Sure, the holidays are about family and friends and togetherness–something most of us have been lacking lo these many months. But, nearly as significant, the holidays are about food and wine–and about sharing that food and wine with the ones you love (and have missed). So as we come together (carefully still) this season, let’s make sure you fill your Thanksgiving table with wines that will surprise, satisfy, and delight. To that end, the staff at Paul Marcus Wines has offered a prime selection to help get you started.

Go BiG

I haven’t seen my family in a large or large-ish gathering since 2019. The pandemic has accelerated and changed so much, but when I think of all the things I miss, and want changed back (though nothing will go back to what it was, exactly), family gatherings are at the top of the list. For this year’s Thanksgiving, I’m going to pop some Champagne and open both red and white Burgundy with our Thanksgiving meal. I’m thinking: go BiG. I haven’t gone BiG during the pandemic, but I’m feeling like life ought to be celebrated in a BiG way.

So here are a few selections for this year’s festivities:

Try a bottle of the astonishing 2012 Francis Boulard ‘Petraea’ Brut Nature, made from 100 percent biodynamically farmed pinot noir. The fruit for ‘Petraea’ comes from 60-80-year-old vines planted on sandy limestone soils in a single estate parcel in the northeast corner of the Montagne de Reims. The combination of ripe fruit and a long aging process, with no dosage, yields a dynamic, captivating result.

Or perhaps try a Burgundy or two from the masterful Dominique Lafon. His red wines are deep and complex–I have loved them for 30 years, and his new releases might be his best yet. For instance, the 2017 Dominique Lafon Beaune Epenottes, from a plot farmed by Dominique just outside of Pommard.

His whites are gloriously bright and exuberant as well. Grab the 2019 Dominique Lafon Meursault if you want a total stunner of a rich wine with ripping acidity. Sensuous.  For more ideas, come on in and ask us for recommendations. We’re always happy to help.

— Chad Arnold

Have You Heard About Poulsard?

Poulsard (also known as ploussard) is the second-most-planted grape (after chardonnay) in the Jura. Thin skins and a pale red color are the signatures of this variety, and long ferments draw out maximum flavor and texture. The 2018 Domaine Ligier Arbois Poulsard spends 10-12 months in vats before bottling, increasing its generous flavors, textures, and scents of sour cherry, pomegranate, cranberry, and earthy spices. Bright and complex with good acidity and a lovely finish, it’s a perfect choice for your holiday gatherings.

— Rene Duer

 

It Ain’t Easy Being Easy

On T Day, we celebrate being as stuffed as a turkey. Therefore, the wines should be easygoing–easy on the brain, easy on the stomach. The 2018 Unturned Stone Stowaway Red fits the bill. Zinfandel and carignan are richly flavored grapes that tend towards weight and alcohol, but this winemaking couple handles them beautifully. The blend is only 12.5 percent alcohol, has no silly additives, and comes from the historic, organically farmed Talmage Ranch vineyard. It drinks soft and fresh with berrylike fruit, without being at all “sweet.” It’s just easy to like.

–David Gibson

Beaujolais Bounty

The versatile, nimble wines of Beaujolais, made from the gamay grape, are ideal accompaniments to the wide-ranging Thanksgiving feast, and we have a number available at PMW.

The 2019 Jean-Claude Lapalu Eau Forte comes from one of the most revered growers and winemakers in the region, a leader in the natural wine movement. While not bottled as a single cru, the grapes for this wine are sourced from Brouilly. Lapalu does not make Eau Forte in warmer, riper vintages, as he intends it to be lighter on its feet with less tannic structure. It is aged in amphora, which adds to its silky texture, and it has the flavor complexity of a cru wine without the extraction and tannin. A great start to the heavy meal, it will complement the pre-meal cheese spread and cranberry preserves.

The Moulin-à-vent cru takes its name from the iconic windmill (moulin) that proudly stands above the vineyards. Nicknamed the “Lord of Beaujolais” because of its wines’ “noble” fragrance, this appellation tends to offer wines with a bit more body and intensity. The 2017 Merlin Moulin-à-vent is just starting to show its tertiary notes from the bottle age–dried cranberry, dried rose petal, and forest floor. Aged in new French oak, with notes of licorice and spice as well as a solid tannic structure, it’s a wine to last the meal from start to finish.

Julienas may not be as notable as, say, Morgon, but that is not because it is lacking in potential. The region experiences more sunlight exposure than the other Beaujolais crus, and when combined with its varied, decomposing blue stone and schist soils, Julienas can pump out wines of real power. Expect a weightier mouthfeel with darker fruits. The lively 2019 Laurent Perrachon Julienas is a classic example at a pretty unbeatable price. It boasts dark, peppery fruits with some tannin, though not quite as dry as the Merlin. It will be great with the all-in-one forkful of dark turkey leg meat + stuffing + cranberry sauce.

–Emilia Aiello

Wild Turkey

Win the “most far-flung and obscure island wine” sweepstakes this Thanksgiving with the 2020 Tsiakkas Mouklos Mavro, a light, shockingly fresh red from the nation-island of Cyprus. The Tsiakkas family farms 80-year-old, ungrafted, bush-trained vines in sandy, volcanic soil at over 3,000 feet of altitude. Mavro Ambelissimo is the variety, and Mouklos is the name of the vineyard. It’s super-light in color, and the profile is light red fruits, with delicate floral and herbal notes. As with gamay, poulsard, schiava, pelaverga, and similar wines, the great acidity and liveliness help this wine play well with everything on the Thanksgiving table. Definitely chill it a bit. Fun fact: The Republic of Cyprus issued a stamp featuring the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) in 2009; someone there must be doing the Thanksgiving thing!

Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, famously banned gamay from Burgundy in 1395. The 2017 Marchand-Tawse Coteaux Bourguignons Gamay proves him wrong. Here is gamay from 45- and 75-year-old vines in Vosne-Romanée–aromatically Beaujolais, but structurally Burgundy. Dark-fruited, stony, and earthy, with a hint of spice, it’s a stylish yet relaxed guest on the Thanksgiving table. It’s the absolute antithesis of Beaujolais Nouveau and the perfect Venn diagram for lovers of real Beaujolais and/or Burgundy; a gamay of breed and class, yet not without that good gamay slash of hedonism.

–Mark Middlebrook

 

Oscar, Oscar, Oscar

Every family has that one cousin who’s just so affable, charismatic, and laid-back–the one who gets along with everybody and yet doesn’t talk too much. That, my friends, is Cousin Oscar. Made from a single parcel of old-vine cinsault in France’s Languedoc, the 2020 Domaine Rimbert VdF ‘Cousin Oscar’ is a luscious and bright bowl of red berries with just a whiff of peppery spice. Bursting with acidity and charm, this unassuming bottle will complement just about anything you throw at it–and at less than 20 bucks a pop, it’s perfect for those guests who might overstay their welcome. To quote Col. Sherman T. Potter of M*A*S*H fame, “Not enough o’s in smooth to describe this.”

–Marc Greilsamer

 

For more Thanksgiving suggestions, from the classic to the unconventional, please stop by or give us a call at the shop. Happy holidays!

Homer, by my count, mentions wine at least 87 times in The Odyssey–and that’s not including “the wine-dark sea,” his oft-repeated epithet for the Mediterranean. Oh, what I would give to have been invited into Odysseus’s wine cellar:

And there, standing in close ranks against the wall,
Were jars of seasoned, mellow wine, holding the drink
Unmixed inside them, fit for a god, waiting the day
Odysseus, worn by hardship, might come home again.

Despite thousands of years of important wine history, Greek wine in the 20th century had descended into an abyss of too rustic, often oxidized regular wines, and cheap, pine-resin-infused retsina. That all began to change in the 1980s, and today there’s a plethora of exciting wines made from an ample range of characterful indigenous grapes grown in often-mountainous terroirs on both the mainland and the islands. At Paul Marcus Wines, we’re excited to feature a number of Greece’s most notable current producers.

2019 Inomessiniaki Moschofilero Mati Fortuna

Moschofilero is an aromatic white variety, similar to yellow muscat. This one comes from scenic Peloponnese–the large peninsula just west of Athens. Floral and herbal aromas leap out of the glass, and yet the wine is bone dry on the palate. “A garden in a glass,” you might say. If that sounds like fun to you, try it as an aperitif or with fragrant Vietnamese and Burmese dishes.

2018 Anatolikos Vineyards Fine Assyrtiko

The island of Santorini has long championed assyrtiko, and there’s no question that this impressive variety is capable of making complex, mineral, salty whites. This example, however, is from the northeastern mainland, specifically Western Thrace, and it’s an organically farmed blend of assyrtiko (90 percent) with a bit of malagousia. This is a bigger-boned and more complex assyrtiko, but it retains the grape’s trademark acidity and minerality. Think octopus (Greek for “eight-footed,” of course), tomatoes, and anchovy pizza.

2020 Markou Vineyards eMeis Red

This light, fresh, spicy red from the Peloponnese is agiorgitiko (a.k.a. St. George, Greece’s most widely planted red variety) and mandalaria farmed organically and fermented with 100 percent carbonic maceration–in the style of many a Beaujolais. It begs for a light chill and perhaps some sausages or even grilled fish.

2019 Tetramythos Mavro Kalavrytino Natur

Here’s another fresh red from the Peloponnese, from the rare, über-local variety mavro kalavrytino. It’s darker-fruited and a little more earthy than the preceding, but still light on its feet and low in tannin. Farming is certified organic, and the grapes are foot-tread. Try it with mushroom dishes or truffled cheeses.

2020 Thymiopoulos Naoussa Xinomavro Young Vines

Naoussa is a wine appellation in the northern Greek region of Macedonia (not to be confused with the Republic of Macedonia, the country right across the border). Xinomavro, often compared to Italy’s nebbiolo, is the star grape in Naoussa. Thymiopoulos’s organically and biodynamically farmed young-vine version is akin to an easygoing Langhe nebbiolo: fresh, with moderate tannins and aromas of olive, spice, and underbrush. Give it a go with tapenade or lamb.

Crete is the southernmost Greek island and the largest producer of wine in the Aegean Sea. We recently brought on four new wines from the Lyrarakis family. They founded their winery in 1966 and now work with 100 small, independent growers all over the island (in addition to farming their own vineyards). Their focus is on indigenous varieties, and they are intent on improving both farming and vinification throughout Crete.

