There’s a reason why nebbiolo remains one of the most prized grapes of the wine world. Few, if any, varietals can offer its combination of fruit, spice, earth, aromatics, acidity, and tannins–a blend of power and finesse that sends palates dancing.
Of course, the Piemontese DOCGs of Barolo and Barbaresco dominate the nebbiolo market, and why not? These regions produce some of the most enduring and memorable bottles you’re likely to find. However, if you head to the north of Piemonte, in the foothills of the Alps, you’ll discover the wines of Alto Piemonte, which provide more affordable and often more approachable alternatives to the bottlings of its Langhe rivals.
Image from Testimony of a wine junkie
There was a time, a couple or more centuries ago, when Alto Piemonte’s offerings commanded the respect and admiration that Barolo and Barbaresco do now. A one-two punch of phylloxera and fiscal downturn ended its reign as Northern Italy’s supreme red-wine region, but a renaissance that began in the late 1900s has only deepened in recent years, making Alto Piemonte a region worth investigating by nebbiolo lovers.
The typical expression of Alto Piemonte’s wines differs somewhat from that of its Langhe counterparts a couple of hours to the south; the wines of the north tend to be a bit more lithe, highly fragrant with softer (though still prominent) tannins and a well-defined minerality. There are a number of reasons for this distinction. First and foremost is the Alpine weather, which provides an abundance of afternoon sun but is tempered by colder nighttime air–helping to keep all of nebbiolo’s myriad elements in balance.
In addition, while the wines of Barolo and Barbaresco require cépage to be exclusively nebbiolo, the wines of Alto Piemonte allow for nebbiolo to be blended with other local grapes such as vespolina or croatina, which tend to accentuate the higher-toned flavors. There are also differences in soil composition: Alto Piemonte’s terroir is more volcanic in nature, instead of the limestone and clay that feature prominently in the wines of Langhe.
The Alto Piemonte is bifurcated by the Sesia River– Colline Novaresi to the east and Coste della Sesia to the west–and the better-known sub-regions lie directly on the river’s shores. Ghemme, on the right bank, and Gattinara, on the left, are the only two to have attained DOCG status.
Ghemme’s terrain includes more clay and sits at a lower elevation. Therefore its wines often have a fuller body and more pronounced tannins than that of its neighbors. With its volcanic assortment of granite, quartz, and iron, Gattinara produces wines known for their vibrancy and mineral-driven focus.
At Paul Marcus Wines, we are currently featuring the all-nebbiolo 2008 Ca` Nova Ghemme, a wine firmly in its sweet spot. Displaying savory notes of earth and spice at first, this wine is rounded out by fresh acidity and a gentle but noticeable tannic grip. The 2013 Antoniolo Gattinara, also available in the shop, is a lively, graceful rendering that spends 30 months in oak and boasts buoyant red fruits with just enough tannic support. Made with 100 percent nebbiolo, this bottle can easily lie down for another decade.
Other Alto Piemonte appellations worth seeking out include the higher-altitude areas of Boca (east of the Sesia) and Bramaterra (west of the river), as well as low-lying Fara (southeast of Ghemme) and sandy-soiled Lessona, whose wines are among the most supple and polished of the region.
There are also wines that are simply labeled Colline Novaresi or Coste della Sesia, usually lighter, more ephemeral wines intended to be enjoyed young. For an example of this style, look toward the Colombera & Garella Coste della Sesia rosso, a lean, refreshingly limber blend of 70 percent nebbiolo, 15 percent vespolina, and 15 percent croatina. (Bear in mind that this producer keeps output low, so these bottles move quickly.)
Fans of rosé can get in on the Alto Piemonte action, too. You can pick up a bottle of the Antoniolo Bricco Lorella rosato–aromatic, herbaceous, and dry, but with a bit of weight–or maybe Al Posto Dei Fiori by Le Pianelle, which ranks as perhaps the shop’s most full-flavored, complex rosé.
Finally, mention must be made of the tiny Carema DOC. Bordering the Valle d’Aosta and a good 40-plus miles west of the river Sesia, Carema’s terraced, steeply situated vines produce streamlined, gloriously perfumed wines bursting with acidity and propped up by persistent, fine-grained tannins. The big fish in this little pond is Ferrando, whose expression of nebbiolo epitomizes the strength and beauty of Alto Piemonte and, in peak years, can age for 20 years or more. Paul Marcus Wines is fortunate to have the 2013 and 2014 vintages of Ferrando Carema. Get them while you can.
Say the word “Bandol,” and visions of blue-green waters, framed by white rock and graceful Mediterranean pines, immediately come to mind. However, there is more to this zone of Provence than just the Cote d’Azur’s outrageously beautiful coastline. Here, limestone soils, the sun’s generous warmth, and a refreshing coastal climate create an ideal environment for cultivating the late-ripening mourvèdre, Bandol’s flagship grape.
Wine map of Provence showcasing Bandol
Aside from mourvèdre, lighter varieties such as grenache and cinsault–both traditionally associated with Provençal rosés–are also permitted. However, the heavier-hitting mourvèdre grape must still make up at least 50 percent of rouges or rosés (although many producers choose to use more). While Bandol reds can be extremely tannic and take years to open up fully, the same cannot be said of the region’s rosés. Bright, full-flavored, and red-fruited, they deliver an almost decadent seaside pleasure–or simply an evocative sip on a sunny day.
Chateau Val d’Arenc
If you are feeling like you’d like a bit of Bandol rosé in your life, Chateau Val d’Arenc is a good ambassador. Using 80 percent mourvèdre in his blends, winemaker Gérald Damidot practices sustainable viticulture, keeps his yields low, and hand-selects the grapes that make it into the cuvee. With aromas of wild strawberries, watermelon, musk, and a little bit of tannin, this wine would fare well with a fatty fish such as salmon, or an herbed pork or chicken dish.
Domaine du Terrebrune
However, if you prefer something more delicate, grab the Bandol rosé by Domaine du Terrebrune, a favorite at Paul Marcus Wines. This one is lighter in both color and body, with a nose more floral than the d’Arenc version, and a palate that shows more genteel melon flavors.
La Bastide Blanche
Finally, you can reach for a Bandol rosé that is right down the middle, La Bastide Blanche. Neither too heavy nor exceedingly light, this “Goldilocks” wine serves as a great introduction to the rosés of Bandol. La Bastide Blanche also keeps yields low, and its cellar practices are meticulous. The grapes in this cuvee are from a limestone-rich area called Sainte-Anne du Castellet, imparting mineral flavors and bright acidity. With its aromatics of flint and strawberries, and its lingering watermelon flavor, it’s an exemplary expression of the Bandol terroir.
You can find all three of these at Paul Marcus Wines, or just let your mood decide!
artifact / ärdəfakt / noun: an object made by a human being, typically an item of cultural or historical interest.
archeology / ärkēˈäləjē /
noun: the study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artifacts and other physical remains.
Wine can represent many things, like a particular flavor, a palatal experience, the time and efforts of cultivation, or the intellectual design of a product. And we can talk about it in so many ways too, evaluating wines geographically, aesthetically, linearly, horizontally. We use metaphor. We use qualitative biochemical data. We use narrative, and we attach it to a physical object destined for consumption, consume it, and begin to evaluate based on an array of potential methods of inquiry. If we are to treat the appreciation of wine in any academic way, that is to study it, we first must choose the method and scope of inquiry, which for me, particularly regarding older bottles, skews to the archeological.
