Tasting the entire range with Raphael Bérêche last year was a masterclass in champagne precision. While this stable of artisanal wines are produced in very small quantities, the Coteaux Champenois Rouge is simply on a different scale. I'm thrilled to showcase two warm vintages where this rare bird soars.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 1999 and 2015 Bereche Coteaux Champenois Rouge Les Montées for $109 per bottle.
Bérêches's Les Montées is a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from old vines in the Montagne de Reims. The grapes are only partially de-stemmed and the fermentation is done in barrel, sometimes yielding only a single one. There is no fining or filtering before bottling.
On one hand, Raphael is as adventurous as any vigneron I've met, with a child-like joyous demeanor exuding enthusiasm at every turn in the cave. On the other hand, him and his brother, Vincent (who focuses in the vineyard) take an exacting approach to every detail in this domaine founded in 1847.
The nine hectares owned by Bérêche are farmed by ten full-time workers, an extremely unusual ratio. But, Rapha knows the quality in bottle will be dictated, above all, by the number of minutes each vine sees of hand working through the growing season.
The Bérêche estate also stands out for a vast array of terroir at their disposal. Starting at home base with the chalky soils of 1er Cru Ludes, ideal for Chardonnay (pictured below), all the way to the western Valée de la Marne and those heavier clay soils, where Pinot Noir and Meunier excel. In addition to the Coteaux Champenois Rouge, these other cuvées are available below.
NV Brut Resérve is comprised of equal parts Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. The Premier Cru village Ludes in Montagne de Reims is where parcels of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are sourced to bring that nervosity from chalky soils. And the broader and richer tones come from Pinot Meunier and additional Chardonnay parcels from Mareuil le Port in the western Vallée de la Marne.
35% of the Brut Réserve comes from a perpetual blend of reserve wine and is supplemented with 65% from the harvest listed below. It's this reserve portion of the blend that brings a sense of grandeur perfectly suited to mesh with the more taut structure from the single vintage. Fermentation is split between 60% neutral French oak barrels and 40% small vats, aging taking place in 600-liter neutral barrels.
Coteaux Champenois Blanc 1er Cru Les Monts Fournois is the rarest wine from the domaine. A still, single vineyard Chardonnay, this wine from a surprisingly warmer vintage (2013) in Champagne has all of the chalky drive and crystalline personality that you'd imagine, but with a definitive weight that fleshes out on the palate and finishes very long. I've stashed many bottles in my cellar and always am amazed at the evolution from one year to the next, slowly picking up more deeper color, orchard fruit tones, but framed by wild acidity, nonetheless.
Remensis Rosé comes from a single parcel in the Petite Montagne de Reims village of Ormes. 2/3 Pinot Noir, 1/3 Chardonnay, with all color coming from small addition of still wine. This has always been a favorite for its ginger and tangerine notes supported by beaming acidity and a precision rare to find in the world of rosé champagne. Today's offering features wines from the 2012 base vintage, the maturing in bottle has put this in a perfect spot where all of the notes are now more pronounced and expressive than I've ever tasted before, still finished by laser-focused salinity.
Les Beaux Regards is sourced primarily from vines planted in 1902 by Rapha's great-grandfather in his home village of Ludes (pictured below). The interplay between finely-woven threads of minerality and a concentrated driving force through the finish really had the tasting come to a halt in my mind. The balance is an ideal example of how Rapha is at the top of the echelon today. 2013 and 2014 available below.
Les Cran is equal parts Pinot Noir and Chardonnay coming from old vines in the best mid-slope parcels in Ludes. Raphael has an interesting take, "[Le Cran] demonstrates that there is much more minerality in the mid-slope of a premier cru than at the base of the slope in a grand cru.”
Reflet d'Antan is as special as they come. Sourced from a solera started in 1985 by Rapha's father, Jean-Pierre. This is equal parts Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. Each vintage 2/3 of each barrel is removed to blend with the Brut Reserve. "Reflection of yesteryear" tells the story of this esteemed producer, still showing the fine lacy texture and brimming energy that you will find with the youngest wines here.
The southern Rhone valley is home to Grenache-dominant blends, and it's Châteauneuf-du-Pape where these wild strawberry, white pepper-spiced, and gamey reds reach their apex. The perfect exposition and drainage from vineyards perched high on the hill in Châteauneuf-du-Pape make for the most thrilling and age-worthy wines of the entire southern Rhone.
The style of CdP has been one of ever-growing power and ripeness. The hot temperatures here have a tendency to give these blends roasted fruit notes. The prominent gallet river stones have a large role in this, as they absorb daytime heat and reverberate it upward to the hanging clusters even through the night. This is where sand enters the equation.
Rare pockets of sand-dominant parcels give a decidedly different quality to the wines - one marked by elegance, racy structure, and a more quiet purity, void of any sense of stewed or baked fruits. And, in these small zones few producers have garnered more respect and praise than Laurent Charvin.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2016 Domaine Charvin Chateauneuf du Pape & 2017 Côtes du Rhone Le Poutet.
* The appellation originally received its name when Pope John XXII relocated in 1309 from Rome to Avignon and constructed "the new home of the pope", or Châteauneuf-du-Pape. At this time the wines of Burgundy were more likely served to the pontiff, but things quickly changed when the pope familiarized himself with the Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah blends from Avignon's most revered hillside vineyards.
