• Gateway to the Crus: 2020 Lapalu Brouilly

    Gateway to the Crus: 2020 Lapalu Brouilly

    Jean-Claude Lapalu's 100% Gamay wines stand out from the usual suspects' style largely because of his early influences. Although he idolized Jules Chauvet like all natural-minded Beaujolais producers, the wines that initially pulled him in were those such as Domaine Gramenon in Southern France.

    In many ways, the domaine's positioning at the southern "Gateway to the Crus" harnesses the warmth and spirit endowed from the Rhone and Provence. Lapalu's entire range highlights those tell-tale Southern Cru Beaujolais lavender accents along with ripe cherry, plum, and an iron-inflected mineral finish.

    Extraction through carbonic and semi-carbonic fermentation is kept modest. Aging vessels here range from glass-lined tanks to concrete, used barrique, and tonneaux. And sulfur is used very sparingly, often only in small amounts at bottling. These ultra-limited production cuvées may be difficult to source, but the pricing delivers a welcomed relief given their stellar quality!

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Morgon Masterpiece

    Morgon Masterpiece

    From release through decades in bottle, no Cru Beaujolais producer consistently thrills like Jean Foillard. Young producers, like Yann Bertrand, call him a mentor, and other contemporaries call him the Morgon Master. Regardless of where your preferences lie within the unparalleled values found in Cru Beaujolais, Foillard is the benchmark.

    Yes, Foillard's wines are breathtaking after decades in bottle, but the true gift of Cru Beaujolais is its unrivaled approachability upon release. These top cuvées will improve and transform with time, but for those who don't care to wait so long, the silky, harmonious, and pure-fruited elements and perfect focus from day one are how Foillard earned his fame. He offers the best of both worlds!

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Côte Rôtie's Wild Side

    Côte Rôtie's Wild Side

    In July 2012, a friend and I experienced our first Bastille Day celebration in epic fashion at Marcel Lapierre's annual feast in Villié-Morgon. A few days later, it seemed fitting to meet with Jean-Michel Stephan atop the steep terraces of Côte Rôtie, who notes Lapierre as his greatest inspiration.

    Stephan takes an approach to vinification that differs drastically from his neighbors in Côte Rôtie. From his time in Villié-Morgon, Stephan's philosophy employs full carbonic fermentation, a process customarily reserved for Gamay in Beaujolais. Still, the most profound bottles hit the same mark as great traditionalists like Jamet, Benetière, and Levet.

    As Stephan explained to us, the whole clusters go into fermentation tanks free of sulfur additions. He pumps in some CO2, closes the hatch, and walks away. When he returns, the intracellular or carbonic fermentation is complete. This method gives a fruitier note to Syrah, but the use of whole clusters counters that with spice, tannin, and freshness.

    At first glance, Stephan's wines may come across as Côte Rôtie through a Beaujolais prism, but for me, they offer a mineral streak and wildly aromatic range that is so unique. The dark and brambly fruit is unadulterated through the complete absence of sulfur additions. With decanting, these young wines open up to reveal a side of Côte Rôtie that makes it feel like it's your first time drinking Syrah.

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    Posted by Max Kogod