Domaine du Clos des Fees – Hervé Bizeul’s Ethereal Cuvee le Clos des Fees

View from one of many old vine sites sourced by Hervé Bizeul

View from one of many old vine sites sourced by Hervé Bizeul

Among my most lasting memories of the Roussillon (France’s deep south-west at the border with Spain) was a visit to the region in the early 1990s. My host – pedal to the metal in his classic Citroen – zigzagged us up a seemingly abandoned, steeply angled road as we headed to the summit of a vineyard-capped mountain off the coast, near Port-Vendres.

Suddenly, he slammed on his brakes, summoning me to exit the car. Not quite to the summit, he said we’d made about 2,000 feet elevation, bringing my attention to the crumbling limestone slopes adjacent.

Dangling from the crumbling rock were the roots of vines from several meters above. The scree-covered slopes, eroded from years of wind-swept conditions were now exposing the roots of numerous vines. Yet these ancient roots had somehow remained burrowed into the mountain, their eventual source of nourishment seemingly dozens of meters below. Over the decades – battling every scourge from Mother Nature – these roots of time survived; life support for the ancient bush vines of multiple varieties covering the mountain above us.

These are the types of ancient vines and soils which comprise one fraction of the many complex parts that come together, resulting in some of the greatest wines now being made in the Roussillon. I’ve made this trip many additional times, searching for greatness.

I’m here to say that I’ve found it; and it resides at Domaine du Clos des Fees. Hervé Bizeul works with the most important terroirs on earth, every one of them available to him in the Roussillon. Tasting the fruits of his labor will utterly impress even the most seasoned tasters.

This is the kind of wine you want – it deserves discovery – and you’re going to be talking about it for years.

2012 Domaine du Clos des Fees Cotes du Roussillon Villages le Clos des Fees

My favorite of the lineup, the 2012 Côtes du Roussillon Villages Le Clos des Fées is a sensational effort that’s most likely the wine of the vintage. Made from 50% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 20% Carignan and the rest Mourvèdre that was aged 16 months in roughly 60% new French oak, it’s a classic, structured, age-worthy Roussillon that exhibits lots of blackberry and cassis fruit, smoked herbs, licorice and scorched earth. Full-bodied and concentrated, yet light on its feel, with a firm, focused finish, give it 2-3 years and enjoy bottles through 2027. There are few wines from the Roussillon I’d rather have in my cellar.

97 points – Wine Advocate (JD)

Hunt this one down; tell me what you think…

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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…

 

Xavier Vins Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Anonyme – One of the Best & Latest Released 2007s

Xavier

Xavier, the man behind the late released, phenomenal “Cuvee Anonyme”

Along with Henri Bonneau and his notoriously difficult to acquire, always last to market Reserve des Celestins, Xavier Vignon’s Cuvee “Anonyme” requires immeasurable patience on the part of passionate Chateauneuf lovers. This stuff is legendary – for those lucky few to have tasted it. The 2007 vintage was (and remains) the greatest vintage for the wines of Chateauneuf du Pape in generations. Parker declared it was “the vintage of a lifetime.” Following up with his in-bottle summary, “this is a truly historic and profoundly great vintage.” (emphasis his)

Taking full advantage of the bounty set before him, Xavier Vignon patiently nurtured his top cuvee for a full 36 months, allowing the elevage to take place in a combination of demi-muids and seasoned, small oak casks. So complex is the cuvee for “Anonyme” that Xavier prefers to discuss the cuvee by parcels – no less than 120 individual plots contribute to the blend; many vines from the best sites have seen their 100th birthday. This is very truly and without exaggeration one of the most unique, difficult to acquire and staggeringly exotic wines ever made in Chateauneuf.

It’s no wonder Xavier is as famous and in demand as Cambie. Some of the most famous wines in the village would not be what they are today without Xavier – Marcoux, Grand Veneur, Usseglio, Beaurenard – all these domaines utilize Xavier’s direction as consulting winemaker. Once the 2007 “Anonyme” caresses your palate, it will all make sense…

Except for Henri Bonneau’s 2007 Reserve des Celestins (which is still in barrel), the last 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape to be released will be Xavier Vignon’s Anonyme. This sensational wine spent three years in a combination of demi-muids and small oak. It boasts an inky/purple color along with a sweet nose of underbrush, garrigue, licorice, blackberries and black currants. Full, thick, unctuously textured and even flamboyant, this stunning 2007 should drink well for another 15-20 years.

96 points – Robert ParkerAnonyme

This may require a special effort to acquire; I’ve got mine, you should have yours…

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

http://www.b-21.com/searchwine.asp

(search producer: Grand Veneur)

Chateauneuf du Pape 2012 – First Release – Low Yields, Excellent Wines!

CDP

There’s a word you need to memorize: coulure. It’s the French vinous term for a condition which results in low yields for the wine-makers. Grapes fail to develop after flowering, leaving growers weeping. This condition has wreaked havoc across France. Remember the 2010 Burgundies? Well, it’s happened again! But what spells sorrow for growers equates to sheer joy for quality conscience consumers.

Coulure lowers yields and concentrates flavors. Cut to the chase, these 2012 Chateauneufs are packed with flavor! The Grenache harvest alone was cut by 60% at some places, the resulting wines as juicy as I’ve tasted in quite awhile. As reported in Tanzer,

Vincent Avril [of Clos des Papes] quipped sardonically that ‘maybe we need to come up with a new definition of “normal” for yields because this is getting to be sadly consistent.’”

But here’s the downside to all this: allocations will be slashed. One of my suppliers actually laughed when I tried to order 25 cases of our best seller. “I’ll give you 5”, he replied. These are sublime folks. But when they’re gone, that’s it. With that in mind, here’s round one (watch this space for more to come)…    clos-des-papepegau-cdphillaire-cdp-l

First release offers may be found here

 

Updates from The Greats – Donelan Family Wines

 

Donelan Family Wines

If you have plans for being in the Sonoma area in early August, add this event to your itinerary, NOW.

For ME, when it comes to selecting the top 5 or so greatest experiences my palate has enjoyed, considering wines from America, there will simply not be a better offer to come our way this year. For true Syrah aficionados, Grenache fanatics or lovers of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Hermitage, Donelan Family Wines (formerly known as Pax) bottles the most expressive, sublime, powerful and hedonistic single-vineyard-designated and blended wines of this generation.

I have been drinking and collecting these exquisite wines for many vintages now. I encourage you to do the same.

Donelan Summer 2010 Open House and current offers:

via Donelan Summer 2010 Open House.

TODAY’S REBELS OFFERING A DIFFERENT APPROACH

"NATURAL WINE"

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 winesearcher.com, or better yet, a call to them personally will do the trick:

 

Jenny & Francois Selections: 

Importer of Natural Wines

Natural Wine Revolution Prevails!

BLOOMBERG PICKS:

2009 chemins de bassac isa Rose 

2006 Domaine des 2 anes corbieres fontanilles 

Link to full article:

http://worldwidewine.net/DOC020.pdf

NATURAL WINE WINNERS:

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:

http://worldwidewine.net/FoodandWine.html

 —
Jenny & François Selections
o: 646 775 6400
m: 646 322 4254
Paris: 06 11 10 28 56
jenny@jennyandfrancois.com
www.jennyandfrancois.com
www.fromthetank.com