Discussions have arose with some customers who love red Burgundy, but tend to prefer bottles on the younger side. While the tertiary notes that develop with age may speak to you, or not, it's undeniable some producers are known for the most glacial of aging. Ghislaine Barthod of Chambolle Musigny is at the top of that list.
Today, I'm very happy to offer a range from Barthod covering 1989 through 2016.
I vividly remember Becky Wasserman's 10-Year-On retrospective of the 2002 vintage held at her home in Burgundy in 2012. Elite domaine's top Premier and Grand Cru bottlings filled tables for the walk-around tasting. When all was said and done, it was the wines of Ghislaine Barthod that held a level of freshness and verve that was in a world of its own at this tasting of vintage past.
There's a piano string-like tension to these Chambolle-Musigny wines that, in many ways, illustrate the personality of the village the best. This high proportion of active limestone separates Chambolle from just about every village in the Côte d'Or, save for Volnay. Barthod's eye toward transparency and grace have always put these atop my personal Burgundy wish list.
Visiting with Christoph Schaefer seven years ago at his family's cellar at the foot of the wickedly steep Domprobst vineyard of Graach (pictured above) was an unforgettable experience. The wines have long impressed me for their featherweight lightness and mineral spring purity of fruit. The balance found throughout the wines coming from the Mosel River Valley captivate us at every turn, but, for me, those from Willi Schaefer sit in a select category. Along with J.J. Prüm, this is where the Mosel reaches its crescendo.Today, I'm happy to offer the full range of in-stock Willi Schaefer Rieslings. The list covers current releases as well as extreme rarities. Value can be found with age, now at 15 years the 2004 Riesling QBA at $34/btl is a great example of the magic capable of developing in bottle. And, several Auction (Grosser Ring) bottlings with a big emphasis on the epic 2001 vintage certainly marks the highlight of this group.Schaefer's minute holding of 4.2 hectares almost exclusively focuses on two vineyards in the village of Graach, the Himmelreich and Domprobst - both comprised of Devonian slate soils. The Himmelreich, in its youth, is the more approachable, fruity, and silky. Lots of citrus and white peach tend to dominate. There's an agility and sense of weightlessness to Himmelreich that personifies the magic of the Mosel.The Domprobst is the more deep, spicy, and powerful. Earthy characteristics reveal themselves here in wines with slightly higher acidity. Flavor profile tends to push further away from the citrus register and into yellow and red orchard fruit notes.
When considering the most soulful and magically unique wines in Italy, the name Paolo Bea always leads the discussion. The family roots in Umbria's Montefalco region stretch back to the 16th century on this property, now a diverse eco system of livestock, vegetables, and fruits, with only five of the fifteen hectares devoted to vines.
Today, I'm happy to offer a deep lineup from Paolo Bea, including rare 1.5L and 3L bottlings.
San Valentino is an intriguing blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino, and 15% Montepulciano from a clay-dominant single vineyard at 1,300 feet. With Umbria's fruit forward personality, the high elevation here adds a dimension of lift that makes this one of the world's most hedonistic, yet refreshing wines. From 50-yr-old vines.
Rosso de Veo comes from Sagrantino vines in the Cerrete vineyard which sits at the highest point in all of Montefalco at 1,500 feet. Clay and limestone comprise the soil here. 2005 was the first vintage of Rosso de Veo, and has since been adored for its more approachable and fruit forward nature, as compared to the Pagliaro. Fermentation and aging follows the same protocol as Piparello.
Pagliaro is all planted to Sagrantin, also perched at 1,300 feet. The grapes see harvest toward the end of October and spend up to 50 days on their skins for maceration. The fermented wine is aged for one year in stainless steel, then two years in large Slavonian botti, and finally one more year in bottle. Many of the notes from the Rosso de Veo are found here, but there's a darker and more wild expression of fruit and earth. Sagrantino is notorious for its firm tannins, but Bea's examples always show softer and more approachable tones than is the Montefalco norm.
Cerrete is Bea's highest altitude Sagrantino vineyard, and has only been produced since 2007. Like the Pagliaro, it's immensely concentrated, but the added lift and brightness is something entirely different.
