Chablis continues to offer value that's seemingly more and more unmatched. While prices of white Burgundy in the Côte de Beaune climb, Chablis from artisanal producers continually over-deliver at various price points. The small domaine of Moreau-Naudet really captures the best of this current state of affairs in Chablis.Quantities may be painfully low, but quality couldn't be higher.
Today, I'm happy to offer a wide range from Moreau-Naudet stretching from 2016 back to 2013.Moreau-Naudet falls into a select camp of Chablis producers who are incredibly skilled in pushing ripeness to the max the old fashioned way, serious hands-on farming. In the cellar, the non-interventionist approach is then focused on two elements above all: preserving the distinctive characteristics of each Premier and Grand Cru site, and maintaining tension and salinity to counter this riper style of Chablis.
Sadly, today much of Chablis is still harvested by machine, and use of herbicides and pesticides is prevalent. Much of what we've become accustomed to drinking from these famed limestone slopes is a crisp and lean wine that's really just the result of early picking and industrial farming focused on high yields. The late Stéphane Moreau knew there was an alternative route to take after becoming enchanted with the wines and the more natural approach by the revered Vincent Dauvissat.Stéphane joined his father, taking control of the family domaine in 1999, and flipped everything on its head. Today the regimen is full organic farming with biodynamic principles, natural yeast ferments, and harvesting 100% by hand. Relentless focus in the vineyard means picking, here in the coldest region in France for still Chardonnay, is pushed as late as possible to ensure maximum ripeness.The style here is supremely textural and deep Chardonnay, still with an unmistakable Chablisienne oyster-shell mineral component. The wines exemplify that ultimate ideal of density without weight. Moreau-Naudet joins the likes of Thomas Pico (Pattes Loup) and Alice et Olivier De Moor to embody this style perfectly.Allen Meadows of Burghound was one of the first to highlight the success here, "I find Moreau to be one of the most exciting young growers in Chablis and his wines are well worth the trouble to get to know if you haven't yet tried them."
In so many ways Ciro Biondi is the perfect introduction to the land of Mt. Etna. Of all my visits, Biondi's estate is the closest to the southern port town of Catania, my home through my June 2017 stay. As I drive up from the sea toward the massive volcano looming above I'm still greeted by the palm trees and scenery most reminiscent of the Mediterranean. It's in this southern portion of Etna where the Nerello Mascalese-based wines are the very most elegant and softly-textured. The charm and infectious enthusiasm of Ciro Biondi is an easy way to be pulled into the history of Etna.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2017 Biondi Outis Etna Rosso for $40 per bottle.
Biondi's family has been farming vines in this small southern town of Trecastagni since the early 1800's, and began estate bottling in the early 1900's. Climbing the hills of his property 100-year-old vines point to a rich history, but it's the greek artifacts littered throughout that constantly remind Ciro of Sicily's past of guests, influencers, and ever-changing rulers. He admits that although Sicily is in so many ways independent of Italy, it would be lost without someone to rule her. Its history of wars and conquerors simply knows no other way.
The steep terraces that make up each of Ciro's three vineyards are iconic. Immediately you have a sense you've been here before, but of course it's only through images you've stumbled upon in years past. Like most of Etna the black volcanic soil is evident, it falls through your hands like sand when you pick it up. Toward the very top of the steep terraces the soil and rocks turn a Mars-like red. I press Ciro on whether he ever has separated fermentation tanks to show the differences, but he's happy capturing the entire vineyard in one picture. He's discovered the need to limit his input into the winemaking decisions and do everything he can to let the place speak as honestly as possible, with the very lightest touch. Ciro reminds, nature is so much more powerful than he is, his best work over the years coming from recognizing that truth.
And the wines show it. Here, Nerello Mascalese is light and perfumed, calling to mind Pinot Noir more so than some of its darker interpretations on the north side of Etna. A small amount (10-20%) of Nerello Cappuccio is historically blended to offer some darker characteristics. But, without a doubt, this is Etna at its most delicate, graceful, and aromatic.
Ciro's Outis is a blend of his three vineyards. Pale colored, with bright red fruits and that faint note of dusty volcanic soil that offers the structure and backbone defining these light reds from the south. Rose pedals, bright cherry, and notes of fig linger on the finish here. If Etna is to seduce you for the very first time I imagine Outis would be the wine to do it.
A June 2016 visit in Burgundy gave the opportunity to setup visits with some of the most storied domaines. What I had not expected was to be introduced to a brand new vigneron. But, one afternoon in Morey Saint Denis after sharing some 1993 Clos de la Roche at Chez Dujac I made my way across the street to the new home (and domaine) of Yann Charlopin-Tissier.
Today, I'm happy offer a range of Charlopin-Tissier's 2016 release.
Tissier's background is one surrounded by legendary figures. His father, Philippe, was a student of Henri Jayer as he started his own domaine in 1978. Yann worked closely with his father starting in 2004, and then with another mentor, Jean-Marie Fourrier, before launching his own domaine.
Of all Yann's wines, the secret in the lineup is surely Le Chapitre:
Le Chapitre is one of the few Bourgogne Rouge designated vineyards that can legally be named on a bottle. In the 16th century, wines from this single vineyard were only surpassed in price by Chambertin-Clos de Beze. Among secret lieu-dits in Burgundy Le Chapitre is simply legendary.
Huber Lignier is best known for his iconic Grand Cru, Clos de la Roche, as well as for his extended macerations and long barrel aging. Today, I'm happy to offer a range of Lignier from 2011 through 2016. The concentration and intensity of the 2016 vintage particularly suits the domaine's winemaking protocol and sets up this stable to again reflect the long-distance runner that has enamored collectors for forty years.
Lignier has been imported by Neal Rosenthal (Barthod, Fourrier, Jacques Carillon) since the 1978 vintage, marking one of Neal's earliest and greatest successes. The style of the domaine has always been one that emphasized structure and a distinct terroir-driven soil expression. Located in Morey Saint Denis, Lignier's wines all display that gorgeous rusted earth, black cherry, and hoisin note that the village is often associated.
2016 follows the dark-fruited and robust 2015 vintage. At first, 2016 appeared to be considerably brighter, but as the wines evolved in barrel they gained a darker profile and richness. They still show a more lifted style as compared to 2015, but in the end these are also going to be wines with very long aging potential. They are deeply complex, arguably a bit more site-specific in profile than the 2015's. They are terrific, but surely the Grand Crus will begin to enter their peak drinking window likely at age 15, and perhaps at age 10 for the Premier Crus.
Each cuvée is unique from the next, and modest levels of new oak keep the focus squarely on site. 20-30% new wood for Villages and Premiers, 50% for the Grand Crus. All grapes are destemmed, receive a 5-day cold soak, and then a relatively long fermentation of 15-20 days. The Villages wines are raised in barrel for 18 months, with Premier and Grand Crus receiving a 24-month elévage.
Coming up short on finding back-vintages of Hubert Lignier has always been a thorn in my side. Rarely do collectors part with these aged gems, as the reward with years in bottle is too significant to part with.
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 very happy to offer a deep range from Jean-Marie Fourrier.
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.
Jean-Marie is most noted for his strict reliance on using only old vines for domainebottlings - 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.
Below is a wide range of Fourrier's 2016's, as well as back-vintage gems through 1999. Jean-Marie has recently started a négociant project, but, with the exception of theBourgogne Rouge, 100% of the wines offered below are domaine, having been farmed by the Fourrier family for generations.