brooding Beaujolais is an oxymoron; buoyant Beaujolais is a requirement. The broadest of all the classifications in Beaujolais, seeing such a designation on a wine label means that the grapes are generally grown in the southern part of the appellation and vinified using carbonic or semi-carbonic maceration, leaving dominant, candy-like notes. Beaujolais’ climate is similar to Burgundy—moderate continental—and the main difference in the output is that whereas Burgundy’s Pinot Noir is fickle and difficult to ripen, Beaujolais’ rock star Gamay is an early-budding, early-ripening and vigorous cultivar. As such, outputs (if not controlled) can be overly prodigious.
Pierre-Marie Chermette ‘Origine Vieilles Vignes’ Beaujolais 2018, ($18), falls under this generic appellation with the specification of ‘Origine Vieilles Vignes’, or ‘original old vines’. It is produced in Saint Vérand from vines that have grown on a dark granite enclave for up to a century. The cuvée was created in 1986 when banana-flavored Beaujolais Nouveau was in vogue; Pierre-Marie wanted to create a non-chaptalized spring-release Beaujolais using natural yeast and vinified by using traditional methods. It is bright and beautiful, suave and supple, and exhibiting great color and freshness.
When Chardonnay is grown in climates less than ideal, resulting flaws are often tempered by oak. If such wines are described as cedary, buttery, vanilla-like or toasty, and chances are, the taster is defining qualities derived from the barrels used to ferment or mature the wine, because these are not qualities of the grape itself. Mineral notes like chalk, slate, schist or even powdered silica are the domain of the fruit; they are Chardonnay flavors, most of derived from the soil in which the grape vine grows.
Chablis—Burgundy’s most northerly appellation—produces the world’s most bracing and refreshingly uncluttered incarnation of Chardonnay. In Chablis, traditions are born of an ego that is mostly justified, and winemakers insist that the expression of the fruit be pure. That is not to say that no Chablis sees oak; many certainly do. It’s just that the whole approach to what barreling is supposed to accomplish in a glass is viewed differently in this rocky, chilly, outpost, less than a hundred miles from that other bastion of varietal purity, Sancerre.
Chablis is subdivided into four AOPs based on quality factors which nearly all come down to soil and slope and grape yields. The largest of these, simply called Chablis, covers about sixteen thousand acres; the smallest, designated Grand Cru, is only a couple hundred acres in size and is limited to seven vineyards. To Chardonnay fans, these are like the seven celestial Pleiades in Greek mythology; their name on a Chablis bottle is tantamount to magic and an expectation thereof. The Premier Cru designation can be affixed to any of seventeen vineyards on both sides of the River Serein; the best occupy the right bank near the Grand Crus; the rest are southwest of the city of Chablis.
It remains testimony to Chablis’ ‘amour-propre’ that the district is willing to count on breeding, not masking, to show off its wares.
This package includes two bottles from each of Chablis top-tier producers. (8-Bottle Pack $298, All Included)
Credit Napoléon’s loss at Waterloo for the establishment of Domaine Billaud-Simon; Charles Louis Noël Billaud returned home from the war to plant vines on the family holdings in Chablis. A century later, the estate expanded with the marriage of his descendent Jean Billaud to Renée Simon. Since 2014 owned by Erwan Faiveley, the 42-acre site produces wine from four Grand Cru vineyards, including single-acre plots in Les Clos and Les Preuses. The Domaine also owns four Premier Cru vineyards, including Montée de Tonnèrre, Mont-de-Milieu, Fourchaume and Vaillons. Chablis 2017 ‘Tête d’Or’ ($46) is sourced from 28-year-old vines from a parcel sitting at the foot of the Premier Cru Montée de Tonnerre in the heart of the Chablis appellation; the name means ‘Head of Gold’ and shows pure green-apple and bitter almond with an almost saline-like intensity. It’s a letter-perfect oyster wine, nicely nuanced with graphite, grapefruit and lemon.
