Among The Most Ethereal Wines Of Gevrey Chambertin – Domaine Geantet-Pansiot

Vincent Geantet & Friends – True Artisans in Gevrey Chambertin

 

My most recent trip to visit the Côte was to attend the Grand Jours de Bourgogne, a week-long event where more than a thousand wines are made available for tasting through day-long events at venues from Marsannay to Meursault and from Chablis to the Mâconnais. It was – and always is – a thorough (and thoroughly exhausting) event; thousands of people from around the globe descending upon my beloved Côte – a farming community, to be honest – to taste their most sought after Montrachets and catch a glimpse of the “rock-star” who bottles their must-have Musigny.

For me, it’s a chance to say hello to long-time friends, standing quietly at their booths, unencumbered by the masses jammed together like sardines in a can at the Mugnier table. These are the real Burgundians, the men and women who capture the attention of Burgundy drinkers. They are the winemakers who work their vineyards, and have done so for generations, to produce the most authentic, layered, terroir driven, soul stirring wines of their respective villages. They are the quiet types who make Burgundies for folks like me – and most likely for folks like YOU, too.

Vincent Geantet – of Domaine Geantet-Pansiot – is one of them. He said hello to me as I approached his table at the Maison de Marsannay, his wines ready and waiting for tasting. I’ve been collecting the wines of this domaine for a decade, visited the vineyards a few years back during harvest. Everything is done by hand here. Each row of vines was being hand-picked by a group – perhaps extended family; they seemed to know one another in a familial way – on the day of my visit. The grapes were the deepest, darkest purple, almost black; the domaine’s parcels some of the oldest vines in the region. As they hand clipped each bunch of berries, another was there to sort out all by the finest berries. By the time everything reached the sorting table, everything looked like glass; the berries headed into the crusher glistening in the light.

Vintage 2012, as many of you may know, was a vintage of greatly reduced yields. Mother Nature threw everything she had at the vignerons, and then came through again for a second round. Therefore, the availabilities of Domaine Geantet-Pansiot wines are drastically reduced; one fifth of what they could normally offer. So locating these treasures could be difficult. Take it from someone who knows first-hand, the hunt is worth it! The magic is there in every wine Geantet-Pansiot bottled for 2012.

And just in case you haven’t heard, I’m not alone in my adoration for this family’s tremendous offerings,

“I have been impressed with the Geantet wines over the past 4 to 5 vintages and 2012 definitely continues this run as the wines are terrific.” — Burghound

My favorite for 2012:

2012 Domaine Geantet-Pansiot Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru

(From 50+ year old vines)

While not as elegant as the Poissenots this is not without its appeal as there is excellent layering to the mix of red and dark berry fruit liqueur aromas that see added breadth in the form of pungent earth and discreet spice notes.  The energetic medium weight plus flavors possess an opulent mouth feel as they brim with palate coating dry extract that buffers the robust but not rustic finish that delivers outstanding depth and length.  Note though that this will not be an early drinker and thus moderate patience is required.

93 points – Allen Meadows, Burghound

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Servin Chablis – Revisiting a Favorite – Smashing Wines from Chablis

François Servin - Tradition in the Cellars, Flamboyant in Person

François Servin – Tradition in the Cellars, Flamboyance in Person

François Servin – one of the more flamboyant winegrowers in Chablis – and his Australian-born winemaker Marc Cameron have been on a qualitative hot streak. With three consecutive vintages of the best juice I’ve tasted here, it’s high time these guys are on your radar. Whether Grand Cru, Premier or straight Village, the Midas touch is strong here, and at work across three of my favorite, most-recent vintages.

With parcels of the oldest vines comprising most of their holdings, ROBERT PARKER’S WINE ADVOCATE in particular insists:

“They deserve a berth in your cellar alongside those prized Raveneaus and Dauvissats.”

Having spent more than adequate time tasting the line-up, I get it. You will, too with a few glasses of their recent releases. Acidities are perfectly balanced with the fruit, but more importantly, the “Chablis” spirit is here – in buckets.

What I seek, foremost – my beloved Kimmeridjian vein of lip-smacking salinity – weaves its way throughout François Servin’s selections.