2020 Lyrarakis Assyrtiko Vóila

Made from 100 percent assyrtiko grown at 580 meters in the Vóila area of eastern Crete, this stony, herbal, lemony, and lean wine undergoes 16 hours of skin contact. Drink it with creatures of the sea or fresh cheeses.

2019 Lyrarakis Plytó Psarades

Plytó is an indigenous variety that was saved from extinction by the Lyrarakis family in the early 1990s, when they planted it in the family’s “Psarades” vineyard (at 480 meters altitude in central Crete). Plytó makes a fresh, citrus, and mineral white wine with an herbal tinge. Dolmas, pesto, and sole piccata would be worthy complements.

2020 Lyrarakis Liatiko Kedros Rosé

This direct press rosé is made from the indigenous red variety liatiko, the most widely planted grape on the island of Crete. These grapes come from ungrafted vines planted over a hundred years ago on Mount Kedros in eastern Crete, at an elevation of 850 meters. Think of it as Provençal rosé, but with brambly fruit and a saltier finish. A consummate aperitif wine, it’s also great with meze/tapas and just about anything else on a sunny day. (Our meager allotment is running low, so this is one to jump on now.)

2019 Lyrarakis Liatiko Aggelis

From the Aggelis vineyard in eastern Crete, this red wine is 100 percent liatiko, from ungrafted vines planted in the 1930s. As a red wine, liatiko tends to be lightly colored, with floral and spicy notes. You’ll find black pepper, smoke, and stones, along with a little tannic kick. How about spanakopita, falafel, spiced meatballs, or kebabs?

We’ll finish our tour not in Greece, but in the Republic of Cyprus, an island nation south of Turkey and west of Syria with a long cultural and political (and contentious) connection to both Greece and Turkey.

2020 Tsiakkas Mouklos Mavro Red

This lively, pale-colored wine comes from the Tsiakkas family, whose winery is located near Cyprus’s Mount Olympos. Mavro ambelissimo is the variety, and Mouklos is the vineyard–north-facing at 920 meters altitude. The grapes, farmed organically, come from 80-year-old, ungrafted, bush-trained vines in sandy, volcanic soil. The indigenous fermentation (80 percent whole clusters) and 35 days of (gentle) maceration all take place in stainless steel. Delicately floral and herbal, with great acidity, this is for lovers of gamay, poulsard, schiava, pelaverga, and the like. Chill it a bit, and then enjoy it with charcuterie, moussaka, pork, or lamb.

Ready or not, the holidays are upon us. In celebration of the festive season, your friends at Paul Marcus Wines are offering a discount on all large-format bottles for the entire month of November! Get 15 percent off any magnum-sized (or even larger-format) bottle; receive 20 percent off if you buy two or more biggies. Please visit us at the shop or online to learn more about our selection (whites, reds, rosés, bubbles) of large-format bottles. (In our online shop, use discount codes magnum15 for one bottle or magnum20 for two or more bottles at checkout.)

 

On a sunny afternoon not long ago, four of us gathered in a Berkeley backyard to sip and sup and suss the singular case of Loire Valley chenin blanc. “What’s up here?” we asked ourselves. “What do these wines bring to the table, and how do we perceive and enjoy them in the pantheon of French and world white wines?”

As we settled in, we mused on chenin’s relationship to two other great white wines of France: Champagne and white Burgundy. Loire chenin blanc, we realized, serves less often as a celebratory or special-occasion wine, and we wondered why that is.

Champagne… OK, we all get it: The Champenois have spent generations cementing their wine’s reputation as the archetype of celebration. As for Burgundy, we agreed that great Loire chenin blanc shares two significant qualities with chardonnay: viscosity and grandeur. But if white Burgundy is the marble staircase rising in the foyer, chenin blanc is perhaps the hand-wrought, curving, Gaudi-esque iron flight. To move the analogy to Mount Everest: It’s, say, Edmund Hillary’s months-long, oxygen-tank-carrying siege up the South Col in 1953 compared to Reinhold Messner’s 1980 solo without oxygen. Both successful, and both with unobstructed views, but the routes and tactics differed greatly.

Another complicating curve of chenin blanc is the historical question of dryness and sweetness. Chenin blanc is one of those remarkable grape varieties that’s capable of making almost any kind of wine, from teeth-rattlingly dry to unctuously dessert sweet, not to mention sparkling. (The Loire Valley is France’s second-largest producer of sparkling wines, after Champagne.) The old-school Loire chenin blanc style is demi-sec (off-dry), balanced by chenin’s prominent acidity, but the current trend is drier, and all of the wines that we discuss here are dry.

Our first flight included current vintages of two longtime PMW denizens: the 2019 François Chidaine Montlouis ‘Clos du Breuil’ ($39) and 2018 Domaine aux Moines Savennières ‘Roche aux Moines’ ($42). Both were as comfortable as a favorite, old wool sweater. “Wooliness,” of course, is a common descriptor for the texture and lanolin notes of richer chenin blanc. “Honeyed minerality” and “wet concrete in November” also fit the bill. Yes, there’s a richness of fruit and mouth feel, but it’s tempered by chenin’s minerality and big-time acidity. One might also notice the red-fruit flavors in some of these wines. (Funny how that can happen in white wines!)