Vines were first planted in the confines of what is today Laroche the same year that algebra was invented; in 2021, both mathematics and Laroche are still going strong. Today, Domaine Laroche is one of the largest landholders of Grand Cru vineyards in Chablis, with 222 acres spread across the entire region. Michel Laroche—whose name is held in the same reverence in Chablis as Michel Chapoutier’s is in northern Rhône or Olivier Humbrecht’s in Alsace—relies on one-man plots, meaning that a single person is wholly responsible for the care of each vineyard parcel, from the pruning, soil conditioning and control of yields to the sorting of the harvest. Chablis 2018 ‘Saint-Martin’ ($32) is named for the patron saint of Chablis, a Roman cavalry officer who became a monk and was elected Bishop of Tours. The cuvée is a blend of the best plots, all sit on Chablis’ legendary Kimmeridgian soil, and produce excellent acidity and remarkable finesse. The wine shows Bartlett pear and lily on the nose, pineapple and honey in the mid-palate and violet and candied lemon on the textured, creamy finish.
The pedigree of the Moreau name dates to 1814 when barrel-maker Jean-Joseph Moreau founded a wine-merchant trading firm in Chablis. Although that original firm has changed hands several times, including a sale to Hiram Walker in 1985 and again to the Boissets of Nuits-Saint-Georges in 1998, the Moreau family never relinquished control of their vineyards. Domaine Christian Moreau Père et Fils began vinifying at the turn of the 21st century, and is now under the watchful care of Fabien Moreau: “Being the 6th generation of the family producing wines, was and still is a challenge for me, trying to avoid the pressure you could have with this wine heritage. But with the quality of the vineyard that my family passed on, the basis of the expression of our wines is here, and our work is to honor our terroirs.” Chablis 2018 ($36) is a cuvée built from grapes purchased from the bordering villages of Fontenay-Près-Chablis (near Fourchaume) and Béru. It is a taut, compelling wine that reflects a mineral-tinged sharpness that the French describe as ‘goût de pierre à fusil’—gunflint—alongside aromas white hawthorn flowers and a cut of citrus.
Domaine Christian Moreau
When you’ve been growing wine grapes in Chablis since 1547, post-Napoleonic upstart houses are the new kids on the block. With so many generations of winemakers and a pantheon of awards that span centuries, it is to be expected that the philosophy of Chablis, when uttered by a Servin, should be heeded. Says François Servin, the current winemaker, who was raised on vintages like 1929, 1947 and 1959: “A good Chablis is not a wine which is very elegant when young; Chablis for me is a wine which is good over 20 years.” This keen understanding of older vintages convinced him that malolactic fermentation combined with late bottling increases the ageing capacity of his wines. Chablis 2018 ‘Les Pargues’ ($27), planted in the vineyards behind the Premier Crus Vaillons and Montmains, employs a judicious blend of barrels and stainless-steel vats to create a wine that is concentrated and mineral-driven, showing natural mellowness, a touch of anise and lemon-peel balanced by smoke and earth.
If you took the wine savvy of France, blended it with the climate of the Italian Riviera and stirred in the heritage of Greece, you might think you’d just created the Valhalla of Viniculture—a test tube appellation with Goldilocks conditions where everything is just right.
And you’d be close. Corsica began producing wine half a century before Christ, when traders from Anatolia planted vines in Aléria on Corsica’s western shore. The island was sold to France in 1768, a year before the birth of history’s most famous Corsican, Napoléon Bonaparte. But despite this alignment of stars, up until recently, Corsica did not produce much wine of note. Until well into the twentieth century, the primary grape planted throughout the island’s multitude of microclimates was Sciaccarellu, a variety whose value is primarily as a blender—as a stand-alone, it produces a simple, strawberry-perfumed wine that rarely shows much sophistication. In the later years of the twentieth century, however, government subsidies began to convince growers to reduce the numbers of vines they tended, and by 2003, that canny largesse resulted in more than 17,000 vine acres being uprooted. Combined with modern techniques like temperature-controlled fermentation, a new Corsican winemaking mindset has begun to take hold. Indigenous grapes still rule, including Niellucciu, derived from the Corsican word for ‘black and dry’; a close cousin of Sangiovese, but today, the hot, dry and mountainous island is the home to some of Mediterranean’s most iconic and spectacular wines.