Throughout my time at Paul Marcus Wines I was fortunate to taste, with some regularity, wines that far surpassed me in age and maturity. Over the past few years I’ve seen a surge in interest, enthusiasm, and availability of more obscure wines like this (18 year-old Sancerre Rouge, 28 year-old Portuguese Arinto, 30 year-old Santa Cruz Cabernet), wines that have taken on the secondary and tertiary characteristics of graceful development. Right away you can recognize acidity and color, defining characteristics of longevity, the ability to stay fresh, and the availability of concentrated fruit. But always, wines like these come with a caveat, a disclaimer of sorts about provenance, about transportation, storage, preservation, the guarantee on untainted products, the artifacts we so casually imbibe. So what can the study (and appreciation) of these agricultural remains signify about history? Perhaps that it inevitably devours itself.
Vineyard at Villa Era, Alto Piemonte
Last November, I was invited to Italy by the business consortium and viticultural association of Beilla, a small sub-region of the Alto Piemonte, west of Milan and almost to the Alps. It is an absolutely beautiful area, richin chestnuts, risotto, and an earnest wool milling industry. Right now, the region is in the process of redefining itself as a premium growing and production zone for grapes, particularly Nebbiolo. Today about 1,500 hectares of vines are planted in Alto Piemonte, primarily to Nebbiolo, though small amounts of Vespolina, Croatina, Uva Rara and Erbaluce are also planted. In 1900, however, over 40,000 hectares of grapes filled the region, a gross historical disparity which the winemakers there hope to resolve. The cool temperatures, extended sunlight exposure from altitude, latitude, and proximity to the Alps, and the geological event in which a volcano upended a mountain to expose ancient marine soils, all contribute to the severe minerality, acidity, and vivid coloration and red flavor of these Nebbiolo wines. Although the Langhe in the more southern part of Piedmont carries more commercial and critical weight in the industry now, the sheer volume of wine produced in the heyday of Alto Piemonte, and the evaluative quality of that wine, can shed light on both the cultural and natural history of the area. Touring vineyards and wineries, attending a seminar on soil types, tasting recent releases of wines from a dozen Alto Piemontese producers, and eating beautifully from the local farms and tables were all illuminating aspects of the culture and the cuisine and the heritage of the region, but nothing taught me more than tasting through a series of library bottles from four small wineries. It was easily the most personally revealing experience I’ve ever had with wine.
Before the tasting at Villa Era, a tiny producer in midst of laborious reclamation of vineyard sites from a century or so of forest encroachment, we toured the cellars (as we had the previous evening at Castello di Castellengo) to see the dusty, cobwebbed and moldy bottles of mismatched shape and size with tags and decomposing labels that date these artifacts through the past several centuries. These library collections of estate bottlings provide evidence that throughout time the properties yielded a product worth preserving in glass, underground in stable conditions, on the assumption that someday, someone would recognize that this was a fine wine designed to shine for future generations.
Bottles in the cellar at Villa Era, Alto Piemonte
Experiencing Aged Piemonte
The oldest artifact was a bottle of 1842 Castello di Montecavallo which is almost impossible to describe ingesting other than physical euphoria a, sensation of emotionally charged discovery. To share this piece of completely vibrant, assertive history, with the current generations of folks who farm the same land produced in me this neurological firing where I tried to connect pure sensory experience with the particular circumstance and somehow try to intellectually remember that this wine was deemed over the course of 175 years to be worth preserving, and that this gorgeous and completely unexpected semi-sweet but citric and lively wine five times my age was now going to be absorbed by my body. It felt as though I’d consumed an ephemeral dose of wisdom.
I know that’s hard to qualify. But trying to compare, or at least comprehend, the 1896 Castellengo and 1897 Villa Era was somewhat more grounded. I’d been in these cellars, walked in these vineyards; I was sitting in the building where 120 years earlier one of these wines had probably just finished fermenting, maybe just gone into barrel. One was reddish and slightly tannic, the other golden and slippery, and both were fresh. So you speculate. The grape, the vintage, the design? Two wines made a year apart within ten kilometers of each other and yet so fantastically different. And still with this surreal recognition that these wines were made around the time that my ancestors left Europe to participate in a different history a continent away.
Tasting a pair of wines, 1931 Montecavallo and 1934 Castellengo, I could sense some greater intensity, whether to do with process development or a renewed artisanal concentration in the wines after the industry fallout in the first decade of the 20th Century due to climate and disease, I don’t know. But the Montecavallo, like the 1842, offered a pure, sandy, pear-like quality, and the Castellengo, like the 1896, was denser, richer in color. The 1934 showed great definition as Nebbiolo, herbal, brilliant red, tannic and tough like a the skin of a wizened crabapple, a gorgeous wine and my favorite of the entire tasting.
The more recent presentations, a 1960 from Villa Era, and a 1965 and 1970 from Tenuta Sella, a producer PMW has recently carried, proved a welcome familiarity, more within the bounds of my previous experience. These were wines with structure, ripe and dusty fruit and emphatic texture. These were wines wound with youth, wines that I expected to develop further. In the Sella wines, particularly, a continuously operating producer since the 17th Century, I tasted exuberance, a great and yet unrevealed potential. I felt aligned with Nebbiolo, a tart little corner of recognition on my palate, but I also felt the resonance of timbre, a uniformity, or at least a seam of connective tissue that stitched me to the place, to the people, to the things this circumstance in time and culture had revealed.
Tenuta Sella 1965 Lessona & 1970 Lessona
And then after sharing a bottle of the 2010 Sella Lessona over dinner back in California, and talking and laughing and telling the story, exposing the narrative and presenting the evidence, one can still only project the future. We have what we have and we have what has been preserved and with that we have to make do. I know that in Alto Piemonte they used to make great wine and that over time the wines changed and adapted and that now by looking back, it is also possible to look forward, to understand the history and prehistory of a specific place, the culture of past, present and future through artifacts.
https://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/20171118-095107_orig.jpg556417Paul Marcus Wineshttps://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpgPaul Marcus Wines2018-03-19 06:59:422019-02-23 01:49:12Excavating Alto Piemonte
Drinking Champagne on a regular basis is something that is regrettably not all that common for many of us. It has a biased reputation for festive or special occasions only. Certainly, price understandably plays a factor here. But the region of Champagne itself, at least in my opinion, should be considered more often, even if you don’t want bubbles in your glass! It was, after all, originally a still wine producing region–and those wines still exist today.
The Coteaux Champenois is an appellation within the region which extends over hundreds of communes and produces excellent still wines. Today, a handful of producers continue the tradition of making both still reds, whites, and roses. For many producers, still wines are made for blending purposes into their sparkling wines. However, some decide to bottle their still wines, as is. Many find the red examples to be most compelling.
So why don’t we see more of these wines available in shops from one of the arguably greatest terroirs on the planet? Limited quantities, low demand, and a lack of marketing generally contribute to this; meanwhile, most of what is produced is simply consumed within the region itself. If you do have the opportunity, seek out these wines and the following producers, such as: Pierre Paillard, Paul Bara, and Jacques Lassaigne — to name a few.