One of the dynamic duo’s top wines, in particular, the 2014 Le Clos Grand Cru is – in a word – smashing! The new oak is barely there; it’s all about fruit (buckets of it) and that classic vein of acidity. Everything graciously wrapped in harmonic salinity.

 

Looking to the 2015s, the very old-vine Selection Massale is a killer value, made all the more irresistible by a consumer-friendly growing season. There’s a gravel and Granny Smith bouquet which belies the “buy it by the case” pricing. This is my go-to value buy in classic Chablis for 2015. It’s thoroughly irresistible.

 

Without skipping a beat, the team rolled right into 2016 with one of the best versions of their 1er Cru Vaillons I’ve tasted since the late 1990s. Sit back, take in the aromas of the ocean – oysters, sea breezes – and then be prepared to be all consumed by the fruit of this stunner. Brimming with peaches, mandarin oranges and Granny Smiths, all wrapped nicely in Kimmeridjian complexity, this is a true dream of a Vaillons. And having consumed more of this 1er Cru than any other (it’s my favorite) I will tell you that you absolutely should not miss it!

Maison Lucien le Moine – Bygone Methods yielding Perfection in White Burgundy

“Dazzling pretty much sums it up" - Antonio Galloni

“Dazzling pretty much sums it up” – Antonio Galloni

 

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.”

 

Might be terribly difficult to locate – at a price suitable – but I assure you the search is worth it; exemplary wines!

2012 Rippon “Rippon Mature Vines” Pinot Noir – Phenomenal Old-Vine Beauty

 

Where The Rippon Magic Happens

 

I first began drinking these phenomenal Pinots with the early 2000s, earning the chance to work directly with the estate a couple years ago with a small release of their 2010s and sensational 2003s. My adoration is well known to friends, family and colleagues alike, with the Wine Advocate on record as well, referring to Nick’s wines as “Pinot Noirs that rekindled memories of those glorious Burgundy 2005’s”. You’ll be as thrilled as I am to hear that Nick’s most well-priced treasure – the 2012 Rippon “Rippon Mature Vines” – has finally landed in the States – ready for your immediate, hedonistic enjoyment!

The site which would eventually become known as Rippon was first planted to 25 various varietals during the 1970s by its founder, Rolfe Mills. Rolfe had spent time in the Douro Valley during the 1940s and the site of schist, rich in foliated mica and quartzite, on his land in Central Otago sparked a great curiosity. Rolfe began experimenting with his soils, isolating a parcel on the western board of Roy’s Bay, Lake Wanaka.

This ancient parcel is Rippon’s north-facing escarpment, and it forms the meeting point of terminal moraines and coarse gravels, all based in schist, where Central Otago’s earliest vines were planted. Rippon’s Mature Vines cuvee is issued from all of the fully developed Pinot vines growing in this expansive parcel. This is where it all began for Rippon, and the fruit of the vine from this parcel bears witness to the perfectionist style Nick (and his father Rolfe before him) is renowned for.

2012 “Rippon Mature Vines”

For those new to these pages, I’d like to take the time to remind folks how vital Nick’s training has been to the continuity of these world class Pinot Noirs. Not only are these the oldest plantings in the region, but they are tended by a man who spent his formative years working the soil and terroirs of Burgundy; he knew how vital his understanding of such things would be. To that end, Nick tenured with de Villaine (Domaine de la Romanée Conti) , and spent time with Jean-Jacques Confuron, Lucien Jacob, Alain Meunier, Nicolas Potel and Domaine de la Vougeraie as well. His are truly the wines of a master craftsman.

 

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Thibault Liger-Belair – Making Monumental Moulin-A-Vents!

thibault-liger-belair

Burgundy, the Cote D’Or. For many, this is the place where it all leads. We begin our vinous journey somewhere else – Bordeaux, Cali Cabs, Italy, anywhere else – but all roads lead to Burgundy. It’s a confusing, confounding, maddening, soul satisfying journey. You’ll spend thousands of hours and even more dollars figuring out the players and the plots, and then, maybe (if you’re lucky) you’ll find nirvana. Generations of men and women dedicate their lives to these nearly desolate hills along a mere 35 mile stretch of vineyards where Pinot and Chardonnay reign supreme.

