A Jewel in Chateauneuf – Bosquet des Papes Cuvee “A la Gloire de Mon Grandpere”

Captivating Chateauneuf

Captivating Chateauneuf

I adore Chateauneuf du Pape – the place, the wine, and everything about its history and local quirks (a municipal decree in ’54 banned the overhead flying, landing or taking off of flying saucers). The wines are beyond unique. For those who have spent time studying the world’s finest vinous treasures (I’ve been at it three decades plus) it usually comes down to a choice between Bordeaux, Burgundy and Chateauneuf – in terms of selecting a favorite wine from France. Sure, there are fabulous wines made by a handful of superlative growers sprinkled throughout the Languedoc, Roussillon, Loire Valley, and such, but overwhelming majorities of truly phenomenal wines are most often concentrated in the aforementioned Big 3. Burgundy tugs at my heart, but a glance at my collection clearly indicates my adoration for Chateauneuf.

And when it comes to selecting some of my favorites, consistency across vintages is part of my criteria. Nicolas Boiron and family – Les Bosquet des Papes – immediately come to mind. In this century alone, across all of their various cuvees and vintages, I can think of at least 20 individual bottlings worthy of the “outstanding” descriptor. These are wines of extremely high caliber, wines which scream of their cepage and terroir, and which may be identified from one another across vintages; they are not homogenous, uniqueness is their calling card.

At the top of the list for me is their pure Grenache cuvee, which honors current winemaker Nicolas Boiron’s predecessor. Grown in the Gardiole lieu-dit (sandy soils; which seem to produce a lot of my top choices) and fermented 50% whole cluster, Nicolas Boiron and family introduced this mind-bending offering in 1998. Parker has consistently lauded the wine, rendering the tiny production all the more difficult to acquire. Moreover, Jeb Dunnuck recently pegged it as a “Best of Chateauneuf” selection in his 2014 report (may not ever find another bottle, now).

Simply put, in the words of Parker,

“Consumers should be looking out for this domaine’s wines as the quality has soared even higher than it already was.”

 

2012 Les Bosquet des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape

A la Gloire de Mon Grandpere

The finest vintage of this cuvee I’ve tasted, the inky 2012 Châteauneuf du Pape a la Gloire de Mon Grandpere comes from old-vine Grand PereGrenache vines planted in mostly sandy soils of the Gardiole lieu-dit. Aged in a combination of concrete tank and older, larger barrels, it’s a drop-dead gorgeous 2012 that reveals tons of sweet red and black fruits, lavender, pepper, licorice and hints of garrigue. Beautifully concentrated, seamless and textured, with extraordinary elegance and polish to its tannin, it’s up with the top 2-3 wines of the vintage and will have two decades or more of longevity.

97 points – (JD) Wine Advocate

This may take some special effort to locate (at a price that’s not outrageous), but it’s a truly special bottle from a truly gifted estate…

 

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Maison Lucien le Moine – Bygone Methods yielding Perfection in White Burgundy

“Dazzling pretty much sums it up" - Antonio Galloni

“Dazzling pretty much sums it up” – Antonio Galloni

 

The history of Burgundy includes the Citeaux of the Cistercian Monks – a beautiful, fine old Abbey south of Dijon – where wine was fermented on its fine lees in frigid cellars through summer months. The ancient fermentation practices recognized by the Monks of the Cistercian Order during the Middle Ages as well as the practice of selecting specific plots – or Crus – for the production of fine wines were the corner stone for today’s greatest wines of the Cote D’Or. Allowing wines to naturally ferment in barrel on their fine sediment – known as lees – produces beneficial levels of Carbon Dioxide (a natural preservative). This ancient practice allows modern proponents to avoid the overuse of Sulfur Dioxide in the winemaking practice.

