• Corbières' Secrets Revealed:  2017 Maxime Magnon Rozeta

    Corbières' Secrets Revealed: 2017 Maxime Magnon Rozeta

    When it comes to France's south-west Languedoc region, I tread lightly. There are some hidden gems, but certain criteria is a prerequisite: high altitude vineyards, very depleted rocky soils, organic farming, and a light touch in the cellar. When a Burgundian chooses to continue south after training under Jean Foillard in Morgon you know there's going to be something special at the end of that rainbow.

    Today, I'm happy to offer the 
    2017 Maxime Magnon "Rozeta" Corbières Rouge for $40 per bottle. 

    Rozeta is sourced from a limestone and decomposed granite (schist) parcel of 50-60-year-old Carignan vines. Supplemented with small amounts of Grenache, Syrah, Grenache Gris, Macabou, and Terret. Aging takes place in neutral Burgundy barrels from a top Chassagne Montrachet domaine.

    Prior to landing in Corbières, Maxime worked under Morgon icon, Jean Foillard. And then traversed his way through the Languedoc spending time with Faugères' most respected name, Didier Barral. It was with Barral where he was introduced to an abandoned plot of old Carignan vines in nearby Corbières. He quickly jumped on this unique hillside to embark on his own new chapter. 

    Most noted from Maxime's vineyards is the lack of topsoil. Certainly, all great vineyards have a rocky base below, but in these high altitude parcels the drama is jaw-dropping (see picture below). Old Carignan makes up most of the plantings, but small percentages of Grenache, Syrah, Grenache Gris, Macabou, and Terret are found throughout and all grapes are fermented together. It's this addition that helps brings an elevated lift and aromatic intensity to these wines that have ingratiated them to more natural-leaning wine lovers.

    Magnon's influence from Burgundy and Beaujolais is clear the moment you put your nose in the glass. Rozeta has a paler hue and delivers a freshness of wild red fruit tones that are a huge departure from the Languedoc norm.

    I speak a lot about a wine's sense of life and verve. This heartbeat of authenticity is something winemakers often shy away from, instead opting for the safe haven of dark extraction of fruit and density for the sake of powerful impact. Magnon flips these typical Languedoc sensibilities upside down, instead relying on transparency and only minimal sulphur at bottling to highlight the most natural characteristics of these ancient hillside plantings.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Priorat Re-Discovered:  Terroir Al Límit

    Priorat Re-Discovered: Terroir Al Límit

    My first visit after landing in Barcelona took me 2 hours northwest to the land of llicorella in Priorat. In many ways Priorat was the single region that pulled me to the Old World as a primarily California drinker as I was finishing college. The llicorella (black slate) of these high altitude vineyards, often resembling a lunar landscape, imparted colossal minerality and a full-throttle inky, black fruit quality that hypnotized me from first sip. While my palate has changed quite a lot since the early 2000's, it has been a huge surprise to see a winemaker here who, in tandem, changed the profile of Priorat. Dominik Huber's Terroir Al Límit shows a face of the region that diverges drastically from the norm, and constructs wines true to this slate foundation, except with a transparency and fresh streak that's altogether singular.

    Today, I'm happy to offer the four wines from Terroir Al Limit's 2014 release that opened the window for me to see Priorat's magic in a shimmering light.

    Terroir Al Límit's lineup is centered around Garnacha and Carinyena's explosive violet aromatics, met with wild strawberry and an array of blue fruit tones. The slate and clay soils that are so special to Priorat endow each wine with a deeply layered and saturating mineral punch that forms the cornerstone of all wines. But, alas, building trends over the 1990's have placed just about every winery of this region into a camp of high extraction and high oak influence that obscures an authentic sense of place. And, that's where Huber raced in stage left. 

    First and foremost, Dominik employs an organic and biodynamic approach. Given the arid climate, one would imagine this a popular regimen, but it's still incredibly rare. Secondly, infusion and semi-carbonic fermentations make Terroir Al Límit a completeoutlier. This whole cluster fermentation limits extraction and keeps the beastly tannins at bay a bit. His aging in Austria's Stockinger foudres is also an integral key to preserving the delineation and more filigreed expressions of terroir.

    When deciding which cuvées might appeal to you most, I'd like to really hammer home one point. Rarely have I visited a region where grape variety falls into the background behind terroir as much as in Priorat with Huber's style. Garnacha does best in more clay-dominant sites, and the wines show this more broad sensation on the palate, with arguably a touch more in the red fruit camp. Carinyena, alternatively, is best suited on pure llicorella and schist, where a more vertical and incisive personality forms, with a touch darker profile and scorched earth traits.  

    In the end, this is the one destination in Priorat that you must become familiar with if your palate has lead you to Burgundy and traditional Northern Rhône. Although the wines here would never be mistaken for the aforementioned, the clarity and poise found in glass is founded on similar principles. 