Laurent Charvin took over this 6th generation domaine in 1990 and that's when the magic truly started. Unlike most producers, Laurent chose whole cluster fermentation and has stuck with bottling only one Châteauneuf-du-Pape - no reserve, no spéciale cuvée, no old-vine bottling. Why should an estate's hallmark wine suffer by taking the best components out to bottle on its own? So, the sole CdP bottling here is always a masterpiece year in, year out. But, 2016 is simply a dream year for the southern Rhône, and not since 2010 have we seen something this pitch-perfect.
The domaine is located in the northwest of the appellation. With sandy soils and northern exposure (mitigating the sun's influence), the wines here take on a different quality than is the norm in CdP.
Farming of these 60-year-old average vines is organic, with a blend usually of 85% Grenache, 5% Mourvèdre, 5% Syrah, and 5% Vaccarèse. The wines are fermented with stems and aged in concrete tanks. This approach to elévage works really well to preserve brightness and verve in the wines that otherwise may easily fall by the waist side.
Laurent's wines are seamless, spicy, and posses an elusive purity not often found in CdP. They always show of dark raspberry, asian spices, with smokey and wild floral notes. These are absolutely singular expressions Châteauneuf-du-Pape and each release quickly sells out from importer Weygandt-Metzler. Quantities are very limited.
“As I have commented in the past, Roy just doesn’t seem to miss as she’s a perfectionist.”
– Allen Meadows, BurghoundAs any lover of Burgundy knows, one of the most satisfying aspects of collecting is finding special vineyards that fly under-the-radar due to humble villages designations, yet hang tight with Grand Cru terroir. Clos Prieur of Gevrey Chambertin is one of those secret sites, and Alexandrine Roy of Domaine Marc Roy now defines the heights this lieu-dit (named vineyard) is capable of achieving.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2016 Marc Roy Gevrey Chambertin Clos Prieur for $89 per bottle.
Clos Prieur is a very small vineyard located directly east and adjacent to Grand Cru Mazis-Chambertin. Situated on limestone bedrock with high portions of iron and clay, vines organically farmed here by Alexandrine are 60+ yrs old. Stylistically, Roy is known for very concentrated and ripe fruit coming from an unusual collection of nearly all old vines. Purity is front and center with all grapes being de-stemmed, and extraction kept modest. Aging here is 50% new French oak to soften Gevrey's inherently formidable tannins, though in bottle, Clos Prieur is all about silky fuit and exotic spices.
Alexandrine's Clos Prieur is undoubtedly fruit-forward in style, with black cherry and plum fruit melding with game and forest floor notes that will ensure drinkers are very much in the old world. The real skill, as I see it, is Clos Prieur's finish, always wrapping up dry and full of lingering mouth-watering mineral notes. If there was one lieu-dit and one producer to embody the secrets to be found tucked adjacent to Grand Crus, Roy's Clos Prieur would be atop my list.
Alexandrine also produces a very rare cuvée comprised exclusively of millerandage grapes clusters - those that are very tiny and result in high skin:juice ratio. This micro-production wine is fermented in small stainless steel vats and is punched down exclusively by foot. Aging takes place in 70% new French oak.
And, finally, her rare Côte de Nuits Chardonnay from Marsannay's Les Champs Perdrix lieu-dit is a wonderful place to turn to see what the more limited Chardonnay plantings in this Pinot Noir-dominant zone of Burgundy can reveal. More tropical and broad on the palate with a serious dollop of salty inflection make this a great departure from what you may be accustomed to from Côte de Beaune villages like Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, and Chassagne-Montrachet.
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.
If there was to be only one gold standard for Chenin Blanc it would be Huet. Loire Valley's village of Vouvray has been home to the domaine since its first of three famous vineyards, Le Haut-Lieu, was purchased in 1928.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2017 great trio release of dry (Sec) wines from Huet, as well as their benchmark Loire sparkling wine, the 2013 Pétillant.
Huet's brilliance lies in running the entire range from dry sparkling (the Pétillantfeatured below) all the way through the sweetest (Moelleux, also featured below). As an appellation, Vouvray traces production back to the 9th century, but it wasn't until Victor Huët relocated here from Paris that he began the domaine. Victor's son Gaston took over in 1937, and after spending five years in a German POW camp he returned home and purchased the next duo of vineyards, Le Mont and Clos du Bourg. Today, thisGrand Cru level trio of bottlings are revered for their expressive site specificity, as well as their transformative prowess.
Le Haut-Lieu's deep limestone and clay make this the richest, most plush, and approachable of the range.
Le Mont has far less clay, and the wines are the most mineral-driven and racy of the trio.
Clos du Bourg has the most shallow and rockiest soils, but its signature is actually a middle ground: The mineral component of Le Mont with the more sensual, flashy texture of Le Haut-Lieu.
Upon release, the young, dry 2017 Huet Vouvray Sec wines offer upfront notes of white peach, pineapple, and chalky minerality. But with age, notes of white flowers and honeycomb emerge and fall into place in a beautifully seamless way that's simply vintage Huet.