Thibault Liger-Belair – Making Monumental Moulin-A-Vents!

thibault-liger-belair

Burgundy, the Cote D’Or. For many, this is the place where it all leads. We begin our vinous journey somewhere else – Bordeaux, Cali Cabs, Italy, anywhere else – but all roads lead to Burgundy. It’s a confusing, confounding, maddening, soul satisfying journey. You’ll spend thousands of hours and even more dollars figuring out the players and the plots, and then, maybe (if you’re lucky) you’ll find nirvana. Generations of men and women dedicate their lives to these nearly desolate hills along a mere 35 mile stretch of vineyards where Pinot and Chardonnay reign supreme.

So why in the name of the Cistercians would anyone now turn to the hillsides of Beaujolais? Why look to places such as Moulin-A-Vent for inspiration? Simply put, the 10 Grand Cru vineyards of Beaujolais – with vineyards as old as 60 to 80 years of age – offer consumers stunning complexity (for absurdly low prices) when handled by a winemaker as deft as Thibault.

I tasted each of Thibault’s individual Crus on two separate occasions last year, more impressed as the wines gained structure in the bottle. These are vinified in the same manner as his Premierthibault-liger-belair-moulin-a-vent and Grand Cru Burgundies – no carbonic maceration for Thibault – and the results are chart topping numbers (year in, year out!) It’s time, folks; discover what every critic has been raving about…

His 2011s are available here

 

Domaine Jean Michel Guillon – Among the most succulent wines in the Cote!

Serious Winemaker, Succulent Wines

Serious Winemaker, Succulent Wines

 

Succulent… Now there’s a word that you might not associate too often with the wines of Gevrey Chambertin. In fact, most tastings involving a large collection of Gevreys would render the participant’s palate rather exhausted from the sheer levels of tannins and the structure these wines are famous for. But one taste of Jean-Michel’s 1er Crus – in particular recently experienced 2011s from the lieux dits of Petite Chapelle and Champonnets – left me so refreshed and with a desire to actually CONSUME a glass of each of those wines that “succulent” (as in ‘juicy, fleshy and thoroughly enjoyable’) just seemed like the most appropriate single-word descriptor I could muster.

 

Jean-Michel set out to conquer this land of Gevrey Chambertin after his first visit to these hallowed vineyards prior to establishing his estate in 1980. A passionate, driven and competitive aeronautics professional, Jean-Michel befriended a local grower by the name of Rene Gallard after purchasing an initial bare plot in Gevrey nearly 35 years ago. Driven by a desire to establish a new legacy, Jean-Michel dedicated himself to emulating those who came before him – the Rousseau, Dugat-Py and Denis Bachelet estates representing his inspiration.

 

From the beginning Jean-Michel obsessed with quality. Having relocated to Burgundy from Paris – retiring from aeronautics and bringing his family in tow – Jean-Michel would settle for nothing less than world class and world renowned wines. His passion and dedication would soon garner him not only the respect and admiration of the national press in France – where he was honored by professional French wine magazines with numerous accolades and stars – but likewise he would be named the president of the Gevrey-Chambertin winemakers syndicate.

 

Jean-Michel’s wines would quickly attract attention worldwide. Consistently among the most impressive of their genre, Jean-Michel’s 1er Crus as well as Grand Crus (to include his Mazis Chambertin and numerous Gevrey 1er Crus bottlings) would begin garnering top marks with the 2002 releases when Allen Meadows (of Burghound) confirmed, “Jean-Michel Guillon is indisputably a man on a mission to make world class wines.” From that singular moment, Jean Michel’s star would begin its epic rise (those 2002s dubbed “Outstanding” by Burghound) and within less than a decade Guillon joined the ranks of the village’s most esteemed.

 

Today, the estate of Jean-Michel Guillon is routinely mentioned as among the top less than a half dozen producers in the town of Gevrey Chambertin. And though this estate is only in its first generation (Jean-Michel’s son has officially joined him as of 2004, yet the reins have yet to pass), one thing is certain: this is an estate where the legacy will most certainly live on. With the foundation that has been established by the passionate and formidable Jean-Michel, the estate he has positioned for the future is undoubtedly worthy of the village known for producing the “King of Wines & the Wine of Kings”.

