Since 1481, there have been 16 generations of unbroken lineage at the Chave estate along the Rhone River's towering granite slopes. When we look closely at the birthplace of Syrah there's no name more respected than that of Jean-Louis Chave.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2015 & 2016 Domaine Chave Saint Joseph, along with back-vintage Hermitage Rouge and Blanc stretching through 1985.
Chave's Saint Joseph captures everything that thrills the senses from Northern Rhone Syrah, while offering an immediacy and generosity upon release that Hermitage simply cannot. Each vintage flaunts a huge spectrum of black, blue, and red fruits. Spices range from exotic Indian to cracked black pepper. And the tell-tale notes of violets, olive tapenade, and roasted meats are always on full display.
However, it's the underlying mineral component from these granite terraced slopes serving as the backbone of Chave's wines. It's this definition that allows the wines to age effortlessly, and makes reaching for another sip habitual. Examples of the Saint Joseph from the late 1990's have floored me for their sense of vivacity, freshness, and still-present regal structure.
Jean-Louis Chave joined his father Gérard in 1992, following his studies in Enology at UC Davis. Once home, he undertook his primary mission of re-planting the steep slopes of Saint Joseph, as his ancestors had done centuries ago. In fact, it was precisely on this hillside that the domaine officially started in 1481. These vineyards had remained fallow since phylloxera decimated vineyards throughout France in the late 19th century.
Along with carrying on the tradition of producing the the iconic Hermitage bottlings, Jean-Louis knew that these treacherously steep hillsides in Saint Joseph were capable of producing magnificent wines, and offered a value to consumers that Hermitage could not. 25 years have now passed since these terraces began to be re-built by hand, and vines have been re-planted among the traditional échalas stakes. Today, the results are stunning wines that remind us the root of all success in the Rhone comes from hands-on work and fastidious attention to detail, something the Chave family has personified for hundreds of years.
Since the Saint Joseph appellation was officially given AOC status in 1956 the boundaries have expanded immensely. It's these choice parcels that represent the best and most serious terroir for the zone. Slopes that the Chave's knew were capable of producing intensely concentrated, structured, and age-worthy Syrah. Land where machines were incapable of working, as everything must be done entirely by hand.
"Readers who have not tasted these wines yet owe it to themselves to do so, as Clerget has all the passion, talent and skill to be one of the next generation of superstar vignerons in Burgundy."
- Stephen Tanzer, Vinous, January 2018
Thibaud Clerget's debut release of the 2015 Volnay 1er Cru Monopole Clos du Verseuil was, without question, the single most exhilarating new Burgundy find of the last three vintages.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 3rd release from the talented Thibaud Clerget, the 2017 Volnay 1er Cru Monopole Clos du Verseuil, complete with a steep discount on vertical 3-packs with 2016 & 2015.
Much of what draws me into Burgundy is the history of the delineated parcels and the family domaines who've tended them for generations. Careful study over hundreds of years have keyed vignerons into where good terroir becomes great, and that line is often very fine.
It's unlikely to find a young vigneron's initial vintages met with such warm reception. And even rarer is the fact that the pinnacle of Clerget's Volnay lineup comes from a monopole Premier Cru vineyard that's relatively unknown by name, but in terms of real estate it's the secret crown jewel of the village.
I'm too young to remember when Mugnier took Maréchale back from Faiveley and produced his first vintage, or when Dujac released the inaugural Malconsorts. But, I will always remember where I was the day I sat down and tasted the first release from Thibaud Clerget. The chatter surrounding the reborn Domaine Yvon Clerget has been steadily increasing over the two vintages. And the story of how this rebirth came to fruition is one destined for a Burgundy silver screen.
The Clerget family has been producing wines in Volnay for 28 generations. (Yes, that's a very different sort of family winemaking history). In 2009, Yvon Clerget chose to retire and wanted to hand the reigns off to his son, Thibaud. Although passionate and extremely knowledgeable about wine and the terroir of the domaine, Thibaud had a mature perspective. He knew in order to reach the heights he'd envisioned for the domaine the best course would be to work for other Burgundy elites. So, father and son decided all the fruit from the domaine would be sold off during this phase from 2009 to 2014.
Thibaud worked with the greatest terroir in Burgundy while at Hudelot-Noellat and Henri Boillot, intensely studying vineyard management and vinification practices. He also traveled to work with Pinot Noir-focused wineries in Oregon and New Zealand. In 2015 he returned to produce his first vintage at his home domaine in Volnay. Of his entire Côte de Beaune lineup it's the monopole vineyard (owned exclusively by Clerget) that had me twisting arms to get every possible bottle from the minuscule production of this secret site.Clos du Verseuil is the .6 hectare monopole that Thibaud Clerget will be celebrated for as the next several decades unfold, of this I'm sure. Situated in between fabled 1ers, Taillepieds & Clos de la Bousse d'Or, this site is all about that thrilling combination of power, elegance, and underlying tension. The same attributes that have placed D'Angerville and Lafarge's Volnay monopoles into the cellars of every serious Burgundy collector. There's no way to mince words, this bottling is Volnay at its best. And today pricing is far below where this will rise.
