Curious about alpine red wines? Then, you have to check out the Savoie's native red grape variety, Mondeuse. One of the best examples we’ve encountered comes from the young Nicolas Ferrand. We spread the word to as many of our customers as possible and are down to only a few cases.
Coteau de la Mort ($79) has the depth of Northern Rhône Syrah, with high-toned black cherry, black pepper, and pressed rose petals, though this Mondeuse is also surprisingly juicy and sleek. Ferrand does a semi-carbonic fermentation without any piegeage (pressing of the skins), no fining or filtering, uses minimal sulfur, and ages in larger format barrels.The cuvée's name, hill of death, refers to the ancient hillside vineyards re-planted during Savoie’s renaissance in the 1990s, thanks to early champions, like Michel Grisard of Prieuré St-Christophe, who I've written about in past offers. In 2013, the vineyard fell under the stewardship of Ferrand when starting Domaine des Côtes Rousses.
One of the Savoie’s top crus for Mondeuse, Saint Jean de la Porte has distinct red clay soils (the inspiration behind the domaine name), as well as limestone and moraine. Ferrand has farmed organically from the beginning and utilizes horses and sheep in partnership with his neighbors. He's native to the area, but his family previously farmed cattle, making him a first-generation vigneron.In the last decade, Ferrand's vineyard holdings have increased, and so has the buzz for his wines. Savoie expert and author Wink Lorch says, “Nicolas’s wines should become a staple in every Savoie wine lover’s cellar,” and we fervently agree. Coteau de la Mort is a refreshing take on Savoie history.
We all have regrets. One of mine was passing on Bitouzet-Prieur Volnay and Meursault when I turned on the lights in 2015. A friend once said, “If you’re not embarrassed by choices made in the previous year, then you’re not growing.” The 2020 vintage of this domaine marks my redemption.
With winemaking medals galore filling the home of Vincent Bitouzet back in 1860, the marriage to Annie Prieur after that marked the official start of what is now the most classic domaine in Volnay, along with Lafarge. And the whites from vineyards like Meursault 1er Cru Charmes and Perrières are now another great reminder that value is alive and well in the Côte de Beaune.
I only have a few wines from Bitouzet-Prieur, but they are the best cuvées to me after an extensive tasting with the domaine in Brooklyn last year. The Volnay is destemmed, and pigeage (punchdowns) occur twice per day—a process that has seemingly gone out of fashion in Burgundy of late as many opt for remontage (pumpovers) to bring softer contours and more immediacy to the fruit. But the 2020 Volnay is pure class and is precisely the type of Burgundy I seek out—from the greatest red village of the Côte de Beaune.
The whites see extended lees contact and a maximum of 20% new oak. They pull back on the fruity Chardonnay traits, instead digging deep for a saturating mineral through-line that reminds me of wines common pre-2005 heat. Still bursting with site-specificity and deliciousness, they take my mind back to another time with their soft-spoken spirit.
Florence Cholet's under the radar wines
Chateau Tertre de La Mouleyre is not your typical Grand Cru Bordeaux, but it is the real Saint-Emilion deal. The 2016 vintage left me so in awe that I took every case allocated to California, with only 350 cases produced annually. Those are long gone, but I've gone deep on every release since then.
To place Chateau Tertre de la Mouleyre in the garagiste category would be a mistake. While they don't have the same typicity as grand chateaux in the classified growths, they marry the two philosophies for the perfect storm: Bordeaux ready to drink upon release with immaculate construction.
The blend is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc from 50-year-old vines. 35% ages in large neutral cuve and 65% in new French oak barrels. I'm immediately inclined to describe this gem as old school and traditional, but its warmth and charm afforded by today's climate carry a level of finesse and complexity that is pure Grand Cru.
Tertre de la Mouleyre is named after the windmill atop the clay and limestone slope in St-Étienne de Lisse. From a young age, Eric Jeanneteau helped his grandfather in the vines, and his interest never diverged for a moment. After three degrees in viticulture and stints at grand chateaux, Eric returned home to implement a full organic regimen to his family's vines.
By nature, most Gamay-based wines from the Beaujolais are opened within a year of release, but the wines of the Coudert family are best known for their unrivaled complexity and track record for aging.One year, at La Paulée's verticals tasting, 31 tables were filled with the best of Burgundy (Roumier, Lafon, Rousseau, Mugneret-Gibourg, D'Angerville) and one sole Cru Beaujolais (Roilette). Set alongside Burgundy's most elite producers, the tasting was a great reminder that the best of Cru Beaujolais greatly rewards the patient.The story of Roilette's evolution is a fascinating one. The vineyards were historically classified as Moulin-à-Vent, and its owners are proud of that designation. But in the 1920s, districts were re-drawn, and the Fleurie appellation was created. This newfound appellation, which was required to appear on the label, enraged the owner of the Clos de Roilette. Instead of printing Fleurie, he used a photo of his racehorse and refused to sell his wines in France, exporting 100% of his production to neighboring countries.In 1967, ownership changed hands, and this largely untended vineyard went into the thoughtful stewardship of Fernand Coudert. Today, the wines are widely regarded as the benchmark of not only Fleurie but the entire Beaujolais region.The border of Moulin-à-Vent and Fleurie, where the estate sits, is home to clay-dominant vineyards. Whereas most of Beaujolais is on granite, the clay and manganese soils of Roilette give a darker and richer expression of Gamay. Blue and black fruits are abundant in all of the estate's wines.Roilette's Fleurie bottling comes from a parcel of 30-to-45-year-old vines and undergoes the same whole cluster, semi-carbonic fermentation regimen as the estate's Cuvée Tardive and Griffe du Marquis. Stylistically, the Fleurie is open-knit and has a more supple tannin structure, still with the stuffing to age gracefully and develop over the next few years.