We also noted the vineyard names on the label (Clos du Breuil and Roche aux Moines). As with other noble varieties–like riesling, pinot noir, chardonnay, and nebbiolo–chenin blanc offers a great transparency to the land in which it grows, and the middle Loire Valley is a fascinating puzzle of soil types and slope exposures. These wines are a vinous ticket to exploring chenin terroir.

For our second flight, we visited Anjou, the wine appellation named after the medieval province centered on the beautiful, historic city of Angers. We pulled out two nine-year-old wines from Loire biodynamic grower and superstar Thibaud Boudignon: a 2012 Anjou Blanc and 2012 Anjou Blanc ‘a François(e).’ Both are testaments to the age-worthiness of Loire chenin blanc, with ‘a François(e)’ being the richer and more powerful cuvée, made from grapes from Thibaud’s best plots in Anjou. Any fan of any age-worthy white wine–Burgundy, riesling, or otherwise–would be happy to drink and proud to serve wines like these from her or his cellar (and, be it noted, at a significantly lower price than white Burgs of similar quality). These two wines were almost a decade old, but they and other serious chenin blancs can age effortlessly for multiple decades.

Although the 2012s are long gone, fear not: We have in stock the 2018 Boudignon Anjou Blanc ($45) and 2017 Boudignon Anjou Blanc ‘a François(e)’ ($75). Like so much white Burgundy and Champagne, these wines are beautiful now, but will handsomely repay aging in your cellar if you’re so inclined. (We also have Boudignon’s three magisterial bottlings of 2019 Savennières: ‘La Vigne Cendrée,’ ‘Clos de Frémine,’ and ‘Clos de la Hutte.’)

Our newest chenin blanc discovery is Domaine Belargus, a new Loire Valley estate with a single focus on chenin blanc and its different terroirs in the mid Loire Valley, including Anjou. (“Belargus” is a rare species of brilliantly blue-winged butterfly that inhabits the vineyards.) We have the 2019 Domaine Belargus ‘Anjou Noir’ ($36) (the “Noir” refers not to the color of the grapes, but to the dark color of the schist-and-shale-rich soils in the western half of the Anjou appellation) and the 2018 Domaine Belargus Anjou ‘Ronceray’ ($57), from seven tiny vineyard plots surrounding the Ronceray Abbey. This is most certainly a domaine to investigate now, before collectors get on board and drive up prices.

So there you have it–chenin blanc produces electric wines in a great breadth of style, flavor, and complexity, and, as our sunny backyard tasting proved, it’s a grape that inspires equally crackling conversation.

*****

To encourage you to join us in our chenin blanc explorations, we’re offering 15 percent off any six bottles of chenin blanc through the month of August. Besides the wines we mention in this article, we have lots more on our shelves, ranging from $20 to around $200 for the rarest of them all, so please ask us for recommendations. We are all deeply excited about the noteworthy chenin blancs we have right now, and we’d love to share them with you.

by Chad Arnold and Mark Middlebrook

I’ve never been to Corsica, but, man, it sounds like paradise to me. Mountains, forests, coastline, and sunshine–what could be bad?  Hey, you don’t get the moniker “Île de Beauté” (Isle of Beauty) for nothing. Oh, and Corsica has a winemaking history that dates back around 1,500 years. Are you in?

The island of Corsica seems to pack enormous diversity into its roughly 3,300 square miles, and that includes culture, cuisine, and topography. (“Mosaic” is a commonly used description.) A semi-autonomous region of France for the last 250 years, it owes as much to the Italians as it does to the French. (It’s actually closer to Italy than to France and was previously under the rule of Pisa and then Genoa.)

Reflecting both French and Italian influences, the wines of Corsica offer entirely distinctive, yet completely recognizable drinking experiences. A combination of warm temperatures, limited rainfall, high elevations, and maritime winds provides prime winemaking conditions, and a range of microclimates yields a dazzling array of wines–from elegant and mineral to fleshy and ripe.

For evidence, look no further than the two most acclaimed Corsican appellations: Patrimonio, in the north, with its chalky clay soil, tends to produce rich, textured, aromatic wines, while Ajaccio, to the southwest, turns out graceful, vibrant wines thanks to its persistent breezes, granite soil, and high altitude.

Abbatucci vineyards in Ajaccio.

The Ajaccio appellation is home to one of Corsica’s most renowned houses, Domaine Comte Abbatucci. Sadly, Abbatucci, founded more than 70 years ago, is still reeling from a massive blaze that destroyed much of the winery earlier this year. We are rooting for a speedy recovery, and not only because they produce some of the island’s most memorable bottlings.

The domaine is run by the obsessively biodynamic winemaker Jean-Charles Abbatucci, progeny of a French Revolution hero–and a man who is said to play traditional Corsican music for his, um, vines. (Ajaccio was the birthplace of another French Revolution hero, by the name of Napoleon.) They offer a dozen or so cuvees, in a wide range of styles.

At Paul Marcus Wines, we’re currently enjoying the 2020 Abbatucci Rosé ‘Faustine,’ made from the sciaccarellu grape. Most likely brought over hundreds of years ago from Tuscany (where it’s known as mammolo), sciaccarellu creates cherry-fruited, gently herbaceous, medium-bodied reds with smooth tannins and notes of black pepper. It also has a particular affinity for rosé, as Abbatucci’s offering shows. The wine is savory, salty, and bright; it would be difficult to find a more refreshing and satisfying sipper, yet it will hold its own at the most demanding brunch table.