As far as taste, the wines are high in acidity and light in body. This is no surprise since Champagne is known for its typically cold weather. One red we found especially compelling at the shop is Pierre Paillard’s 2012 Les Mignottes Bouzy Rouge for $53. It contains all Pinot Noir from Bouzy’s deep sedimentary soils. Bouzy may be known for its hard chalk soils but small amounts of sedimentary soils do exist, and are ideal for the grape. The wine is highly mineral-driven, fine, and detailed with extremely fresh cherry fruit. This wine is a true standout that any Champagne or Burgundy Pinot Noir fan should consider!
https://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpg00Paul Marcus Wineshttps://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpgPaul Marcus Wines2018-02-05 07:18:592019-02-23 01:49:22Champagne, Still Wines From A Sparkling Kingdom
Cellaring is a common practice for wine enthusiasts, whether for just a couple bottles or several hundred. But for those who do age their wines, how many hold on to dry rosé and drink it long after release? At the moment, the market for dry rosé is certainly “flowing.” Just last week in the shop Paul recollected how some years ago you had to really search to find a good rosé. Now, we are fortunate enough to find a wide range of excellent expressions in this category along with ample quantity. In fact, an entire section of the shop between the spring and summer months is entirely devoted to the “pink stuff”. However, although dry rosé is certainly acknowledged more often as a fine-wine category, with a wide range of price points to support, it is still not commonly cellared.
At the end of the day, rosé is primarily made to satisfy consumers’ desires for fresh and enjoyable sipping wine to drink during the warm weather months. Producers pick their grapes early, ferment at cooler temperatures in stainless steel, and avoid malolactic fermentation, in the hopes of give the market exactly what it wants—a charming, delicious, and crisp wine.
Nonetheless, there are several dry rosé bottlings currently carried in the shop that we can recommend cellaring; one in particular is truly a gem, and anything but basic. It is certainly worth seeking out and putting it to the test, well, in a few years!
Château Simone is located in the tiny appellation of Palette within Provence. Many are completely unaware of Palette due to its famous and much larger neighbors, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence and Côtes de Provence. The wines made at this 20 hectare property are unique to say the least with outstanding quality. The area is surrounded by a pine forest, the Arc River, and the Montagne Sainte-Victire mountain range. The vineyards sit on limestone soils at elevations as high as 750 feet, creating a microclimate with superb growing conditions. Some of the vines are as old as 100 years in age. For over two hundred years the Rougier family have run the Château, and are every bit as lovely as their wines.
Their rosé is produced in a similar fashion to their red wines and contains mostly Grenache and Mourvèdre with small amounts of Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon, Picpoul Noir, Muscat de Hambourg, Tibouren, Théoulier, and Manosquin. It is produced much like a red wine, moving from a wooden basket press to wooden vats for fermentation, along with one and a half to two years of aging in Foudres and another year in mature barrique. The dedication to this aging process gives this wine outstanding structure, power, and complexity that will certainly stand up to a decade of cellaring.
https://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpg00Paul Marcus Wineshttps://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpgPaul Marcus Wines2017-06-12 07:37:332019-04-08 22:20:46The Perfect Rose to Cellar: Château Simone
This morning I started off with the visit I was both most excited and most concerned about. Jean Pierre Charlot at Domaine Joseph Voillot in Volnay has been through the ringer more than anyone that I am slated to visit. The hail and small crops of previous vintages have impacted him more than most, and he’s also on the wrong end of the spectrum of those affected by this year’s frost.
Canvassing The Damage
Jean Pierre welcomed me into his office and we quickly overcame the fact that there wasn’t much middle ground on our language barrier. A brief chat and then we headed out to the vineyards for a survey of the damage. We go to Volnay 1er cru Champans and all is well. The growth looks great! It’s like nothing happened. Then we go to Volnay 1er cru Fremiets about 300km away and it’s a horror show. The vineyard is devastated.
More of the same as we visit his vineyards for village-level Volnay and Bourgogne rouge. Many vines are barren. Others have a small fraction of the normal growth. Some have produced a second bud, so on top of all the other challenges this frost has presented it also means that growers have to do two harvests one month apart. Think about all that additional work for the winemakers, yet for far less product. As rough as recent vintages have been for Jean Pierre this is the worst.
Voillot looks on in frustration at Fremiets Vineyard in Volnay
All told, these vineyards are down 90%. Jean Pierre has 9 hectares of vines in total and he’s lost about 7 hectares-worth in the frost. When you catch him in the moment you see his frustration and concern, and then he simply states it; all that work in the vineyard down the drain, and both his financial and mental fortitude have been pushed to the limit. But then he (more or less) shrugs it off, rhetorically asking “What can you do?” So we head back to the cellar.
The Voillot cellar is a thing of beauty. The mold covering the bottles is off the charts, but otherwise it’s orderly and clean…though clearly not as full as Jean Pierre would prefer. We dig into the 2015 barrel samples and I can safely make the blanket statement that these wines are a fantastic overall quality and express some serious terroir. I look forward to not just tasting, but drinking these wines over the next 20 or so years. These are the epitome of elegance and charm, and they exude a real sense of place. If you’re not yet familiar with these wines do yourself a favor and seek them out.
The harsh reality.
Other Bourgogne Travels
Following my visit with Jean Pierre I headed north for a photo tour of a number of grand crus in the Nuits. Chambertin Clos de Beze is a particular favorite, but it’s great to see all of these vineyards up close and in person. I eventually made it to the top portion of Clos des Lambraysfor a little lunch of leftover poulet de Bresse, cheese, bread and wine while I soaked in one of the better views I’ve come across so far. Late in the afternoon I visited with Domaine de Bellene in Beaune, which included another look at some 2015s in barrel.
The wines are in various stages of completion with some still working through malolactic and showing a bit of prickly CO2 on the palate, while others are already beautifully harmonious. Overall the whole Domaine operation is quite smaller than expected, and the conversation about running the negociant side of things is illuminating. Particularly the emphasis on slowly growing the options beyond the big name fruit sources of Gevrey, Meursault, etc., as those wines have gotten so expensive in recent years. The Saint-Romain blanc is a standout, as is the Saint-Aubin, an appellation that seems to be well represented on this trip so far.
We also had an interesting aside about premox, which the Domaine admittedly encountered in a couple of their wines a few years back. The consensus seems to be a stretch of time where winemakers emphasized a combo of too gentle a pressing, too little sulfur, too much battonage, and too much oak. Seems about right.
Time for me to hit the sack as I’ve got an early call in Gamay country tomorrow!
https://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/5476077_orig.jpg7341100Paul Marcus Wineshttps://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpgPaul Marcus Wines2016-06-03 21:53:372019-02-11 02:24:35Voillot & Volnay: Article from Vintage 59 Imports
The great wines of Burgundy satisfy the body and the soul. This is not to say other wines, indeed many other wines, don’t; but the Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays of the Cote d’Or do so in a unique and inimitable way. But it’s not really about the varieties here; it’s about the specificity of the land. The song of the grapes is nowhere bettered than in the vineyards of Burgundy. The medium is the message here, and the medium is the earth.
