• Savoie's Fresh Streak

    Savoie's Fresh Streak

    Over the last few years, I've found myself reaching more and more for new cool-climate French wines. Of course, that has to include the Savoie, located just along the Swiss border in view of Mont Blanc. Although history is as steep as the slopes here, it's a younger name, Domaine des Ardoisières, that I turn to for alpine inflections and mineral spring purity in both the whites and reds.

    Ardoisières works with two sites in the Savoie, Cevins and St. Pierre de Soucy, both farmed biodynamically since their 1998 founding. These vineyards were originally planted back in Roman times but were overtaken by forest as the region fell into obscurity. A group cleared these forests in the late 1990's for replanting, then in 2005, Champagne native Brice Omont took the lead on winemaking. This small-production estate has become the darling of the Savoie and a champion of the region's great potential.

    From the clay-dominant hillsides of St. Pierre de Soucy, Argile Blanc is made of 40% Jacquère, 40% Chardonnay, and 20% Mondeuse Blanche. And Argile Rouge is 80% Gamay and 20% Persan. Compared to Beaujolais Gamay, this Savoie rendition has lighter body and more pepper tones. The fruit profile is more red raspberry than the accustomed plush, grapey Beaujolais traits, and the finish lingers with a brisk mineral flicker that's lip-smacking good! Both wines are aged for nine months in vats.

    And from southeast-facing terraces in Cevins, Quartz Blanc is made of 100% Altesse and Améthyste Rouge is 60% Persan and 40% Mondeuse Noire. The heavy schist soils in Cevins give a racy personality and pulverized rock core that makes this one of my favorite French regions for crisp whites. If you haven't experienced Altesse, you're missing out! These being the most mineral-driven and age-worthy wines of the domaine, they're both aged 18 for months in barrel.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Burgundy Love Affair: 2017 Joseph Drouhin

    Burgundy Love Affair: 2017 Joseph Drouhin

    If I were to choose one domaine in Burgundy to drink from Chablis through the Côte de Beaune, it would be Joseph Drouhin. The name has become synonymous with elegance and precision, offering terroir-driven wines founded upon transparency first and foremost. While the relatively large estate purchases grapes from many top growers, they also have their own domaine holdings where all aspects of viticulture are under their control—fully organic and biodynamic.

    Robert Drouhin was among the first in Burgundy to adopt "culture raisonnée" in the late 1950s, and today the domaine is fully organic and biodynamic in all owned vineyards. Grapes are de-stemmed and fermented with native yeasts. Gentle punch-downs are applied once per day for the first half of fermentation, with pump-overs utilized afterward.

    Drouhin's Beaune 1er Cru Monopole, Clos des Mouches Blanc and Rouge, transcends the reputation of its village. Located at the southern end of Beaune next to Pommard, Clos des Mouches always surprises with the classic Drouhin elegance married with the more powerful style of the village. The track record of aging is unmatched in Beaune.

    Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru is labeled as such, because it comes from only 1.3 hectares of vines divided through the Premier Cru vineyards: Noirots, Hauts Doix, Borniques, Plantes, and Combottes. The tiny parcels are vinified together. Among secret cuvées in all of France, I put this pretty high on my list. This always over-delivers with the classic, unadulterated lacey Chambolle purity and chalky definition.

    My first experience tasting the adored Premier Cru, Les Amoureuses, was at a small wine shop in Chassagne-Montrachet in 2012. A well-known Canadian collector called me over to taste the highly anticipated 2010 release. Not surprisingly, the wine in the glass was one of the most memorable I had in Burgundy. There's something to be said for the openness and generosity of brand new releases. Pure, unadulterated fruit and maximum impact.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Bare-Naked Chablis

    Bare-Naked Chablis

    Finding Chablis deeply entrenched in the natural category while still delivering rigor and classicism is a challenge. For a while, hunting down ample quantities of Château de Béru, who's become a leader in the natural movement, was equally difficult, but thanks to New York importer Zev Rovine and his expansion out west, that's changed.

    The Béru family has owned and farmed Château de Béru for four centuries, their eight planted hectares being known as some of the stoniest vineyards in all of Chablis. Since 2004, it's been overseen by Comte Éric de Béru's daughter, Athénais, and she quickly converted their farming to organic and biodynamic practices. Old oak is employed for élevage, and wines are fermented with native yeasts. No filtering or fining.

    The wines really unfurl in the glass, opening up over an hour to reveal more luscious green apple, lime zest, toast, and almond paste, all held together with a brilliantly strict vein of minerality. For me, Chablis hits the highest notes when that broad wet stone mineral quality is met by a crystalline level of acidity.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Giovanna's Chianti Classico

    Giovanna's Chianti Classico

    Making the case for why pockets of Chianti warrant the same attention as Brunello di Montalcino or even Burgundy is a challenge for me. The blame can fall squarely at the feet of those infamous straw-covered fiasco bottles or with higher-priced examples where sharp acidity may mesh with the marinara but not much else.

    But when I have the opportunity to prove that Sangiovese from Chianti Classico can show grace and pristine fruit quality akin to Red Burgundy, I use Giovanna Morganti's Le Trame as my first example. I implore you to trust this will be your moment of clarity for Sangiovese.

    Importer Neal Rosenthal's Montevertine and its Le Pergole Torte is a benchmark for the region. But in many aspects, Rosenthal's other discovery, Le Trame, is better suited to illustrate how Sangiovese's sometimes illusive fruit-forward profile and silken tannins can lead the charge in calling to mind those traits I personally adore about Red Burgundy.

    All the technical information clearly outlines how Giovanna's Chianti Classico is one-of-a-kind, but it doesn't do a fair job of referencing what will end up in your glass. Farming her fives hectares using organic and biodynamic principles, you know the raw material is going to be pristine. But what stands out for me is that each vintage, no matter how challenging, the wines are just perfectly composed. Purity of fruit is what I look for above all else, and Giovanna is making a strong case now as the prime address for the best value Sangiovese in all of Tuscany.

    I'd like to cut this one short and say this is a profound wine that's simply a joy to drink. The number of times I've used this bottling to convince friends that Sangiovese can be fun, approachable, and deadly serious is innumerable. I recommend you take the dive to see what this small gem of an estate in Chianti Classico is all about!

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Sancerre's Seamless Trois Terroir

    Sancerre's Seamless Trois Terroir

    Vincent Gaudry delivers the single Sancerre that over delivers vintage after vintage. After the first sip, you'll immediately recognize something is different here given its price tag. There's a refinement in detail, the fruit displayed in the purest and most unadulterated fashion, with an authenticity that screams of terroir.

    Today, I'm happy to offer the 2018 Vincent Gaudry Sancerre Le Tournebride.

    Le Tournebride may be Vincent's introductory bottle, but it's always my favorite. Tournebride is sourced from old vines planted in each of the appellation's three main soils: silex, terres blanches, and caillottes. Surprisingly, Vincent is still part of a select group of Sancerre vignerons who employ organic and biodynamic farming. Vincent began this "radical" shift into organics in 1993 and fulfilled the rigorous Demeter certification for biodynamics in 2004.

    There is a quality to Gaudry's wines that just speak to a perfect sense of harmony between the three terroirs assembled here, as well as the structure and contours in play on the palate. Drinking Le Tournebride, I'm more reminded of the sensibilities found in Burgundy, where a sense of place almost overrides Sauvignon Blanc's characteristics.

    Sancerre is famous for simple, crisp, and chuggable whites reliant on its iconic name, but the value realm of the region still has alternatives. Gaudry is that beacon of top-notch quality in Sancerre where—in this case, for $32—you can expect the royal treatment from vine to bottle.

    Posted by Max Kogod