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

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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 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

 

Henri Boillot – From Domaine to Maison; A Perfectionist in Motion

Domaine Henri Boillot

 

Throughout my career in the Burgundy trade – one that spans nearly 3 decades now – I have often been asked the question, “What is it about Burgundy that captures your attention and keeps you so passionate about its wines?” Above all else – I reply – is the fact that when the next generation takes over in Burgundy, there is this palpable sense of change. And it is this change – as the sons and daughters begin managing their parents’ vineyards – that enthralls me, entices me, excites me and keeps me coming back for more.

 

Nowhere else in France have I experienced such vinous revolutions as I do in Burgundy. It’s as if the small families who continue to inhabit, own, manage and operate their centuries old estates and domaines have seen the results of the practices in such faraway places as Bordeaux and Champagne and have made a collective decision to eschew such nonsense. Or perhaps it’s their Cistercian roots; nobly connecting the Burgundians of today to the gentle philosophy of self-sufficiency. Whatever the cause, the results are undeniable; as each generation takes the reins from their forebears, the incoming progeny more times than not seems determined to overwhelmingly impress.

 

As my career has unfolded, I have enjoyed the experience of witnessing firsthand the passing of the baton. I’ve watched (and tasted) as Christophe Perrot Minot has transformed Domaine Perrot Minot. Likewise, my palate has been thrilled with the work at Taupenot Merme, where Romain and his sister Virginie have tenderly coaxed a new level of exquisiteness from their family’s holdings. Others I’ve witnessed include the changes at Comte Liger Belair, Comte Armand, Domaine Magnien, Dujac and so, so, so many more.

 

But perhaps one of my most memorable experiences with the new generation – based solely on the number of vineyard sites (lieu dits) being successfully managed – is the one I continue to enjoy with each new release at Henri Boillot. Whether the wine being tasted emanates from one of the various family-owned plots (Domaine labeled), or is sourced from one of Boillot’s dozens of managed sites (Maison labeled, or simply labeled as Henri Boillot), each example invariably runs to the very top of the score range. Tasting Boillot’s wines from any given lieu dit is a study in just how spectacular that plot of land’s resulting wines are supposed to be.

 

Just about the time yours truly was entering the wine trade (back in the mid 1980s), Henri Boillot struck out on his own to form a negociant business. He had been the winemaker for the family business in the Cote de Beaune – known at that time as Domaine Jean Boillot – for 10 years, but a desire for more expressive and singular wines was burning within him. A negociant business in Burgundy is unique from those in other parts of France in that it allows one to purchase in a host of different forms: land, vines, grapes, juice, must, finished wine, etc. And because Henri desired a palette on which to showcase his art, this new-formed negociant business proved perfect for building a new portfolio. Henri could pick and choose across myriad vineyard sites – buying as he saw fit – rendering wines that mirrored his visions. The world of Burgundy was his.

 

It didn’t take long before Henri’s grandfather – managing director of the family business, Domaine Jean Boillot – became seriously impressed with Henri’s work. So impressed was grandfather in fact, that Henri was beckoned home and restored as the family winemaker. Soon after the turn of the century, Henri – driven by perfection – offered to purchase each of his sibling’s shares in the family domaine. Once complete, the former Domaine Jean Boillot was renamed, christened Domaine Henri Boillot (with the negociant wines continuing with the name of Henri Boillot). This move to rename the domaine was important to Henri in that it identifies his efforts towards perfection while establishing a new label that is distinctly different from his brother’s estate known as Jean-Marc Boillot.

 

Today, with literally dozens of unique lieu dits available, Domaine / Maison Henri Boillot represents one of the most important, impressive and quality driven properties in the entire Cote. The notoriety from international critics certainly supports this position, as comments such as the following have become routine for the man many Burgundy lovers now call the master:

 

“I have heard Henri Boillot described as an iconoclast but in my opinion this is not entirely accurate. Rather, I would describe him as a vigneron who both preaches, and practices, extreme rigor. He believes that there are no shortcuts and that nothing is free. Work properly and seriously and the results will be there.”