If you’d like to experience the heights of Corsican winemaking, we have a couple of bottles each of Abbatucci’s higher-end wines: the 2017 Abbatucci ‘Monte Bianco,’ a sciaccarellu red of immense depth and complexity, and the 2016 Abbatucci ‘Diplomate,’ a stimulating, voluptuous blend of Corsican white grapes.

Up north, in the Agriates (considered by many to be Europe’s only true desert), you’ll find Domaine Giacometti, located in the far reaches of the Patrimonio appellation. Their 2020 Domaine Giacometti Patrimonio Rosé ‘Cru des Agriate’ is made from 75 percent niellucciu and 25 percent sciaccarellu, and it balances a generous mouth feel with a dry, clean finish. (Niellucciu, an extremely close relative of sangiovese, is thought by many Corsicans to be an indigenous grape, but it might have, just possibly, been imported from Tuscany also.)

The 2020 Domaine Giacometti Patrimonio Blanc ‘Cru des Agriate’ is a stony, yet textured vermentinu that ages on the lees in stainless steel. Best of all is the 2018 Domaine Giacometti VdF Rouge ‘Sempre Cuntentu,’ a highly quaffable sciaccarellu that requires nothing but two glasses and a friend.

The Sant Armettu winery is situated in the warm, craggy Sartène region, a lesser-known destination south of Ajaccio. The supple 2019 Sant Armettu Corse Sartène Rouge ‘Rosumarinu,’ a sciaccarellu aged in stainless steel, displays plush, dark fruit tempered by vivid acidity–perfect for succulent braised meats. Made from 100 percent vermentinu, the 2019 Sant Armettu Corse Sartène Blanc ‘Rosumarinu’ is structured and serious, with ample stone-fruit flavors.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the 2020 Domaine de Marquiliani ‘Rosé de Pauline,’ a legendary Corsican vin gris that blends sciaccarellu and syrah with a dollop of vermentinu. The result is a feathery, faded-pastel-colored wine with enticing, exotic aromas and a kiss of Mediterranean salinity.

All of these Corsican beauties are available today at PMW, as are several others, including two vintages of Antoine Arena’s Bianco Gentile–full-bodied and lush, yet subtle and sophisticated wines made from an ancient Corsican variety brought back from the edge of extinction. Visit us at the shop to learn more about these unique selections.

When I began my journey through the world of wine, walking the aisles of a wine shop could be quite daunting. Sure, I was familiar with the basic “grocery store” wine varietals–pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, etc.–but expanding my horizons proved to be a challenge. I didn’t really learn to appreciate wine, and understand its true quality, until I started exploring Old World wines and their seemingly endless range of “unfamiliar” grapes.

I was inspired to branch out from the basic varieties while I was reading The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil. The book is aptly named and highly recommended, as it provides a useful introduction to this sprawling subject. The chapter that first persuaded me to search for a “new” wine was about the French region of Beaujolais. I was intrigued primarily because I thought the name sounded funny, but I was also lured by MacNeil’s description of the gamay-based wines and the people of Beaujolais. Thus, my journey began…

Another step in my journey occurred when I transitioned from California cabernet sauvignon to Bordeaux. The well-known, internationally grown cabernet sauvignon is a powerful and full-bodied wine with rich, complex characteristics, but it offers a rather different expression when used in the wines from Bordeaux.

If you’re looking to break out of your own comfort zone, the following list of stepping stones might help you figure out your next move.

If You Like Pinot Noir, Try:

Gamay
Grown predominantly in the aforementioned Beaujolais region, just south of Burgundy, gamay is a light-bodied red with floral aromatics and a palate of bright cherries and raspberries. Depending on its age, the wine can also show more woodsy tones such as forest floor, mushrooms, and dried fruits. While certain crus (such as Morgon or Moulin-à-Vent) can often display more serious power and noticeable earthy notes, my favorite style of Beaujolais tends to hail from regions (such as Fleurie) noted for their lighter, fresher style.

Schiava
Typically grown in the northeastern part of Italy known as the Alto Adige, schiava is another fantastic variety that pinot noir fans should try. Light ruby in color, schiava offers a bouquet of candied cherries and strawberries along with distinct smoky and savory notes. The wine is great served with a slight chill on a hot day.

Cabernet Franc
Cabernet franc is for those who want a little more “oomph” in their wine without getting into a fuller-bodied style. Initially, I was confused by cabernet franc and tended to avoid it; to me, it seemed like a lighter wine that longed to be big and bold, like a child in a Superman costume. It can have earthy, spicy tones that are typical in full-bodied wines, yet also contains the red-fruited flavors and bright aromatics common in lighter wines.
Cabernet franc can be found all over the world; however, it truly shines in the Loire Valley, particularly in the sub regions of Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur-Champigny. Cabernet franc is distinguished by the presence of a chemical compound called pyrazine, which gives the grape a vegetal, green-bell-pepper-like quality. (Fun fact: Cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc are the parent grapes of cabernet sauvignon.)