2011 Burgundy – A Vintage Certainly Worth Buying – IF You Can Find Them

A prime success in 2011 ~ Clos de la Roche | Cote de Nuits

A prime success in 2011 ~ Clos de la Roche | Cote de Nuits

Let’s cut right to the chase: My conclusion on the 2011 Red Burgundy vintage (born from recent tastings as well as ongoing critical analysis of the region’s top estates) is that this is most certainly a collection of wines worthy of representation in any serious Burgundy aficionado’s cellar. Naturally I’m referring to the top estates when I make this statement, as the weather conditions preceding harvest (practically from the moment of bud-break and continuing unabated throughout August) were anything but ideal – Burgundy continues to witness more August harvests in this century than were ever reported in the previous. So it should be repeated (with exclamation point added) that serious consumers of Burgundy should be highlighting serious producers of Burgundy on that proverbial shopping list when it comes to filling their carts with 2011s.

That point being duly noted, 2011 is most certainly a vintage that yours truly will be buying not only as a professional but also as a consumer. Simply put, the wines showcase purity of place – immediately out of the bottle – while offering succulent fruit which is unencumbered by that “classic vintage” tannic spine. I expect to enjoy these 2011s across the span of the next decade (plus) while I’m patiently awaiting the unwinding of my 2005s (which remain tight as nails) as well as my 2010s (which have now quietly slipped into a slumber that I honestly hadn’t predicted). And based on the comments from the wine-makers I’ve spoken to, they concur that the 2011s will make for pleasurable drinking young as we monitor those more tannic wines that are tucked away in our cellars.

And what of “hot spots” for 2011? Where are the “go-to” appellations in this vintage? In my analysis, I have discovered some truly outstanding wines (very nearly rivaling their 2010 counterparts) from the villages of Pommard and Volnay for the southern reaches of the Cotes de Beaune – again, stressing that I have paid primary attention to the top estates. Prime examples of these successes may be found at Nicolas Rossignol, Pousse D’Or and Henri Boillot. Another “hot spot” for 2011, the hill of Corton turned in notable successes to include the estates of the aforementioned Pousse D’Or (whose Clos du Roi is especially worth seeking out) as well as Etienne de Montille’s biodynamic farmed Domaine de Montille where his version of Clos du Roi is quite unique from Landanger’s yet equally thrilling.

Turning our eyes and palates north, a particular favorite of mine may be found in the tiny village of Morey St Denis, where I have discovered a healthy dose of superb Grand Crus to include a host of outstanding Clos St Denis, Clos de la Roche and Bonnes Mares bottlings. These examples offer what may be the most interesting and delicious variations from these hallowed vineyards since the ‘05s and 2010s – they’re THAT good (in particular Virgile Lignier Michelet’s 2011 Clos de la Roche is a showstopper). And across the line-up I found the 2011s from Romain at Domaine Taupenot Merme consistently excellent to outstanding – very nearly equaling his chart topping 2010s.

From there, I’ve found relatively consistent results throughout the Cote de Nuits to include multiple successes specifically in Gevrey Chambertin. In particular I was struck by the generous style at Domaine Jean Michel Guillon (where these folks are bottling some of the most succulent wines in the Cote) – if you can find any of Guillon’s Premier Cru bottlings (Champonnets, Petite Chapelle, etc.) BUY THEM. Other highlights in Gevrey include Dugat-Py and Geantet-Pansiot – to name a couple of the very best (sure to be on my professional as well as personal short list). From there – as long as enthusiasts perform their due diligence – the Cote de Nuits is plentifully packed with excellent to outstanding (90-95+ point rated) wines.

Just how good IS 2011? Well, in the more positive words posited by Allen Meadows of Burghound, he informed us it would be a shame to overlook this vintage and even stressed that he himself would be layering in certain selections. After all, to cherry pick exclusively 5-star vintages clearly isn’t the point if you’re a Burgundy enthusiast seeking to CONSUME the Cote’s treasures products. It’s those vintages nestled between the “classics” that offer daily drinking alternatives.

So there we have it: 2011 is most certainly a vintage worthy of serious Burgundy consumer’s attention. It would be a travesty to overlook such a vintage – one considered “the most interesting vintage after 2005 and 2010” according to (arguably) the world’s foremost authority on the subject. So if your merchant isn’t yet stocking these wines, ask them why. Better yet, if you’re not seeking these 2011s out, perhaps it’s time to begin filling out that shopping list.

Tick-tock…

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Pousse D’Or 2011 – Wines that “Transcend the Vintage” Burghound

pousse-dor

“As the scores and commentaries confirm, I found the Pousse d’Or 2011s to transcend the general quality of the vintage.”

