It's no secret that over the last decade Jean-Marie Fourrier has catapulted his family's domaine into elite status within Burgundy. Fourrier is the 5th generation to lead this 9-hectare Gevrey Chambertin estate, officially taking over for his father in 1994 after interning with the mythical Henri Jayer.
Today, I'm happy to offer the Domaine Fourrier lineup, highlighted by the 2017 vintage.
The wines of Fourrier are most associated in my mind for their silken texture with ripe and vivid fruit. They also are lauded for their ability to drink great at all stages of development. But, above all, it's a sense of purity and site reflection that have put them atop the wishlist of every traditional Burgundy collector.
2017 is a red vintage in Burgundy that will show a ton of accessibility and charm in the near term, with softer tannins and more open-knit fruit than we saw in 2015 & 2016. Structurally, the wines share a profile with the 2007 vintage, but the quality of fruit at harvest is much more sound with no signs of the herbal elements that kept that vintage from entering a more elite category. 2017, unlike 2015 & 2016 is a vintage where terroir shines through first and foremost, as opposed to being marked by the aforementioned vintages' intensely robust and dark fruit profile. Generally speaking, the 2017's veer more into the red fruit register.
Jean-Marie is most noted for his strict reliance on using only old vines for domaine bottlings - averaging 60 years according to my visit in November 2012. The maximum new oak employed is 20%, and like Jayer grapes here are overwhelmingly de-stemmed.
Much of the magic to the wines' purity has to be tied into Jean-Marie's practice of using very minimal amounts of sulphur, instead relying on dissolved CO2 to remain in the wine protecting against oxidation. Because of this it's recommended that younger bottles are double decanted to help "blow-off" any slight effervescence that might remain.
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.
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.
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.
When it comes to France's south-west Languedoc region, I tread lightly. There are some hidden gems, but certain criteria is a prerequisite: high altitude vineyards, very depleted rocky soils, organic farming, and a light touch in the cellar. When a Burgundian chooses to continue south after training under Jean Foillard in Morgon you know there's going to be something special at the end of that rainbow.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2017 Maxime Magnon "Rozeta" Corbières Rouge for $40 per bottle.
Rozeta is sourced from a limestone and decomposed granite (schist) parcel of 50-60-year-old Carignan vines. Supplemented with small amounts of Grenache, Syrah, Grenache Gris, Macabou, and Terret. Aging takes place in neutral Burgundy barrels from a top Chassagne Montrachet domaine.
Prior to landing in Corbières, Maxime worked under Morgon icon, Jean Foillard. And then traversed his way through the Languedoc spending time with Faugères' most respected name, Didier Barral. It was with Barral where he was introduced to an abandoned plot of old Carignan vines in nearby Corbières. He quickly jumped on this unique hillside to embark on his own new chapter.
Most noted from Maxime's vineyards is the lack of topsoil. Certainly, all great vineyards have a rocky base below, but in these high altitude parcels the drama is jaw-dropping (see picture below). Old Carignan makes up most of the plantings, but small percentages of Grenache, Syrah, Grenache Gris, Macabou, and Terret are found throughout and all grapes are fermented together. It's this addition that helps brings an elevated lift and aromatic intensity to these wines that have ingratiated them to more natural-leaning wine lovers.
Magnon's influence from Burgundy and Beaujolais is clear the moment you put your nose in the glass. Rozeta has a paler hue and delivers a freshness of wild red fruit tones that are a huge departure from the Languedoc norm.
I speak a lot about a wine's sense of life and verve. This heartbeat of authenticity is something winemakers often shy away from, instead opting for the safe haven of dark extraction of fruit and density for the sake of powerful impact. Magnon flips these typical Languedoc sensibilities upside down, instead relying on transparency and only minimal sulphur at bottling to highlight the most natural characteristics of these ancient hillside plantings.