If You Like Cabernet Sauvignon, Try This:

Nebbiolo
It was a bottle from the legendary Cannubi vineyard in Barolo that taught me what the term “ethereal” means. I had heard the descriptor thrown around before, but had never experienced a wine that fit the profile–until I had my first great bottle of nebbiolo. The grape thrives in Piemonte’s Langhe region (home to Barolo and
Barbaresco) and produces a structured wine with red-fruit characteristics and prominent tannins. When young, they are plush with fruit and stronger tannins, but when aged, they often have pronounced notes of leather and coffee, with earthy aromatics, soft, enveloping tannins, and a long finish. At its best, nebbiolo offers a balance of power, elegance, and “heavenly grace” that few grapes can match.

Tempranillo
Rioja and ribeye–what else needs to be said? Tempranillo provides the foundation for Rioja wines, a region in the northern part of Spain. With the influence of American oak barrels during the aging process, Rioja wines tend to have smooth tannins and expressive notes of coffee, leather, cocoa, plum, vanilla, and tobacco. When young, Rioja can be sturdy with tannins; as they age, they become more refined, with supple tannins and an increasing amount of spice and herbaceousness.

Aglianico
If cabernet sauvignon is Superman, aglianico is the Hulk–massive, brawny wines with robust tannins and a smoky, meaty profile. Aglianico can be unforgiving and aggressive when in its youth, but with time, it evolves into a complex, dynamic wine loaded with dark fruit. It has an earthy, rustic, almost dusty feel to it with notes of pepper, smoked meat, coffee, and dried fruits.

Taurasi is a great region for aglianico, and where I discovered the grape’s enormous potential. Generally speaking, I would look for bottles with more than eight years of age on them, although some winemakers do produce lighter, more approachable styles of aglianico slated for near-term enjoyment.

At Paul Marcus Wines, we always have a selection of each of these varieties, so feel free to check out our online shop or give us a call to learn more. We’re always happy to help you find that right bottle–and to assist you in your own journey through the world of wine.

Nestled in the Alps along the Swiss border, Lombardia’s Valtellina valley has a winemaking history that dates back more than 2,000 years. Chiavennasca (the local term for nebbiolo) is the star of Valtellina’s show, where steep, terraced vineyards and a distinct subalpine climate (loads of sunshine tempered by cool currents) produce some of Italy’s most unforgettable wines.

The terraced vineyards of ArPePe

The Pelizzatti family has been making chiavennasca in this locale for more than 150 years. However, that legacy was in serious jeopardy when, in 1973, Guido Pelizzatti fell ill with cancer. As a result, his four children decided (some reluctantly, some not) to sell the family brand, with disheartening results.

“The brand was destroyed by overproduction,” Guido’s granddaughter Isabella told Wine Spectator a few years ago. “It became a crap wine.”

It was Guido’s son Arturo Pelizzatti Perego who decided to take action and restore the family name. In 1984, he founded a new winery that he named for himself–ArPePe–and eventually bought back the old family cellars. (A sort of “revenge” against his siblings, Isabella called it.) Not only did he help revive the family legacy, he also was instrumental in Valtellina’s renaissance that continues to this day.

When Arturo himself succumbed to cancer in 2004, his daughter, Isabella, and her two brothers took the reins, and today, ArPePe remains the benchmark producer for these singular Alpine nebbiolos. Traditionalists to the end, ArPePe makes wines that prize grace, elegance, finesse, and complexity over oak-driven power. Their wines, crafted with meticulous restraint, bob and weave and dance and jab–no need for a knockout punch when you have that kind of style and sophistication.

The bulk of ArPePe’s grapes come from family-owned vineyards in Valtellina’s prestigious Grumello and Sassella zones. Grumello, where the winery is built directly into the slopes, features a bit more clay in the soil, accentuating the richer, fruitier notes of nebbiolo; south-facing Sassella has shallower and more craggy terrain, highlighting the grape’s minerality.

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We are quite fortunate to be carrying five different ArPePe bottlings at Paul Marcus Wines, all boasting 100 percent chiavennasca (nebbiolo) grapes. The 2016 Rosso di Valtellina utilizes grapes from both Grumello and Sassella, and it packs a lot of depth and character into its light and lively frame. It’s rather impressive for an “entry-level” wine.

Moving up the ladder we have two Valtellina Superiore offerings: the 2015 Grumello Rocca de Piro and the 2015 Sassella Stella Retica. These cuvees get their grapes from 50-100-year-old vines and undergo long maceration periods before spending 18 months in large barrels and at least two years in bottle prior to release.

Finally, we have two Valtellina Superiore Riservas: the 2009 Grumello Buon Consiglio and the 2009 Sassella Rocce Rosse. These Riservas spend close to five years in large casks before mellowing in bottle for another three years. Herbaceous, earthy, flinty, and floral, these vibrant, red-fruited gems deliver the entire package and show beyond a doubt how dynamic and multilayered Alpine nebbiolo can be.

Nearly two decades after Arturo’s passing, his motto still lives on: “il giusto tempo del nebbiolo,” which means “the right time for nebbiolo” and is indicative of his family’s passion for (and patience with) their beloved chiavennasca. For more information about the extraordinary, hard-to-find wines of ArPePe, please visit us at the shop.

Cellaring wine has appealed to me since the earliest days of my wine journey. I’ve been putting away wine for about 40 years, and it just dawned on me recently–now that I’m in my 70s, it might be a good idea to start drinking my cellar.