And the wines sing with subtle gusto and a surprising finesse-filled force. It is, in some final analysis, the complexity and the generosity of the wines of Burgundy that makes them my favorite wines. The music enters the heart and mind simultaneously. The emotional and aesthetic commitment the best wines ask is stunning and it is precisely because they ask us to feel and speak that they reach so deeply into our hearts and minds. The parallel, of course, is that the old vines reach equally deeply into the limestone and marl to retrieve the inner harmonies of the land.
Whether notes or letters, Burgundy generates a dialogue, indeed it generates language.
Burgundy is a place, and its heart, the Cote d‘Or, is only thirty miles long and about half a mile wide. You could walk it in a day, though it might take longer because you would likely be; as I have been, happily distracted by the peace and the beauty of the vines lacing around the old stone houses like green and gold scarves.
And because of the power of the Burgundian terroir – the sun, slope, and soil, among other things – the earth’s soul as it were, is also in every bottle. And this is how we come to truly know Burgundy, or any wine, and that is by drinking it, by being open to its seductive and haunting pleasures: the place-ness of Burgundy is in every bottle, and while it is always best to visit the wine regions we love, Burgundy is shipped; thanks to all the gods, to the far reaches of the world, if in miniscule quantities, including Paul Marcus Wines.
Burgundy, it seems, allows us a bit of time travel.
2. Where in the world is Burgundy?
The Cote-d’Or is in central eastern France. If you happen to be driving from Paris, allow about three hours. If you’re going in the right direction, and have a hankerin’ for Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, you should be heading southeast through Auxerre, toward Beaune, the wine capital of the Cote-d’Or. If a steely Chardonnay is what you want then Chablis is the place for you and you need only go about two hours along the same route, this time exiting at Auxerre. The Cote Chalonnaise, Macon, and Beaujolais are all a bit farther south along the same route.
3. Is Burgundy difficult to figure out?
Yes. And no.
Its essential nature is easy, and the wines are complex, but Burgundy is the most complicated of France’s wine regions and it is also, in some ways, the most difficult to understand.
For example, Karen MacNeil, author of the very useful The Wine Bible, lists eight grands crus in Gevrey-Chambertin, but Allen Meadows, author of the Burgundy-only newsletter, Burghound, claims there are nine, while the long time Burgundy aficionado Clive Coates says; “There are eight or nine grands crus…” I’m going with nine because you will find nine different names out there in the market. To wit, you will find both “Charmes-Chambertin” and “Mazoyeres-Chambertin” in any (sensible) wine shop that deals in Burgundy, though they have been listed by Matt Kramer as “one and the same vineyard.”
Furthermore, a few of the premier Crus in Gevrey-Chambertin have alternate names, yes, alternate names; for example Petite-Chapelle can also be called Champitenois and Issarts, Plantigone. This, in a region where there are over eighty growers of the famous 117 acre Grand Cru vineyard of Clos Vougeot. In theory we could have eighty wines in the shop that all say “Clos Vougeot” though some might be labeled, “Clos de Vougeot.”
4. How do I drink Burgundy?
Fill your glass. Repeat.
Only slightly more seriously: drink your Burgundy s l o w l y.
It is vital to drink the best wines over time. You want to interact with a great bottle of wine for as long as possible. No good wine will show you everything in thirty minutes, let alone allow you to understand all it has to offer.
The better the wine, very generally speaking, the more complex the wine and so, the longer it takes to discover. I think it’s best to give the particular bottle of wine you’re drinking plenty of time to open up, and, if you like it, get a few more bottles to drink over the years.
5. Will Burgundy age?
I’ve heard it said, in wine classes no less; that Pinot Noir does not age. This is maddening because so many pinot noirs do age; indeed they do so fabulously well. I’ve had wonderful, even fruity Pinot Noirs from the 1950s that were stunningly complex while still offering primary flavors. Furthermore, many white wines from Burgundy can age effortlessly for decades.
6. Why are the wines of the Cote d’Or so dang expensive?
Because it’s a tiny region and the farmers who tend the vines have very little wine to sell and there is no (significant) way to expand production. A producer might only make one barrel or less (25 cases) of any one wine. That’s twenty-five cases, or fewer, for the whole world. Not a lot to go around. Here’s a breakdown of the various levels of Burgundy to give you an idea of the rarefied stratification of the Cote d’Or:
Burgundy that is simply labeled “Bourgogne” the lowest level of classified Burgundy (either red or white) makes up 52% of the total wine production. This is wine that can come from anywhere in the legally demarcated region of Burgundy. Village level Burgundy makes up a further 35% of the total production and the wines have only to come from within the village boundaries. That means 87% of all the Burgundy produced in the Cote d’Or is not even vineyard-specific. Which is remarkable because Burgundy is all about the relationship of the site and the bottle. Premier Cru Burgundy makes up another 11%, meaning the wines labeled Grand Cru make up a microscopic 2% of the total wine production.
Getting Specific: Gevrey-Chambertin
A name from Gallo-Roman times, Gabriacus, first noted in or around 640 AD, for the village of modern-day Gevrey-Chambertin, a wee tot of a village in the heart of the wine Mecca of Burgundy. Gabriacus, a town where vines have been grown, grapes harvested, wine made and drunk for many, many centuries. In fact 120 vine stocks were found in Gevrey-Chambertin in 2008 dating from the 1st century BCE. Now that’s history.
In 1847 Gevrey appended the name of its most illustrious vineyard, Chambertin, which is named after the monk Bertin (Champ de Bertin). It seems somehow fitting that over the past forty years the population of this village has only increased by about 100 people (the population in 2008 was 3,084 and in 1975 it was 3,001) because the practice of wine growing and winemaking has changed very little over the years.
So there are, depending on whom you ask, thirty-three or thirty-four Grand Crus in Burgundy’s Cote-d’ Or, 8 or 9 of those, again depending on who you ask, are in Gevrey-Chambertin.
Gevrey-Chambertin is the largest of all the Cote’s villages and is also the place where, again, depending on who you ask, the highest expression of Pinot Noir is reached on Earth.
So where can I get great Burgundy?
Duh. Paul Marcus Wines always has a great selection of world class and affordable Burgundy! To get more specific information about any of the following wines, come in and ask one of the staff members at the shop.
Here, at a 30% discounted rate, is The Super Summer Six-Pack:
The full list price is $568.00, but for this offer you can have these gems for $395.00! A huge savings for some of Burgundy’s best wines, so treat yourself!