Burghound

 

“Henri Boillot decided a few years ago that he wanted to dedicate himself to the production of fine wines. Since then he has gone from strength to strength, sparing no expense, obsessing over every detail, fashioning magnificent wines….Thanks to the superhuman efforts of Henri Boillot, Domaine Boillot should now be counted among the finest producers in the Cote de Beaune for both reds and whites.”

Robert Parker

 

“As a group these wines showed vibrancy, excellent acidity, genuine vineyard character, and they tasted damn good too! Differences between Meursaults from Charmes and Genevrieres were obvious. It was much the same for the Pulignys and the Grand Crus. In every case, the Boillot wines served as excellent representatives of the fundamental character one has come to expect from these vineyards.”

EWS, Wine Advocate

 

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

 

http://www.jjbuckley.com/search/c~0~st~2010%20Henri%20Boillot

 

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La Chablisienne – Meticulous Quality, Precise Quantity, Exciting Wines

P11879043

In the world of Burgundy – doubly so in terms of the whites – rarely do quantity and quality inhabit the same world. Enter the collection known as La Chablisienne; a selection of sublime Chardonnays so well-balanced and consistently well made as to render professional wine critics seemingly ecstatic year after year. Burghound – the most conservative writer I know – routinely refers to these offers as “strikingly long and harmonious”, while The Wine Spectator gushes with terms to include “intense”, “complex” and “terrific”.

Reading such grandiose reviews, one would surely think they were in the presence of one of the most limited production, impossible to acquire and therefore sky-high priced wines of the genre. After all, when mid to upper 90 point reviews start rolling around from Burghound (as in the case of the 2008 Les Preuses from La Chablisienne), we’re usually witnessing wines the likes of Leflaive Batard Montrachet or Niellon Chevalier Montrachet.

But Herve Tucki – Director of marketing for La Chablisienne – has a very different vision for the wine drinker. His firm, dedicated to “revealing the heart and soul of the wines of Chablis”, represents a collection of the finest small growers of the region. Founded in 1923, La Chablisienne has expanded to such a size that today it vinifies and markets nearly 35% of all of the wine bottled in the region. And it is precisely this element of scale that allows such quality from a firm that produces such quantity.

Further, since the 1950s, La Chablisienne now fully controls 100% of the vinification process to include vineyard work, bottling and aging. Whereas once they acted simply as a blender and wholesale merchant to the trade, today La Chablisienne acts more as a boutique wine-maker – albeit one of the largest “boutiques” one is likely to encounter. By incorporating the finest wine-makers with the greatest vineyard sites available in Chablis, La Chablisienne has truly accomplished what few (if any) other firms in Burgundy has been able to: combining high quality with terrific quantity to offer the discerning consumer outstanding prices on highly regarded, world-class wines.

For more information regarding currently available selections, please visit:

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

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First Report – Grand Jours de Bourgogne 2012

GJDB 2012, Day 1 - Clos Vougeot

 

Having just returned from a recent week of tasting in Burgundy where I met with more than a hundred producers and personally sampled (what seems like) nearly a thousand wines, I am now embarking on organizing my notes. As this process will undoubtedly require several days to complete – and considering how excited I am to begin rolling out some of the details – I’ve decided to share some of the discoveries in a sort of “Burgundy of the day” format.

 

For my 1st installment, I’d like to introduce everyone to one of my long-time favorites:

 

Domaine Bertrand Ambroise

 

I met with Bertrand’s daughter – Ludivine – while tasting the Domaine’s 2009 Corton Le Rognet at the GJDB event in Ladoix on March 23rd.

 

Ludivine describes her family’s wine-making methods as “sustainable” (horse plowing, very minimal use of herbicides and pesticides, and no tractors in the vineyards). And as the photos of her vineyard plots attest, this move to a more natural way of wine-making has rejuvenated the soils as well as old vines in her Domaine’s holdings. Hand-pruning, extensive green harvesting (Vendanges verte), the traditional method of burning the old vine cuttings via the incinerateur de roues, fermentation in oak, as well as barrel ageing all attribute to wines of unquestionable age ability, structure, and intensity. And while Ambroise has made a move recently to slightly more refined wines, these remain some of the most robust wines in their respective appellations.

