• Dutraive's Brightest Light

    Dutraive's Brightest Light

    Jean-Louis Dutraive's entire stable of wines falls into the elite category of Cru Beaujolais. And while he has various parcels in Fleurie, the wine that always thrills me for its lightness and more ethereal pitch is the Clos de la Grand Cour cuvée.

    The Clos de la Grand Cour is a true Clos, or walled-in vineyard. The vines here range between 30 to 80 years old. Nearly pure granite under very thin topsoil. Aged 35% in stainless steel, 30% in fûts de chêne, and 30% foudres for 9 to 12 months. Lifted spices meet fresh raspberry and cherry to give a delicate wine but with deep texture and a long finish.

    The big story of 2019 Beaujolais is that, despite another hot growing season, there is a serious beam of acidity running through the wines. For many, this has called to mind Jean-Louis Dutraive's watershed 2014 vintage. Of course, 2014 didn't see the hot temperatures of 2019, but the balance between fruit and acid is spot-on in both. These are the vintages where Dutraive shines and makes his brilliance abundantly clear.

    As compared to other titans of Beaujolais, like Foillard and Lapierre, I find Dutraive's wines often lighter in color, with a more lifted spice, and a more wild, natural element that stands out due to lower sulfur protocol. Waiting several years after release to tap into the top cuvées has been a big goal of mine. The rare aged Dutraive is pure magic when fruit begins to fall more to the background and exotic spices become more prominent.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Mugnier Rarities: Chambolle,  Clos de la Maréchale, & Musigny Magnums

    Mugnier Rarities: Chambolle, Clos de la Maréchale, & Musigny Magnums

    Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier produces wines that, personally, can be best described asdesert island Pinot Noir. We're talking the short list. There are few producers in the world who summon the interest of collectors and the respect of their neighbors quite like Mugnier. When I moved to Burgundy in January 2012 it was Mugnier I visited first. I don't ever recall meeting a vigneron who so very much matched his or her wines. He was soft spoken, introspective, and authentic in the way you hoped your hero would be if you were lucky enough to meet them one day. This afternoon was pretty close to that.

    Today, I'm very happy to offer a small collection from Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier.

    The domaine lies in the heart of the village of Chambolle-Musigny, home to the most ethereal wines of Burgundy. Mugnier's gentle approach to winemaking is more synonymous with the village dubbed the Queen of Burgundy than any other producer.In fact, Mugnier only produces one Pinot Noir from outside, the Premier Cru Monopole Clos de la Maréchale in Nuits-Saint-Georges.

    The easy way to tell the story is to say Mugnier applies that lifted style of his Chambolle wines to his Maréchale, hailing from a village better known for dark earth and muscular structure. Though this characterization has plenty of validity, it tends to sell short just how profound in its own right this monopole vineyard (one owner) from Nuits-Saints-Georges really is.

    Maréchale lies at the southernmost end of N-S-G, coming from the Premeaux commune. For centuries the wines of Premeaux have been described as the most elegant of the larger N-S-G appellation. Within Maréchale there are portions of oolitic limestone and sandy soils that are wildly different from what's found throughout the village. This terroir plays as much a role in the elegance of the wine here as Mugnier's soft touch in the cellar.

    * From the 1820's the walled in Clos de la Marechale vineyard appeared on maps, and in 1855 Jules Lavalle's publication classifying vineyards ranked Maréchale as "1ère Cuvée" - Lavalle said at this time the top wines of Premeaux were selling for the same price as Grand Cru Clos Vougeot bottlings.

    Clos de la Maréchale always shows a stunning array of red fruits like pomegranate and wild strawberry, a tell-tale mocha note, and always finishes with a sappy, black cherry core. Mugnier de-stems 100%, during fermentation punching down of the cap is very gentle and done relatively infrequently, and new oak usage is minimal. The goal is to never over-extract too much tannin or color. 

    These wines are always on the more pale end of the spectrum, dominated as much by their notes of roses and violets as they are by fruit profile. This is the essence of perfumed Burgundy. When Pinot Noir was christened the heartbreak grape chances are strong it was Mugnier in the glass.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Loire Whites for the Ages:  Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, & Melon

    Loire Whites for the Ages: Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, & Melon

    In summer, Loire Valley whites are opened with abandon. And, there's no region in the world for whites that offers diversity and value quite like this stretch from the Atlantic ocean east into Sancerre. Today, I'm focusing on the three varieties from elite producers that offer aging capabilities that will make you think twice about only opening upon release.

    In the right hands and proper terroir Sauvignon Blanc can age with the best of them. Chavignol is always an emphasis of mine in this cellar-worthy category. But, Vacheron's 2016 Les Romains and Chambrates equally embody the best of what's yet to come in bottle development from Sancerre.

    Within Chenin Blanc, cool new kids like 
    Olivier Lejeune (Clos des Plantes), Guyonne Saclier de la Bâtie (Chateau de Bonnezeaux), and Benoit Courault are the best names you've never heard of, and I cannot recommend them enough - Want to know why sommeliers and wine geeks are as excited about Anjou as anywhere in France? It's because of the magic brew these three are putting into bottle. Of course, tried and true names like Nicholas Joly Coulée de Serrant are listed below from 1981 to 2016. And, Thierry Germain's crisp and chiseled Chenins from Saumur are perfectly juxtaposed with Guiberteau's more opulent expression of this limestone slope.

    Finally, you cannot speak of Loire Valley & value without mentioning the Melon de Bourgogne grape and Muscadet. Jerome Bretaudeau is the best name you're not familiar with yet, and if push comes to shove, I'd have to say his "Gaia Cuvée Ovoide" is the greatest bottle of Melon de Bourgogne I've ever had - completely seamless and ethereal, this goes down in a hurry.


    Posted by Alexander Rosen