Further Offerings from the Rack & Cellar:
1. 2011 Dom. Dominique Gallois Gevrey-Chambertin “La Combe Aux Moines” 90. / 12 available 2. 2011 Dom. Dominique Gallois Gevrey-Chambertin “Petits Gazetiers” 85. / 6 available 3. 2011 Dom. Dominique Gallois Gevrey-Chambertin 55. / 6 available 4. 2011 Marchand-Tawse Gevrey-Chambertin “Les Fontenys” 100. / 12 available 5. 2011 Marc Roy Gevrey-Chambertin “Clos Prieur” 84. / 12 available 6. 2011 Marc Roy Gevrey-Chambertin V.V. 75. / 12 available 7. 2011 Marc Roy Gevrey-Chambertin “La Justice” 83. / 12 available 8. 2011 Dom. Fourrier Gevrey-Chambertin 98. / 11 available 9. 2010 Sylvie Esmonin “Cote de Nuits-Villages” 40. / 4 available 10. 2010 Dom. Dominique Gallois Gevrey-Chambertin “Charmes-Chambertin” 180. / 6 available 11. 2009 Dom. Bachelet “Cote de Nuits-Villages” 60. / 2 available 12. 2009 Dom. Bachelet Gevrey-Chambertin V.V. 90. / 15 available 13. 2009 Sylvie Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin 54. / 12 available 14. 2009 Sylvie Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin V.V. 80. / 7 available
15. 2009 Bachelet Gevrey-Chambertin V.V. 90. / 15 available 16. 2006 Dugat “Charmes-Chambertin” 434. / 3 available 17. 2006 Dugat Gevrey-Chambertin 128. / 5 available 18. 2006 Dugat Gevrey-Chamberitn “Lavaux St.-Jacques” 287. / 3 available 19. 2006 Denis Mortet Chambertin 675. / 3 available 20. 2006 Denis Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin “1er Cru” 248. / 3 available 21. 2006 Burget Gevrey-Chambertin “Mes Favorites” 75. / 12 available 22. 2006 Lecheneaut Gevrey-Chambertin 70. / 3 available
* The 2005 vintage deserves a special note. It is one of the all-time great vintages in Burgundy in the last two decades. Though you can enjoy them now, these wines will age gracefully for another twenty years – if you can wait that long! These are powerfully structured wines though they do not lack finesse or subtlety. The ‘05s are disappearing fast and this is a great collection of world-class wines. Don’t miss them!
23. 2005 Guy Castagnier “Charmes-Chambertin” 145. / 3 available 24. 2005 Guy Castagnier “Latricieres-Chambertin” 155. / 2 available 25. 2005 Confuron-Cotetidot “Charmes-Chambertin” 151. / 3 available 26. 2005 Confuron-Cotetidot “Lavaux St.-Jacques” 123. / 8 available 27. 2005 Confuron-Cotetidot “Mazis-Chambertin” 161. / 12 available 28. 2005 Dugat-Py Gevrey-Chambertin “Coeur du Roy” 189. / 2 available 29. 2005 Dugat-Py Gevrey-Chambertin V.V. 142. / 12 available 30. 2005 Guillard SC Gevrey-Chambertin “Platiere” 62. / 12 available 31. 2005 Denis Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin “1er Cru” 218. / 3 available
https://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpg00Paul Marcus Wineshttps://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpgPaul Marcus Wines2014-06-24 21:56:032019-01-06 20:43:11Burgundy: 6 Questions, with a focus on Gevrey-Chambertin
Didier Dagueneau, maverick of the Loire Valley, produced some of the greatest Sauvignon Blancs the world has ever known. Unfortunately, his life and his career as a vigneron were finished far too soon, in a manner which, though devastating, wouldn’t have been much a surprise to those who knew him. A perennial thrill-seeker and risk-taker, Didier, who also enjoyed professional motorcycle-racing and later, dog-sled racing, met his untimely end at the age of 52 when the ultralight plane he was piloting crashed shortly after landing in September of 2008. During his tenure at the helm of Domaine Dagueneau, Didier adopted a similarly unorthodox attitude in both the vineyard and the cellar.
The Region: Pouilly-Fumé
The wines of the Pouilly-Fumé AOC are prized for their minerality and perfume, with a smoky aroma (hence the name ‘Fumé‘, French for ‘smoked‘) often making an appearance in the best examples, Dagueneau’s not withstanding. This is largely owing to the presence of flint (which, combined with clay, is known locally as ‘silex‘) in the region’s famed limestone soils. These top-tier wines can age longer than your average Sauvignon Blanc–five to ten years for many, and even up to twenty for Dagueneau’s finest bottlings.
Didier was not afraid to break the rules, and those who consume the wines of his domaine will be handsomely rewarded by his experiments. Low-yields were an established constant, but the boundaries of viticulture and viniculture were constantly pushed, from organic viticulture to natural fermentations to experimental barrels. Unlike most Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Dagueneau’s wines have always been raised in oak barrels, though the size, shapes, and proportions of new to neutral barrels has varied with both vintage and vineyard.
Didier may no longer be with us, but his children, Charlotte and Benjamin, have taken over the domaine and continue to produce stunning wines with clarity, precision, and freshness that wine critics agree would make their father proud. The most recent releases, now available in the store, are no exception.
The 2010 Blanc Fumé de Pouilly, Dagueneau’s “entry level” cuvée, is intended to be a very direct, pure, and typical example of Sauvignon Blanc from a typical Pouilly-Fumé vineyard. It truly is a spectacular example of what wines from this AOC should aspire to be–brimming with chalky minerality and racy citrus.
The 2011 Pur Sang, perhaps the Domaine’s most popular cuvée, is bursting with aromas of citrus, quince, and fine minerals, with mouth-puckering acidity punctuating the intense and ethereal palate. The grapes come from chalky limestone soils that are almost entirely lacking in silex.
The 2011 Buisson Renard, grown on silex soil and formerly the most mineral of the Dagueneau cuvées, is tamed by oak ageing to form a rich, opulent wine held together by a firm, flinty backbone.
Finally, the 2011 Silex is the “Grand Cru” of Dagueneau’s wines. Highly sought-after year after year, this wine can be slightly more austere than its contemporaries, due to lower clay content in the soil. This may not be the right wine to pop open tonight, but those who are patient enough to wait for this stunning wine to reach its peak will reap significant benefits. For the slightly-less-patient, we also have the 2010 Silex in stock.
https://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/2601987_orig.jpg8001096Paul Marcus Wineshttps://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpgPaul Marcus Wines2013-11-02 23:47:112019-02-11 02:26:40Domaine Dagueneau: Stunning Wines From Pouilly-Fumé
Jurassic Wines: They’re Not Just for Dinosaurs Anymore (New Arrivals from Jura!)
Tucked in between Burgundy and Switzerland, the Jura wine region has, until recently, somehow managed to remain off the radar of most American consumers. It’s sort of understandable–this area tends to produce the favorites of wine geeks in search of something new and different. However, a bit of understanding can lead to appreciation by any wine drinker for these unique and often ‘funky’ wines.
Jura’s unusually cool climate allows the production of refreshingly crisp whites with mouthwatering, tart acidity and ultra-pale reds that astonish with their unexpected complexity. Sparkling wines, known as Crémant du Jura, thrive here as well, taking advantage of high acidity levels in the grapes to make wines that are similar to Champagne–but a lot more affordable. Easily recognizable Chardonnay and Pinot Noir beckon the uninitiated with their familiarity, a gateway to the more obscure grapes of the region–Savignin (known elsewhere as Traminer), Poulsard, and Trousseau.
The most distinctive, and probably best-known wine style of Jura is Vin Jaune, or ‘yellow wine‘. To make Vin Jaune, very ripe Savignin grapes must be harvested from low-yielding vines. They go through the usual white wine routine–conventional fermentation, secondary malolactic fermentation…seems pretty standard, at first. But here’s where things get crazy–the wine is then transferred to old Burgundy barrels that are filled incompletely, and placed in an area that is well-ventilated and therefore subject to temperature fluctuations. This is basically the opposite of how a winemaker would want to store any other type of wine during the vinification process, but for Vin Jaune, this is how the magic happens.
