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…

Clos Marie Pic Saint Loup – “Detonative” Southern Secrets

clos-marie

 

I’m thrilled to say I finally located these treasures!

My first excursion to the zones of the Languedoc back in the early ’90s was to visit places few had begun to fully exploit; St Chinian, Roquebrun, Faugeres, La Clape… Backwater AOCs with promising futures.

I continued returning, trekking through the zones as the French AOC system began granting grand crus, touring the mountains and valleys, discovering monumental bottlings.

Today, one guy seems to know everyone on the front lines: importer extraordinaire Peter Weygandt – he’s deep in the game, ferreting out selections that blow my mind. Like these.

This is Clos Marie, run by the young and energetic Christophe Peyrus who honed his talents at Clos Rougeard and Dagueneau. When I first arrived to this region, it was simply AOC Languedoc. Today, these vineyards are rightly recognized, elevated to the grand cru of Pic Saint Loup.

Christophe’s vineyards, surrounding the hamlet of Lauret (outside of Montpelier), are terraced vines abutting Montagne de l’Hortus – a grand site, indeed. Everything is biodynamic, when the vines come alive in spring, the aromas are heavenly.

The wines? Staggering, in every way possible. Fruit, balance, and terroir unlike anything you’ve experienced. You’ll want to go there, to that magical Pic Saint Loup, I guarantee it…

 

Available here:

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

(search producer: Clos Marie)

 

Clos Metarie VVClos Marie Glorieuses

Super Value Minervois from Languedoc Roussillon

Hello to all my FB and blogger friends (especially those who like wine!)

Perhaps you know, but I was in the vinous world for 25 years before O’s platform ushered the shuttering of my wine company.

This week, my long-time colleague Cynthia Hurley ~ one of the most famous American-based European wine importers I’ve ever worked with ~ accepted me as her broker!

I’ll keep this brief and let the wines do the talkin’!

All you do is click, read, decide and follow the instructions. Cynthia & Co. handles the details ~ I make a buck or two. God is good! Thank you for your prayers!

Ordering is easy: email: cynthia@cynthiahurley.com and indicate your desired quantity. In stock and ready for delivery next week.

Here’s this week’s selection:

Remember to tell ’em Massie sent ‘cha ~

Super Value Minervois from Languedoc Roussillon ~

Chateau Fabas Le Mourral 2007<<<<.

 

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

THE IMPORTER’S WACKY, THE WINE’S WONDERFUL

 

2007 HERETIQUES

Yet another bottle that exemplifies one of my proverbial answers to that almost weekly question posed by friends and family, “Hey Christopher, what ‘cha drinkin’ these days?”

I once shared the tale of a full afternoon tasting event that involved several wines from this importer, an afternoon degustation that I can still taste on my palate and that continues to reverberate across my taste-buds. One such wine of that afternoon was the value jewel I routinely order in case lots for weekly quaffing; the wine I’d like to introduce to all of you, again, for the first time.

And while Dressner is one of the wackiest men I’ve ever Twittered or Facebooked with, thanks to his “one-of-a-kind” personalities (to put it as politically correctly as possible), don’t let that come between you and this fantastic value from the South of France.

And like I always advise, buy it through www.winesearcher.com … Texas retailers are far too pricey, thanks to our 3-tiered system and the ridiculous profits taken by useless Texas-based wholesalers.

Check it out in more detail here (BTW, THE CURRENT VINTAGE IS THE ’07):

http://louisdressner.com/Iche/

Louis Dressner Selections – When Traditional Vernacular Just Won’t Cut It

I arrived to work slightly ahead of schedule today, thanks mainly to my precious daughter’s insistence upon awaking long before dawn and alternating her loving parents through a bed-side ritual that had all three of us watching the sun come up.  I’ll admit I do find some odd comfort in these not-too regular routines of little M’s; these middle of the night calls for conversation and comfort.  Her brain is as active as Einstein right now, I know this to be certain, and listening to her now three-year-old mind as she shares her little middle-of-the-night fantasies is truly a wonderful part of being her Father.

