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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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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Maison Lucien le Moine – Bygone Methods yielding Perfection in Chardonnay

Lucien le Moine

 

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.”

 

For a complete list of currently available selections, please check out:

 

http://www.jjbuckley.com/search/c~0~st~lucien%20le%20moine%202010

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

Domaine Michel Magnien ~ The Gateway to Burgundy

Fourth & Fifth Generation Perfectionists in Morey St Denis.

 

My first encounter with Frederic – Freddy – Magnien (5th generation winemaker for both the Domaine as well as Negoce side of the family business) was over breakfast back in 2007. It was the morning preceding one of his annual wine-maker tours – this one held in Los Angelas – and he, my wife, and then 1 year old daughter and I were all seated together at the hotel restaurant downstairs. As he fed my daughter the ripest blue berries we’ve ever tasted, I was struck by how humble, kind and tremendously gentle and classy he was. That memory remains with me and is the first image I have every time I visit with him to taste his wines – wines that mirror the man: honest, pure, humble and very, very classy.

 

Spanning numerous lieu dits, there are two distinct labels Chez Magnien – both managed by Freddie. On the Domaine side, identified by the striking black labels, are the vineyards owned by Frederic’s father – those denoted as the Michel Magnien wines. For the Negoce wines – also managed by Freddie (from bud-break to bottling, which is quite unique for a negociant business) – are the white-label-identified Frederic Magnien wines. Towards producing wines that capture the purity of fruit and expressive transparency of terroir that has been the hallmark of the Magnien lines since estate bottling began (in 1994), Michel continues as vineyard manager for the Domaine parcels while Freddie manages 100% of the cellar work for all of the wines – Domaine AND Negoce.

 

Freddie Magnien joined his father in the early 1990s at a time when Michel was still selling most of the family’s harvest to local negociants. Freddie recognized his father’s unmatched vineyard work and slowly convinced him to allow Freddie to estate bottle small portions of selected harvests. The Magniens own plots in the Cote D’Or’s most hallowed Grand Crus – with vines in their Charmes Chambertin approaching 100 years in age – and Freddie was convinced that if he could convert his father from selling to bottling that he could expand the family business.

 

As Freddie’s efforts began to be recognized – first by his father and then very quickly by the international wine writers – Michel offered Freddie a golden opportunity. Not only would Freddie be allowed the position of cellar master for the Domaine wines, but he would likewise begin a negociant business to augment the family’s holdings. Adding to the 100 year old plots in Charmes Chambertin, the perfectly situated parcels of Clos de la Roche and Clos Saint Denis, as well as the perfectly tended old vine 1er Cru vines in Morey and Chambolle, Freddie would add to the line up additional lieu dits in practically every appellation throughout the Cote.

 

But it would remain the Domaine wines – these Michel Magnien wines – that would continue as the jewel in the family crown. As grand as the additional bottlings from the Negoce line would prove to be – and they certainly are; just ask Burghound – these profound Domaine wines somehow seem to receive that extra bit of attention from critics and collectors alike. Simply put, when asked why a Burgundy lover would spend their hard-earned dollar on a Michel Magnien wine (be they new to the game or a seasoned “Pinot-phile”), the answer is that Freddie Magnien is one of the most expressive people you’ll ever meet. And his wines – in particular the Domaine wines that he makes with his father – are the most expressive of their respective terroirs that one is likely to experience.

 

Combining his father’s perfectionism in the vineyard – up before dawn to prune and tend – with Freddie’s meticulous nature in the cellar has resulted in a line-up of wines that earned this duo “Wine Personality of the Year” (from the Wine Advocate) in just their second year as estate bottlers.  Add to that numerous years of mid to upper nineties ratings from wine critics across the globe and you’ll begin to understand why so many consider the Magnien wines “the gateway to Burgundy”.

For more information regarding currently available selections, please visit:

 

http://www.jjbuckley.com/search/c~0~st~michel%20magnien

 

(most items currently on sale up to 50% off, contact a private sales rep for details)

 

Cheers!