So why in the name of the Cistercians would anyone now turn to the hillsides of Beaujolais? Why look to places such as Moulin-A-Vent for inspiration? Simply put, the 10 Grand Cru vineyards of Beaujolais – with vineyards as old as 60 to 80 years of age – offer consumers stunning complexity (for absurdly low prices) when handled by a winemaker as deft as Thibault.

I tasted each of Thibault’s individual Crus on two separate occasions last year, more impressed as the wines gained structure in the bottle. These are vinified in the same manner as his Premierthibault-liger-belair-moulin-a-vent and Grand Cru Burgundies – no carbonic maceration for Thibault – and the results are chart topping numbers (year in, year out!) It’s time, folks; discover what every critic has been raving about…

His 2011s are available here

 

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.”

 

Might be terribly difficult to locate – at a price suitable – but I assure you the search is worth it; exemplary wines!

Domaine Christian Serafin – A Father’s Perseverance Leads to a Domaine’s Greatest Achievements

 

Where vintage 2010 was “enormously pleasing”!

Where vintage 2010 was “enormously pleasing”!

Tales of perseverance, strife and hardship often lend insight to the character of a wine-maker as well as the wines produced as a result of their steadfastness. One tale of immense perseverance is that of a Polish immigrant named Stanislaus Serafin, who in the late 1930s settled in the village of Gevrey Chambertin with his wife. French immigration laws of the day precluded Serafin from practicing his trade as a skilled woodworker, affording him but two choices: the mines or the fields. Fortuitously, Stanislaus would elect for agricultural work, learning the art of the vine in his own way.

 

World War II would interrupt Serafin’s work as a vigneron however, as Stanislaus would enlist in the Polish Independent Highland Rifle Brigade in 1940. Soon after enlistment, he would land in Norway, only to have his Brigade withdrawn again to France by the Allies to defend the Bretagne Peninsula. After the Armistice signing in June of 1940, Serafin’s Brigade would be disbanded and its members relocated throughout Europe. Stanislaus, however, had Gevrey on his mind.

 

Borrowing a motorcycle, Serafin hit the road for Paris. From Paris, he continued on to Dijon; his home, family and vines in Gevrey on his mind. However, just short of his destination, he would be captured and delivered to Frankfurt – where he would spend the next five years of his life. Not until the end of the War in 1945 would Stanislaus Serafin finally return to Gevrey, where his son – born in 1940 – would greet him for the first time.

 

Stanislaus’ first role as vigneron would come as the result of a friendship established with an Italian immigrant – Livera – who had recently become the owner of a Domaine located in Gevrey. Serafin benefitted from the guidance of other vignerons in the village as he worked towards becoming a self-taught wine-maker, and tending Livera’s vines proved the perfect opportunity for the formation of Domaine Serafin.

 

Livera’s son-in-law – a real estate lawyer – assisted Serafin in the acquisition of parcels of land, which had become available at quite reasonable rates after the war due to abandonment, etc. Through these land acquisitions, Stanislaus pieced together what today is known as Domaine Serafin, his son Christian joining him in 1957. Throughout the late 50s and into the 1960s, together they built the house on the property as well as the cave, which is located just below the 1er Cru vineyard of Cazetiers in Gevrey – Christian himself the one who laid the stonework.

 

The wine-making today reflects the father’s meticulous attention to detail in the vineyards – with viticulture being completely organic – while also mirroring the son’s passion for fantastically complex, full bodied wines – Christian incorporates 100% new oak for the 1er Crus, the Vieilles Vignes cuvees as well as the Grand Cru. And while the Domaine only offers two generations worth of history, the results have long been recognized, as evidenced by placements at many of France’s 3-star restaurants. And considering the praise bestowed on the Domaine by international critics from Parker to Burghound, it’s accurate to classify Domaine Serafin among the elite of today’s producers.

 

In particular, it’s worth noting Burghound’s comments regarding his most recent visit Chez Serafin:

 

“I was quite honestly shocked when the normally laconic Christian Serafin, who I promise you is simply never given to hyperbole and has seen some 40+ vintages in his career, announced that 2010 “should be a great vintage. It has everything it needs to be superb.””

 

These are wines well worth the search, wines I personally collect and share – the ’10s are drinking beautifully as of summer 2014 (the date of my latest update).