Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Cuvee Edmund 2012 – The Greatest Sancerre of All Time?

sancerre-alphonse-mellot

 

A plethora of outstanding Eastern Loire Valley dry white wines have graced the pages of Parker’s Wine Advocate over the years. I’m speaking of all the appellations – Sancerre (and her most well-known sub district, Chavignol), Pouilly-Fume, Pouilly-sur-Loire, and Menetou-Salon.

Perhaps I’ve tasted slightly fewer than the expansive collection available to readers via Wine Advocate, but this is a favorite region of mine so I’ve sampled several dozen of each from dozens of vintages. Spanning all those vintages, across all regions, districts and cuvees – to include the biggest names: Neveu, Reverdy, Dagueneau, Riffault, Cotat, Crochet, Vacheron, Vatan, Blanchet, Bourgeois – there has never been a higher rated, more cult-like cuvee of wine from this corner of the Loire Valley (my book OR Advocate’s) until now.

Dedicated to his father Alphonse Edmund, produced from centenarian Sauvignon Blanc grapes growing in what must be the most coveted slice of calcareous marl soils in Europe, Advocate call this the “most precise expression of the kimmeridgian terroir”.

 

2012 Alphonse Mellot Sancerre Edmund  

Aromas of limes, yellow citrus, crushed stones, herbs, chamomile and honey lead the 2012 Sancerre Edmond to a refreshingly mineral, profund and pure palate of great expression and a stimulating length with citrus flavors…there is nothing more on the nose than ripe fruit aromas (nectarines again) based on and powdered with rock flour. This exceptional Sancerre was fermented and aged for 11 months in wooden vats and new demi-muid barrels, which initially seemed to add a further layer to this already very complex wine. However, the oak was completely absorbed by the minerality, which shines through even clearer the second day when Edmond became significantly more pure, transparent and “naked.” Its length, complexity and tension, though, remains unrivaled. This is a really powerful and expressive Sancerre but does neither lack purity nor finesse, thrill nor aging potential. I would definitely buy it to give it 8-10 years although it is already accessible.

96 points – Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

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TODAY’S REBELS OFFERING A DIFFERENT APPROACH (via Cepage Noir)

Here’s hoping that my new-found digs (as a Central Market Wine Manager) will lead to an eventual placement of these “Natural” wines here in Texas!

TODAY’S REBELS OFFERING A DIFFERENT APPROACH 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 Fra … Read More

via Cepage Noir

2009 Domaine Lavigne ~ Saumur Champigny

Contact:     Robert Hurley    617-965-4251   robert@cynthiahurley.com

This Week’s Feature

FOB  New Jersey

Dom. Lavigne
Saumur Champigny 2009

 $111

All prices are for 12-bottle cases.

 

2009 Saumur Champigny
from Domaine Lavigne
The Paris Bistro Favorite 

The new vintage of one of our favorite Loire reds  has just arrived! And, what a wine a n d a vintage it is.

There is something you should know about the 2009 vintage in the Loire. Some people are saying it’s historic, and everybody is saying it is exceptional.

 Here is how the growers are describing their harvest: “the freshness of 2005, combined with the richness of 2003”, “some truly great wines (no exaggeration)”, “lovely fruit, wonderful concentration and balance – on a par with 1989 and 1997”.

Wine Spectator chimes in with “…best and most consistent harvest since 2005.”

This is the moment to uncork some Loire wines.

One wine writer out there is calling 2009 the “Smiley Vintage” and others have picked up on it. Why? Because the growers just can’t keep the smiles off their faces when they think about the 2009 harvest.

And, more than one Loire expert is comparing the 2009s to the 1989s. You have to understand something about the 1989s – that was and still is a revered vintage in the Touraine (the region of Saumur Champigny) sort of like the 1945 or 1982 in Bordeaux. You don’t make frivolous comparisons unless you are absolutely gaga over the harvest. So, the 2009 is a truly remarkable vintage that you cannot miss.