Many of them are labeled AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) rather than AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée), the French designation of top quality. As legal guarantees (limited production area, compliance with specific production standards and established name recognition) the terms are pretty much interchangeable; they are simply awarded by different authorities. First created in France in 1905 and recognized internationally since 1958, ‘AOC’ as a label-dresser is gradually being supplanted by the Europe Union’s AOP. ‘Vin de Pays’ is also being phased out in favor of the EU’s IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée), a term that covers wine from a designated area. In some cases, they are as good or better than AOP wines, but produced according to standards that may stray the strict regulations of AOP/AOC.
These five Corsican producers are leading the pack in terms of quality over quantity. The 8-bottle pack ($269, All Included) is just in time for your holiday libation. It includes two of Domaine Maestracci’s, two of each of Domaine Orenga de Gaffory’s white and red, and one each of Domaine Abbatucci and Clos Canarelli. Domaine Arena’s Muscat is specially priced and isn’t part of the package.
In parcels between the towns of Saint-Florent and Poggio-d’Oletta in the beautiful Patrimonio appellation in northern Corsica, Henri Orenga de Gaffory has been exploring unique terroirs since 1966. Finding them best expressed in traditional varietals, he dedicates his 150 acres to raising limited-yield Niellucciu, Vermentinu, Minustellu, Aleatico, Muscat and of course, the standby blending red, Sciaccarellu. Wine folks are familiar with at least a couple of them, but as to the rest, would be hard-pressed to bet on whether they were white or red. Here’s your hint: AOP Patrimonio 2019 White ($22) is 100% Vermentinu, grown in soils that are an equal blend of limestone, chalk and clay. It has an electric lemon-lime palate behind a white-flower bouquet tinged with brine. With another year of aging, honeyed wax notes will become more pronounced. AOP Patrimonio 2018 Red ($20) demonstrates the same terroir’s expression of Niellucciu—a native grape that must, by Patrimonio law, make up 90% of the blend with the balance in Grenache. It’s a robust and silky wine displaying fruits, peppery spice and licorice, tinged with mineral throughout.
Domaine Orenga de Gaffory
Inland from Calvi, the granite plateau of Reginu provides a microclimate known in Corsica as ‘U Vinu di E Prove’. Conditions there are familiar (and ideal) to those who understand diurnal shifts as it relates to the production of fine wine. Daytime temperatures rise to sweltering heights, but nights are high-elevation cool; the combined effects develop the sugar and stubbornly hold onto the ripening fruit’s natural acidity. On the estate of an old olive grove, Roger Maestracci saw an opportunity for vineyards; essentially the only two crops which thrive under these conditions are olive trees and grape vines. The estate is now run by his granddaughter, Camille-Anaïs Raoust, who refers to ‘Clos Reginu’ AOP Corse Calvi 2019 ($19) affectionately as ‘Clos Reggie’. It is a blend of grapes that may have been unfamiliar to you before tasting through this package, but which may have become new friends: 30% Niellucciu, 30% Grenache, 15% Sciaccarellu, 15% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre and 5% Carignan. It is a juicy, spicy, herb-scented, mouthwatering red wine that can serve as the foundation to any summer meal enjoyed outside.
In Corsica, the name ‘Abbatucci’ is seen as frequently as Washington in the United States, and for much the same reason—General Charles Abbatucci (from Ajaccio) was a hero of the French Revolution. The Domaine that bears the name is run by a direct descendent of the General, Jean-Charles Abbatucci. A fanatical exponent of the most eccentric of biodynamic techniques, the names of his blends are as flamboyant as the product behind the label—‘Cuvée Collection – Ministre Impérial’ Vin de France 2016 ($89) is composed of 22% Sciaccarellu, 18% Niellucciu, 15% Carcajolu-Neru, 15% Montanaccia, 12% Morescono, 10% Morescola and 8% Aleatico, drawing nuances from each of these fascinating varieties. Named for a leading military figure under Napoléon Bonaparte’s Premier Empire (who then became a consul under Napoléon III) the grapes are crushed by foot and macerated for 15 days before being aged in 600-liter demi-muids. The nose is an exotic combination of flower perfumes and exotic berry spice, and the wine unfolds with complexity, intensity and richness, with flavors of bramble fruits, cola, garrigue, good acidity and a backbone of toasted oak.