 

As for Bertrand himself, he is very much the lead wine-maker here at his eponymous Domaine – having arrived in Burgundy (Beaune specifically) a few years before taking over at what would later become Domaine Bertrand Ambroise. The original Domaine upon which Ambroise would be established in 1988 dates back to the 18th century. But it wasn’t until Bertrand and his wife Martine took over that the Domaine began to attract global attention. Bertrand and his wife Martine – daughter of the man who owned the Domaine until his death in 1987 – worked the 20 acre estate alongside Martine’s father, encouraging the move to sustainable farming as well as improvements in the cellar.

 

Now totaling 42 acres, Domaine Bertrand Ambroise is a true family-run estate. Bertrand is joined by his son Francois – who is also a wine-maker – as well as Ludivine – who handles the business affairs of the Domaine. In 2007, Bertrand became a grand-father when his grand-daughter Eloise was born, and a new label was launched in her honor. Three generations of Ambroise now daily may be found on the grounds of this outstanding Domaine, ensuring top quality for many years to come.

 

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

 

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

 

And remember to check back often, the 2010s are just around the corner!

A Life’s Work

It was the late 1980s… Our “unabashed Francophile” leader – as he has been described by the local wine writers in Houston – was just beginning his career in the wine business working in one of the most upscale dining establishments in the Dallas area – Riviera. Christopher Massie found himself under the wing of owner Franco Bertolasi, and by the end of one short year he had encountered tastings that included1982 First Growth Bordeaux, multiple vintages of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and verticals of Ramonet White Burgundies. Yes, the 1980s were a great time to be in the wine business and Christopher was indeed in a great place to cut his professional teeth.

Later that decade, Christopher attended one of the most important tastings of his career. This one tasting would shape his palate and guide his path more than any other he had yet been a part of. The wines being poured were all imported by Kermit Lynch and the speaker was the national sales manager at that time for this famous French Import Company. To listen to Christopher talk about that tasting – even today – will convince you of his dedication to artisanal, hand-crafted, estate bottled, naturally produced French wines. ESPECIALLY Burgundies!

Another moment in time came when Christopher was working retail for one of the giants of the industry – also in the Dallas area – and met the national representative for Vineyard Brands. At that time, in the very early 1990s, VB represented the absolute best of Burgundy. With a little help, Christopher was off to Burgundy for a two week meeting with folks such as Thierry Matrot, Mongeard-Mugneret and the late Monsieur Gouges to name but a few. Christopher would return to Burgundy nearly a dozen times more after that trip, sealing his love for this region and further developing his expertise for its wines. Visits to the cellars at DRC, Dujac, D’Angerville and more than 3 dozen others over multiple vintages honed his skills for understanding the differences in these terroirs and the subtleties of vintages.

By the mid 1990s, Christopher had established a relationship with David Hinkle of North Berkeley Imports as well. Further visits with the finest names of Burgundy as represented by this firm simply cemented a life’s love and work. Magnien, Arlaud, Raphet – the names read like a who’s-who of Burgundy. Naturally, there’s more to life than just Burgundy. Christopher’s passion for the best also includes studies of the greatest wines of the Rhone Valley, Italy and Spain. Not to mention the time he’s spent up and down the coast in California with some of the best names in Pinot Noir, Rhone Varietals and Chardonnay. This association led naturally to his involvement with, and love for, Biodynamic® and naturally produced wines.

In 1999, Christopher Massie opened his own retail shop, Christopher’s Wine Warehouse, which operated successfully in the Houston market for more than ten years. Christopher’s evolved over time from a “stack ‘em high and let ‘em fly” philosophy to a more focused, email and web-driven sales model. These ten years as a sole proprietor, tasting each and every selection personally before purchase, further refined Christopher’s palate and allowed him to develop a deep understanding and appreciation for Biodynamic and naturally produced wine. Christopher has dedicated many hours to blogging about Biodynamic wine, which has resulted in special recognition from Demeter-USA for his contributions to the Biodynamic® wine movement.