Coteaux Champenois

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!​

Bramaterra Riserva Vintages from Tenuta Monolo

The Producer

I recently had the opportunity to taste several older vintages of Bramaterra Riservas from Umberto Dilodi of Tenuta Monolo, thanks to PortoVino importers. The tasting was held at the Kebabery in Oakland, and sure enough, Kebabs and aged Bramaterra Riservas are a stellar match!

The DOC of Bramaterra borders Gattinara and Lessona in Alto Piemonte. This particular DOC has a unique terroir in that it is less exposed to wind, coming predominantly from the north, and is composed of both volcanic and marine soils. Spanna (Nebbiolo), Vespolina, Croatina, and Uva Rara grapes are typically grown in the region. Since the climate here is cooler, the tannins of Spanna generally do not ripen to the same extent as its neighbors, and so instead it is often blended with the other grapes grown. As a result, the wines are known for their freshness, as well as balance and power.

More than likely though, Umberto’s wines haven’t shown up yet on your or other Piedmont enthusiasts radars, since they were never released to the market. In fact, Umberto made the decision to not sell his wines in order to avoid a conflict of interest while he was an integral part of elevating the region to its DOC status in the late 1970’s.  Unfortunately, with Umberto’s passing, the winery operations came to an end. However, PortoVino has brought new life back to the winery by acquiring the entire cellar, and provides further insight into the winery below:

Origins

The Tenuta Monolo cantina was once part of a villa that contained over 40,000 volumes of manuscripts and books on philosophy, classical music (especially Baroque and Renaissance), and art. Surrounded by three-quarters of a hectare of vineyards, the villa was home to the eccentric musician Umberto Gilodi and his life-long friend, cellar-master, painter and engraver Orlando Cremonini.The two men lived a simple life. All farming was organic; Umberto Gilodi was a meticulous note-taker, and we have his documents that attest to not using pesticides or herbicides in a time when most in that area were. Fermentation was in large wooden botti with native yeasts. The vineyards, and so too probably the wines, were 60% Nebbiolo, 20% Croatina, 10% Vespolina, and 10% Uva Rara. The vineyard and cellar were followed by the famous Italian wine professor from Torino’s Enology School, Professor Italo Eynard.”

The Wines

Bramaterra ReservaThese wines were properly cellared in Rome after Umberto’s passing.  Paul Marcus Wines is excited to be able to share the following stellar and rare line-up of aged Bramaterra with you:

2004 Bramaterra Riserva $49.00 (In-stock)
Supple and gentle on the palate, with a nice lift of acidity and good length. Great combination of tertiary aromas, including white pepper, cherry, and roses. Perfect to drink now.

2001 Bramaterra Riserva $70.00 (In-Stock)
More structure and tannin, and a bit more rustic in character, with predominately meaty, spicy, and floral notes.

1996 Bramaterra Riserva $66.00 (In-Stock)
My favorite based on its high acidity, fine tannins, and detailed spice notes. I particularly enjoyed its energy and precision.

1991 Bramaterra Riserva $66.00 (2018 Arrival)
The earthiest of the bunch, showing less floral character and more dusty mushroom and savory tomato notes. Also with less acidity than the ’96 so the wine is lovely and gentle on the palate. Do expect to find sediment, and as such we highly recommend decanting this wine.

1990 Bramaterra Riserva $56.00 (2018 Arrival)
Moving towards tertiary aromas and flavors. You will find rustic woodsy, wool, and meaty character on the nose, in addition to salty flavors. This wine expresses the vintage, which on the whole was a bit warmer, with a heartier and tannic palate. This would be outstanding paired with grilled steak or kebabs.

1985 Bramaterra Riserva $85.00 (In-Stock and Limited Quantities)
Absolutely lovely, lighter-bodied, and etherial. Quite simply a pleasure to drink.

Château Simone RoseCellaring Rose?

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

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.

Jacky Granges of Domaine de Beudon
Jacky Granges of Domaine de Beudon

Jacky Granges of Domaine de Beudon

Just last week we brought in two deliciously obscure wines from a tiny Swiss producer in Valais, which the importer alleges is accessible only by a dangerous-looking alpine gondola. Unfortunately, as I reached out for more information about these wines, I was alarmed to hear that Jacky Granges, the grower and winemaker who took over in 1971 and developed the vineyards to be fully biodynamic by 1992, had passed away in the short time between tasting his wines and their arrival at the shop.
Tragedy, however, makes them no less interesting or delicious. Instead, perhaps we can look on the brighter side and consider the liveliness of his wines as an opportunity to experience a small sliver of existence upon the mountaintop parcels of Domaine de Beudon, rife with medicinal herbs, livestock, and onsite hydroelectric power to create an oasis of grape-friendly agriculture.