    Torroja Vi De La Vila is the "village" wine here, consisting of equal parts Garnacha and Carinyena from 50-75-yr-old vines. This is the sole wine of Terroir Al Límit that sees a blending of these two main varieties.

    Abrossar taps 90-yr-old Cariyena from a north-facing slope. This exposition was of little interest to many vignerons in times past, but with warming temperatures and Huber's insistence on freshness over power, this wine today is the model for Carinyena's prospects of levity and elegance.

    Les Manyes taps 50-yr-old Garnacha vines from clay-based soils. Broad and saturating with more red fruit tones and a long mineral-driven finish.

    Les Tosses (where Dominik and I are pictured above) is a steep and very high altitude Carinyena vineyard containing 90-yr-old vines. Along with Les Manyes, this is the magnum opus of Terroir Al Límit.

    * Decanting each wine for over 30 minutes prior to drinking is highly recommended.

    Today, finding myself so far removed from the powerhouse-styled wines that I gravitated towards a decade ago can leave me a bit melancholy at times, as that was such an exciting period in my growing interest in wine. But, landing on the sole domaine that harnesses all of those rare traits of Priorat in a more understated style that speaks to my palate today is simply thrilling. Sharing my passion is the goal everyday as I write these offers, and I cannot think of a better stop on the wine route to illustrate a region's promise in shifting a style as what Dominik has done with Terroir Al Límit.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Event l'Horizon: Pyrenees' Ultimate Awakening

    Event l'Horizon: Pyrenees' Ultimate Awakening

    There's nothing more exciting than discovering new producers that defy conventional thinking on what their region's are capable of. Looking closer at the landscape where France and Spain converge at the Pyrenees I've found a domaine both raw and genuine. But, it's the refinement that comes from this absolutely gnarly and mind-bending terroir that defines this moment of impact. This is Domaine de l'Horizon. 

    l'Horizon was created when German-born Thomas Teibert met Gerard Gauby (Arguably SW France's most respected vigneron) while consulting for small wineries. He was introduced to a small village with just 200 residents. Before we move onto the wines, we need to talk about place.

    Calce is a village in France about 20 miles away from the Spanish border. Yes, this is part of the Languedoc-Roussillon, but please just forget that because it is Catalan. Calce sits on a specific spot where, during the Ice Age, the slate soils of the Pyrenees collided into the limestone of Corbières. The result is what importer Neal Rosenthal appropriately dubbed, a geologist's dream. Under only 8 inches of top soil we reach an amalgamation of black and brown slate, gravel, and red-tinged iron-influenced marl, and a surface littered with river stones à la Chateauneuf du Pape (see below). And, we cannot leave out the wind: the violent 
    Tramontane from the Pyrenees mountains meets the Marin coming north from the Mediterranean.

    It's this setting at the foot of the Pyrenees that mirrors something out of a fantasy novel. 100+ yr-old vines here give minuscule yields from digging deep into these wildly unique, porous soils. The domaine produces two whites and two reds. Fermentation and aging is split between concrete tanks and neutral wood from Austria's Stockinger large barrels and foudres.

    To touch on the sense of place again, these rocky soils bring spine-tingling minerality, with warm days full of intense sunlight, but absolutely frigid nights (acid's loyal friend). Wines clock in with very modest levels of alcohol, topping out at 13% even.


    L’Esprit de l’Horizon Blanc is a blend of 80% Macabeau and 20% Muscat, all from old vines. On one hand it shows some of the faint honeyed notes you'd expect from the varieties, but it's really an acid-driven mineral showstopper with lime in the forefront supported by an array of other citrus fruits.

    l'Horizon Côtes Catalanes Blanc is an equal blend of Macabeau and Grenache Gris. Co-fermented in neutral Stockinger large barrels. This, the top white of the domaine, takes on the mineral-driven personality from L'Esprit and doubles down on the intensity. The very oldest vines of the estate bring a different level of saturating minerality that's surely appeals to devoted followers of Grand Cru Chablis. The first time I saw a bottle of l'Horizon was on a shelf in Burgundy sitting next to Raveneau and Dauvissat.


    L’Esprit de l’Horizon Rouge is comprised of 60% Carignan and 40% Syrah and fermented with about 1/3 whole clusters, bringing spice, structure, and complexity. Fermentation sees only gentle pigeage (punching down) by foot, with remontage (pumping over) providing the even gentler extraction. At 12.5% alcohol, this proves that SW France can indeed be built on concentration of fruit, but with freshness ultimately being the major take away.

    l'Horizon Côtes Catalanes Rouge is comprised of 70% Carignan and 30% Grenache, sourced from vines over 120-yrs of age. As you can imagine, the intensity of fruit here is through the roof with yields well below 15 hectoliters per hectare. Yet, there's no heft. It's the ultimate reflection of what separates very good wines from great ones: immense concentration without palate weight. This is in that red cherry-dominant camp, with crazy focus and precision, like a finely tuned Porsche.