I probably wouldn’t have slept much anyway last evening as I knew today was my scheduled appointment with Joe Dressner’s local representative.  I had initiated this meeting after several evenings of digesting the new work by Feiring, a book that reminded me of so many of the wine producers I have so enjoyed for many years.  Prompted by the passionate prose, though not needing much more than a nudge, I found myself one morning signing in at Joe’s website, reading up on current goings on and drafting a short letter that I hoped would not go unnoticed.

To my surprise and great elation, on the very next morning, Joe himself responded to that heartfelt note of mine, yet his tone was one of confusion.  He came across as perplexed in his writing, not remembering the initial contact he and I had some 7 or 8 years back, also not seeming to recognize the loving moniker Feiring had bestowed upon him.  I wrote back, this time with an even more personal tone, explaining my company a bit more and reminding him that Alice had nick-named after an initial meeting between they two many years earlier.

The final note between Joe and I was quite jovial, signed “Large Joe”, giving a slight nod to the pet name his “friend” Feiring places upon him, and he assured me that his local folks would be charged with taking great care of my needs.  Joe has waited many years for a champion in the Texas market, it appears, and now that I had made the connection, all roads would be smooth.  And while there had been a few of his wines in my shop up the street some years back, other than those few cases, shockingly, not one bottle of Joe’s stunningly pure and palate satiating wines had made their way to the Texas market.  As I’ve said for years, Texas remains in a vinous time warp…

Returning to the event of my week now, the representative handling Joe’s wines here in Texas rolled into the shop just before noon, wine tote on wheels, wines properly chilled, reds at cellar temperature, ready for action.  I asked her if she was familiar with my history with some of these labels and when she answered in the negative I guided her to a few pieces of recent and expired promotional material for the shop.  Eyeing the labels in print, she was immediately relieved, admitting that when her company first engaged in business with Dressner not a soul in the organization had one clue as to the wine’s backgrounds or details.  I explained that the juice in the bottles would be all that we would need and she happily grabbed a wine key – we were off!

The first wine my eager, excited palate was to engage this late morning was a Francois Pinon Vouvray from the 2006 vintage.  One whiff of the aromatics and all previously engaged vernacular, all once-held-common-place “wine speak” went out the door!  I’ve smelled a lot of Vouvray folks, and never has a Chenin Blanc once reminded me of that crystal clear stream that ran behind my Grandfather’s house.  I could smell the stones, clean as a whistle, that we would collect from that river bed.  There were aromas of pure minerals, a sense of yeast and of fresh bread.  This wine was as bright as the sunshine on a mountain top, just as pure as a Spring day in the country.  There were flowers and the fruit and acidity on the palate literally took my breathe away.  I described the wine as a demi-sec, neither totally dry nor sweet, and when I finished my note taking, I had devoured half a legal pad page.  Naturally, I bought quite a bit.

From that point, we moved further on into the Loire, this time to the village of Chavignol in the Sancerre region, to taste the wine of the Domaine Thomas-Labaille from the slopes of Les Monts Damnes, this, too, their 2006.  This slope, just to the east of the more commercially recognized Vacherons, is so steep that one could never use a machine for harvest as has become so prevalent throughout the rest of Sancerre.  The results of the tender loving care taken in the vineyard here shows up immediately on the nose; this again showed a brightness and purity rarely found in the region and the appley fruit on both the nose and palate made me want to set up a table outside and watch the day go by.  Again, I bought this wine too for the shop.

As we began to move into the reds, I found myself daydreaming of my many trips through the Languedoc and my copious contacts, not to mention all of my tasting sheets resting just feet away in filing cabinets.  Yes, we were about to experience one of the true masters of the Minervois universe, and I was bubbling over.  Chateau D’Oupia’s “Tradition” label, again tasting the 2006, is produced from a parcel of Carignane that was planted just after the turn of the previous century – in 1908 or so.  These 100 year old vines could never have continued offering their bounty in a world filled with pesticides or chemicals, never could these gnarled old beautiful vines survived today’s “modern” practices.  So lovingly organic has this farm been tended that these work-horse vines offer the wine drinker a window into the past; a wine full of the life of the vineyard.  There are pure and inescapable aromas of freshly turned soil, deeply pure and sun-kissed minerals, and the most succulent blue fruits that I’ve ever wanted to just pop in my mouth and allow to stain my teeth deep purple.  This is wine of the Earth, a wine of the Sky and a wine of Mother Nature; and the wine screams of beauty.  This is succulent, delicious, and both sublime and yet subtle.  There is complete balance here and I bought every bottle they had.  I’ll buy the next vintage and the next, as well…