Owing to these unusual conditions, a thin layer of yeast (known as the voile) forms on top of the wine, similar to the flor in Sherry. Then the winemaker must sit patiently for at least six years, as the wine slowly oxidizes, protected by the voile from turning to vinegar. This patience is eventually rewarded with the resulting dry, aromatic, nutty wine–often with aromas and flavors of exotic spics such as turmeric, cardamom, and ginger, walnut, almond, apple, and sometimes honey, with a deep yellow-orange appearance.
For best results, Vin Jaune should be allowed to breathe for a while before serving, and paired with its neighbor and natural ally, Comté cheese.
The Wines of Jura
Cremants du Jura
A thorough exploration of the wines from the Jura region would comprise a wide variety of flavors and styles. It’s always nice to start off with some bubbles, and Domaine de Montbourgeau’s Crémant du Jura is an excellent choice. This 100% Chardonnay sparkler is light, fresh, and bursting with racy citrus acidity, making for the perfect aperitif or a great bottle for brunch.
To ease in to Jura whites, it’s best to start with a good old-fashioned actual white wine, before moving on to those zany orange ones. Michel Gahier’s 2009 Chardonnay ‘La Fauquette’ is a lovely example, brimming with Chablis-like minerality with undertones of dried apricot. Faint nutty aromas hint at the slightest bit of oxidation.
For an introduction to Vin Jaune, look no further than Jacques Puffeney’s 2006 Arbois Vin Jaune. Monsieur Puffeney, known to his peers and admirers as “the Pope of Arbois“, is one of the most well-known and revered vignerons in the region, and for good reason. This orange wine is produced only from the finest barrels after eight and a half years of aging under voile–two years longer than the minimum requirement. This enticing wine shows intense oxidation, dripping with honey, almond, and hazelnut aromas, dried apple flavors on the rich and creamy palate, and a surprisingly bone-dry finish.
It’s not just the whites of Jura that are worth talking about–the reds are pretty fascinating themselves. Often receiving less attention and shorter aging from their white counterparts, Jura reds (made from Poulsard, Trousseau, and Pinot Noir) differ wildly from what most American palates are accustomed to consuming, in that they are so light as to frequently be mistaken for rosés, yet highly complex on the nose and palate, filled with floral and peppery aromas and often a healthy dose of terroir–or less euphemistically, funk.
Trousseau, the most powerful of the Jura red grapes, is often used to add structure and color in a blend alongside Poulsard–but it can undoubtedly shine on its own as well. Michel Gahier’s 2012 Trousseau ‘Les Grands Vergers’ demonstrates intense, hearty blackcurrant fruit, cherry candy, earthy, smoked tea, and marked peppery and gamey notes, softened by hints of violet perfume.
Another bottling from Michel Gahier, 2012 Ploussard (a confusingly similar synonym of Poulsard) is much paler in color than the Trousseau, but is by no means lacking in flavor. The nose is lovely and floral, reminiscent of roses and ripe, juicy strawberries and cherries. The palate, however, is no delicate flower. Tannin and minerality give great structure to this faintly tinted wine, making it a “serious” wine that also happens to be very, very easy to drink. Another wonderful example is Jacques Puffeney’s 2011 Poulsard, which echoes many of the flavors in Mr. Gahier’s bottling, which may have something to do with the fact that they are neighbors. The Gahier leans a bit towards a more fruit-forward style, with the Puffeney shows a little more earthiness.
All of these Jura wines (and many more!) are now available on our shelves. Whether you are just beginning to explore this intriguing appellation, or have been drinking Jura wines since before they were cool, there’s definitely something for everyone in this un-sung, under-appreciated, and frequently under-valued region.
https://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/7372070_orig.jpg491651Paul Marcus Wineshttps://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpgPaul Marcus Wines2013-10-03 01:14:382019-02-11 01:35:03Jura Wines
[CA] Mark, let’s talk about Burgundy, and the white wines from the Côte de Beaune.
[MM] (drinking) Uh, sounds good, where should we start?
[CA] Well, I remember a quote from a book I read some time ago. Let me share it with you. I think it will set the discussion – and eventually, our glasses – in motion!
Something about Burgundy excites spirituality. Where Napa Valley restores hope that beauty has a future in the modern era and Bordeaux simply makes one want to live, it is after savoring a fine Burgundy that even the most skeptical are willing to concede a higher power.
[MM] Was that from Matt Kramer’s book?[CA] Indeed. Your memory is congruent with your consumption…. The paraphrase above is from the elegant beginning to Matt Kramer’s brilliant book Making Sense of Burgundy.
[MM] Hey, Chad – I admire Kramer’s book as much as you do, but spare me the spiritualist folderol! If gods there be, then let him/her/it/they drink what they like. We wine-loving humanists need concede only that land, vines, and people combine in this little swatch of France to make two of the truly great wines on earth: red and white Burgundy.
[CA] Hey, it’s not my spiritual “fold-your-own”! I was just pointing out how, for many of us, Burgundy is at the apex of wine wonderfulness. Burgundy, both the whites and the reds, are arguably the wines that most clearly embody a particular plot of land. So before we talk about the wines, let’s quickly look at the region of Burgundy: The region is as complex as the wines it births!
[MM] You’re right – Burgundy is complex – so on with the show!
Where is Burgundy?
[CA] Generally speaking, the region of Burgundy follows the Saône river north from Lyon through the hilly vineyards of Beaujolais and on through the Mâconnais to Tournus, where it parts ways with the river and veers east into the Côte Chalonnaise. It then continues northeast, roughly paralleling the wiggly river, and into the glorious heart of Burgundy: The Côte d’Or. We may divide this “slope of gold” into the Côte de Beaune and The Côte de Nuits. It is in this 30 by one-half mile ridge that we find the very best Burgundies. Continuing northeast we come to the last great Burgundy region: Chablis.
[MM] Nice little geography lesson, Chad. My only quibble is that you’re perpetuating a misconception about the name of that storied slope. Although “Côte d’Or” does indeed translate literally as “slope of gold”, the name is really a contraction of “Côte d’Orient”, or “slope facing east”. Still, given the prices of some of the wines, there’s some poetic truth in calling it the “slope of gold”! Quibbles aside, how about one of my expertly drawn maps to help folks get the picture? Now stop snickering, Chad!
[CA] I’m not snickering at you, I’m snickering with you!
(Mark draws a pair of maps.)
Which grapes make up most wines from Burgundy?
[CA] Nothing difficult here: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Although other grapes, like Gamay and Aligoté, are used in Burgundy, we will deal here with wines that are exclusively Chardonnay for the whites and Pinot Noir for the reds. In some cases, the Burgundians blend Gamay with Pinot Noir to produce inexpensive, everyday wines called passe-tout-grains.
[MM] One of the great things about Burgundy is that it’s wine from single varietals (with the relatively uncommon exceptions that you mention). There’s a beautiful purity – at least in the best wines – that you don’t get in wines blended from several varietals. That purity is an especially clear “lens” for terroir – the specific soil, exposure, and mesoclimate of the vineyard comes through the wine in a particularly clear way.
