• Cortese with Teeth: La Ghibellina

    Cortese with Teeth: La Ghibellina

    Situated 50 miles east of Piedmont, Gavi is home to the Cortese grape, known for its Chablis-like minerality and, in most cases, its mass-produced, innocuous character. There's nothing wrong with wines that bring pleasure from their more refreshing, gulp-able traits. I hadn't had an aha moment with Gavi where my eyes lit up, but that changed when introduced to La Ghibellina.

    La Ghibellina's 20 hectares of vines sit on a bedrock of limestone tucked between the Po River Valley and the Ligurian Apennines mountain range. These elements play a vital role in the wine, resulting in gripping salinity that's rare for Cortese. Here, Cortese's white flower and citrus finish with terrific crushed rock and oyster shell notes, and this exuberant disposition is an amplified version of the norm in Gavi.

    The couple behind the estate, Alberto and Marina Ghibellina, come from very different backgrounds. Alberto was a water polo player who medaled at the Olympics, and Marina was an art history student. Their passion for wine and Marina's family's roots in the region landed them at this property. The first vintage was in 2000, and from the start, they've been fortunate to work with celebrated enologist Beppe Caviola.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Diamond-Cut Penedés: Celler Pardas Blau Cru

    Diamond-Cut Penedés: Celler Pardas Blau Cru

    Penedès is known most as the birthplace of Cava, but this Spanish region on the Mediterranean is now the next exciting stop on a tour that's reshaped my thinking on Spanish whites. Since 1996, Celler Pardas has been on a journey to show the serious side of Penedés still wines. Their Blau Cru, comprised of Malvasia de Sitges, captures Catalonia with a dry Riesling-like precision that floored me. Blau Cru continues to make a case for Spain's wine renaissance toward diamond-cut-focused whites.

    Malvasia grows in many regions throughout Europe, each with a slightly different genetic makeup, though the wines commonly stand out for rich, oily texture and vivid floral qualities. In the upper Penedès, the limestone, 300-meter elevation, and influences from the Bitlles River bring a more straight-lined Malvasia that conjures Germany's Mosel. Blau Cru has a seamless texture and crystalline quality to the yellow stone fruits that screams mineral spring purity. This unusual juxtaposition in each sip was mesmerizing!

    The other wine featured here, Collita Roja, is 100% old-vine Sumoll from the same limestone soils; the fruit is de-stemmed and fermented in stainless steel, then aged in used French barrique. Sumoll brings dark red-black fruits and savory spices wrapped together with a mildly chalky mineral sensation that drives through the long finish. I expected a roasted or jammy quality, but the underpinning salinity keeps everything crisp and vivacious.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • French Alpine Pleaser: Domaine Giachino

    French Alpine Pleaser: Domaine Giachino

    This year, I have been growingly curious about this alpine region over the more popular Jura. A couple of months ago, I wrote about Michel Grisard of Prieuré Saint-Christophe, who spearheaded much of Savoie's renaissance in the 1990s. Today, I would like to introduce you to one of the vignerons directly impacted by his work: Frédéric Giachino. This was the domaine that originally drew me to the Savoie, and they remain my absolute favorite, for their incredible price point and drinkability.

    Frédéric is an OG in his own right. Native to Savoie, his grandparents farmed cereals, nuts, fruits, and a small vineyard planted with Jacquère. Frédéric asked if he could take over the vines and start a domaine. In 1988, this was a risky proposition, as Jacquère still had a bad reputation. Luckily, the rest of the region quickly caught on, with vignerons like Grisard leading the charge. Abandoned vineyards planted with native varieties were revitalized, and today, Jacquère is Savoie’s most popular white grape.

    Though these are technically “natural” wines, the Giachinos are more concerned with respecting nature and capturing their sense of place. In the 13th century, the north face of Mount Granier came loose and spilled 500 million cubic meters of limestone into the valley below, where Domaine Giachino is now based. Between this and Savoie’s alpine terrain, the resulting wines are brisk, mineral-driven, and extremely enjoyable in Lorch’s words. Consider drinking Giachino’s Jacquère in place of a glass of Chablis, or their Mondeuse over a glass of Northern Rhône Syrah!