 

Meet Mounir Saouma, a Lebanese monk who – along with his wife Rotem Brakir – established what has become the most talked about, Beaune-based micro-negociant in the Burgundy trade today. Mounir’s passion for great Burgundy was born from his work alongside Cistercian Monks not only in Burgundy at the Citeaux, but further blossomed during his time with the Monks while in Israel – where he met Rotem. Through the assistance of the Cistercians, the couple visited Citeaux many times together, and from there a mutual passion for the Cote’s great terroirs and the Cistercian’s vinification practices was ignited.

 

After leaving the order in 1999, Mounir established his micro-negoce with Rotem, naming it Lucien le Moine. Following the practices of old, their first guideline is to work exclusively with 1er and Grand Cru vineyard plots within the Cote D’Or – precisely as the Cistercians deemed appropriate. Taking this practice one step further, each vintage brings a new selection however as Mounir realizes that what makes Genevrieres perfect in 2004 might omit it from selection in 2007. And therein we find the magic that has made this micro-negoce the jewel of the Cote: a selection process to rival the greatest in the region.

 

Each harvest, Mounir visits his friends in Burgundy just after the harvest – when the first pressing has been completed. Once the selections have been made, the juice – jus-wine as it’s known – is placed in the Lucien le Moine barrels for aging. The le Moine barrels add yet another dimension, being from the Jupilles, which provide some of the most consistently tight-grained oak of any French forest. Toasted to the le Moine specifications, each barrel in the cellars is ordered precisely for Mounir, and Jupilles makes up 100% of the barrel selection Chez le Moine.

 

Once barreled, the juice rests on 100% of its fine lees without racking throughout its entire fermentation process. The wine is encouraged to feed upon these fine lees – through the ancient process of “battonages”, or stirring of the lees – which protects, balances and promotes complexity in the fermenting wine. During this process, the barrels are resting in the le Moine cellars, which are closed, cold, humid and very deep. And thanks to this, the malolactic fermentation process is able to last for many months – another aspect of the winemaking process that leads to exquisitely layered and profoundly flavored wines from Lucien le Moine.

 

Finally, when each barrel announces its readiness for bottling, the le Moine team bottles with respect for the ancient ways: never are their wines fined or filtered. This method allows for the naturally occurring Carbon Dioxide to be present in the finished wines, a natural element that ensures the ability for each of the Lucien le Moine wines to age gracefully for decades. And thanks to this element, Mounir recommends decantation for each of the wines when consuming them young. Each and every element of terroir – from the most sublime nuances of minerality to the brilliance of the Cote’s acidity – combine with the almost indescribable layers of extreme flavor alive in the very grapes themselves, and come together to build a taste sensation that one is not likely soon to ever forget. Tasting these wines is truly vinous perfection!

 

Just how good are they?

 

In the words of Antonio Galloni, when describing the 2010 le Moine White Burgundies, he would say:

 

“Dazzling pretty much sums it up…. This dazzling, drop-dead gorgeous wine is a pure pleasure to taste. Frankly, it is impossible to spit.”

 

And Steven Tanzer – after scoring the top wines here 99 points for 2010, succinctly summarized:

 

“The 2010s here should be extraordinary.”

 

Might be terribly difficult to locate – at a price suitable – but I assure you the search is worth it; exemplary wines!

Xavier Vignon Does It Again – Chateauneuf la Reserve VII IX X – An All Time Favorite!

Xavier Vignon - One of Chateauneufs Finest!

                             Xavier Vignon – One of Chateauneufs Finest!

Regular readers of these pages are no stranger to the stunning wines being produced by Xavier Vignon. As one of the top two leading consultants in the Rhone (Cambie the other), Xavier has established a flawless reputation working with such luminaries as Marcoux, Grand Veneur, Raymond Usseglio and others. Through these relationships, he has gained access to incredibly pristine parcels of very old vine plantings across the valley (especially in Chateauneuf) where he works with centenarian vines of Grenache and Syrah as well as 75-85 year old plots of multiple other varieties.