Moving north now, I found myself this time taking over the conversation as we began to discuss the wines of an old friend of mine.  Perhaps Texier won’t recall our 1 and only encounter, for it took place a few years back and at a time when he was represented by another importer.  That first encounter, however, cemented in my palate a love for this negociant’s wines that lingers to this day, so tasting his wines again, for the first time in a couple of vintages, was thrilling.  As I sit here with a large glass of Texier’s wine next to me, revelling in its transformation, I continue to be amazed at the depth of complexity this man brings to the humble class of wine we know as Cotes Du Rhone.  Tasting his 2006 version, a wine adorned with a fanciful label, spoke volumes as to Eric’s talent.  First, consider the color.  I knew he was a naturalist when I first met him, and viewing his ruby / gem stone colored Grenache simply confirms his natural ways.  Then comes the nose; a virtual spice box combined with every fresh herb imaginable, all rolling around in a bowl of fresh strawberries.  We have a balancing act of power meeting grace and a complexity that this category has been sorely lacking forever. 

We moved into Texier’s Chateauneuf du Pape from the 2005 vintage next and I literally had to take a seat.  This is the wine resting in a very large-mouthed glass next to me as I compose my thoughts, some 8 hours later.  The wine continued to deepen in color throughout the day, beginning the day already an impressive deep ruby red.  These are extremely old vines Eric is working with, sourced from farms with vines as old as more than 85 years of age.  This is a wine for your personal time capsule; a wine that requires one to have some special event that took place in the year of 2005 that you will celebrate 15-20 years from that vintage.  The initial explosion of pure and unadulterated cardamom, all sexy and alluring, has now become brooding, darkly fruited and like a very, very fine and rare cigar.  There is pure and pristine underbrush as well, the kind you expect from a fine Burgundy, but the dark pitched fruit is pure Chateauneuf.  On the tongue this is as robust yet sneaky as an old wise man and only those with great patience will be rewarded when this toddler becomes legal.  I’ve waited 8 hours for the wine to unfold, and it has done precisely as I thought it would; it ran from the gate, flashed it’s bare bosom, got caught by its Father, and has now retreated to its room for many years.  Do not enter until 2020, you are not welcome.

As if my day had not already been fascinating enough, now we released, in perfect silence for my host is a true professional, the cork from a bottle of one of the most thrilling sparkling wines I have ever drank.  This rosey colored wine, the color of a pristine pink hibiscus, with as much mousse as any Champagne you’ll ever consume, comes to us from the 2007 vintage and from the house of Renardat-Fache in the region of Bugey, not that far from Geneve.  This is the land of Poulet de Bresse, a chicken so famous the French gave it its own appellation, and the culinary world finds this part of France a real turn-on.  Drinking this sparkling wine is an experience like none other, one that I continue to find difficult to characterize.  The flavors, perfectly demi-sec and mousse-packed, are the vinous equivalent of an exploding strawberry pie.  The aromas combine the pure and other-worldly characters of a fine Chambolle-Musigny with the “feel-good” nuances of ‘Nilla Wafers.  This wine grabbed my palate, daring me to move on, and I very nearly closed the doors for the day just to sit with this wine and contemplate the wine maker’s agenda.  Drink this wine, oh ye of the Champagne disapproving lot, your life will be changed forever. 

By the end of the tasting, I had purchased more wine than my paltry budget would ever allow. 

