Finding compelling natural wines that equally hit the mark in their soundness and complexity is a mission of mine. When Spain's most exciting natural-minded producer tapped 1891 and 1910-planted Albillo vines I was enticed. Learning he also excluded sulphur additions and had blocked malolactic fermentation to highlight its fresh factor, I wanted to taste immediately.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2017 Alfredo Maestro Lovamor Albillo for $27 per bottle.
Lovamor comes exclusively from 128-yr-old and 119-yr-old Albillo vines in Peñafiel, located in Spain's Basque country. Alfredo Maestro excludes any and all additives in his winemaking. And here, he took the unusual step to vinify these white grapes on their skins for seven days, giving a warm golden hue and adding a textural grip and very slight tannin that makes this one of the wildest and most though provoking wines in all of Spain.
While the value here is certainly the first thing that pops at $27 from 128-yr-old vines, the main attraction is what happens in glass (or decanter depending on how you approach Lovamor). Once poured, there's a huge transformation that takes place.
What starts with spicy orchard fruit and slight cider-like tones shifts after time to reveal mouth-watering salinity and renewed freshness from lingering minerality. Pear and red apple notes are slowly met with a more nervy kaleidoscope of citrus fruits. It's a wine that provides equal amounts of deliciousness and fascination.
Whether you're focused intently on the unsulphured natural side of wines, or you're just curious to see the best executed skin-contact whites, Lovamor at $27 per bottle is your ideal landing spot.
In the magically distinctive Jura region there're special pockets where varieties blossom into their greatest and truest possbile form. For Poulsard (locally known as Ploussard) that fairy dust of sorts comes from the ground of the tiny village of Pupillin, located just south of Arbois. While Poulsard plantings throughout the Jura are crafted into singularly delicious wines, those from Pupillin are something entirely different.
My hunt for an example that lived up to what I drank while visiting the village in 2012 has been ongoing. After tasting through importer Neal Rosenthal's current releases that included the 2016 Overynoy-Crinquand Pupillin Ploussard, I was taken back instantaneously to that damp weekend 5 years ago. Poulsard here can often show a huge disparity in styles, and to be blunt, soundness due to its reductive and finiky nature. Overynoy-Crinquand showcases the rarefied air of Poulsard, a brightness and purity unlike anywhere else on earth.
Mickael Crinquand is the fourth generation to farm these 5 hecatres, of which all have been under organic regimen since the 80's. Here the red clay-limestone marl soil is planted to all of the standard Jura varieties: Trousseau, Chardonnay, Savagnin. But, the oldest vines today are Poulsard.
2016 in the Jura, as in nearby Burgundy, is a vintage I cannot overstate my enthusiasm for. Clarity and concentration is in total balance. Here, fermentation and aging takes place in large foudre, with pumpovers kept to a bare minimum to limit extraction. This protocol gives a whispery lace structure to Poulsard and highlights everything I love about the variety's fresh strawberry and sweet cinnamon spiced inflection. In the glass there's the palest of red hues you'll ever find, with a slight rust-colored tinge. But, a suprisingly sturdy tannic sturcture holds this featherweight in a way that provides a thrilling sense of grip.
Over the last decade, the Jura has brought us a new level of excitment and fascination for their native, obscure varieties. There aren't many importers who can touch Rosenthal's sense of mission in finding these smaller domaines that show their sense of place under the most sensitive and deft touch. Of all the esteemed terroirs within the region, it's Pupillin's Poulsard that compels me the most. At $30 per bottle from a magic vintage this is the wine that's finally ended my long pursuit.
Sylvain Pataille is famous for three things. Producing some of the most texturally seamless and balanced wines in the Côte de Nuits, serving as oenologist to over 15 other domaines, and having really, really awesome hair. Visiting at the domaine on my birthday in July ended up being a masterclass in terroir, as we tasted over 20 different wines from Marsannay.