    I see no prize in beating the drum for unknown appellations just for the sake of obscurity. I judge all wines in the context of the benchmarks. I highly recommend tasting what the other-worldly terroir of Calce is all about. Burgundy may have a head start, but this perfect storm of a setting has just as compelling a story to tell.


    Purchase Here.

    2016 Domaine de l'Horizon "L'Esprit de l'Horizon" Blanc IGP
    $34 per bottle.

    2016 Domaine De L'Horizon "L'Esprit De L'Horizon" Rouge IGP
    $34 per bottle.

    2016 Domaine de l'Horizon Côtes Catalanes Blanc IGP
    $59 per bottle.

    2016 Domaine de l'Horizon Côtes Catalanes Rouge IGP
    $65 per bottle.


    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Foillard's Corbières Protégé: Unrivaled Vitality of Maxime Magnon

    Foillard's Corbières Protégé: Unrivaled Vitality of Maxime Magnon

    When it comes to France's south-west Languedoc region I tread lightly. There are many hidden gems throughout, but certain criteria is a prerequisite: high altitude vineyards, very rocky soils, organic farming, and a light touch in the cellar. When a Burgundy-born, Jean Foillard protégé heads south you know there's going to be something special at the end of that rainbow. 

    In the case of Maxime Magnon, it's 100-year-old Carignan vines planted on some of Corbière's rockiest mountain terrain. They say the best wines come from soil so deficient in nutrients that nothing else but vines will strive. It's this kind of backdrop that sets the stage for the ultimate reminder that the Languedoc is capable of nuance, grace, and a true sense of vitality.

    Maxime began working in Morgon with the iconic, Jean Foillard. Afterwards traversing his way through the Languedoc spending time with Faugères's most respected ambassador, Didier Barral. He was then introduced to abandoned plots of old Carignan vines in nearby Corbières where he quickly settled.

    Most noted from Maxime's vineyards is the lack of topsoil. Certainly all great vineyards have a rocky base below, but in these high altitude parcels the drama is jaw-dropping (see picture below). Old Carignan makes up most of the plantings, but small percentages of Grenache, Syrah, Grenache Gris, Macabou, and Terret are found throughout and all grapes are fermented together. It's this addition that helps brings an elevated lift and aromatic brilliance to these wines that's ingratiated them to more natural-leaning wine lovers.

    Magnon's influence from Burgundy and Beaujolais are clear the moment you pour and put your nose in the glass. They have a paler hue than the Languedoc norm and the electric spice bursts out, reverberating terroir before you've taken a single sip. 

    I speak a lot about a wine's sense of life and verve. This heartbeat of authenticity is something winemakers often shy away from, instead opting for the safe haven of dark extraction of fruit and density for the sake of power. Magnon flips these typical Languedoc sensibilities upside down, instead relying on transparency and only minimal sulphur at bottling to highlight the most inherent traits of these ancient hillside plantings.


    Rozeta is sourced from a limestone and decomposed granite (schist) parcel of 50-60-year-old Carignan vines. It's supplemented with small amounts of the field blend: Grenache, Syrah, Grenache Gris, Macabou, and Terret.

    Campagnès comes from a clay and limestone parcel of Carignan vines all over 100-years-old. It is supplemented by 5% of the field blend.

    Both wines are aged in neutral Burgundy barrels sourced from Chassagne Montrachet. 

    2014 Maxime Magnon Rozeta Corbières Rouge
    $36 per bottle.

    2015 Maxime Magnon Corbières Campagnès
    $47 per bottle.

    Posted by Max Kogod
  • The Best of Languedoc Reds!

    The Best of Languedoc Reds!

    France's southwest Languedoc has always been known for its warm Mediterranean climate, diversity of soil, and unmatched value. Vines were originally planted here in 125 BC by the Romans, and the ease at which the vines took to the land made them an immediate success throughout the empire. Today, the region has an abundance of 100-year-old + plantings of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, and Mourèdre. The dry and favorable climate allows organic viticulture to strive. The trick is finding producers that hit that sweet spot between ripe, luscious fruit and fascinatingly mineral-tinged wines with a serious component of freshness. These are the benchmark producers of the region that deliver the goods. Don't let their modest prices lead you to believe these aren't incredibly serious and age-worthy wines. Each of these represent the best of their respective appellations, and all are found on top Michelin restaurants throughout the US and abroad. With fireplaces roaring these are the best choices to pair alongside your roasts tonight.