–  Allen Meadows, Burghound Issue 50 – April 15 2013

 

Beginning with Landanger’s inaugural vintage – 1999 – after he elected to pass over both 1997 as well as 1998 (two vintages where he lacked 100% control of the entire elevage) this passionate perfectionist has set a course to re-establish Pousse D’Or as the benchmark for quality not only in the Cote de Beaune, but throughout Burgundy. Landanger became owner of this venerable estate after the tragic passing of Gerard Potel in 1997. Millions in investments by Landanger – from vineyard to equipment and into the cellars – began to result in qualitative successes almost immediately as the wine world took note.

 

Established in the 19th century (when it was originally known as La Bousse d’Or), this ancient estate was once comprised of multiple land plots throughout the Cote D’Or. Among its many holdings were the vineyards of Romanee Conti and Clos de Tart – to name a few of its more illustrious parcels. Over the decades these parcels were divided and sold until the 1960s when the final remaining parcels came up for sale one final time.

 

The man who would eventually come to purchase Bousse D’Or, Jean-Nicolas Ferte’ – known affectionately as THE bon viveur – had been searching for a suitable estate to purchase as a wedding gift for his niece and her new husband (the gifted wine-maker: Gerard Potel). Potel and the niece – having been “adopted” by Ferte’ – had meetings with their uncle in Beaune and the three had settled on Burgundy as their choice for a new winery as well as home for the young couple.

 

When Bousse D’Or came up for sale in the early 1960s, Ferte’ received word from Ramonet – via a rare phone call vs Ferte’s preferred method of communication: handwritten letters (another moment in history). After multiple rounds of negotiations, the sale was finalized; Ferte’ and company took control of Bousse D’Or in 1964. The partnership formed to purchase the new estate was comprised of Louis Seysses (Jacques Seysses’ father) and the aforementioned Ferte’, so Potel was in fabulous company. French law dictated the name change to Pousse D’Or, and Gerard Potel was placed in charge of wine-making. He and Seysses worked together for a few years until Seysses departed in 1978 to devote himself full time to working at Dujac.

 

In 1985, Potel finally purchased Pousse D’Or from his partners. Throughout the many years of partnership changes and financial upheavals, Potel never wavered – making reference point wines from his glorious Pousse D’Or year in, year out. Upon his death, the wine world held its collective breath in hopes of the arrival of the person who would carry the torch in place of Potel.

 

Landanger has proved to be that man. As the vintages have been bottled, Landanger has amassed consistently glowing reviews from the world’s most respected critics. Be the vintage sublime or sub-standard, Landanger’s efforts from vineyard through vinification result in vintage transcending wines which speak of place over process. His methods are second to none and the results have garnered praise while thrilling buyers the world over.

 

His 2011s unquestionably deserve a place in your cellar!

 

For a list of currently available 2011s, please visit:

 

http://www.jjbuckley.com/search/c~0~st~pousse%20d%27or%202011

Domaine de la Pousse D’Or – Landanger’s Vision Honors Potel’s Legacy

Pousse D'or

 

Since first showcasing the Landanger wines from Domaine de la Pousse D’Or at my retail shops when the 2002s were released, I have shared this story with hundreds of Burgundy fans. And now that the 2011s are being offered “en premier”, it’s my pleasure to dust off the old pages from deep within this blog for another round…

To tell this story, we go back to 1855, when the original estate, known then as La Bousse d’Or (the golden Earth) was in its first glory days.  At that time, this estate owned a vast amount of land by Burgundy standards.  In its holdings were the entire vineyards of Romanee-Conti and Clos de Tart, two of the most illustrious Grand Crus in the world.  Through the decades, the estate was sold and divided until the 1960s.

That’s when the estate came up for sale once again.  And that time, a man by the name of Jean-Nicolas Ferte’ comes into the picture.  Ferte’ was a man who loved to live.  A man passionate about everything in life that was exquisite, especially great food and outstanding wine.  A man they called a bon viveur.  He had a niece, Florence, who intended to marry.  The man of her intentions?  Gerard Potel.  Ferte’ “adopted” the young couple and set them up in their new abode.

Now you long-timers in this Burgundy business – and my clients who’ve read this tale before – know who Potel is.  He is known the world over as one of the single greatest wine-makers in all of Burgundy.  But before Potel became the Potel, he met Ferte’ and the niece, Florence, in Beaune.  When the three of them came together, Potel was already a wine-maker, but not in Burgundy.  But Ferte’ would drink only Burgundy, so he set out to find an estate to buy so as to complete this picture.  He told all of his richest friends in the Cote D’Or to be on the watch for something suitable.