Domaine de Beudon

Domaine de Beudon

The Wines

The notable absence of wooden barrels at Domaine de Beudon belied a depth of flavor and fine tannin that I usually associate with cold-climate, thin-skinned grapes like Pinot Noir and Gamay which comprise the majority of 2007 Vielles Vignes “Constellation” Valias Rouge. In addition, a small amount of Diolinor (an indigenous variety) is blended with the wine to give the bright bing-cherry flavors a bit more density. With the bottle age, indigenous yeast vinification, and cool, slow fermentation of grapes grown on granitic soil, a tough, rusty-ness holds the wine to the earth while the complex aromas slowly rise from the glass.

Similarly, the 2009 “Schiller” Valais Rose, which substitutes indigenous Fendant for the Diolinoir of the rouge, opens with a rich iron-like aroma, and continues through the palate with excellent acidity and fresh Rainier-cherry fruit intensity. Where the rouge is centered and earth-bound, the rose feels like a creaking swing set with enough lift and gravity to consider a full loop around.

Up and down with a tension born of high-altitude natural farming, the wines of Domaine de Beudon are excellent, but limited. We are fortunate to have these examples of artisan winemaking in our shop, and oh how far to slake this sacred thirst.

Voillot looks on in frustration at Fremiets Vineyard in Volnay

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

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 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!

Edmunds St. John - Bone Jolly Rose
Edmunds St. John - Bone Jolly Rose

Edmunds St. John – Bone Jolly Rose

Edmunds St. John Bone-Jolly Rosé

Featured in The New York Times

Congrats to local winemaker, Steve Edmunds for his recent accolades in the NYT article “20 Wines for Under $20: Spring Edition”.  We are big fans of this excellent Gamay Rosé currently on our shelf for $23.00

“The wine stores tell us it’s rosé season (though in my opinion, it’s never not rosé season). Here is an old favorite, which year after year offers the vivacity characteristic of a good young rosé. It’s made entirely of Gamay Noir, the grape of Beaujolais (hence the somewhat awkward name Bone-Jolly), and it’s exactly what you want on those first few days out on the deck, the balcony or wherever you can grab space in the open air.” – NYT

Eric Asimov’s article in The New York Times this week, “12 Everyday Bottles for Wine Lovers”, is a savvy list of versatile, food-friendly wines you should keep stocked around at all times. Paul Marcus Wines currently is carrying several of these producers and types of wine recommended, including the following: 2010 Selbach Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Kabinett $26 2013 Merkelbach Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese $24  2013 Bründlmayer Kamptaler Terrassen Riesling $27 2013 Bründlmayer Kamptaler Terrassen Gruner Veltliner $25 2012 Felsina Chianti Classico $24 Enjoy!

Have you seen our Spanish neighbors lately? Nah, I think they got tired of our late night shenanigans and moved across the bay.

Roses at Paul Marcus WinesThis time of year here at Paul Marcus Wines we are down right Rosé crazy! We live, breath and well uh.. drink the stuff like it is going out of style. And if being fanatical about Rosé is wrong, then we don’t wanna be right. There is something about the crisp and refreshing nature of Rosé wine, not to mention it’s hugely versatile food pairing capability, that makes us all warm and fuzzy like a troop of giddy schoolgirls.

And just when we thought our passion for pink couldn’t get any stronger, we’ve gone and outdid ourselves. Currently PMW offers nearly 50 Rosés from countless appellations all over the world! A grand parcel of prime real estate in the front of the store is and  will be dedicated to Rosé mania throughout the summer. It’s a thing of sheer beauty.

More Roses at Paul Marcus Wines

It’s a constant game of Tetris trying to make room for all the great Rosé we taste. Just recently this plethora of pink pleasure packed pests decided to play not so nice in the sandbox, essentially banishing their long time neighbor Spanish whites, to an entirely different section!

Now you may be asking yourself a question asked by many of our customers. Isn’t the Rosé category way out of style and aren’t they all sweet and of questionable quality? You are not alone in this realm of thinking. Even though delicious dry and high quality Rosé has pretty much always been produced, it is unfortunately in most peoples minds been lumped into the same category as your Mother’s Mateus and your Grandmother’s White Zinfandel. And when you think about it it’s not all that surprising. Beringer, a well known mammoth of a winery from California, practically made their entire fortune by churning out over one hundred thousand cases a year of their affordable sweet blush. It’s been burned into the masses minds that Rosé can’t be anything but the sweet plonk of days past.

