An epic retrospective tasting of the wines from Giuseppe Rinaldi were featured by Antonio Galloni in Vinous in May of 2017. This dinner in London was complete with vintages spanning 1990-2010. Looking back at these notes recently was the impetus for today's offer. A visit just before harvest in 2012 to the cantina was one of my very fondest memories of travels on the wine route. It was a true privilege to meet the family and taste the wines, including the monumental 2010's still in botti.Today, I'm happy to offer a wide range from Giuseppe Rinaldi stretching back to the epic 1967 Brunate Riserva. The first wines labeled under Giuseppe Rinaldi came in 1921 (pictured below). Battista Rinaldi continued the tradition at the estate in 1945, and after his passing his son Beppe returned home in 1992. Beppe's spirit over the last decades has been even more immortalized than the legendary wines he's produced. It was over this span that worldwide attention on Piedmont had gradually increased, and even in the last 15 years pricing and scarcity of the wines has drastically changed. In 2010 Beppe's daughter's Marta and Carlotta began making the wines, continuing in the same traditional fashion.Along with drinking the wines of Bartolo Mascarello and Giacomo Conterno, Rinaldis are among the most memorable I've had in Barolo. They appeal to every aspect of the senses and continually remind me that no matter how articulate experiences can be conveyed the true magic of them is a deeply personal one.As noted by Galloni, most of the production from this cantina had been sold to private customers. Finding back-vintage wines is not a common occurrence today. I was thrilled to be able to work over the last year with Rinaldi's US importer, Vinifera Imports, to acquire several older wines directly from the Rinaldi estate. Rinaldi is a revered traditionalist, following the techniques Battista and Giuseppe had employed in the early and mid 1900's. Wines are macerated on their skins for a long time, and aging takes place large botti. The results are powerful, deep Barolos that are met with the precision and aromatics that make them incomparable. They offer wild spices, gamey notes, and of course Nebbiolo's tell-tale tar and roses.Essentially two Barolos were made, the Brunate-Le Coste and the Cannubi (San Lorenzo)-Ravera. Laws recently changed and now multiple crus aren't permitted on labels. Starting in 2010 the Brunate-Le Coste was bottled with a higher 85% Brunate and just 15% Le Coste (the maximum legal addition). The Cannubi (San Lorenzo)-Ravera began to implement wine from Le Coste and the new name for the bottling is "Tre Tine" (three vats).
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.
Alain Graillot is to Crozes Hermitage as the Peyraud's are to Bandol: Benchmark and definitive representations of their appellations. Alain's journey to starting his domaine in 1985 began, of all places, in Burgundy alongside Jacques Seysses at Domaine Dujac. And, as one might imagine with Alain's Syrahs, there will be stems.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2017 Alain Graillot Crozes Hermitage and 2016 Crozes Hermitage La Guiraude.
Additionally, featured below is a very special joint project between Antoine Graillot and Raul Perez, the 2017 Encinas Bierzo Tinto for just $30 per bottle.
Prior to founding his domaine in 1985, Alain's work with Jacques imparted two key traits. He wanted his wines to be both supremely fresh and spicy. Certainly elegance is part of this equation too, and as temperatures have warmed in the last 34 years, Graillot continues to be a beacon for Rhône enthusiasts passionate about terroir-driven wines that are steeped in an unwavering traditionalist approach.
Alain's two sons both produce Syrah under their own labels, but the eponymous domaine is still unwavering in their use of 100% whole clusters for fermentation and aging only in older wood - divided between barrique and foudre.
La Guirade is not a single vineyard, but rather a selection of the best barrels, as Alain tastes through these personally each vintage.
Crozes Hermitage has long been a great appellation for those looking for value when it comes to the best producers working in the most esteemed parcels. But, even as Graillot's wines nail the value element, they stand out from the pack, as he is undoubtedly the benchmark name in this zone of the Northern Rhône valley.
Pascal Agrapart is to Avize what Champagne Pierre Péters is to Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. Here, Avize is the personification of summer to Mesnil's winter, although we're still on the chalky slopes that define the Côtes des Blancs. In the epicenter of Chardonnay royalty, Agrapart's Avize champagnes show an amplitude and breadth that's completely juxtaposed with Mesnil's austerity.
But, make no mistake about it, these extra brut and brut nature wines are defined the very most by their taut and energetic personalities, the sort which pair magically with Avize's more charming and generous demeanor. The greatest thing I can say about Pascal's wines is that they truly beg to be drunk. They provide never-ending fascination, wild development in glass with air, and they offer a quenching characteristic that just fulfills summertime needs every time.
Today, I'm happy to offer the new 2012 Agrapart release, complete with a late winery disgorgement of the 2009 Mineral.
Agrapart farms 10 hectares covering 60 different parcels, all located in Grand Cru villages, but Avize is the source of his Tête de Cuvées. Wines here commonly go through full malolactic, and elévage takes place in both older oak barrels as well as stainless steel.
Terroirs is comprised of Chardonnay sourced from Grand Cru villages, Avize, Oger, Cramant, and Oiry. A blend of two consecutive vintages, with the older vintage being aged exclusively in neutral oak barrels. A NV Blanc de Blancs that is the first I reach for alongside Pierre Péters'. In fact, last month I brought magnums of both to a dear friend's wedding. The side-by-side comparison was simply awesome.
Minéral is sourced from extremely chalky soils in Avize (Les Champboutons) and Cramant (Les Bionnes). Pascal imagined Chablis would be a village that would most closely match with the personality of Minéral. Laser-focused, and finishes with a deep salty impression of white fruits.
Complantée is co-planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Arbane, and Petit Meslier. Although it may appear this mix of varieties would define the wine, it's the unique parcel's terroir with its mix of chalk and clay throughout that's ultimately the unique component. Like Terroirs, this contains two consecutive vintages blended.
Avizoize is sourced from an upper hillside in Avize containing old vines. The soil here sees much more clay than Minéral, so it has a fuller texture and sense of gravitas, but the chalky bedrock still ultimately informs the backbone of the wine. Fully chiseled, with some up-front deep, textural impact and then firms up and gets surprisingly linear on the finish. Very long.
Venus, named after Pascal's horse who works this vineyard, is a single vineyard that takes us back to a more linear style along the lines of Minéral. But, the clay composition here brings a power and drive that's simply quintessential Avize Grand Cru. Pascal called to mind Meursault when thinking about the style that comes from this site. This sees no dosage due to the perfectly ripe and satisfactory vin clair we tasted in barrel. In fact, a still Coteaux Champenois would be an ideal partnership with this site. We'll see if Pascal decides to toy with that idea. No hints...
Experience was an adventurous endeavor by Pascal to produce champagne with only grapes (no sugar, dosage, or yeast). To do this he took his base wine (2012 here) and added unfermented pressed grape juice from the following year (2013 here) to use as the prise de mousse used to create the secondary fermentation. This cuvée is only made when two consecutive vintages are up to Pascal's high standards.