Domaine Comte Abbatucci
Yves Canarelli left a career in economics to return to his family’s wine estate on the somewhat brutal southern tip of Corsica, where temperatures have been known to soar to 109°F and rainfall rarely exceeds thirty inches annually; in the Figari appellation, the soil is essentially a sparse dusting of granitic red alluvia. Canarelli has championed the return of native varietals, which thrive in there in such conditions; he is one of the pioneers who advocated tearing out foreign grapes in favor of those first planted in Corsica since Phoenician times. Likewise, he uses only indigenous yeasts, and prefers slow, deliberate, precise fermentations, then leaves his reds unfiltered. AOP Corse Figari Rouge 2016 ($45) is a blend of 80% Niellucciu, 15% Syrah and 5% Sciaccarellu; it delivers a bold and intense presentation redolent of black cherry and dried blackberry with sweet almond, toasted spice and balsam in the finish.
When legendary Corsican producer Antoine Arena split his Patrimonio estate into sections, each of his sons got a piece. To his parcel, Antoine-Marie brought not only experience from his native Ile de Beauté, but his enological and viticultural studies in Hyères as well as internships in both Burgundy and Provence. He explains, “Working as a family is great, but the Corsican spirit of liberty and independence guided us in this decision.” Fulfilling both ideals, he constructed his new wine cellar across from the family home and has begun own legacy with a series of remarkable releases from the vineyard Morta Maìo—translated as ‘The Eldest Myrtle’, referencing the myrtle shrub found throughout Corsica. ‘Morta Maìo’ Muscat, Vin de France 2014 (Sweet White) ($50) is from Antoine-Marie’s first solo vintage, and shows the complexity of Muscat as a dessert wine; notes of sultana and apricot underscore silky peach and luscious beeswax, and in the finish, candied orange and bergamot. The wine is referred to as ‘non-mute’ or ‘vin doux naturel’ which in the parlance of the craft means that no alcohol is added; the 13.5% ABV comes entirely from natural grape sugars.
Domaine Antoine-Marie Arena
The Loire Valley, the fabled stable for thoroughbred whites from Sancerre, Savennières and Vouvray, has often (and unfairly) been dismissed for its reds. In fact, cooler vintages of the past have sometimes resulted in erratic ripening, leading to thin, somewhat green-tasting reds made primarily from Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Malbec (here called Côt) and in the east—closer to Burgundy—Pinot Noir. But a gradually warming climate has made abysmal vintages increasingly rare, and coupled with overall improvements in viticulture, Loire has promoted its red wines from the chorus to a diva role, demonstrating as never before the potential that this marvelous appellation has to shine across the color spectrum.
Although red wines have been produced in the Loire throughout history, four appellations have demonstrated the strongest claim to fame. As improvements are happening everywhere, these four are only getting better, ranging in style from candy-apple crisp to voluptuous, rich and age-worthy. From west to east, they are Anjou (also known for its world-class rosé), fashionable, fragrant Saumur-Champigny, complex and tannin-rich Chinon and crunchy, spicy Bourgueil. Take a leap across the A20 motorway and the forests of Vierzon and you’ll find yourself in a sea of Sauvignon Blanc; Sancerre has earned its undisputed place in the pantheon of French white wine, and the nearby, lesser-known appellation of Menetou-Salon is often cited as a potential rival. But Pinot Noir planted in the chalky soils of Eastern Loire is finally coming into its own, both in quality and reputation. From certain producers, these succulent, fruit-driven reds crackle with acidity that shines through depths that are approaching those of Burgundy.
Six red wines from a choice of the best producers of Loire, ‘The Garden of France’, are featured in this week’s package (6-Bottle Pack $259, All Included)
Anjou sprawls across 128 communes, mostly south of the towns of Angers in the west and Saumur in the east. Monasteries played the largest role in developing Anjou’s wine trade, as each enclave had its own walled vineyard, but it was French royalty who secured the region’s reputation, beginning nearly a thousand years ago when Henry Plantagenet became King Henry II of England. Anjou’s terroir is a matter of black and white: it’s divided into two subsoils as different as day and night. First, Anjou Noir, composed of blackish, dark, schist-based soil along the south-eastern edge of the Massif Armoricain, then, Anjou Blanc, lighter-colored soils made up of the altered chalk at the south-western extremity of the Paris Basin.