The man that would contact Ferte’ about the news of the perfect estate would be Mr. Ramonet.  Ramonet sent a letter that the sale was to begin at a certain date but Ferte’, it seems, was on vacation.  The letter never reached Ferte’.  As the date came closer, Mr. Ramonet actually phoned to Ferte’ to announce the news.  This was a moment in history – Ramonet hated using the phone!

The sale was completed by 1964, with about half of the former estate being sold to Ferte’ and his partners.  The name was changed to Pousse D’Or, in accordance with French laws, and Potel was placed in charge of wine-making.  For years, there were partners to deal with.  Ferte’ had formed his partnership with his good friend Louis Seysses, the father of Jacques Seysses, the latter being another of the more famous names of Burgundy, as the wine-maker of Dujac.

Seysses and Potel – WOW that’s a dynamic duo – worked together for a few years at the new Pousse D’Or until 1978 or so when Seysses went full time at Dujac.  But is wasn’t until 1985 after many years of trying to find the “right” group of buyers that Potel finally bought out the shares from that original partnership from the 1960s.  And all through this time, Potel continued to make the greatest wines of the southern part of Burgundy, the Cote de Beaune, at this glorious Domaine de la Pousse D’Or.

Tragically, Gerard Potel died in 1997 and the entire wine world lost one of its greatest stars and most gentle souls.  “His legacy absolutely must be carried on”, was the cry, and one man stepped in to carry the torch.  That man is Patrick Landanger!  He purchased the estate in 1997, invested hundreds of thousands, and hired a new team of professionals from vineyard to cellars.

Landanger is such a perfectionist, such a control freak, that he made the decision to only release the wines that he had complete control over.  That meant he passed over the entire 1997 and 1998 vintages.  His first complete vintage, the 1999s, set not only a new standard for Cote de Beaune wines, but a new standard for Pousse D’Or as well.

And when I tell you – as a long time collector of Burgundy dating back more than 2 decades – that you should very strongly consider these wines for your collection, I do so as a fellow enthusiast; as a man who knows how great a “great” Burgundy can be.  And how rare they are to find….

For a complete list of currently available selections, please visit:

http://www.jjbuckley.com/search/c~0~st~pousse%20or

 

Domaine Taupenot Merme Part II – A Decade+ of Refinements leads to Excellent 2011s

view of morey

 

Beginning with the 1998 vintage, a shift in responsibilities was witnessed Chez Taupenot Merme – with the 7th generation taking over – and a host of viticultural changes were introduced. One by one, as these improvements were implemented vintage by vintage, the resulting wines benefited from even more defined personalities (best described by that elusive term “terroir”), deeper colors, more refined perfumes as well as textures that rendered the wines wonderfully drinkable throughout their life cycles. Guided by a desire for purity in their wines, Romain and his Sister, Virginie have taken the following steps over the past decade:

  • Completed the family’s conversion to organic viticulture
  • Began working with a process known as “chauffage post fermentaire” (which gently extracts “noble” tannins)
  • Elected to work with 100% destemmed fruit (ala Henri Jayer)
  • Started racking their wines into oak for 12-15 months  for resting on their fine lees
  • Reduced the amount of new oak (the maximum percentage being 40% for the Grand Crus)

These improvements, coupled with generations-old attention to detail in the vineyards have resulted in professional marks from international critics which have noticeably increased for this venerable estate. Including their less-than-barrique-sized quantity of Clos des Lambrays, this 30 acre estate (with holdings across Gevrey, Morey and Chambolle) – dating to the 1760s – is truly poised for the future as one of the leading domaines of the Cote. Jeannie Cho Lee MW (Decanter Magazine) has declared Taupenot Merme among her “favorite Burgundy producers” (along with DRC, Leflaive and Rousseau), while Allen Meadows (Burghound.com) has defined the wines as being “built on a base of finesse rather than power”, while being “both transparent and very pinot”. And considering that their selections now often garner top marks from Burghound per particular lieu dits, the time is now for serious Burgundy enthusiasts to get to know “today’s” Taupenot Merme.

 

For a complete list of currently available 2011s, please visit:

 

http://www.jjbuckley.com/search/c~0~st~taupenot%20merme%202011