For his Reserve lines, Xavier hand picks his top barrels of Anonyme from his favorite vintages, blending them in perfect proportions to reach an insanely delicious cuvee that rewrites the books on Chateauneuf du Pape. Every detail is there – these are not Frankenstein wines – from the textbook terroir and Provençal notes to the ethereal depth of fruit we fans of the region’s very finest expect. In addition, you have Xavier’s unmatched depth of talent in blending. You can taste the aspect of each vintage he utilizes in the blends. These are truly magical wines.

My personal shipment of the Reserve VII IX X arrived three weeks ago and after ample down time to allow it to recover from shipment, I finally cracked a bottle. To say that I concur with my favorite critic on all things Rhone Valley – Jeb Dunnuck – is putting it lightly. My final 5 bottles will be hidden in the cellar for some very special events…

NV Xavier Vins • Chateauneuf du Pape la Reserve VII IX X

While I reviewed this NV Châteauneuf du Pape La Reserve VII IX X (a blend from the 2007, 2009 and 2010 vintages) last year, I was able to taste it again this go around, and it still blew me away. Fabulously full-bodied and decadent, with loads of lavender, incense, black raspberry and cured-meat nuances, it’s still youthful and vibrant, with notable freshness and purity. Enjoy this brilliant wine through 2028.

Consulting at a number of top estates (Marcoux, Grand Veneur, Raymond Usseglio, etc.), Xavier Vignon (along with Philippe Cambie) is one of the leading oenologists in the Southern Rhone – and you only need to taste his own negociant wines to understand why. I was blown away by these current and new releases. Across the board they showed beautifully made profiles, with not only loads of fruit and texture, but superb balance and classic Southern Rhone characters. In fact, each of the wines showed what I think of as textbook characteristics of the terroirs from which they come. In addition, the prices remain remarkably low, and these wines are a treasure trove for the savvy buyer.

96 points – Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Advocate

Servin Chablis – Flamboyant Winegrowers On A Qualitative Roll

François Servin - Tradition in the Cellars, Flamboyant in Person

                             François Servin –                             Tradition in the Cellars, Flamboyant in Person

Estate-owner, François Servin – one of the more flamboyant winegrowers in Chablis – and Australian-born winemaker Marc Cameron, is on a qualitative hot streak; three consecutive vintages of the best juice I’ve tasted here.

With parcels of the oldest vines comprising most of their holdings, Wine Advocate in particular insists,

“They deserve a berth in your cellar alongside those prized Raveneaus and Dauvissats.”

Tasting the line-up, I get it. You will, too. Acidities are perfectly balanced with the fruit, but more importantly, the “Chablis” spirit is here – in buckets. What I seek, foremost – my beloved Kimmeridjian vein of salinity – weaves its way throughout François Servin’s selections.

In particular, the 2014 Le Clos is – in a word – smashing!

94 points, Wine Advocate (Issue # 226 – Aug 2016)

 

 

 

And, as always, the very old-vine Selection Massale is a killer value, made all the more irresistible by a consumer-friendly 2015 growing season.

90 points, Wine Advocate (Issue # 226 – Aug 2016)

 

 

Double that for the thoroughly terroir-driven 2015 Mont de Milieu, tops on my personal shopping list.

92 points, Wine Advocate (Issue # 226 – Aug 2016)

 

 

 

Not skipping a beat, the team rolled right into 2016 with a lip-smacking Vaillons brimming with fruit, all wrapped nicely in Kimmeridjian complexity.

90 points, Wine Advocate (Issue # 232 – Aug 2017)

 

 

 

Weygandt-Metzler handles imports for America, so check your favorite wine shop for availability (I buy mine through Grand Vin Wine Merchants)…

Bollinger Special Cuvée – ‘Lily’ Would Be Quite Pleased

Lily in Her Vineyards in the 1940s, Protecting, Promoting, Perfecting.

     Lily in Her Vineyards in the 1940s, Protecting, Promoting, Perfecting.

