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.
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.
"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.
Sitting with friends at San Francisco's Zuni Cafe with a platter of oysters is one of life's great pleasures. This occurs far less frequently than I'd like, but after returning from a vineyard tour in Mendocino I found myself there before a late flight back home. Zuni's wine list is one of the best in the city, and it's always a challenge to be decisive before the oysters arrive. A friend wasted no time in choosing the perfect pairing of stainless steel Chablis. There may be several trustworthy options in this group, but nothing exceeds Louis Michel. And no bottling brings more obvious value than his famous Premier Cru, Montée de Tonnerre - or as it translates, Thunder Mountain.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2014, 2016, & 2017 Louis Michel Chablis Premier Cru Montée de Tonnerre.
Montée de Tonnerre, much like Gevrey's Clos Saint Jacques or Chambolle's Les Amoureuses, is really Premier Cru in name only given the proper hands. The south-west facing slope sits next to the 7 Grand Cru vineyards of Chablis along the right bank of the Serein river. In the northernmost region for still Chardonnay this SW exposure is vital to bring ripeness, one that seriously separates the great from the modest in Chablis.
Louis Michel was an innovator in the 1960's, moving away from barrel aging of Chardonnay. The Kimmeridgian limestone soil here was viewed as so unique that stainless steel was the more ideal vessel to fully unmask the terroir. Steely Chablis and oysters can be a great combo, but the old vines of Montée de Tonnerre bring a sense of grandeur that marches to a different beat.
Michel's Thunder Mountain is always a favorite selection for the cellar, as the wine picks up flesh and deeper color with time. The crushed oyster shell component that is exhibited on day one is met with sweet cream and hazelnut notes that slowly develop.
In the context of great white Burgundy vineyards, Montée de Tonnerre is always part of the elite group. The price tag can start at $230+ from some Chablis domaines. Louis Michel's lineup has always been synonymous with value, but at as low as $45 per bottle his Thunder Mountain is unquestionably the gem of the region.
The drive from Mt. Etna to Vittoria was a great reminder as to just how varied the landscape and terroir of Sicliy is. Temperatures rise and the climate turns dry and arid. It's hard to believe this place I'm headed is beloved for the freshness and clarity of its wines. There's no better introduction to the wines of Vittoria then through the 1980-founded dream project brewed up three young friends.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2018 COS Frappato for $26 per bottle, along with the COS Nero d'Avola and Cerasuolo.
Originally, Giambattista Cilia, Giusto Occhipinti, and Cirino Strano (COS) chose as young men to produce 1,470 bottles of wine in October 1980. Cilia's father had a winery, and 3 hectares of nearby bush-trained vines were sourced. It was simply intended as a fun project. After showing the wine to a renowned sommelier in Palermo the trio received a much surprised enthusiastic response, and were told they needed to follow down this path.
The magic of Vittoria, one that took some time to make itself evident to the naked eye, is the soil and wind. There's a constant breeze coming from the Hyblaean mountains sweeping through these vines resting on red clay/sand over a deep bedrock of limestone. The wind helps moderate these inland temperatures preserving acidity, the red sand cools immediately after the sun sets, and the limestone is responsible for low pH levels in the wine - giving high acidity and nervy minerality. Organic and biodynamic viticulture here are implemented on all parcels.
Putting all this together it's clear why the red wines coming from COS resemble traditional Burgundy and Northern Rhone in their brightness, energy, and spice. Frappato and Nero d'Avola are the two main red varieties. An over-generalization can be made to the former resembling Pinot Noir, with the latter resembling Syrah. Blended together the most recognized of the wines of Vittoria is produced, called Cerasuolo.
COS has put these two obscure varieties on the worldwide map. Over the years the small region of Vittoria has garnered more attention, and rightfully so. The three friends are the ultimate ambassadors and are constantly pushing the envelope in maximizing the potential for their wines, never resting on their laurels.
I met with Giusto Occhipinti just as they were starting to bottle the new vintage. The Cerasuolo is fermented in cement and aged in large Slavonian oak casks, similar to what is used for traditional Barolo and Brunello. This is certainly one of the most important choices made to ensure the wines are accentuated by crisp, refreshing notes that make the wines a joy to drink, and just as importantly pair well at the dinner table with a wide range.