In the magically distinctive Jura region there're special pockets where varieties blossom into their greatest and truest possbile form. For Poulsard (locally known as Ploussard) that fairy dust of sorts comes from the ground of the tiny village of Pupillin, located just south of Arbois. While Poulsard plantings throughout the Jura are crafted into singularly delicious wines, those from Pupillin are something entirely different.
My hunt for an example that lived up to what I drank while visiting the village in 2012 has been ongoing. After tasting through importer Neal Rosenthal's current releases that included the 2016 Overynoy-Crinquand Pupillin Ploussard, I was taken back instantaneously to that damp weekend 5 years ago. Poulsard here can often show a huge disparity in styles, and to be blunt, soundness due to its reductive and finiky nature. Overynoy-Crinquand showcases the rarefied air of Poulsard, a brightness and purity unlike anywhere else on earth.
Mickael Crinquand is the fourth generation to farm these 5 hecatres, of which all have been under organic regimen since the 80's. Here the red clay-limestone marl soil is planted to all of the standard Jura varieties: Trousseau, Chardonnay, Savagnin. But, the oldest vines today are Poulsard.
2016 in the Jura, as in nearby Burgundy, is a vintage I cannot overstate my enthusiasm for. Clarity and concentration is in total balance. Here, fermentation and aging takes place in large foudre, with pumpovers kept to a bare minimum to limit extraction. This protocol gives a whispery lace structure to Poulsard and highlights everything I love about the variety's fresh strawberry and sweet cinnamon spiced inflection. In the glass there's the palest of red hues you'll ever find, with a slight rust-colored tinge. But, a suprisingly sturdy tannic sturcture holds this featherweight in a way that provides a thrilling sense of grip.
Over the last decade, the Jura has brought us a new level of excitment and fascination for their native, obscure varieties. There aren't many importers who can touch Rosenthal's sense of mission in finding these smaller domaines that show their sense of place under the most sensitive and deft touch. Of all the esteemed terroirs within the region, it's Pupillin's Poulsard that compels me the most. At $30 per bottle from a magic vintage this is the wine that's finally ended my long pursuit.
We sold out very quickly of Alex Foillard's 2016 and 2017 Brouilly, and today I've received some great, timely news, that his 2018 Beaujolais-Villages is ready.
This cuvée comes from Alex's oldest vines (70-yrs-old) from an east-facing lieu dit, Saint Ennemond. Fermentation and aging in concrete exclusively. Very limited number of pumpovers here, just once every few days. Like the wines of his father, Jean Foillard, Alex's are about satin-texture and loaded with spice, and of course most importantly they are supremely drinkable in their downright deliciousness.
Thus far, there's a lot of anticipation for the 2018's in Beaujolais. It is a warm vintage with heat spikes throughout July and August, but unlike 2015 the amount of spring rain was very high, and therefore the vines were well positioned in summer with ample ground water in reserve. In short, the 2018's are fleshy and ripe with very good acidity and a fresh streak that was missing in the more forward-style of 2015. The east-facing Saint Ennemond was a great vineyard purchase with the increasing temperatures in mind, and 2018 proves that even in years with many 100+ degree days, exposure can mitigate a lot.
Alex Foillard's wines are new to the scene and come in very tiny quantities, even relative to his father's small production. I'm very happy today to offer this small parcel from the oldest vines in the hands of the region's most exciting newcomer.
In the hills above Dijon you can find the roots to one of Burgundy's greatest inception stories. While it's is a fresh departure from a domaine's normal evolution in Burgundy, the wines in bottle are the most thrilling element from Marc Soyard. In only three vintages they have gone from obscure to seeing a cult following.
Today, I'm happy to offer Marc Soyard's 2017 Domaine de la Cras Rouge and 2016 "Cras" Blanc.Domaine de la Cras goes against the grain of what Burgundian law has dictated for centuries. Five years ago the city of Dijon purchased a vineyard just outside their limits. The city essentially held a casting call to find a winemaker for the property. The criteria was that they must be young, have no family vineyard holdings, be prepared for organic farming, and open the domaine for educational tours. The rent for the land would be paid each year to the city in bottles, 2,000 exactly.
Marc Soyard, originally from the nearby Jura, was chosen. Soyard does not come from a family of vignerons, but he had worked previously for the esteemed and tiny Domaine Bizot in Vosne-Romanée. Bizot is known for their rigorous vineyard work, minuscule sulphur regimen, and their use of whole grape clusters for fermentation.Soyard works a slope, En Bessy, just outside Dijon. His Pinot Noir pulled me in immediately for its super crunchy and unadulterated bright red berry fruit. 100% whole cluster ferment gives a lifted and spicy, floral character that just floored me. Even before tasting, those aromas are so intoxicating they grab ahold of you straightaway.
The Chardonnay's supple mouthfeel melds with an exotic stone fruit profile and is backed up by a crazy, zippy mineral drive. In short, these wines are unlike anything produced in the region today. and speak to this unique slice of Dijon.The "Cras" bottlings are the domaine's top wines and come from the oldest vines on the steepest portion of En Bessy. Biodynamic and organic approach to all viticulture here, with only small amounts of sulphur additions, primarily at bottling. Older barrel elévage for the Coteaux de Dijon Chardonnay, and 50% new wood for the two "Cras" cuvées.
The Côtes de Provence appellation is vast. Finding small slices of unique terroir where artisanal domaines reside has been a career-long journey for importer Kermit Lynch. Decades ago it was names like Tempier and Trévallon. Now, it is Clos Saint-Joseph.
Today, I'm happy to offer Domaine Clos Saint-Joseph's Cuvée Syrah from the exceptional 2016 Provence vintage.
30 minutes north of Nice is where you'll find the village of Villars-sur-Var, nestled high in these limestone hills just before the Alps. Here, Roch Sassi farms his 5 hectares with extreme care (organic with biodynamic principles followed). The big diversion from what the larger Provence region produces comes from the combination of these rocky, depleted limestone soils, the abundant sunshine, and the cold air howling down from the mountains. That's why tasting Cuvée Syrah you may feel whisked away to the northern Rhone. But, alas, the elegance endowed by these limestone soils is a different beast entirely.
Of all the vintages to debut, the 2016 is simply a perfect storm. Showcased is that magic combo of high ripeness and concentration, met with superb freshness. For my palate, everything points to this as the strongest vintage from Provence and the southern Rhone since 2010.
Cuvée Syrah is what really got me to stop in my tracks. 98% Syrah supplemented by a little Cabernet Sauvignon. This holds so much kinship to favorite Syrahs of the N. Rhone, but again, the interpretation through limestone (as opposed to granite and schist) finds a way of sharpening the focus and adding a finely-woven texture that still delivers massive concentration of fruit. A jewel in its construction and reflection of terroir. Aged exclusively in larger demi-muids.
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.