    Frédéric also planted Altesse, Persan, and Gamay, among other native varieties. For years, he worked under lutte raisonnée, a farming practice that allows for chemical pesticides when necessary. According to Wink Lorch, it wasn’t until the early aughts when Frédéric met a group of vignerons farming organically, who would form a cohort called Pétavins—this introduction changed everything. In 2006, the domaine became organic-certified. And in 2015, the Giachinos inherited Grisard’s estate vineyard upon his retirement (They still produce the wines under the Prieuré Saint-Christophe label). Today, Frédéric is joined by his brother, David, and his son, Clement, who have helped carry the domaine into this new era.

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    Posted by Sydney Love
  • Bewitching Bourgueil: Breton Clos Sénéchal

    Bewitching Bourgueil: Breton Clos Sénéchal

    Pierre and Catherine Breton's Cabernet Francs from Bourgueil and Chinon represent everything our selection stands for: Organic and biodynamic viticulture, minimal winemaking, single expressions of place, and wines that beg to be opened with complete abandon. These are among the most gratifying wines in the Loire.

    One cuvée speaks to me differently than the rest. Clos Sénéchal is 100% Cabernet Franc from a 1.3-hectare parcel of clay over white tuffeau—the prized and finely-grained chalky limestone found in the Loire. It's always the most seamless and elegant of the Breton's single-vineyard Cabernet Francs. Here, Cabernet Franc is suave, and site-specificity is high-definition, with notes of black cherry, fresh potting soil, iron, and lavender jumping out of the glass. There is a sense of composure and effortlessness with Clos Sénéchal that bridges a difficult gap that can sometimes exist between natural wines and the more classic, age-worthy bottlings.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Chinon Legacy: Bernard Baudry

    Chinon Legacy: Bernard Baudry

    The most significant domaine I visited in the Loire this spring was Bernard Baudry in Chinon. When Max decided to open a wine shop, in 2015, it was producers like Baudry that exemplified the soul of KWM’s selection: “Great people doing the hard work and expressing terroir as thoughtfully as possible,” Max explained to me. “And on top of that, the wines are pure, delicious, and have masterful structure and finesse.”

    Coming from a long line of winegrowers, Bernard Baudry left his family’s domaine to set out on his own. In 1975, he started by purchasing Les Grézeaux and slowly expanded to what’s now 30 hectares spread across Chinon. They are deeply interested in “making wines according to the soil,” as Bernard’s son, Matthieu, put it. He joined his father in 2001 and now oversees the winemaking. Over nearly five decades, the Baudry’s have closely studied their landscape through vinification parcellaire, or parcel by parcel, with each cuvée capturing its soil and terroir.

    Le Grezeaux, the vineyard where everything began, sits closest to the Vienne river, on gravel soils with rocks and clay, while the entry-level cuvée, Le Domaine is at the very top of the plateau, where there is a mix of sand and clay over limestone. Le Grezeaux’s gravel soils yield supple body and concentration with silky tannins, while the Le Domaine has chalky minerality and freshness due to the limestone.

    Clos Guillot is unto itself, in the middle of the slope, where Chinon’s limestone is most prominent. “Limestone is what I call the white gold,” Matthieu declared. Well, in this case, the limestone is actually yellow. Clos Guillot combines rich red fruit and striking minerality, power and elegance, making it the most ageable of the three rouge cuvées here today. We rarely compare Chinon to Burgundy, but Clos Guillot's uniquely similar soil type has transparency and finesse in line with the Côte d'Or.

    In my earlier offer for Domaine de la Chevalerie, I mentioned Bourgueil and Chinon are more alike than different. Matthieu admitted to this, explaining that his wines can be more reminiscent of certain Bourgueil producers than Chinon neighbors who farm with pesticides. Still, the latter is considered the Loire’s top appellation for Cabernet Franc. Importer Kermit Lynch has much to do with Chinon’s star power, according to Rajat Parr and Jordan Mackay's The Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste (2018). It was the 1989 vintage that Kermit Lynch first began importing Baudry to the U.S. market.

    If there is any Chinon producer to add to your cellar, we would argue that it is Baudry. Our operations director, Marc, blinded us on a bottle of 2012 Le Domaine. Its peppery notes gave away that it was Cabernet Franc, but I was astounded to find it was Chinon. Looking back, these wines have the grandeur of Bordeaux but elegance and freshness undoubtedly tied to the Loire. In a decade, this entry-level wine had preserved its youthfulness with incredible grace. The fact that these wines are so reasonably priced rank them among the best-valued Cabernet Francs in the world.

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    Posted by Sydney Love