In the time of Covid, I’ve had fewer opportunities to open old bottles with friends or at restaurants. Well, my daughter came out here for a three-week visit in December and wound up staying for three months. (I guess the food, wine service, and weather are better here than in New York.) And now we had the quorum we needed for exploring the cellar.

Wines generally begin their lives with a lot of fruit and vivacity, but they can be somewhat simple. With age, they begin to develop more definition and evolve into something more complex–kind of like people.

One of the best cellar wines I’ve had so far was the first one I uncorked. It was the 2008 Vietti Barolo ‘Rocche di Castiglione.’ I caught this wine at the perfect time. It still had a lot of its youthful fruit, but it was entering the phase where it starts to take on secondary flavors; warm, lively, maturing nebbiolo flavors and aromas of tar, roses, violets, and red berries. Some of the other nebbiolo-based standouts we opened were the 2004 Sottimano Barbaresco Riserva and the 2006 Ovello from Produttori di Barbaresco.

I cellar a lot of Barolo and Barbaresco, and PMW currently has two great vintages in stock: the warm, open, and friendly 2015s and the slightly more delineated and complex 2016s. Laying down some of these wines will be tremendously gratifying, and we offer several single-vineyard expressions from Sottimano, Produttori, and other esteemed producers.

The wines I cellar the most, however, are reds from Burgundy, and not surprisingly, it was those I turned to most frequently. The 2002s are great, period. The Serafin Charmes-Chambertin was a true jewel. They have been drinking exquisitely since day one, and sadly I have exhausted most of mine. The best of the Burgundy I opened–on my birthday, to boot–was the 1999 Bachelet Charmes-Chambertin. It still had years left on it–truly astounding.

The powerful 2005 Burgundy wines, on the other hand, have been a mystery. On release, they were gorgeous–abundant fruit, structure, aromas, and power, a drinker’s paradise. And yet they closed up; for 15 years, they have been unyielding. Thankfully, they are just starting to reemerge.

The 2009s were highly acclaimed upon release and later criticized somewhat for their abundant fruit but lack of acidity. I opened a couple of 2009s, and they seemed to achieve a steady bearing with lots of fruit and a harmonious mouth feel. The 2009 de Montille Volnay 1er Cru ‘Les Taillepieds’ was an absolute knockout.

The 2010 vintage is an unconditional classic–light in color and mouth feel, yet they have a tension that lengthens the palate exponentially. I opened my first 2010 the other day: the Bitouzet-Prieur Volnay 1er Cru ‘Pitures.’ It was exquisite, and it made me anticipate drinking more from this superb vintage.

At PMW, we have plenty of cellar-worthy red Burgundy in the store from the likes of Sylvie Esmonin, Frederic Esmonin, Joseph Voillot, and Domaine de Montille. In general, I like to give red Burgundy about a decade of aging before popping them, depending on the vintage.

Every once in a while, you drink a wine that absolutely transports you to a space that goes beyond the glass. That happened the other night with the 2011 Lafon Meursault 1er Cru ‘Perrières.’ This white Burgundy had me groveling in the Perrières vineyard and inside the cellar walls. In the real world, the wine was the essence of butter, stone, mineral and integrity. The finish lasted for one minute.

An assortment of Rhones also made the cut. The 1990 Gallet Côte-Rôtie was still fresh with lively, gamey syrah flavors. The graceful 1998 Pignan Châteauneuf-du-Pape had a surprisingly light-to-medium mouth feel, although I wish I had opened my very good 1989 Jaboulet Hermitage ‘La Chapelle’ a few years ago. I was really looking forward to my 2000 Chateau Rayas Châteauneuf, but it was corked. Bummer!

Single-vineyard expressions from Sicily’s Etna Rosso DOC, featuring the wonderful nerello mascalese varietal, also benefit from time spent in the cellar. I describe these wines as a cross between nebbiolo and pinot noir. Many of you are familiar with the entry-level wines from PMW-approved producers such as Benanti, Graci, and Terre Nere, to name a few. The single-vineyard examples are very powerful and fruity at first, but after four or five years of aging, they turn into complex, smooth, yet grainy gems.

I had both the 2010 and 2011 Terre Nere Etna Rosso ‘Guardiola’ recently, and they were marvelous. Upon release, the 2010 offered a big mouthful of fruit that lacked definition, but it developed into an Etna Rosso that resembled a seamless Burgundy. The 2011 drank well young, but had also developed quite well over the course of a decade.

Yes, the joys of cellaring require patience–not to mention a cool, dark place–but the payoff is definitely worth it.

An oxymoron? Mutually exclusive? Magical thinking? No, affordable Burgundy really is a thing.

Of course, it is nearly impossible to buy a quality bottle of Gevrey-Chambertin or Puligny-Montrachet for $30 or $40. But improvements in winemaking (with perhaps an assist from climate change) have dramatically increased the quality of wines from less-renowned areas of Burgundy. And though we now taste many fine examples of pinot noir and chardonnay from a wide range of locales, Burgundy remains, for many of us, a unique delight and still provides the greatest expressions of these two grapes.

Here are a couple of whites and reds between $20 and $50 that exhibit the distinctive pleasure and beauty of excellent Burgundy without breaking the bank. Fair warning: They may whet your appetite for some of those more special-occasion wines previously mentioned.