[CA] I agree with your image of the lens and that there is in fact a unique quality that comes from a wine made with a single varietal. I must, however, add to your generalization of “blended wines”. There are many spectacular blended wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Bordeaux, for example, that have terroir, because terroir includes culture, and I would argue, are to some extent necessitated by culture –
[MM] Okay, let’s stay focused….
[CA] Oh, alright…pass the halibut over here, will ya’?
What should I eat with white Burgundy?
[MM] White Burgundies of all types go well with fish, pork, and chicken. The richer whites from the Côte de Beaune are divine with richer fish, such as salmon, scallops, lobster, and crab. In addition, anything with a butter or white sauce will play off the wine beautifully. If you’re doing the cheese thing, aim for richer cow’s milk cheeses, such as Brillat-Savarin. And as I’ve learned from you, Chad, white Burgundy is a great way to transition from Champagne to red wine during an extended, multi-course dinner.
[CA] It is surprising how versatile the white wines from Burgundy are! There are so many microclimates that the amazing Chardonnay grape can achieve a nearly unlimited range of weight, acidity, and complexity. There are also hundreds of fine producers, making the options even more bountiful. It is exciting! I agree with you about the fish opportunities – wonderful accompaniments to Chardonnays from the Côte de Beaune! If you are having an older wine or a particularly rare or fine wine, I say have it by itself! Wine is food after all….
The Burgundy bull’s eye
How do I begin to understand Burgundy?
[CA] Good question. Thinking & drinking. First, think of an archery target. Think of the concentric circles getting smaller and point values getting larger as you go toward the center. The outermost circle of the target represents the wines simply called Bourgogne (blanc or rouge), in which the fruit can come from anywhere in the Burgundy region. Bourgogne accounts for 56% of all the wine in Burgundy. But how will I recognize one of these wines in a retail store? Another fine question. Following each level of quality there will be a “Shelf example.”
[MM] Here’s a Bourgogne Blanc (white Burgundy) that we sell a lot of, because it’s cheap ($8.99), light, crisp, and easy to like. It’s made by Lamblin & Fils, a producer who happens to be in the Chablis region of Burgundy. As you explain, the Chardonnay grapes could come from anywhere in Burgundy, but in this case, they happen to come from around Chablis.
Shelf Example: 2001 Lamblin Bourgogne Blanc
[CA] Next come the Appellation Communale wines, where the fruit must come from the specific place-name (called a “commune” in France) on the label. (A vineyard name is permitted, but the letters must be significantly smaller than the name of the commune.) The Appellation Communale wines, which account for 30% of the wines of Burgundy, correspond to the second concentric circle on the archery target – they come from smaller geographical areas and are worth more, both in cost and quality.
[MM] Wine geeks sometimes call these “A.C. wines” in order to indicate that they’re more specific than ordinary regional Bourgogne but not as specific as Premier Cru wines from specific vineyards. By the way, in Europe, a commune is not a place where hippies hang out and name their kids after flowers. It’s the smallest local political division, usually comprising a town and the surrounding countryside, and bears the name of the town. Here’s an A.C. white Burgundy from the commune of Meursault.
Shelf Example: 1996 Chapelle Meursault
[CA] The next level of quality comes with the Premiers Crus, which use the name of their commune followed by the name of their vineyard. The Premiers Crus account for only 11% of all Burgundy. They correspond to the third concentric circle on the target – a tightly defined set of areas and similarly elevated cost and quality.
[MM] Now we’re getting specific! Burgundy is all about the pyramid of specificity – from region to commune to individual vineyard. The terroir of each vineyard is capable of producing a wine that tastes unique, and chasing that uniqueness is part of what makes drinking and learning about Burgundy so rewarding. Here’s aPremier Cru white Burgundy from Les Charmes vineyard, located in the commune of Meursault. (It’s worth mentioning here that almost every Burgundy vineyard is divided among lots of owners. Thus, one easily could run into a Meursault Les Charmes from a different producer than the one shown here.)
Shelf Example: 1998 Boillot Meursault, Les Charmes
[CA] Exactly right Mark, there are a lot of wines from Les Charmes vineyard, which is of particular interest for someone who wants to do a more advanced white Burgundy tasting – one that includes Meursault Les Charmes bottlings from different producers. This type of tasting can be very educational (and somewhat expensive), but one will ultimately come away with a sense of the vineyard itself.
[CA] However, there are exceptions to the seeming rule that a vineyard name on the label means a Premier Cru wine in the bottle. For example a wine labeled Meursault Desirée is not a Premier Cru vineyard but is a particularly good vineyard.
[MM] Fortunately, the punctilious French labeling laws come to the rescue here. A Premier Cru wine always will say “Premier Cru” somewhere on the label. But your observation is a valuable one – Premier Cru is a general indication of higher quality, but not all Premier Cru wines are better than all A.C. wines. One still needs to know something about the producer and vineyard in order to make an educated guess about the quality in the bottle.
[CA] The next level in quality is truly a leap to the top shelf: the Grands Crus. These vineyards nearly always represent the very highest quality wine available in Burgundy – the bull’s eye in the target. There are 30 Grand Cru vineyards. Each has its own appellation. The Grands Crus account for a mere 3% of all wines from Burgundy.
[MM] Grand Cru wines are freaking expensive (usually $75 and up) and almost always require considerable bottle aging before they’re ready to drink. But boy can they can be amazing – and of course at that price, they ought to be! (As wine writer Stephen Tanzer has said, “for that amount of money, I expect a wine to give me an orgasm and wash my car.”) Anyway, here’s a Grand Cru white Burgundy from the vineyard Le Montrachet. This vineyard straddles the Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet communes, which lie directly south of Meursault.
Shelf Example: 2000 Lafon Le Montrachet
What other indications might tell me about the quality of the wine?
[CA] Great question. I always look for the best producers and the finest vintages. And the price. The price almost always goes up according to the quality of the producer, vintage, and vineyard site.
[MM] Of these factors, I think that producer is most important. Certainly vintage is significant, especially if you intend to age the wine for a long time. But the “best” vintages” aren’t always the best wines for current drinking. In addition, good producers usually make good wine in less than ideal vintages. And at this point, we should remind readers that we at Paul Marcus Wines pride ourselves on helping our customers make sense of the various producers, vintages, and appellations.
[CA] Great point! It is true that there are great wines made in most vintages, usually by the best producers, producers who know their vineyards and who are willing to cut away some of the early fruit to ensure the remaining fruit gets ripe. It is also worth mentioning, as you indicated, that the Paul Marcus Wines staff drink these wines and have come to know the producers we represent! As evidenced tonight!
Some Côte de Beaune appellations
[CA] Let’s look at a few of the wonderful Appellations Contrôlées in the Côte de Beaune:
[CA] Chassagne-Montrachet: There are a total of 864 acres of vineyard in Chassagne-Montrachet. Of this, 836 are commune-level and Premier Cru. The remaining 28 acres are Grand Cru. The Grand Cru vineyards are split between Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet. The hyphen adds to the confusion. It was added as a marketing device (with great success) to sell all the wines from Chassagne and Puligny as an extension of the very great single vineyard of Le Montrachet. Chassagne-Montrachet wines of all levels should have richness and a noticeable mineral component from the clayey-chalky soils.