Christopher

Domaine Taupenot Merme ~ Haunting, impossibly elegant

Where Mazoyeres is "haunting" ~ Galloni

Where Mazoyeres is “haunting” ~ Galloni

Having heard that we would be visiting the Cote for the annual Grand Jours de Bourgogne, Romain Taupenot-Merme emailed me mid-week to extend a personal invitation to join him at his home to visit the Domaine and taste his 2010s. Considering the reputation that precedes this venerable estate, I made certain our afternoon calendar that day was cleared.

As one exits the RN74 in the village of Morey-Saint-Denis, passing the starred yet very affordable Hotel Tres Girard (my preferred home away from home on many trips to Burgundy), you’ll ascend the one lane road in the direction of Clos de Tart. This tiny road makes a beeline for the greatest collection of hallowed soil not just in this one-horse town, but the entirety of the Cote D’Or. As you approach the Domaine of Clos de Tart, turning either direction along the intersecting route, you’ll be travelling through all of the Grand Crus of Morey Saint Denis.

At the far end of the route is Bonnes Mares, sharing its Cru with Chambolle to the south. Continuing north one next encounters the aforementioned Clos de Tart, followed immediately by Clos de Lambrays. It is here, at the base of this steep hill that we visited the home and Domaine of Romain. Eyeing the vineyards further north, Romain also boasts a view of the final Grand Crus of Morey – Clos Saint Denis and Clos de la Roche. Appropriately, and in keeping with the beauty of the landscape surrounding him, Romain’s home is as stunning as the wines that emanate from the Crus his home is tucked away beneath.

Romain and his Sister, Virginie are the 7th generation to tend the land and oversee the production of wines Chez Taupenot Merme – a family Domaine since the 1700s. Romain described his winemaking philosophy to me during our visit that day (as we tasted his entire line-up of 2010s) as one geared towards more transparency and silkier tannins. He has moved all of the vineyards to organic viticulture and experiments with biodynamics on certain plots. He explained that while certain aspects of viticulture Biodynamique are critical to soil preservation, those same techniques are found in traditional organic viticulture as well, hence his avoidance to rush towards certification.

One thing that struck me the most about Romain’s wines was their purity. These are wines – much like his cousin’s, Christophe Perrot Minot – which truly allow for the typicity of the lieu dit to shine through. Each wine was unique unto itself; completely different from the others in the line-up. Tasting with Romain – a true gentleman’s gentleman – is a study in just how grand the terroirs of Morey truly are. And considering the reviews and comments bestowed upon these treasures by Galloni and Burghound, I am personally thrilled to see these wines available for our clients.

For details on currently available offers from this estate, please visit:

http://www.jjbuckley.com/search/c~0~st~taupenot%20merme%202010<<<<

Domaine Jean Marc Pavelot ~ Indisputably the Finest!

Jean-Hugues Pavelot, the man Burghound crowns the leader of Savigny!

 

Of the nearly 180 producers who produce and bottle wines from Savigny les Beaune, the estate of Jean-Marc Pavelot has earned the illustrious title of the finest wine maker in the village. After evaluating several consecutive vintages, spanning literally hundreds of samples and finished bottlings, Allen Meadows (author and publisher of Burghound) was quoted in 2004 as saying, “Pavelot is indisputably making the finest wines in the village and in particular, they age extremely well.”

Moreover, the father and son team of Jean-Marc and Hugues Pavelot ensure a future of outstanding wines from their pristine, old-vine vineyard parcels through a practice known as lutte raisonnee. Essentially a practice incorporating the most practical applications as found in both biodynamic as well as traditional vineyard management, lutte raisonnee allows the flexibility to control vineyard abnormalities while avoiding undue applications to one’s soil. Through this practice, the Pavelot’s have consistently fashioned the most sought after, high-scoring, terroir-driven wines of the appellation for decades.

Routinely worthy of accolades reserved for wines costing twice to three times what these “humble” Savigny-les-Beaunes fetch, the wines of Pavelot are “wines worth a serious look each and every vintage… and absolutely worth your attention” – also quotes attributed to the Burghound.

 

For details on currently available offers from this estate, please visit:

 

http://www.jjbuckley.com/search/c~0~st~pavelot%202010

 

And:

 

http://www.jjbuckley.com/search/c~0~st~pavelot