Arboreus is comprised of clone of Trebbiano known as Trebbiano Spoletino where vine training is high, allowing clusters to hang above the ground. Planted in Trevi and Montefalco between 650-700 feet on clay and gravel soils. The Trebbiano sees skin contact for up to 3 weeks and then is pressed and aged in stainless steel tanks for minimum two years. Sulphur is never added.
I've slowly been amassing this collection from Barbaresco's most historic estate. There's no winery in Piedmont, or perhaps the world, which exemplifies the spirit of collective contribution quite like the Produttori del Barbaresco. While the single-vineyard Barbarescos garner much of the fame, the blended straight Barbaresco has proven to be one of the world's great values in cellar-worthy wine. Today's collection features wines as far back as 1964 through the current releases.
It was in 1894 when the headmaster of the Royal Enological School of Alba, Domizio Cavazza, created the cooperative by pulling together nine vineyard owners to bottle their wines in his castle. Before then, grapes had been sold off to Barolo producers or simply labeled as "Nebbiolo di Barbaresco". This Cantine Sociali was then closed in the 1930's due to the economic restrictions of fascism. In 1958, the priest of Barbaresco gathered together nineteen growers, knowing the only chance at prosperity was to form as one - the Produttori del Barbaresco was officially founded.
Today, 51 growers are the backbone of production covering nine great single-vineyard Barbarescos: Asili, Rabajà, Pora, Montestefano, Ovello, Pajè, Montefico, Muncagota, and Rio Sordo. Truly reflecting this band of brothers, these prized Barbarescos will only be produced if each one meets the highest standards. Should only one vineyard not make the cut then there will be no single-vineyard wines produced that year.
The Langhe Nebbiolo is the entry-level wine of the Produttori, offering immediate accessibility. The straight Barbaresco is made each year comprised of grapes within the DOCG zone. For me, this is the benchmark bottling of the region, offering a value that consistently delivers well above its price point. In exceptional years, the nine single-vineyard Barbarescos will be produced. The rigorous standards today are as strong as ever.
Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier produces wines that, personally, can be best described asdesert island Pinot Noir. We're talking the short list. There are few producers in the world who summon the interest of collectors and the respect of their neighbors quite like Mugnier. When I moved to Burgundy in January 2012 it was Mugnier I visited first. I don't ever recall meeting a vigneron who so very much matched his or her wines. He was soft spoken, introspective, and authentic in the way you hoped your hero would be if you were lucky enough to meet them one day. This afternoon was pretty close to that.
Today, I'm very happy to offer a small collection from Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier.
The domaine lies in the heart of the village of Chambolle-Musigny, home to the most ethereal wines of Burgundy. Mugnier's gentle approach to winemaking is more synonymous with the village dubbed the Queen of Burgundy than any other producer.In fact, Mugnier only produces one Pinot Noir from outside, the Premier Cru Monopole Clos de la Maréchale in Nuits-Saint-Georges.
The easy way to tell the story is to say Mugnier applies that lifted style of his Chambolle wines to his Maréchale, hailing from a village better known for dark earth and muscular structure. Though this characterization has plenty of validity, it tends to sell short just how profound in its own right this monopole vineyard (one owner) from Nuits-Saints-Georges really is.
Maréchale lies at the southernmost end of N-S-G, coming from the Premeaux commune. For centuries the wines of Premeaux have been described as the most elegant of the larger N-S-G appellation. Within Maréchale there are portions of oolitic limestone and sandy soils that are wildly different from what's found throughout the village. This terroir plays as much a role in the elegance of the wine here as Mugnier's soft touch in the cellar.
* From the 1820's the walled in Clos de la Marechale vineyard appeared on maps, and in 1855 Jules Lavalle's publication classifying vineyards ranked Maréchale as "1ère Cuvée" - Lavalle said at this time the top wines of Premeaux were selling for the same price as Grand Cru Clos Vougeot bottlings.
Clos de la Maréchale always shows a stunning array of red fruits like pomegranate and wild strawberry, a tell-tale mocha note, and always finishes with a sappy, black cherry core. Mugnier de-stems 100%, during fermentation punching down of the cap is very gentle and done relatively infrequently, and new oak usage is minimal. The goal is to never over-extract too much tannin or color.
These wines are always on the more pale end of the spectrum, dominated as much by their notes of roses and violets as they are by fruit profile. This is the essence of perfumed Burgundy. When Pinot Noir was christened the heartbreak grape chances are strong it was Mugnier in the glass.