Somebody drinks this stuff, right?

Somebody drinks this stuff, right?

Blush makes you beautiful, doesn't it?

Blush makes you beautiful, doesn’t it?

Fortunately PMW has unbelievable access to the finest wines in the world. We are clobbered every Spring with a multitude of hand crafted Rosés made by producers who seek to fortify the reputation of Rosé as a world class wine that should always be considered when you are making your selection for your Friday night party or better yet Saturday barbecue. We wouldn’t be doing right by these hard working pink wine artisans if we didn’t succeed in spreading our undying love for Rosé. So there we are, constantly urging our patrons to “think pink” and witnessing ridiculous amounts of Rosé walk out our very door every single day. We are proud knowing that bone dry and highly satiating Rosé is being prominently featured all over the globe on wine lists and retail establishments.

I suppose we would be leaving a stone unturned if we weren’t to explain just why we are so damn excited about this particular wine category.

Rosé wine is basically a pink potion made by bleeding or pressing juice from red grapes (the color comes from the contact with the grape skins) or by blending portions of red wine and white wine together. It’s a process that can coax some of the most delicate and pretty aromatics possible from nearly any variety of black-skinned grapes.  So what does this mean in terms of the flavor of the wine and it’s practical application? Well in a nutshell, you kinda are able to get the best of both worlds! You can attain the fresh and bright acid driven character of great white wine plus the highly desirable red fruit and secondary flavor characteristics of great red wine. You can even impart phenolic content to the wine. Yes, Rosé can have tannin too!

Because of this harmony of red and white wine attributes, Rosé can go beautifully with many foods that most might only pair with either a red or a white wine. Their generous fruit and staunch acidities make them matchable with a vast array of dishes. Have you ever been out to dinner at a nice restaurant and everyone at the table orders drastically different dishes, and the host is struggling to choose a wine that can fill the tall order of being tasty with Chicken Caeser Salad, Seared Rare Tuna and Grilled Ribeye. Rosé, along with Riesling and Champagne by the way, might be their huckleberry!

And whats more is that Rosé is made in a wide variety of different weights, from lighter bodied quaffable styles to full bodied deeply textured styles. This means that while Rosé can obviously be sipped at your fourth of July barbecue it can also be enjoyed in front of a cozy fire in the dead of winter, in other words all year round. Any season is Rose season here at PMW and no matter what time of year we always have some tasty pink wine on deck.

The last and certainly not least reason why we love drinking Rosé so much is because, its just so damn easy to drink. After a long day of tasting red wine being hit over the head with heavy, extracted, or tannic wines, Rosé seems perfect cleanse the palate and take our minds off the daunting task of deciding which of the ten Pinot Noirs we tasted are worthy enough to be featured in our humble store.  The same way many use a cold beer to relax after a hard day at work.

If our passion for pink wine isn’t obvious by now, we encourage you to come on down to the shop and see for yourself how dedicated we have been to putting bottles of Rosé into our customers hands for decades.

With that in mind we would like to give you a peak at what Rosés we have been especially excited about lately. We’ll have you know that this is just a mere glimpse of what we offer and theres plenty more where that come from.

Have you seen our Spanish neighbors lately? Nah, I think they got tired of our late night shenanigans and moved across the bay.

Have you seen our Spanish neighbors lately? Nah, I think they got tired of our late night shenanigans and moved across the bay.

Arnot-Roberts Touriga Nacional Rosé-California $27 
“New wave pioneer Arnot-Roberts strikes again with this delicious Rosé made from Touriga Nacional and a splash of Tinta Cao, grown in the rocky and volcanic soils in Clear Lake. The nose shows fresh strawberry and blood orange, while the palate is bright with great acid and a savory saline finish. Very limited production.”

Division Pinot Noir Rosé- Willamette Valley, Oregon $24
“The wine is showing floral and spice nose with savory and wild strawberry aspects. The palate mineral rich, like wet rock, and intense in strawberry and Rainier cherry. The wine is light and crisp and has an intense wild pink salmon color. Out of the gates and drinking very well, but will likely evolve coming months and gain in complexity.”  190 cases made.

Domaine Collote Pinot Noir Rosé- Marsannay, France $21
“As soon as the grapes arrive at the cuverie, they are pressed, then fermentation and “élevage” is in stainless steel in order to keep all the fruit of this wine and preserve its freshness and youth. The Marsannay Rosé, soft and fruity, is backed with good strength and liveliness.  It rosé color has red currant hues. The aroma evokes freshly harvested fruit and  peaches.”