Whites:

2019 Seguinot-Bordet Petit Chablis ($21)

The young and talented Jean-François Bordet comes from a family that has been making wine in the area since the 1590s (19 generations). The wine is classic–vibrant, lively, and textured (but no oak), boasting the distinctive, sea-fossil minerality that makes Chablis and Petit Chablis so unlike any other chardonnay from Burgundy or elsewhere.

2016 Marc Colin Saint-Aubin 1er Cru ‘Les Castets’ ($49)

For now, the Saint-Aubin appellation–nuzzled up next to Meursault and Chassagne in the southern part of the Côte de Beaune–still flies under the radar of many Burgundy lovers, but don’t expect that to continue for much longer. Here’s what Marc G. had to say after recently enjoying a bottle of the 2016 Colin: “After opening with a hint of reduction, it blossoms into an immensely satisfying, superbly balanced combination of fruit and freshness. Grab your crab crackers, and go to town!”

Reds:

2017 Maurice Charleux Maranges 1er Cru ‘Les Clos Roussots’ ($33)

This jewel comes from one of our great longtime friends, Charles Neal, who imports a remarkable selection of wines from France that just about always offer an exceptional price-to-quality relationship. (He’s also written a definitive book about Armagnac and remains a knowledgeable and gifted music writer.) Maranges is the southernmost appellation in the Côte de Beaune and is beginning to enjoy recognition as an area that delivers first-rate, generously flavored wines deserving of greater attention. Les Clos Roussots is a parcel from south/southeast vineyards at about 1,000 feet. It is a delicious example of the lush, full-fruited wines of the area. All of the Charleux wines are worth seeking out, including the newly arrived 2017 Santenay 1er Cru ‘Clos Rousseau’ ($36), made from 30-year-old vines and offering a touch more minerality from the limestone soils.

2018 Faiveley Mercurey ($35)

Given the prices of Burgundy, it’s rare that I can say, “We have trouble keeping this in stock.” But that has been the story with this wine–multiple customers coming back for multiple bottles, or cases. Mercurey, in the Côte Chalonnaise, south of the Côte de Beaune, can produce wines of great strength and character that bear a resemblance to Pommard. So far, 2018 is proving to be a lovely vintage for red Burgundy, and this charmer from Faiveley shows what both place and vintage have to offer. It has classy, expressive, upfront fruit notes that make the wine immensely appealing right now, but also enough backbone and grip to let you know that there is more to be revealed with another few years in the bottle.

As always, keep an eye out for exciting new arrivals over the next few months, especially as more of the stunning 2018 reds start rolling in. For instance, we’re awaiting the 2018 Auxey-Duresses from organic grower Agnes Paquet, a darling of the three-star Michelin somms in France. Also new in the shop is the 2018 Domaine des Rouge-Queues Santenay ($49), a dark-fruited, earthy, yet supple pleasure.

Everyone at PMW loves Burgundy, and we strive to curate our selections very carefully to offer attractive options from various climats–and at a range of prices. At the highest level, Burgundy can be an almost otherworldly experience (in more ways than one). But thankfully, we can defy some conventional attitudes about the area and show that reasonably priced, quality Burgundy is not a fantasy.

Fragrant, robust, and hearty, Moroccan chicken stew offers a festival of flavors for the palate. Although there are endless variations to this tongue-tickling dish, most involve rubbing your chicken pieces with a combination of spices (turmeric, cumin, coriander, and paprika, for instance), then braising the chicken slowly in a broth with garlic and onions. Toss in some mixture of potatoes, pearled couscous, or rice, and you’re on your way to a one-pot feast.

Although your instinct might be to reach for a white wine, I find I prefer the accompaniment of a vibrant red to bring out the myriad flavors–specifically, a younger, lighter-bodied syrah from the Northern Rhone. Fresh and spicy, with a hint of earthiness, a supple syrah will stand up to the meal without overwhelming it.

Take the 2016 Christophe Pichon Saint-Joseph, for example. Made from grapes grown on granite soils, which helps to preserve acidity and brightness, this elegant, approachable syrah shows minimal oak influence and is relatively low in tannins and alcohol, making it an ideal match. If you want to go for something with a little more body, the 2018 Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage manages to be lifted and lively while offering a fuller, darker-fruited profile. For a special treat, bring home a bottle of the 2018 Pierre Gonon Les Iles Feray from one of the region’s most revered producers–savory, medium-bodied, and gorgeously scented.

If you’d rather stick to white, well, the Northern Rhone has you covered there, too. Rich and aromatic, the white wines of the region tend to meld appealingly into the flavors of Moroccan chicken (more than complementing them), and these whites are an especially good idea if your recipe calls for a prominent fruit component (raisins, dried apricots, or preserved lemons are common ingredients).

The 2016 Jean-Louis Chave Selection Saint-Joseph ‘Circa,’ made with 100 percent old-vine roussanne, offers orchard-fruit creaminess along with an intense floral streak. Mostly marsanne, with about 20 percent roussanne, the 2019 Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage Blanc is fermented in a combination of oak and steel, and it has more noticeable elements of citrus and herbs.

Of course, the wines of the Northern Rhone are just some of the options that will play nicely with your Moroccan chicken stew. (Did I hear someone say amontillado sherry?) Call or visit us at Paul Marcus Wines to discover a wide range of other choices to complete your repast.