Finding satin-textured, über-young Nebbiolo that calls to mind Foillard's Morgon Cuvée Corcelette more so than a customarily tannic Barbaresco is something I never considered possible. Stay with me here. Hunting down this silk-fruited trait simply was not on my Nebbiolo radar, as usually it's only conveyed by the ultra-modern Piedmont examples, which, stylistically, are not for me. But, when an iconic Burgundy producer tipped me off to this Barbaresco name I made sure to taste immediately.
Today, I'm happy to offer Paolo Veglio's Cascina Roccalini Barbaresco Roccalini. Including the supremely approachable 2015, 2014, and the rare 2013 Riserva.
Barbarescos from Roccalini flip preconceived notions of the region and its capabilities upside down. There's an up-front, plush immediacy of the fruit profile that's just so easy to drink, yet with complexity and a mid-palate grip that's true to Nebbiolo and this heralded zone of Piedmont. As far as the delicious-factor is concerned, this is a total knockout - Among Piedmont discoveries I've made since opening in 2015, this is atop my list.
Paolo Veglio's story meanders through the cellars of Bruno Giacosa where Paolo's father, an architect, took him as a young boy. Years later in 1991, Paolo returned to Giacosa and asked if he might be interested in purchasing grapes that he was now tending on his home property. A skeptical Giacosa asked, "And, which vineyard is this?" Paolo told him it was Roccalini. And Giacosa replied, "I'll see you in the morning."
The surprisingly fresh, approachable and remarkably seamless Barbaresco from Roccalini is undoubtedly derived from Paolo's natural approach. Living above the cellar and vines, Paolo knew early on that organic farming was not only necessary for producing the best possible wine, but also for a healthy family life on this estate.
Paolo's insistence on taking the road less traveled in Piedmont leads him to question conventional thinking. He says, "Every time I see something that's too easy, something's not right, something we don't know yet." And, his philosophy at every stage is to take the longer path, one that requires more time, effort, and patience. And, I promise you, what you will find in this bottle will be a revelation unlike any you've had from Piedmont.
Roccalini is a special vineyard, just as Bruno Giacosa knew. It was 10 years of trials before Paolo finally chose to bottle his own family label. Any trepidation about drinking current release Barbaresco can be tossed aside right now. This wine is ready to go and will open your eyes to a very unique spirit in Barbaresco. As holiday season is in full gear, I highly recommend you pair Roccalini with your favorite winter recipes and prepare to be floored.
Volnay and its high limestone content sit in rare company with Chambolle-Musigny as one of Burgundy's most ethereal and delicate examples of Pinot Noir. Looking at the duo of D'Angerville and De Montille we're at the apex of what's proven possible here over many decades. While there may be no Grand Crus in the village, savvy collectors know these top Premier Crus transform and go the long haul as well as nearly anything from the Côte de Nuits.
Pronounced structure and tightly-coiled mineral tension make D'Angerville and De Montille perfect domaines to stash in the cellar, yet each has a more open-knit style than has been standard in the past. Today's list covers 2016 through 1985.
D'Angerville's protocol on excluding punchdowns and relying solely on pumpovers for fermentation give these wines a plush and soft-fruited personality that meshes brilliantly with the chalky terroir of Volnay. This combo brings enough slight austerity to make these both delicious and supremely thought-provoking.
De Montille has always been associated with whole cluster ferments, and, in turn, that elevated exotic spice component and stemmy crunch had made these famous for their fortress-like persona of the Hubert de Montille era. As son Etienne has taken over, these past decades have been moving to round their structure out a bit and provide an earlier drinking window. The style here is not a huge shift from one generation to the next as much as it is simply keen on allowing wines to offer more joy and expression in the early-going.
2018 in Beaujolais marks a much-needed return for growers to good yields and very high quality with a dry harvest. The last couple vintages have not been kind for vignerons in each of these areas. Massive amounts of spring rain actually proved a blessing as July and August heatwaves came next, meaning reserves of accumulated ground water was more than sufficient during through this stretch. 2018 is a ripe vintage for sure, but as compared to the bombastic 2015's, the alcohol is lower, acidity higher, and freshness a big part of the finished product.
As compared to other titans of Cru Beaujolais, Foillard and Lapierre, I find Dutraive's often lighter in color, with a more concentrated, lifted spice, and a more wild natural element that stands out from the pack due to his lower sulphur protocol. Waiting several years after release to get into top cuvées has been a big goal of mine, as the rare aged Dutraive is pure magic when fruit begins to fall more to the background and exotic spices become more prominent.