This Saumur Champigny from Domaine Lavigne is laden with fruit and has beautiful concentration and balance and is exquisitely ripe and delicious.

It was love at first glass for me with Saumur Champigny. It’s got the fruit, but also the structure. It’s not heavy. It’s great with food, but it’s also great before dinner. Because it’s made from 100% Cabernet Franc, it is very aromatic. There is no wood in the elevage of this wine; it is raised in stainless steel tanks which give it its backbone of acidity and freshness. There are lovely layers of black and red fruits and it is a smooth wine.

Domaine Lavigne is located in the commune of Varrains. There are only eight other communes (because of their superior terroir) who can put Saumur Champigny on their labels. Varrains is about five minutes south of the town of Saumur, which is stretched alongside the Loire River.

Domaine Lavigne is a family operation and the Lavignes and Verrons are very serious about their winemaking.

They have a new chai replete with many gleaming stainless steel tanks. They have invested in all the high tech gadgetry that is necessary to stay on top of their game. They run a very pristine operation. I’ve tasted a lot of Saumur Champigny and I’ve never found a better one than this. Oh, and I think you’ll like the price, too.

-Cynthia Hurley

About Cynthia Hurley French Wines

For more than twenty years Cynthia Hurley has been importing exceptional wines from nearly every major wine region in France. Cynthia’s selections are terroir driven wines from independent growers who use minimal intervention to create wines that are outstanding representatives of their individual appellations.
 
Cynthia Hurley French Wines
25 Lockwood Rd · West Newton, Massachusetts 02465
617-965-4251
 www.cynthiahurley.com

 

 

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

Biodynamic Updates – And Some New Wines to Try

patapon

We’ve just returned from our scouting trip to Virginia and my mind this morning is swimming with ideas.  The local wine scene in Richmond is vastly different than the one evidenced by consumers in the metropolis where I currently reside, with the most obvious contrast being the abundance of boutique shops adorning the landscape.  From one corner of that beautiful city, with its trees as tall as skyscrapers as far as the eye can see, boutique wine shops, offering wines I’ve come to love over the past many years and decades, open the consumer’s eyes to a world of wine completely unknown in this big city where I reside.

As my family and I researched the market, we discovered that Virginia, in particular Richmond, is quite suited for the type of business we wish to bring to the good people of this friendly region.  And having visited with more than a dozen locals, each with their own personal insights, it would seem that while the market is ripe for what we have in mind, our product selection – not to mention location – is going to be crucial. 

Of the nearly dozen stores I spent time visiting, only one (that’s 1) offered the community the types of biodynamic wines that will be the focus of our new venture.  Opportunity?  I certainly like to think so.  Especially when one considers how over-priced the offers were.  Pricing these naturally made wines that far above national average only serves to diminish the marketability of these wines.  And let’s face it, these are not mainstream wines in the first place.  Most biodynamic wines are from places the average consumer has never heard of – or at the very least rarely considered – and we as advocates of these great vinous specimens need to price these wines as consumer-friendly as possible if we’re to ever have a shot at repeat purchases.  Selling an $18 Loire Valley Pineau d’Aunis for $24, simply because you have no competition (yet) is not likely to encourage repeat purchases.

That being said, I did notice there were other, even more obvious opportunities in the market, speaking on the biodynamic front in particular.  And understanding California’s hesitance to jump on the wagon so adored by the Europeans, resulting in fewer biodynamic wineries out West than what we find from across the pond, it’s probably reasonable to see so few wines of the genre adorning shelves not only in Virginia, but anywhere these days.  West Coast offers of the biodynamic sort were quite difficult to locate while in Virginia, just as in many states.  But now that I’ve returned home, to my cellar, I once again bring to your attention the work being performed by one of the best.