Clau de Nell is also centuries old, but its modern era began in 2008 when Anne-Claude Leflaive (owner and winemaker at Burgundy’s famed Domaine Leflaive) discovered the 20-acre property while on a promotional tour of her biodynamic approach to viticulture. She purchased the domain, finding the situation ideal: a south-facing knoll 295 feet above sea level, from which the Atlantic Ocean—75 miles away—is visible. The vines are planted in sandstone and red flint overlaying the soft limestone ‘tuffeau’ indigenous to the region; they range in age from 30-90 years. 2016 Clau de Nell “Cabernet Franc” ($59) has reached a prime drinking age; it shows rich, jammy raspberry and dusty pencil graphite, but tension on the palate is sustained as the acids remain charged and energetic.
Clau de Nell – www.claudenell.com
Saumur has been a major focal point for the commercial wine trade since the 12th century, when (under Henry IV) it was the Huguenot capital. As an appellation, its terroir is rich in Loire’s characteristic calcareous rock, much of which was quarried over the centuries, leaving ideal cellars for aging Saumur wines. The hyphenated Saumur-Champigny is reserved for the 8 communes closest to the city of Saumur, and is restricted to around 3,700 acres, generally hilltop vineyards buffered against the west winds. It produces somewhat exclusive wines, representative of Saumur’s finest reds. Saumur-Champigny built around a firm foundation Cabernet Franc, with smaller additions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot d’Aunis permitted.
For a region dotted with beautiful historic homes, Château du Hureau is one of the few wine-producing châteaux among them. It is considered a top producer of Saumur-Champigny, with a milieu that is as breathtaking as the vineyard view, including the octagonal tower with mansard roofs and boar-headed weathervane from which the property derives its name. The estate contains multiple terroirs, and releases examples of each as ‘parcellaires’—wine from exclusive parcels. 2014 Château du Hureau ‘Lisagathe’ ($44) is named for fourth-generation winemaker Philippe Vatan’s two daughters Lisa and Agathe; it is made only in exceptional vintages. And only from selected portions of the estate’s best vineyards, located above the underground cellars. Full of mint-fresh young fruit, the wine expresses the classic smokiness of the AOP, with elegant undertones of chalk, flowers, pencil shavings and velvet-smooth tannins.
Château du Hureau – www.chateauduhureau.com
As Loire is known affectionately as ‘the garden of France’, Bourgueil has been christened ‘the birthplace of Cabernet Franc’, which has been cultivated at the Abbey de Bourgueil since it was built on the Roman main road from Angers to Tours. Today, the appellation covers seven communes in the Indre-et-Loire along the right bank of the Loire, where it enjoys a remarkable microclimate due to the heavy forests that protect the vineyards from the north wind. Soil also cooperates; there are three distinct types: The islets of gravel in the alluvial terraces of the Loire on higher terraces, ancient, glaciated sand and clay/limestone soils from the ridge running along the north of the appellation. It is one of the few appellations in the Loire that produces predominantly red wines.
Catherine and Pierre Breton have been coaxing superlative wines from this terroir for decades; they cultivate 35 acres in the village of Restigné, just east of Bourgueil. Poetically, they grow mostly Cabernet Franc—the local term for this varietal is ‘Breton.’ Pierre remains the principal cellar master, although Catherine makes a series of cuvées under the label ‘La Dilettante.’ These wines are into three categories: Natural (for easy, early consumption), Classic (representing a profile of the appellation) and Wines of Terroir (vinified by individual parcel). 2018 Breton ‘Trinch!’ ($24) is an example of the former, produced from young-vine Cabernet Franc and referred to as ‘bistro-style’ for its quaffability. Indeed, ‘Trinch!” is a German variation on ‘cheers!” Lively, crisp and filled with juicy cranberry notes above an herbal-tinged core. A wine best enjoyed slightly chilled on any delightful and non-pretentious occasion.