    Perhaps nobody exemplifies the pride and tradition of the Languedoc as much as Mas de Daumas Gassac. Located in the Hérault, the domaine was established in 1970 when Véronique and Aimé Guibert came across an abandoned farmhouse owned by the Daumas family along the Gasasc river. The underground cold water springs and surrounding mountains created a relatively humid microclimate that mirrored Bordeaux's Médoc. This combination led to the planting of Cabernet Sauvignon on limestone-dominant soils. Un-cloned cuttings from the top chateau of Bordeaux were planted here with the intention of giving top level quality rather than the more common priority in the region towards top level yields.

    The near-perfect 2010 vintage is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6.2% Cabernet Franc, 5.3% Merlot, 3.6% Pinot noir, 3.2% Tannat, 2% Malbec, and 9.7% "rare grape varieties". It comes in at a cool 13.4% alcohol thanks to its unique location within Hérault and influences by the Gassac river and underground cold springs. Full of dark, savory spices, espresso notes, dark chocolate, and brambly blackberries. 

    Perhaps nobody exemplifies the pride and tradition of the Languedoc as much as Mas de Daumas Gassac. Located in the Hérault, the domaine was established in 1970 when Véronique and Aimé Guibert came across an abandoned farmhouse owned by the Daumas family along the Gasasc river. The underground cold water springs and surrounding mountains created a relatively humid microclimate that mirrored Bordeaux's Médoc. This combination led to the planting of Cabernet Sauvignon on limestone-dominant soils. Un-cloned cuttings from the top chateau of Bordeaux were planted here with the intention of giving top level quality rather than the more common priority in the region towards top level yields.

    The near-perfect 2010 vintage is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6.2% Cabernet Franc, 5.3% Merlot, 3.6% Pinot noir, 3.2% Tannat, 2% Malbec, and 9.7% "rare grape varieties". It comes in at a cool 13.4% alcohol thanks to its unique location within Hérault and influences by the Gassac river and underground cold springs. Full of dark, savory spices, espresso notes, dark chocolate, and brambly blackberries. 

    2010 Mas de Daumas Gassac Hérault Rouge
    $49 per bottle.

    1988 Mas de Daumas Gassac Hérault Rouge
    $159 per bottle.

    1989 Mas de Daumas Gassac Hérault Rouge
    $169 per bottle.

    1990 Mas de Daumas Gassac Hérault Rouge
    $179 per bottle.

    Maxime Magnon was born a Burgundian, but without any family vineyard holdings. He worked alongside Jean Foillard of Morgon, where he learned the ultimate hands-off approach to natural viticulture and winemaking. He chose to settle in Corbières and purchased nine parcels over eleven hectares very high in the hills. He was certain that in order to craft intensely aromatic and wildly unique wines he would need to find that ideal spot with great elevation and very old vine plantings.

    Maxime employs organic and biodynamic farming, vinifies without sulphur, and uses a high portion of whole clusters in fermentation. He carefully sources Burgundian barrels from Chassagne-Montrachet. His wines are wild in a way that is rare for the Languedoc. They are very high toned and delicate, while still incredibly concentrated and intense. There's a liveliness on the palate that absolutely calls to mind those peerless wines of Jean Foillard.

    2014 Maxime Magnon Corbières Rozeta
    $34 per bottle.

    Rozeta comes from a combination of parcels on incredibly rocky limestone and schist soils with almost no topsoil. Mainly Carignan supplemented with Grenache Gris, Macabou, and Terret, which are all picked and fermented together.

    2015 Maxime Magnon Corbières Campagnès
    $47 per bottle.

    Campagnès comes from 100+ year-old Cariganan vines from a single vineyard of limestone and clay. This is the top wine of the estate and the most age-worthy.

    In 1985, upon receiving his degree in viticulture and oenology, Olivier Jullien returned home to find an underwhelming state of wine production in the Languedoc. Heavy crop loads and commercial farming had led to wines that had no signature of place or authenticity. He began revitalizing his family's vineyards, and purchasing choice parcels in the surrounding hillsides. No longer were his family's grapes sold to the local cooperative. Olivier, at just 20 years old, would vinify and age his family's wines with a sense of purpose in highlighting the best his appellation, Terrasses du Larzac, has to offer.

    At 3,000 foot elevation and 25 miles north of the Mediterranean, this personifies the more elegant and aromatic side of what the Langeudoc is all about. The soils are a total amalgamation between Olivier's parcels with limestone, clay, schist (decomposed granite), and gravel being dominant in each unique parcel.

    The blend of Carignan, Syrah, and Mourvèdre all work to provide complementary pieces. The Carignan for freshness. Syrah for inky color and body. Mourvèdre for its structure. Partial whole cluster fermentation is used to add spice and freshness, and large barrels are used for aging to preserve tension. Bright cherry, red plums, violets, and sweet brown spices all meld together with perfect harmony here.

    2010 Mas Jullien Terrasses du Larzac Rouge
    $48 per bottle

    Posted by Max Kogod