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."
Although Bordeaux has been structuring their famous growth wines to offer more of a forward, approachable style than ever before, the truth is they are still in need of significant bottle age when they hit the market. Chateau Le Puy approaches their vineyard work with the same level of fastidious care as the first growth estates, but handles their work in the cellar very differently. Upon release, these are the wines that offer serious pleasure with no fear of infanticide.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2016 Chateau Le Puy "Emilien" Côtes de Bordeaux for $54 per bottle, and down to $48.50 for 6 bottles or more.
Chateau Le Puy diverges from so many norms in Bordeaux. Aside from organic and biodynamic work in the vines, their fermentation method and élevage is very uncommon. Le Puy is able to provide soft texture with bright, open-knit fruit out of the gate thanks to their protocol during fermentation. Infusion and semi-carbonic methods limit the extraction of hard tannins and retain the more primary fruit traits. And, aging in large foudre preserves all of the verve that carries those qualities into bottle. However, we are very much still in Bordeaux with tell-tale cigar box, graphite, and damp earth notes in abundance.
Unfortunately, the secret is out on this Bordeaux estate that exemplifies the rare farm-first mentality of the region. The New York Times' Eric Asimov's excellent piece shined the spotlight on this chateau which, in one sip, makes abundantly clear it's the real McCoy.In college, it was a Médoc that ended up being my epiphany red wine moment. In just one sniff my growing fascination in wine shifted from California to France. Truth be told, when an unfamiliar Bordeaux is poured for me it brings the most hopeful sense of anticipation. Regrettably, those thrilling experiences via Bordeaux don't appear often. The point-chasing, over-extracted, and ripe-beyond-recognition style set in motion in the mid-80's has changed the region for the worse. Yet, terroir-driven producers do still exist. It's no surprise the greatest of all the recent Bordeaux discoveries has come from importer, Neal Rosenthal. With names like Fourrier, Carillon, and Paolo Bea under his belt I'm always excited to taste new arrivals. When introduced to the new Bordeaux in the lineup I was transported to a time long ago. Chateau Le Puy is in its 14th generation of management by the Amoreau family. Situated in between Pomerol and Saint Emilion on the 2nd highest point along the Gironde estuary, this is home to the Bordeaux that's rooted in sensibilities more commonly found in Burgundy. The finesse, dead-serious-focus, and downright drinkability of Le Puy is worlds apart from the stylistic norm. It embodies that sense of place that so few do today, while not shortchanging on the regal qualities that are rightfully associated with Bordeaux.“It’s the best Burgundy wine from Bordeaux”, proclaims the head of production, Steven Hewison. The son-in-law of the estate's owner is referring to the precision and ease of drinking that calls to mind the farm-first mentality of its sibling to the east. Since 1610 these vines have been farmed free of chemicals, and today full biodynamic practices are employed, with work being done by horse. The soil is an amalgamation of red clay, silex, and limestone. Plantings are 85% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, and small percentages of Malbec and Carménère. Emilien is the main wine of the chateau. Initially aged in 5,000-liter foudres (many over 115-years-old), and then into neutral 228-liter Bordeaux barrels. In personality, it shows silken tannins and elegance that neighboring Pomerol is so revered for.Duc des Nauves sits at the lowest elevation on the property on a sandy limestone parcel. The wine is fermented and aged exclusively in cement. To see the best value available in Bordeaux today ($24) I cannot think of a better place to turn first.Bartélemy comes from a single parcel of old vines known as "Les Rocs" planted on deep limestone. This is the most age-worthy wine of the estate. Élevage is in 228-liter barrels, of which less than 10% are new. The structure, saturating texture, and persistence of Bartélemy rivals those under the region's two famous classifications of 1855 and 1955.Rose-Marie is a rosé in the style of Chateau Simone, offering transformative, age-worthy qualities that few rosés do. Produced by the "saignée" method where juice from red wine vats is "bled off". Fermented and aged in neutral oak barrels, bottled without filtration or the addition of sulfur. 30 cases were imported to the US.Le Puy takes me back to a different era of Bordeaux, one where a sense of authenticity and traditionalism reverberate through the wines. With a lineup covering four distinct cuvées this is the prime chateau to reacquaint yourself with the region.
Vinous captured the excitement of the 2016's here, "The 2016s are absolutely remarkable wines. The word that comes to mind, unfortunately so often overused, is balance. In technical terms, the 2016s boast off the charts tannins that in many cases exceed those of wines from massive vintages such as 2010. And yet, the best 2016s are absolutely harmonious, with the tannins barely perceptible at all. The 2016s also have tremendous energy and bright, acid-driven profiles, with many wines playing more in the red-fruit area of the flavor spectrum. One of the results of the unusual growing season is that alcohols range from 0.5% to 1% lower than what has been the norm in recent years."
If you look at a map of Corsica you'll find that importer Kermit Lynch has a tremendous star at every orientation of the island. Marquiliani on the east, Arena in the north, and Abbatucci to the west. But, sitting with Lynch at his picnic table over summer in Provence presented a great intro to perhaps the greatest Corsican discovery to date.
Clos Canarelli from the obscure Figari appellation on the southern tip was a revelation unlike any before. For those who gravitate toward saline-infused Mediterranean whites and rosés, the duo featured here has no rival.
Today, I'm happy to offer the just-landed 2018 Clos Canarelli Figari Blanc and Rosé for $49 and $35, respectively.Corsica's diversity is wide-ranging, but it's these wind-swept vineyards along the Mediterranean coast that produce wines harnessing the abundant sun with an undeniable sea-breeze and mineral tone. A style that's simply peerless when we enter this genre of dead-serious regal wines.
The white (100% Vermentino) melds green apple, white peach, and almond notes with a pulverized rocky core. The rosé (50% Sciaccarellu, 30% Niellucciu, 20% Grenache) brings the same underlying tension of minerality, with faint strawberry and pomegranate traits, all wrapping up with a lingering salty persistence. Yves Canarelli took over his family's domaine in 1993, converting these 5th century B.C. parcels to organic and biodynamic. Many of the vineyards around his village of Tarabucetta had been planted to international varieties over the years. His immediate action of tearing these out and replanting with native grapes like Sciaccarellu and Niellucciu was not met with the type of admiration from locals you might expect. With conviction on his side he's now slowly become widely respected throughout Corsica. But, the reach of Canarelli's wines quickly swept through France and now the US has taken notice.At the Los Angeles trade tasting it was Clos Canarelli that stole the show. Kermit Lynch's portfolio throughout Provence and Corsica is filled with the top talents. Since Marquiliani's rosé became allocated in small quantities I knew it was wise to go deep on Clos Canarelli before it falls prey to the same fate.
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.