Today, I'm happy to offer my favorite red from Sylvain Pataille, the 2017 Marsannay Clos du Roy for $65 per bottle.
Marsannay and Pataille are a match made in heaven. Both have seemingly flown under-the-radar for far too long. Search through any savvy Burgundy collector's cellar and next to the Rousseau and Dujac you're sure to find a host of Pataille Marsannay.
Located in the very north of the Côte de Nuits above Gevrey Chambertin, the village has a complicated history. Planted with Gamay during the time of classifications, by law no vineyards could receive status higher than villages. But, today there is no debate, Clos du Roy would undoubtedly be a Premier Cru.
The "Kings Vineyard" is comprised of a mix of light red clay and sand on top of Comblanchien limestone, with vines planted as far back as 1952. Pataille is a big proponent of whole cluster fermentation, and we see 100% here.
* Addtionally, I've listed a Chardonnay from Pataille's La Charme Aux Prêtres vineyard in Marsannay. I've never found a white vineyard in the Côte de Nuits that rivals the same fascination and delicious factor from what Pataille has bottled here. This very porous vineyard produces both Aligote and Chardonnay with extremely pronounced reductive traits (flinty, matchstick, smokey) in its wines. Côte de Nuits whites are known for their weightier texture and more broad shouldered personality. While this is true even here, the reductive element adds a fresh, saline streak I find absolutely captivating. While not inexpensive, this unique cuvée is among my favorites in all of Burgundy. Do not miss!
I buy Pataille's Clos du Roy vintage after vintage because it's a steal within the hierarchy of Burgundy's elite bottlings. It always finds that elusive mix between power and elegance. There's never any shyness from Clos du Roy, but the silken tannins Pataille endows here without relying on overt new oak influence is remarkable.
While Sylvain's wines are fabulous from top to bottom, the Clos du Roy is the bottling that demands the greatest admiration. At $65 per bottle, this is the Côte de Nuits' best and most serious value play year after year.
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.
In the hills above Dijon you can find the roots to one of Burgundy's greatest inception stories. While it's is a fresh departure from a domaine's normal evolution in Burgundy, the wines in bottle are the most thrilling element from Marc Soyard. In only three vintages they have gone from obscure to seeing a cult following.
Today, I'm happy to offer Marc Soyard's 2017 Domaine de la Cras Rouge and 2016 "Cras" Blanc.Domaine de la Cras goes against the grain of what Burgundian law has dictated for centuries. Five years ago the city of Dijon purchased a vineyard just outside their limits. The city essentially held a casting call to find a winemaker for the property. The criteria was that they must be young, have no family vineyard holdings, be prepared for organic farming, and open the domaine for educational tours. The rent for the land would be paid each year to the city in bottles, 2,000 exactly.
Marc Soyard, originally from the nearby Jura, was chosen. Soyard does not come from a family of vignerons, but he had worked previously for the esteemed and tiny Domaine Bizot in Vosne-Romanée. Bizot is known for their rigorous vineyard work, minuscule sulphur regimen, and their use of whole grape clusters for fermentation.Soyard works a slope, En Bessy, just outside Dijon. His Pinot Noir pulled me in immediately for its super crunchy and unadulterated bright red berry fruit. 100% whole cluster ferment gives a lifted and spicy, floral character that just floored me. Even before tasting, those aromas are so intoxicating they grab ahold of you straightaway.
The Chardonnay's supple mouthfeel melds with an exotic stone fruit profile and is backed up by a crazy, zippy mineral drive. In short, these wines are unlike anything produced in the region today. and speak to this unique slice of Dijon.The "Cras" bottlings are the domaine's top wines and come from the oldest vines on the steepest portion of En Bessy. Biodynamic and organic approach to all viticulture here, with only small amounts of sulphur additions, primarily at bottling. Older barrel elévage for the Coteaux de Dijon Chardonnay, and 50% new wood for the two "Cras" cuvées.