His name is Coturri, and his wines, from some of the purest and most biodynamic in California, are among my favorites.  Drinking Tony’s wines, as I hope many of you reading this will resolve yourselves to do, secures his place as a leader in the natural wine movement.  His wines not only “speak” of their origin, they quite literally scream of place and time.  His Pinots prove that yes, indeed, with attention to pure, vineyard sustaining practices while harvesting with an eye towards balanced acidities and lower sugars, this country can very well offer the Burgundian palate a wine they’ll love.  And at price points that make most “simple Bourgognes” appear over priced.

Try these out friends, and let me know what you think:

 

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Oh, for a Glass of Wine

Another excruciating day comes to a close, witnessing me once again crunching the numbers on this business plan as we make ourselves ready for the first printing.  Thus far, only a handful of our closest allies are primed for the first draft of this 60+ page business plan.  And the pages are indeed impressive.  My mind has been on over drive these past few days and the early mornings and sleepless nights have been numerous.  This particular business plan has been born from a decade of blood, sweat and tears; there are no errors here – the holes have been filled with hindsight.

And as we’ve worked so diligently on this plan, my wife and I, we’ve set certain other parts of our lives on autopilot.  Flipping that switch has been fairly easy considering that we’re both among the ranks of the unemployed.  So we’ve set about feeding our updates to the outside world through the use of modern technology.  Google alerts, LinkedIn, TwitterFeed and a whole host of other modern gadgets assist us in our endeavors to appear “plugged in” while we bury ourselves with the task at hand.

But today, ’round late afternoon, we’d had enough.  We seriously needed a glass of wine.  And with all the work and all the research and with all the tales of righteous palate satiating we’d uncovered through all these efforts, we were not going to be satisfied with anything less than: yep you guessed it.  We wanted one of those ultimate glasses of biodynamic wines.

Ah, biodynamic wines – the allure is oh-so-strong, yet the offers in my current city of residence are so frightfully and tragically limited.

There once was a beauty of a collection in this town…. But we won’t traverse that field this evening….

Adding to our desire for a glass of the sublime was our wish for something home cooked – and not of the beef variety.  So we packed in, faced the late mid-day traffic and headed to Central Market.  The local version of this Texas dream store (for some) has taken to sending out “shopper’s cards” and coupons – good only locally (don’t dare try to use ’em in Austin, the clerks will immediately identify you as “one of the Houston shoppers”).  My wife has collected both “the card” and quite a few of the coupons, so we decided to cash them in.

It appears that the generosity emanating from the folks in charge behind the fish counter, not to mention the good will intentions motivating the “shopper’s card” rebates, have yet to topple the cash cow in the wine department.  The prices on the wines (including their discounts offered on 6 bottles or more) are pure highway robbery.  Wines once selling at a shop (that this city ran out of town on a rail) for $15 are proudly displayed for $21!  And my desired Joly?  Would we be celebrating our hard work with the beauty of Coulee?  At that price?  In that condition?  I think not.

We returned home with our fresh halibut, at a tremendous savings, and a couple blocks of cheese – proper dates, nice and fresh.  I cracked a nice bottle of white burgundy, grilled the fish and some fresh veggies and we called it a day.  Little M ate her proverbial pasta and corn on the cob and now all of us are dreaming of the day when we can direct import our dream wines right to a little corner store in Short Pump Virginia.

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier

A Biodynamic Roundup

biodvineyard

Blog Update #73, 2009: A Biodynamic Roundup

I’ve chronicled our steps towards the building of a new and vastly improved family business through these blog updates, sharing daily discoveries over at my social network page where I’m known by the “handle” of Chambertin.   As we dig down deep this morning to hopefully complete the final chapter of what promises to be one of the most concise and well researched business plans yet penned on the wine business (by us at least), I thought I’d take just a few minutes to compose a brief roundup of my findings.   If you’re new to the world of biodynamic wines, or even if you’re a seasoned veteran, this compilation may come as a surprise.

The world of biodynamic wines is home to a great deal more inhabitants than I ever thought possible, spanning more continents than I once realized.  Having spent 25 years in the wine business, and after working the vineyards in Burgundy for 2 harvests towards the earning of my Sommelier certification, I am keenly aware of the importance of biodynamic wines to the French.  In Italy, too, there are a number of wine-makers practicing the art, offering the consumer some of the world’s most unique and individualistic vinous specimens. 

