Chateauneufs & More from the Incomparable Jaume Brothers – Tops in 2012!

Alain Jaume et Fils

The modern-day Jaume facilities

On one my early trips to the region back in the 1990s, I encountered the wines of Grand Veneur in Chateauneuf du Pape. M. Alain Jaume was still very much in charge, but his sons – Sebastien and Christophe – were eagerly in training. I’ll never forget that day, as it confirmed them as being among the elite of Chateauneuf and the Rhone.

By the early 2000s, I heard that the brothers had taken more control of things, adding their now-famous Lirac, “Clos de Sixte”. A wine which can easily out “Chateauneuf” many CDPs, the debut of that wine added an exclamation point to a history of superb wines.

Originally established in the early 1800s, Grand Veneur was singled out by Parker as

One of the most brilliant estates in Chateauneuf du Pape,”

for their killer track-record.

Along with such overachievers as Janasse, Marcoux, Clos Saint Jean and CGrand Veneur VVlos des Papes, Grand Veneur consistently tops the charts – vintage in, vintage out – with gorgeous and exciting wines.

For 2012, I bought the range. From their Lirac “Clos de Sixte”, to the “Les Origines” (a selection of the best barrels), to the VV, each wine is here for you to explore. And if there was ever a vintage worth exploring to the max, 2012 is the one…

Available here:Jaume Clos Sixte

(search producer: Grand Veneur)



Back in 1994, I joined a small, dedicated French-wine import company that would later change its name from International Gourmet Corp – as we moved away from including olive oils and vinegars in our offers – to European Wine Group. Our focus was bringing to America what we discovered in the artisanal, family-owned and operated estates of France’s most dedicated of boutique wineries. Expanding our selections to include Spain and later Italy, our name would change to signal our broadening collection, but our focus would never stray from our roots as a primarily French-wine focused operation.

During the 1990s, the job of selling wine was a different animal than it is today. I would spend 5 days a week on the road; visiting distributors on Mondays, their retailers on the following days, and wrapping up my weeks in front of those same distributor’s restaurant clients. If I made it home by Saturday night, I was lucky. Monday came, and I was on another plane, off to another city, checking into another hotel and lugging another set of samples through the streets of yet another bustling city or rural town. There were no Skype meetings, no teleconferences, precious little use of e*mail and most of us still preferred pagers to cell phones.

But perhaps the biggest difference between the prehistoric 1990s and today’s techie style of sales was the reliance on one particular method of promotion in particular. In the 1990s, Robert Parker, Jr aka The Wine Advocate was THE mode of transportation to the top for your wines as an importer/wine-maker/any type of person in the wine business. A rating in the range of 90 points or higher by the man with the golden palate practically guaranteed your wine a place in this country’s wine shops, no matter the size or scope of that shop; you could also bank on a place at the table in just about any style restaurant you sauntered through. Yep, the points got the placements!

Today’s importers face a very different challenge, however. Finding placements in a terribly crowded marketplace, further complicated by an ongoing recession, has forced importers, especially the relatively new ones, to change their approach. The new methods employed by innovative importers reflect this imperative need for creative marketing. Thanks to attacks from bloggers, authors such as Alice Feiring and other professional wine publications, Parker points simply don’t pull the weight any more. Indeed, to place the wines, you need another gimmick.

Enter the phrase, “Natural Wine”. Back in the 1990s, we conservative importers never dreamed of this moniker. We used terms long-considered staples of the industry. Words such as artisanal, boutique, family-owned, un-fined, un-filtered, terroir; these were our selling points. We described our wines with full sentences and long, sometimes drawn out, presentations. Then we concluded the dog-and-pony shows with the coup de grâce, the omnipotent PARKER POINT.

Today, gifted importers turn NOT to Parker, and NOT to long-winded discussions of earth, soil, climate, hillsides, blah, blah, blah. They turn, instead to describing a method of wine-making that succinctly describes every wine offered in their portfolio. Rather than take wine after wine in their presentation and labor over the specifics of Burgundy, the Rhone Valley, Languedoc, Jura, etc, etc, these new wave, highly educated importers spend their time talking it up with young, hip retailers on the theories of “Natural Wine” practices and how those transcendental ideas make better wine. And seeing as these brave new souls of the import world have the writings of Feiring and other respected journals and magazines on their side, perhaps they’ve tapped into a whole new method of self-promotion. And if the placements are coming, that’s the whole point!

One of these new wave importers, whose wines I’ve personally consumed – and loved – on many occasions, is offered below. And while we still cannot find them here in Texas (so typical for our antiquated three tier system and the useless distributors in this State), a search of, or better yet, a call to them personally will do the trick:


Jenny & Francois Selections: 

Importer of Natural Wines

Natural Wine Revolution Prevails!


2009 chemins de bassac isa Rose 

2006 Domaine des 2 anes corbieres fontanilles 

Link to full article:


Precise elegant wines from Domaine Binner 

Excellent natural white – Derain’s Allez goutons

COTURRI 2007 Testa Vineyards Carignane

Domaine Des 2 Anes 2008 premiers pas Corbieres

Link to full article:

Jenny & François Selections
o: 646 775 6400
m: 646 322 4254
Paris: 06 11 10 28 56

Exciting New Arrivals II – Michael Corso Selections

Michael Corso Selections – One of America’s Top Boutique Importers

As I sat to begin the composing of this catalogue I received an invitation to a Monday afternoon tasting that promised to “impress even the most long-time Francophile”.  And when an event is tagged with that type of lead-in, well, this old boy is sure to be in attendance.  The wines were described with all the vernacular needed to get my pleasure meters topping out, so I planned to leave my day completely open and looked forward to meeting this man.

Now before I discuss my experiences with these wines, for those who may not know my long and jaded-palate background, let’s visit the past for a moment.  Your author of these pages, moi, yours truly, began in the wine business more than 25 years ago, way back in the mid-1980s.  I’ve spent many years tasting literally thousands of wines and I have collected so many pages and now computers full of notes that my family and friends constantly encourage me to author my own books on the subject of wine.

So long have I been in this arena in fact that I recall the early days of this business of professional wine critiquing when the now most powerful palate on the planet, Mr. Robert Parker, aka The Wine Advocate would host regular tastings at a quaint wine shop in Baltimore, a shop by the name of Pinehurst.  I had the pleasure of attending one of those casual affairs; a tasting that would be impossible these days now that “the man” is so powerful and in demand.

From those days, I recall professional meetings with Mr. Parker during my years as a wine importer in the 1990s.  I never lost sight of my desire to remain as a professional in the wine business and as I continued to hone my tasting skills, so, too, did Mr. Parker.  These professional meetings with Mr. Parker, as he would review my personal selections from the South of France, wines from the Languedoc and the Roussillon, lead to my being included in an article Parker wrote on these wines that began with the triumphant phrase, “If your wine shop does not stock these wines, CHANGE SHOPS, these wines are too good to ignore…”.  Parker had indeed stamped many of my selections with his coveted seal of approval and my career in the wine business took flight.

So you may now understand my faith and belief in my own palate.  Today, at the age of 42, with more than 25 years and thousands, perhaps countless of bottles under my belt – shall we say palate – I very often feel no need to justify my writings with the opinions of other critics.  And with that point being made, I can tell you now that as I sat and tasted through the wonderfully balanced and classically flavored wines being offered by Michael Corso this past January 19th, I found myself equally impressed by our mutual feelings on the current state of professional wine reviewers in this country today.

Some may claim that it’s a conflict of interest for a review to be published by a retailer; that a retailer has a vested interest in scoring a wine at or above a certain level in hopes of making a buck on that particular wine.  To that cynical opinion I and Mr. Corso have but 1 rebuttal: if that’s the way you feel about your wine merchant, DON’T BUY WINE FROM THAT MERCHANT; put another way, IF YOU DON’T TRUST YOUR MERCHANT, WHY ARE YOU SHOPPING WITH HIM IN THE 1ST PLACE?

Each and every wine I review is reviewed solely by me – another point Mr. Corso and I discussed.  That can no longer be claimed by the vast majority of professional wine magazines.  The Wine Advocate now employs nearly a 1/2 dozen different reviewers tasked with covering every part of the wine world Parker no longer has time and / or desire to cover.  And if you try to calibrate your poor palate with each of these reviewers, good luck dear reader; it can not be done.  Then there is the monster known as The Wine Spectator.  A dozen PLUS reviewers.  You’ll never figure that one out; I certainly haven’t.  Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar?  That’s probably my single favorite publication today.  I’ve known Tanzer since 1994 and Josh has consumed wine with me, personally, many times, at my home and my wine shop, since the late 1990s.  But there again, we are approaching a 1/2 dozen consulting authors contributing to the reviews.  Calibrating therein is a bit easier, but you still must know who is authoring the prose.

But when you read these pages, the reviews written my me, they are 100% my personal feelings based on 25+ years of tastings and travels.  And I write and score based on what I would say to my wife, my family and my closest friends should I have this wine in front of them

My first goal is to have my work discovered and to become the next great wine critic; I am not writing a review to sell a bottle of wine. 

And when Mr. Corso and I shared our mutually agreeing thoughts on wine reviews and wine in general, I could not wait to bring to you his wines…

And my thoughts…

Here’s the first of many I plan to share with you from his portfolio:

2005 Domaine Raspail – Ay Gigondas
Raspail – Ay
70% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre Dry Red Table Wine
Gigondas, Southern Rhone, Rhone, France

Review by Cepage Noir
E*Newsletter Winter 2009
Rating: 91+?
“An Outstanding wine worth your serious attention that will impress and offer memorable drinking experiences.” CN
Drink: 2008 – 2018+

“Beautiful deep ruby purple, bordering on opaque in color.  The perfection of the vintage is evident immediately in the color of this immaculate wine.  First words from my pen, upon engaging the aromatics: Stunning, just a stunning nose.  All the power, all the red currant, red raspberry and all the classic, perfumed, nearly pastille, yet polished and refined fruit one expects from a world class estate harvested in a perfect vintage.  This has that perfectly proportioned and well structured body that carries the deeply perfumed and decadently sweet flavors through to a harmonious finish.  There seems to be absolutely no tannins here as they are swallowed up by the palate soothing fruit and absolutely sexy finish.  What a wine!”
                — Cepage Noir

Review by Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar
International Wine Cellar Issue Jan / Feb 2008
Rating: 92
“Outstanding” Tanzer
Drink: NA


“Dark ruby. Spicy raspberry and dark cherry aromas with a dusty herb overtone. Chewy, deep cassis and blackberry flavors are firmed by youthful tannins, which give the finish power and grip. Leaves sweet, liqueur-like fruit in its wake. More brooding than last year’s showing, but no less impressively concentrated or sweet. This is ideal for the cellar.”
                — Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar