In Saumur, Antoine Foucault, son of the late Charly Foucault, had seen the reputation and pricing of his father's Clos Rougeard wines soar across the globe like no other domaine in France. Today, little is known of Foucault's own domaine he founded in 1999. The Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc produced from the best limestone slopes in Saumur brings the unrivaled elegance of Clos Rougeard, with a singular potency that will guide this address into cult territory. We laugh when we hear of times past where Clos Rougeard sat on shelves for under $60, and here I expect the same to follow suit.
Today, I'm happy to offer the Saumur wines of Antoine Foucault's Domaine du Collier.
Visiting with Antoine in 2016 was a dramatic moment, there's no other way to describe the experience. For starters, descending into the cellar was akin to the fantastical space imagined for Indiana Jones' Temple of Doom. The cavern was close to 100% humidity, with walls of bedrock wet to the touch and stalactites at every turn. The shadowed figure of Foucault returning into faint light with a thief of wine from each new barrel further imprinted the mystique.
Like his father, Antoine's greatest joy is working among the vines. Witnessing the meteoric rise of popularity of Clos Rougeard throughout his life has left him surprisingly humble, showing no interest in the limelight or travel. He speaks matter of fact, and his sensible philosophy on organic and biodynamic viticulture is ultimately defined by rigorous hands-on work in each parcel.
There's a powerful concentration to Antoine's wines that differ from his father's, yet they're still built upon that familiar grace and seamless pleasure found in their texture. (Antoine vinified the 2016 vintage at Clos Rougeard upon his father's untimely passing). The real distinction on the protocol for Collier's wines is their unusually long aging, many times over two years in wood. Once fermentation is concluded the wines are gravity-fed into barrel and remain completely untouched, with zero sulphur additions.
There's a large proportion of new wood used at Collier, but never have I tasted at a domaine where this level of oak was so imperceptible and pushed into the background of the wine. The wood absorbs much of the firm structure in these wines, softening the contours and bringing an added layer of refinement.
Saumur Blanc is 100% Chenin Blanc primarily sourced from vines aged 25-75 years in the Ripaille site.
Saumur Rouge La Ripaille is 100% Cabernet Franc sourced from a single vineyard of vines ranging between 30-60 years old.
Saumur Blanc Charpentrie comes from 100-yr-old vines in this single vineyard.
A May 2016 visit to the Loire Valley brought a wide array of discoveries, but the visit that left the most indelible mark was with Arnaud Lambert at Château de Brézé in Saumur. I had been familiar with their 2012 vintage, however what we tasted from the 2014's really drove home the point that this estate is now a top benchmark of Saumur.
The 2014 was one where Saumur strived and where Chenin Blanc from an estate dating back to the 1400's was executed brilliantly. The 2014's from Lambert are among the most thrilling white wines produced anywhere in France, but now the cat is out of the bag.
Arnaud Lambert resurrected the Château de Brézé of Saumur, a domaine praised for their Chenin Blanc wines as far back as the 15th century where they were served at royal courts throughout Europe. Regularly the Chateau would exchange their wines with those of the revered Château d'Yquem of Bordeaux - And today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
As times passed and industrialism gave way to quick fixes in the vineyards (herbicides, pesticides) to ensure high yields and minimize the need for hand work the Chateau de Brézé lost something. Recruited in 2009, Lambert has spent the last nine years finding the magic by going back to the roots. Lambert immediately converted to organic farming, drastically reduced yields, and has started to incorporate biodynamic principals.
Saumur's high concentration of tuffeau limestone, and its active calcium content, has long delivered wines of striking purity and elegance. Winemaking styles here lead most producers to block malolactic fermentation, which help Chenin Blanc preserve its bright, linear, and more crystalline traits. The top whites here see some new French oak, but the flavor is nearly imperceptible, as fruit from these sites absorbs any woody quality that may otherwise stand out.
While most wines in the appellation showcase fresh orchard fruit notes, those of Chateau Brézé have a deep textural element and persistent finish that strikingly stand out from their neighbors. The poached pear and quince notes are met with brown spices, orange zest, and chalky minerality.
Today offered are the two top wines of the estate, both evoking the glory of what once graced the tables of kings and queens throughout the continent.
Clos David is sourced from a parcel of pure sand and gravelly limestone. A cool site that never develops botrytis, and sand gives an elegance to this wine that stands out.
Clos de la Rue is the top wine of the domaine. From the warmest vineyard on the hill of Brézé, and protected from the gusts of wind that regularly zip throughout vine rows. Sandy limestone at the top of the hill, with clay underneath gives richness, power, and deep texture.
Chateau Moulin de Tricot is THE first place my mind goes when I think of Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant Bordeaux that has stuck to tradition and continues to offer sharp pricing. The Margaux estate personifies all of the grace and regal structure the commune has been associated with for centuries. From their small 5 hectares a second label, the Haut-Médoc, takes their strength in authenticity and value to the extreme.I've been waiting a long time for this vintage's release.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2015 Chateau Moulin de Tricot Haut-Médoc for $35 per bottle with special pricing all the way down to $29.95.
At this price point there is no left bank Bordeaux I drink with more regularity or enthusiasm - Baby Margaux with Bourgogne Rouge pricing. And like those warm, even growing seasons in Burgundy where I highly recommend the most moderately priced wines, here too in 2015 I say going deep will reward many years of enjoyment.
I love Bordeaux. And particularly the Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant examples regularly found on the left bank. The gravel here is suited to the variety, just as on the right bank of the Gironde the clay soils fit better with Merlot. The sad state of affairs is that Merlot plantings in these left bank gravel vineyards has been increasing steadily over decades in order to provide more soft-fruited wines that capitulate to a global palate.
Chateau Moulin de Tricot has stuck with tradition and is a rarity in Margaux as they still have 75% of their vineyards planted to Cabernet Sauvignon. They also have unusually dense vine spacing with 9,500 vines per hectare, providing naturally concentrated yields. The Haut-Médoc is aged in small one-year-old Bordeaux barrels, giving the oxygen exchange needed to soften structure while limiting any ostentatious oak flavors.
I've always had an aha moment each time I've tasted the Haut-Médoc bottling from Moulin de Tricot, but 2015 was something different. The vintage has simply elevated each component of this wine. Margaux has often been called the "Iron Fist in the Velvet Glove", explaining the balance between grace and dead-serious regal structure.
In this exceptional Bordeaux vintage this moniker is even more suited to their Baby Margaux. The dark fruit intensity, graphite and cigar box notes, and long finish is something extra-ordinary. Very special pricing has been included to make this the easiest call as we lead into Thanksgiving.
"Andrea Franchetti continues to make some of the most compelling wines in Italy...The Cupole, the estate's second label, is once again one of the very best wines in its price range."- Antonio Galloni of Vinous (3/16)
An ideal bold red to serve at Thanksgiving that delivers high quality and great value is on ALL our lists. Today I’d like to revisit an offer that’s guaranteed to wow your guests who might not be as enamored with the sans soufre amphora Poulsard from the Jura as you are!
My great fondness for the traditional wines of Tuscany is no secret, but generally I've kept Super Tuscans at arm's length. Dominated by Bordeaux variety blends, the category has overwhelmingly spoken less about place, and more about a luxury-driven, global-capitulating, one-size-fits-all model. Sassicaia is a great example of one that breaks out of this mold and is the definitive Super Tuscan Wine of Place. Finding examples I'm truly passionate about that don't start at $200+ upon release has been a challenge. That all changed with Tenuta di Trinoro's Le Cupole.
Today, I'm very happy to offer the Tenuta di Trinoro "Le Cupole" Rosso Toscana for $33 per bottle, with special 6-pack pricing down to $29.83 per bottle.
Andrea Franchetti's property sits in a remote southeast corner of Tuscany. Le Cupole, the second label of Tenuta di Trinoro, is all about open accessibility with the same sophistication as their top end single vineyard wines. Cupole's blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot is planted on clay and limestone, mirroring Bordeaux's right bank.
Cupole succeeds in grasping my attention due to a remarkable sense of balance, freshness, and crazy deliciousness still rooted in the variety's tell-tale characteristics.There's an abundance of black cherries, dark chocolate, tobacco, and a tarry scorched earth note - the most fascinating trait I find myself reaching for again and again. The finish persists with the sort of lingering minerality that is commonly achieved in Bordeaux, but where Super Tuscans often fall short.
2015 is the best vintage of this wine I've tasted to date, with an ideal growing season that produced luscious, concentrated ripe fruit. The early hot conditions completely fell away here in August and the rest of the growing season through November harvest was quite cool. These unusual conditions made for an opulent Super Tuscan still with all of the cool-fruit tones and earthy inflections I relish in those cooler vintages.
Of all the 2,000+ wines in stock, the 2015 Le Cupole will appeal to the widest range of palates imaginable, still deeply rooted in its sense of place. With perfect conditions in Tuscany for this blend of varieties, this is the time to stock up.
Jacky Blot has been a force in re-shaping the story of the central Loire Valley. Recently, we had a tremendous response to his dry Vouvray Bretonniere monopole, and today we turn to his top Cabernet Franc, the 2015 Bourgueil Mi-Pente. In its own right, Mi-Pente is a benchmark Loire Cabernet Franc and a triumph certainly for the village of Bourgueil - one excluviely focused on this variety. However, the approachable personality from this Grand Cru vineyard full of black and purple fruits, lavender, and tobacco always brings an arms wide open reception that appeals to most New World drinkers, as well as Loire purists. This is Cabernet Franc fit for the global stage.
Jacky taps 70-yr-old vines on this direct south-facing site. Mi-Pente has long been regarded as a top vineyard of Bourgueil for its very thin topsoil over deep limestone bedrock. The most age-worthy and structured wines from here, as well as Chinon and Saumur, come from sites with this similar high proportion of active limestone. But, it's this mid-slope placement and southern exposition that drench the site with an amplitude of ripeness that's singularly Grand Cru in nature.
Blot uses 20% new French oak barrels for Mi-Pente, buffering the definition of structure and concentration in gorgeous fashion. There's no perceptible new oak impartation as far as flavor, but the silkiest tannins wrap everything together finishing with perfect balance. At once there's nervy detail, and at the same time palate-staining depth of dark fruits and spice. In 2015, the power behind every characteristic is elevated without losing any sense of snap.
2015 is mostly characterized throughout France as a warm and dry year. In the Loire Valley the red wines really excel in these vintages, never showing roasted or overly-forward fruit notes that can plague more southern appelations. For me, Bourgueil has always been the cool side of the pillow for Cabernet Franc, and this vintage is one that highlights every magical element of Jacky's touch.
2015 Jacky Blot (Domaine de la Butte) Bourgueil Mi-Pente
$40 per bottle.