Domaine du Bagnol Grenache, Mourvedre, and Cinsault Rosé- Cassis, France $29
“The Rosé is produced from several parcels that comprise slightly less than 7 hectares of vineyards.  The vineyards are clay and limestone, situated on a gentle slope with a north – northwest exposure.  The blend is Grenache (55%), Mourvedre (31%) and Cinsault (14%).  Production tops out at about 40,000 bottles per annum; approximately 6000 bottles are allocated to the US market.”

Ameztoi Rosado di Hondurabbi Beltza- Getariako Txakolina, Spain $22
“The pink sibling of Ameztoi’s flagship white, this vibrant rosé is made from a mix of red and white indigenous grapes and is bottled with a little residual carbon to give it a light spritz. Fermented in stainless steel. Candied red fruits combine with a lime infused edge makes this a wildly intriguing rosé. The bottle will not last long!”

Graci Rosato di Norello Mascallese- Etna, Italy $20 
“Vessel cement tanks, no malolactic fermentation. Five months of contact with fine lees, natural filtration. One month in bottle before release. Pale salmon pink. Very elegant and understated, with pretty red whole berries Palate: Harmonious and sublime, exquisitely balanced throughout. Ripe berried and saline finish.”

Please remember we offer 10% off any twelve bottles of wine. This can save you some coin when you are putting together a case of Rosé for your next weekend event.

Cheers and thank you to our loyal patrons.

Thanksgiving Wines

Thanksgiving WinesThis Thanksgiving, we took the guesswork out of wine shopping for you and created a special section filled with some of our favorite bottles. Whatever your palate or price point, your turkey is sure to be in good company with any of these wines.

We have plenty more recommendations that we couldn’t fit on the shelf–feel free to ask us for a personalized pairing!

Sparkling:

N/V Gaston Chiquet Tradition Champagne, $50
A classic Champagne with rich, toasty flavors balanced by lively acidity
N/V Ettore Germano Sparkling Nebbiolo Rose ‘Rosanna,’ $35
Unique, gorgeously hued, and brimming with elegant red fruit flavors
N/V Paltrinieri Lambrusco di Sorbara Rose, $13.99
Delicious and easy with tart rhubarb and strawberry notes–great with cranberry sauce!

White:

2013 Donnhoff Riesling, $25
Aromatic with great acidity, lots of stone fruit, and a hint of smoke
2011 Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet Clos du Chateau, $29
An excellent value in white Burgundy, with great precision and minerality and tart green apple flavors

Red:

2012 Valle Dell’Acate Il Frappato, $19
Light, bright, and refreshing, with tasty strawberry notes
2011 Hofgut Falkenstein Spatburgunder Spatlese Trocken, $22
Fantastic light-bodied German Pinot Noir with intriguing earthy and herbal character
2012 Jane et Sylvain Bourgogne, $30
Killer red Burgundy with classic Pinot Noir red fruit and mouthwatering acidity and minerality
2013 Yann Bertrand Fleurie, $24
One of our favorite wines of the year–light, aromatic, and bursting with great Beaujolais flavor
2103 Succés Vinicola Cuca de Lllum, $17
An unusual, vibrant, and delicious natural Trepat from Catalunya that’s almost too easy to drink
2013 Julien Sunier Reigne, $27
Complex and serious Beaujolais with juicy fruit and a touch of spice
2011 Camus-Bruchon Savigny-Narbantons Premier Cru, $40
Excellent balanced and complex old-vine Burgundy
2011 Domaine de la Cote Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills, $45
Seductive, aromatic medium-weight California Pinot Noir
2010 Domaine Dominique Gallois Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru, $90
Impeccable balance, clearly articulated flavors and great precision–quintessential Gevrey-Chambertin.

Part I

1. Why Burgundy?

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.”

Easy, right?

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.

Part II

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:

(a) 2011 Dom. Dominique Gallois Gevrey-Chambertin “La Combe Aux Moines,” 90.
(b) 2011 Marchand-Tawse Gevrey-Chambertin “Les Fontenys,” 100.
(c) 2011 Marc Roy Gevrey-Chambertin “La Justice,” 83
(d) 2009 Dom. Bachelet Gevrey-Chambertin V.V., 90.
(e) 2009 Sylvie Esmonin Gevrey-Chambertin V.V., 80.
(f) 2004 Dugat-Py Gevrey-Chambertin “Coeur du Roy,” 125.

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