[CA] Puligny-Montrachet: There are a total of 606 acres of vineyard in Puligny-Montrachet. Of this number there are roughly 248 acres of Premiers Crus (14 different vineyards) and 77 acres of Grands Crus (4 different vineyards); the remaining vines are commune-level. The wines from Puligny-Montrachet taste similar to those from the adjacent Chassagne-Montrachet, but the best Puligny wines show a bit more elegance and breed.
[MM] Meursault: This appellation’s relatively large 1,079 acres of vineyards lie just north of Puligny-Montrachet and just south of Volnay. The wines from Meursault are a little richer and softer than those from neighboring Puligny-Montrachet, which makes Meursault a great “bridge wine” for people who are used to drinking richer California Chardonnays and want to try white Burgundy. Meursault’s 89 named vineyards include no Grands Crus, but Les Charmes,Les Genevrières, and Les Perrières are the vineyards that come closest to Grand Cru quality.
[MM] St.-Aubin: “Aubin”, in my Americanized pronunciation, rhymes with “oh man” – as in, “oh man, are these good wines and good values!” The 585-acre appellation sits in a side valley that extends westward from Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet. St.-Aubin is a more modest appellation than the others listed here – meaning that the wines are a little lighter and a little less complex. But from the right producer, the wines have a graceful balance of lively acidity and vibrant fruitiness, and they’re often cheaper than other Côte de Beaune wines of comparable quality. I’ve especially enjoyed wines from the two Premiers Crus vineyards that abut Puligny-Montrachet: En Remilly and les Murgers des Dents de Chien (“big rocks shaped like dog’s teeth” – a mouth-watering vineyard name if ever there was one).
Drinking white Burgundy
Chad & Mark spend hours tasting some new releases from Château de Puligny-Montrachet.
[MM] One fine day in May, our good friend Nicholas Griffin from Beaune Imports brought by a bunch of newly-minted 2001 white Burgundies from the Domaine du Château de Puligny-Montrachet. This producer has made very good wines for many years, which we’ve happily sold for many years. In 2001, however, things changed. Winemaker Etienne de Montille, from one of the best producers in all of Burgundy, Domaine Hubert de Montille, has taken over in the vineyard and in the cellar. The changes include a transition to biodynamic farming, fermenting with local, indigenous yeasts, and unfiltered bottling of the wines. The results of these changes are spectacularly delicious wines that more accurately reflect their terroir.
A few weeks later, Nicholas generously dropped off more bottles of these wonderful wines so that Chad and I could taste through them at our leisure and write them up for this newsletter. Amidst halibut, sea bass, mango, and several cheeses, we polished off the better part of six bottles over six hours. Yes, the wines were that good. Following are our favorites.
Our tasting notes: 2001 Château de Puligny-Montrachet whites.
Bourgogne Blanc ‘Clos du Château’ ($19):
[CA] 1st note: If this is the lowest level of fruit in the Côte then Whoa! Build a moat because I’ll drink it all. 2nd note: Pale straw. Pears picked from a tree in full sun. Fresh mango notes with mineral punctuation and slight hints of sun-dried raspberries. The finest Bourgogne blanc I have tasted in years!
[MM] Citrus and pear aromas set the stage for a beguiling “acidity trajectory” on the palate – the wine enters mellow, rises in pitch, and then falls away gently and gradually. This is amazingly classy Bourgogne blanc.
St.-Aubin En Remilly ($35):
[CA] 1st note: A truly great bottling from this vineyard. 2nd note: Minerals mixed with river-washed stones. The summer hay color belies the richness of the middle palate and the long and complex finish. 3rd note: …the long and complex finish. Details: Because it will get better in 2-5 years and is a great value, it is a perfect wine for the cellar.
[MM] Stony minerals and crisp apples on the nose. Great finesse and follow-through on the palate – soave fruit wrapped around a brilliant core of minerality. The wine fattens up nicely after it’s been opened a couple of hours – don’t drink it too quickly!
[CA] 1st note: Wow! This “AC” wine has some serious “DC”. 2nd note: Lightly toasted, buttered sourdough notes provide a great foundation for the sliced ripe pear on the mid palate. A dollop of crème fresh and blood orange accentuate the complexity, range, and depth of this wine. Tangerine notes ring around a single smooth stone garnish and the mineral chords that will give this wine longevity. 3rd note: Before going out on a wire a tightrope walker would do well to taste this wine. It would give her a helpful and delicious idea of balance. Details: This is the best wine for current drinking, along with Bourgogne blanc, but will age well for 5-15 years. Really.
[MM] Great, galloping minerality. So much topography here – peaks and valleys, alpine vistas above timberline. This wine walks the tightrope between fruit and minerality. (Which one of us said that first, Chad?). It’s perfectly balanced right now. I want to drink it right now. Oh, I am drinking it right now. Lucky me!
Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru Les Chalumeaux ($50):
[CA] 1st note: Whirls & worlds of richness and chalk laced with hazelnut, un-toasted pine nuts, and fresh white corn. A Meyer lemon garnish suggests the terrific acidity and structure that keeps the wine suspended. 2nd note: It is, above all else, the mining the vines did and the layers of soil and sub-soil they met along the way that give this wine its unique class. A truly great wine! 3rd note: This Chardonnay is the BMW 7-series of wines: it has incredible luxury and comfort while still driving like a racecar. Details: Absolutely drinkable now. But you could wait a few years for this (unless you just can’t help it. I understand.) Will age with grace and dignity for 15 years.
[MM] Undeniable Premier Cru breed – almost unbearably high-toned. Thirteen extra overtones. This is a young wine. If the A.C. Puligny-Montrachet walks the tightrope between fruit and minerality, then this wine dances it. If, like Chad and me, you’re an intrepid explorer, drink it now. But set aside at least one bottle for a decade or so. Great wine.
For those who want more [PS from CA and MM] If we haven’t answered all your questions about Burgundy, then check out our first article on Burgundy in the November 2002 Paul Marcus Wines newsletter. It covers some of the same ground as our dialogue here, but with an emphasis on red Burgundy.
Better yet, come visit the store and ask any of us to tell you more about Burgundy and more about the wines from Burgundy that we’re jazzed about right now. Everyone who works at Paul Marcus Wines is a Burgundy lover, and we’re always happy to share our knowledge and enthusiasm.
Back-to-School Burgundy Special
If you’re ready to have as much fun as Chad and Mark, then take advantage of our Château de Puligny-Montrachet special through September 15th. When you buy any six wines from this producer, we’ll take 10% off. This deal includes everything from the $19 Bourgogne on up…. Besides the 2001 wines mentioned in this newsletter, we have wines going back to 1997, plus a Pinot Noir from Monthelie. We also have a tiny quantity of Grand Cru wines – please inquire.
https://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Cote-Chalonnaise-Burgundy-Wine-Region.jpg8831235Hayden Dawkinshttps://www.paulmarcuswines.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Logo_Paul_Marcus_Wines2018.jpgHayden Dawkins2013-08-25 06:44:252019-02-21 06:56:16White Burgundy: White Wines of the Côte de Beaune