But my landlord is an approving sort, I’m certain he’ll allow a grace period…

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier
713-524-9144
2439 Times BLVD
Houston, TX 77005

Windswept 90 Pointer Rounds out the Series

Hello again folks,

Part III of this series is actually a dual pronged effort; combining my efforts to hear the voice of “The People” with my desire to recapture for you our travels through the windswept back-roads of France’s deep South.  Our wine today combines the full, rich and exciting flavors so many of you required in your survey responses with not only the price point we all seek, but a real sense of adventure as well.  What’s more, it was a resounding success at last evening’s wine tasting, very nearly coming in first place just behind a wine costing nearly 3 times its price! 

The road we travel to discover this sun drenched region, known as Minervois, is well travelled in these pages.  Known as the Autoroute du Soleil, we travelled this road from Avignon through Ventoux and Montpellier, turning west as the Route now changes to the A9.  The massive Mount Ventoux, all 6,500 intimidating feet of it, has faded in the rear view mirror and the land, as we speed towards the walled city of Carcassonne, begins to resemble the winding, dusty roads outside Austin; a sort of Texas hill country if you will.

Minervois was recognized by the French appellation committee and singled out for elevation to its own designated region on February 15th 1985.  Prior to that time, this vast region of nearly 40,000 acres, a region that spans not 1, but two full departments, or “states” as we call them, the Aude and the Herault, had been known simply as another portion of the mammoth Coteaux du Languedoc.  The efforts of a handful of highly gifted and dedicated growers, however, catapulted this hot and aired region to its new-found “place in the sun”.

My first encounter with just such a forward thinking wine maker in this new Minervois came in the mid-1990’s as I travelled the South in search of treasures of the value nature.  I had heard tales of plantings of Syrah and Grenache in these hills and valleys and my interest was to taste as many of the reputed best as possible.  With road map, French translation dictionary and legal pad in my hand, I was headed into the 95 degree day.

Today’s offer, this fabulous unoaked blend from the young and strapping Laurent Coustal at Chateau Sainte Eulalie, represents the passion that not only he (Laurent) holds for the wines of Minervois, but the pride that these people of this young region carry with them as they show the world their wines.  This cuvee from Laurent comes from a single hill, a hill called La Liviniere; a hillside considered the heart of Minervois for its ability to craft grapes of truly superior quality.  A hillside vineyard often denoted on the more expensive offerings from this region, La Liviniere’s soil is rich with a deep layer of limestone; perfect for the maturing of complex Syrah and Grenache.

When you taste this seemingly humble wine from the proud Laurent, humble in that its cost is just so darn affordable, you should remember the rolling hills and perfect sunshine that combine to favor organic production for Sainte Eulalie’s wines.  The vineyard consists of absolutely zero top soil, is constantly blown dry by swirling winds and further benefits by Laurent’s firm dedication to ever-increasing work towards biodynamics.  This is pure, natural and “of the Earth” wine, and the purity one encounters in the flavors and depth of complexity – never mind the price – truly sets this estate apart from the crowd.

But you wouldn’t have it any other way from me, now would you?

2007 Chateau Sainte Eulalie Minervois
Chateau Sainte Eulalie
15% Syrah, 45% Grenache, 40% 85 year-old Carignan Dry Red table wine
Minervois, Languedoc Roussillon, France

Review by Cepage Noir
E*Newsletter Winter 2009
Rating: 90
“An Outstanding wine worth your serious attention that will impress and offer memorable drinking experiences.”
Drink: 2008 – 2013

        “Another exciting experience, and an appellation that this taster has considerable tasting prowess with, Eulalie exemplifies not only the cutting edge techniques of today’s young superstar wine-makers, but the perfection you’re reading about regarding this 2007 vintage for the regions from Avignon to Carcassonne.  Just a gorgeous aromatic display unfolds from the glass of this amazing over-achiever.  An alluring combination of blue and red fruits on the aromas and palate combine with an almost buttery texture to offer a lip-smacking, gulp-able, yet utterly serious drinking profile.  This is simply a total turn on and a joy a to drink!”
                — Cepage Noir 

just a few cases remain after the successful results from last night’s event…

do get your orders in soon!

offered for a mere $15 per bottle (I said it was underpriced!)

or a dandy $156 for a case of 12 (WOW!)