There are Grandes Marques, “Mini-Marques”, and then there are the TRULY grande marques. Bollinger is so grande (so important) that the most famous quotes on Champagne are attributed to its most endearing owner. Lily Bollinger was not only the most important character in the story of Bollinger, she remains its most charismatic.

The technical side of Bollinger – the unmatched level of investment in every bottle produced – is every bit as important as Lily’s story. Stepping into the cellars of Bollinger will take your breath away. Imagine the greatest collection of Champagne you could ever hope to personally witness in one place. Imagine magnums of the most pristine, Grand Cru Champagne – bottled under cork – resting there before your eyes. How many bottles would it take for you to think, “Holy bubbles, Batman, that’s a LOT of Champagne”?

In the cellars of Bollinger rests 600,000 magnums (100,000 cases) of Champagne reserves. It is this massive – truly mind boggling – stash of reserves which contributes to the unmatched quality and consistency of the Bollinger Special Cuvée. The master blending performed which results in the richness, the depth and full body we love in Bollinger includes 50% of these reserve wines, some of which are up to 15 years of age. This Bollinger Special Cuvée you’re buying today contains a healthy percentage of reserve wine from the vintage of 2000.

Moreover, in keeping with the historical Bollinger tradition and winemaking style – the style Lily championed across Europe – the Special Cuvée is vinified in seasoned oak barrels of varying size, shape and age. This barrel vinification is followed by another 3 years of aging on the fine lees, a process absolutely unmatched across the region. It’s a time consuming, laborious, expensive process that’s driven by passion; as only Lily Bollinger would have had it.

Lily took over the estate upon her husband’s passing in 1941 and is celebrated for greatly expanding the estate’s vineyard holdings as well as the soaring popularity during her time as Director and beyond. Recalling her arrival to London to declare her 1955 vintage, a reporter made public Lily Bollinger’s reply when asked how much she enjoyed her own product. I think of it every day, or least every day I have a bottle of Bollinger:

“I drink my Champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty”. — Elizabeth ‘Lily’ Law de Lauriston Boubers Bollinger

One of the finest Bollinger Special Cuvée bottlings to date.

One of the finest Bollinger Special Cuvée bottlings to date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve got mine, and I know where the best price in the States may be had.

Lunae Bosoni Vermentino “Eticheta Nera” – Multi Tre Bicchieri – You’ve Never Had it so Good

2016 Lunae Bosoni Vermentino “Eticheta Nera”

2016 Lunae Bosoni Vermentino “Eticheta Nera”

 

Genova, the seaside port city and capital of northwest Italy’s Liguria region, is the best – and for many folks the only – place to find authentic calamari, gambretti, sarago, and delicate bianchetti. As high noon approaches on a given spring day, the maze of streets and narrow alleys of this ancient city are filled with the aroma of hot olive oil – tiny fry shops known as friggitorie sizzling to life. You’re elbow to elbow with crowds of hungry locals and tourists, everyone seemingly addicted to the crispy, tender, juicy – but never greasy – specialties piled high on one counter after another.

This is the city where I discovered the magic of those intoxicating, addictive fritti and it’s also where my adventures with Liguria’s greatest white wine began. As maritime rival to Venice, Genova has a culture – a soul – about it that is unique in so many ways, but it’s only the beginning. It’s when you venture to the rugged Italian coastline, to the centuries-old Cinque Terre – 5 towns where vineyards as well as homes defy gravity, clinging to steep terraces – that you (and your palate) are whisked away.

Pesto was born here. And as you traverse the extremely inhospitable yet dramatic landscapes of the eastern inland foothills and hillsides of Liguria – midway between Cinque Terre and the Tuscan border – you suddenly reach the Colli di Luni DOC. Here, between the hills of Castelnuovo Magra (55 miles southeast of Genova, as removed from coastal city living as you’ll ever be) and the

Lunae Vermentino Vineyard

Lunae Vermentino Vineyard

ancient, walled Roman village of Luni (the easternmost edge of Liguria and its most important, historical commune) are the most important Vermentino vineyards in Italy – perhaps the world.

I cannot recall the first vintage I tasted of Diego Bosoni’s spine tingling Vermentino, but I will assure you that each subsequent vintage has only proved his vast superiority over every other producer of this varietal I have ever encountered. So perfect is this Bosoni Vermentino – I’m speaking specifically of their L’Etichetta Nera (Black Label) – that the estate has now recorded EIGHT (count ‘em: 8) Tre Bicchieri; including for this most recent version, the 2016.

This accomplishment is nothing short of miraculous, especially considering the superhuman feats required to plant, cultivate, tend and harvest in these wild conditions. Moreover, Bosoni’s estate vineyard is small, battling for acreage against the far more easy to cultivate – thus popular with local farmers – olive trees. Yet what this family has achieved at this estate – established from the ground up in 1966 – will blow you away with your first sip.

You’ve never had it so good. Unless folks have tried THIS Vermentino, they’ve never truly had Vermentino.

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The Sine Qua Non of the Roussillon – Séverine Bourrier’s Chateau de L’Ou

Séverine Bourrier - Queen of the Roussillon

Séverine Bourrier –
Queen of the Roussillon

 

If you could go back in time to the early 1990s, find yourself in Los Angeles as a frequent and very preferred diner at the über-hip restaurant, Campanile – co-owned and managed at the time by one Manfred Krankl – and be considered “in the know” enough to be part of the inner circle which Krankl and his good buddy winemaker John Alban ran with, well – would you? Because if did – if you could – you would be one of those very lucky few to have been on Krankl’s mailing list when he launched Sine Qua Non with all those freakishly incredible wines that didn’t cost near what they do today.

Krankl launched Sine Qua Non – SQN for those in the know – along with his wife Elaine and their buddy John Alban in 1994. Self-described as “project wines”, each bottling was geared towards the Rhone Ranger category, but there were no rules. They hit gold with Syrah. Syrah in their hands began landing them Parker scores of between 95 and 100 points. They were instantly unobtainable; sold exclusively via mailing list – a list so well managed and guarded that it has a 10 year waiting list.

The wines are unreal. They are about as perfect as anything you’ll ever drink. I once had an employee working for me who did an internship at SQN. He was a generous young man, so I have enjoyed a few of Krankl’s wild masterpieces. I’ve also had to rub my eyes in absolute disbelief when I see the prices the wines trade for at auction as well as on-line. The inaugural bottling from Krankl – his 1994 Syrah-based blend they named Queen of Spades – now trades for $6,000 a bottle.

Okay, so none of us can go back in time. We can, however, go back to the Mother land; the place where Syrah really struts its stuff. Yes, I’m talking about my beloved Roussillon. Home to more wines represented in the “let’s drink this tonight and really blow ‘em away” corner of my personal cellar, you are well aware of my time in this region and my discoveries along these schistous cliffs.

I have tasted what everyone is – or soon will be – calling “the SQN of the Roussillon”. In fact, that’s EXACTLY what Jeb (Wine Advocate) tells us. Known as Chateau de L’Ou, this is the home estate of Séverine Bourrier. Born in Africa, she trained in Bordeaux, working for the top estates of the Medoc before “catching the Syrah bug” (as she says) during her travels and eventual studies in the South. Syrah calls to her, it is her native varietal, and the magic she performs with this varietal directly mirrors what I have experienced in the wines from SQN, John Alban and the rest of the Cult masters.

"SQN of the Roussillon"

“SQN of the Roussillon”

I cannot express enough how passionate I am about the work being performed at this magical estate. In particular the Secret de Schistes – now in its 6th season – is what the young folks call “sick”! It absolutely screams SQN – FOR A PRICE THAT IS INSANELY CRIMINAL!

 

Interested in locating this dreamy wine, at the best price in the States? Let me know in the comments…

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