Domaine Catherine & Pierre Breton – www.domainebreton.net
Playwright François Rabelais (a Chinon local boy made good) wrote, “”I know where Chinon lies, and the painted wine cellar also, having myself drunk there many a glass of cool wine.” That wine was likely red: though capable of producing wines of all hues, Chinon’s focus is predominantly red; last year, white and rosé wines accounted for less than five percent of its total output. Cabernet Franc is king, and 95% of the vineyards are thus planted. Rabelais’ true stage was set 90 million years ago, when the yellow sedimentary tuffeau, characteristic of the region, was formed. This rock is a combination of sand and fossilized zooplankton; it absorbs water quickly and releases it slowly—an ideal situation for deeply-rooted vines.
The Baudry family is also deeply-rooted in Chinon, although their education spans appellations outside the Loire, and extends as far in the wild red yonder as Tasmania. Bernard Baudry, the patriarch, studied oenology in Beaune and worked as a vine-tending consultant at Tours. His son Mathieu studied in Mâcon, then in Bordeaux after the year he spent working in Tasmania and California. The Baudry domain covers 80 acres across the AOP Chinon with additional parcels in Cravant les Coteaux; 90% of the property is planted to Cabernet Franc with the remaining to Chenin Blanc. Both father and son refer to the 2018 vintage as “Magnifique!” with a mild winter and springtime producing enough rainfall to recharge the groundwater which fell after a dry 2017. 2018 Baudry ‘Les Grézeaux’ ($25) pays homage to the gravelly soil beneath the parcel; earthy and rich, the wine showcases Cabernet Franc’s meatier persona. A rustic wine with great concentration and delightful spice, winemaker Baudry considers ‘Les Grézeaux’ to be textbook Chinon.
Domaine Bernard Baudry – www.bernardbaudry.com
Unlike Loire’s ‘Big Four’ red wine appellations, Menetou-Salon produces mostly white wine, predominantly from Sauvignon Blanc. And unlike the Cabernet Franc-dominated reds from the west side of the river, the reds of Menetou-Salon are made from Pinot Noir, which expresses itself in light and strikingly fragrant wines. Extending across ten villages, the soils are predominantly Kimmeridgian limestone sediment. The climate here in the Central Loire is described as temperate with continental influences and wide variations in seasonal temperatures. Spring frosts—one time quite dangerous for finicky Pinot Noir—are becoming increasingly rare, leading to an explosion of popularity for these wines, much more reasonably priced than those from neighboring Burgundy.
M. Rabelais is not the only playwright connected with Loire wines; at the helm of Domaine Philippe Gilbert is Philippe himself, a ‘dramaturg’ (his description) who has written and produced for the stage. Today he is a winemaker foremost, 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 Francois Gilbert. His 67 acres, sprinkled across prime sectors throughout Menetou-Salon, make it one of the most representative of the appellation. 2019 Domaine Philippe Gilbert ‘Hors Série’ ($37) comes from a parcel of Pinot Noir planted in 1980 by Philippe’s father; it opens beautifully, with a flamboyant and complex nose, still restrained in youth, but offering great potential behind cherry, spice, smoke and mineral-imbued flavors in a toasted oak frame.
Domaine Philippe Gilbert – www.domainephilippegilbert.fr
To many, red Sancerre sounds like an oxymoron, but connoisseurs know that a quarter of Sancerre’s vineyards are Pinot Noir. Like so many French wine regions that had the rug pulled out from beneath them during the phylloxera blight of mid-19th century, Sancerre found itself having to replant all its vineyards, which had—up to that time—been a red-wine producing zone; Pouilly Fumé, just across the river, was the Sauvignon Blanc powerhouse. For a multitude of reasons, most of the estates replanted using that varietal, and as the white wines of Sancerre soon eclipsed those of her sister commune, there was not much incentive to look back. The reds became an afterthought, and Pinot Noir is not the sort of grape that suffers scorn easily. In the ‘90s, however, certain producers (notably Alphonse Mellot Jr.) began to experiment with lower and more selective yields, and since then, the quality has improved astronomically.
Cousins, Jean-Laurent and Jean-Dominique Vacheron have no issue learning from the masters; having converted entirely to biodynamic viticulture in 2005, they have opted to use techniques from the Burgundy playbook to encourage the most potential from their scant thirty acres of Pinot Noir, which sits primarily on flinty silex soils. 2018 Domaine Vacheron ($56) is nicely structured with focused plum and sour cherry in the mid-palate and a rich, pure and persistent finish.