But what has come as most surprising to me, perhaps due in large part to my prior admitted bias, are the number of certified “biodynamic” producers from regions once considered far too “modern” for the incorporation of these idealistic measures.  Without getting too far into the whole philosophy, for this brief essay is certainly not intended as a text book on the intricacies of the how’s and why’s of Bio-D, let’s just say that to many in the world of “modern” wine making, the theories of applying various teas to the compost and vines, preceded by burying cow horns full of manure in ones vineyard are viewed as, well, unnecessary (to put it mildly).  But try convincing Madame Leroy that Bio-D is unnecessary.  Or, for that matter, attempt a conversation on the benefits of “modern” versus biodynamic with the likes of Chapoutier or the masterful Zind Humbrecht.  These three masters of their universes would verbally run a “modern” wine-maker, with their pesticides and chemical treatments, right out of the room.

So, as mentioned, it has come as most surprising to me to now find numerous once-modern-dominated wine regions becoming ever increasingly sprinkled with biodynamic wineries.  Places such as California’s Napa Valley now offer we lovers of the biodynamic juice a handful of experimental-minded spirits.  Folks dancing with the moon and burying the horns while still living among neighbors who preach the need for fungicides and tractors include such visionaries as Grgich Hills (who began converting more than a decade ago and now fully practices biodynamic principles) and Robert Sinskey.  Granted that’s not a lot of folks considering the thousands of vineyards in the land of plenty, but hey, until a few days ago, I thought NO ONE was Bio-D way out west.

Another region I never considered potentially biodynamic-ready or willing was Australia.  Sure, I’d heard that several estates were “experimenting”, or that they were singling out “portions of their vineyards” for converting.  Hey, I’m experimenting with Bio-D, too.  Every time we brew a batch of home-made tea, we save the leaves and sprinkle them in the garden.  But that certainly doesn’t qualify me as a “biodynamic winery”, let’s be serious, OK?  But just as I was stunned to discover the folks in California, so too was my surprise as I came across a handful of truly Bio-D purists from the land down under.  In particular, again, way out west, my research uncovered one winery specifically that I’m most eager to try: Cullen, from the Margaret River region.  Having been certified biodynamic since 2004, this sounds like precisely the type of estate whose wines I’d like the chance to review.

I suppose the point of this research roundup is as much a reminder as it is a compilation.  A reminder to continue watching the horizon for upcoming releases in the ever expanding world of biodynamic wines.  And a brief compilation of what folks can expect from our new family business as we move forward with our plans of a gourmet wine shop in Richmond Virginia:

(Below is a very, very, very short list of some of the producers you will find in our new venture.  Some we have already engaged in conversation, others we will begin discussions with soon.  This is the first of MANY lists to come…)

  • Domaine Rossignol Trapet (Burgundy)
  • Coulee de Serrant (Nicolas Joly) (Loire Valley)
  • Montirius (Rhone Valley)
  • Lopez de Heredia (Rioja)
  • Terras Gauda (Rias Baixas)
  • Cotturi Winery & La Cruz de Comal (Toni Cotturi) (CA, TX)
  • Paul Dolan (CA, Mendocino)
  • Shinn Estate Vineyards (NY, Long Island)
  • Cullen (Margaret River, AU)
  • Nikolaihof (Austria)
  • Domaine Jean Bourdy (Jura)
  • Clos Saron (CA, Sierra Foothills)
  • Antiyal (Maipo)
  • Movia (Slovenia)
  • Lark Hill Winery (Canberra, AU)
  • Seresin Estate (NZ)
  • Millton (NZ)

I trust you’ll enjoy the ride as much as we’ve enjoyed this initial building process.  Bringing the world of biodynamic producers to the eager and curious wine lovers of America will be our passion as much as it is our dream and our job.  Stay tuned, we’ve only just begun!

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier