At this time of year, the argument for Muscadet as the greatest single value wine in France cannot be upstaged by any region. And finding the appellation's greatest star entering at $18 per bottle makes this case even stronger.
In Muscadet, where the Atlantic Ocean is at its most influential, the Melon de Bourgogne grape is deep, textural, and under the Pepière name speaks to the heights possible to achieve. They offer immediate satisfaction, age at a glacial pace, and rival the sophistication found in Sancerre and Chablis, but at half the price.
Marc Olivier and Rémi Branger work magic at Pepière, showcasing Melon's tell-tale notes of brioche, citrus fruits, and a briny, Atlantic ocean salinity that Muscadet has become adored for.
Clisson has been my single favorite bottling of Muscadet for many years. 8 hectares of this Cru go into this top cuvée. The distinctive soil, known as granite de Clisson, is made of very compact granite with veins of quartz and mica (pictured above). The absence of clay here separates this Cru from many others in the region. And the better draining granite soils here forced these old vines (up to 110 yrs-old) to dig very deep into the bedrock, giving a complexity that's made this a benchmark for the entire region.
Fermentation and aging takes place in steel vats where the wine is left completely undisturbed for two years, aging on the lees. This Sur Lie process of aging on the dead yeast cells is the reason these citrus-toned fruit flavors take on that brioche and creamy texture slowly over time. When bottled, the combo is one that's uniquely delicious and offers incredible aging potential in bottle. Here, Clisson is offered in magnums, both 2012 and 2014 are the two most successful vintages of this wine over the decade.
La Pepie is Pepières "entry level" wine, but please make no mistake, at $18 this will transform in the cellar over many years, yet brings a pop-n-pour element on release that makes it a favorite summer sharing wine. Coming from a parcel of more sandy soils on top of granite bedrock. A cooler full of ice and six bottles of La Pepie is about the easiest choice one can make when it's time to host and you need something light, crisp, and affordable.
Add some oysters or shellfish to the situation and suddenly things get dead-serious. Do not miss this as summer is in full swing. 2015 provided a perfect style for this wine, with the dry and hot temperatures endowing this "baby" Pepière with more stuffing and length than anytime in recent memory.
2015 Pepière "La Pepie" Muscadet Sèvre et Maine
$18 per bottle.
2014 Pepière Muscadet Clisson 1.5L
$63 per bottle.
2012 Pepière Muscadet Clisson 1.5L
$63 per bottle.
One of the thrills of living in Beaune throughout 2012 was getting familiar with an enormous range of Burgundy's producers. Beaune had its fair share of wine bars that we'd frequent as a group almost nightly. However, none of these bars devoted serious space to wines outside of the region. That all changed when the natural-focused, Les Vins de Maurice opened in the spring. Wines from the Jura, Rhone, and Loire Valley covered the walls.
One day I asked Maurice to introduce me to a producer that was doing something out of the ordinary and he quickly picked up a bottle of Vincent Pinard's Sancerre. Since that day I've been on the hunt in the US, but availability is very slim. I was lucky to receive small quantities from a favorite source recently. And, when this small importer of Mugnier, Cathiard, and Lafarge takes an interest in Sancerre, it's time to pay very close attention.
Vincent Pinard is located in Bué, a village that along with Chavignol has some of the most prized vineyards in the region. Pinard's wines can best be described as overtly stylish, with each cuvée standing drastically apart from one another. They have intense concentration and a gossamer texture that bears little resemblance to other Sancerre producers.
There's a grandeur to this seriously defined structure that reminds me much more of those sensibilities found in Burgundy. When I've found Meursault and Puligny lovers who shy away from Loire Sauvignon Blanc it's Pinard who ends up reverberating with them.
All parcels sit on a bedrock of limestone covered with the famous caillottes pebbles on the surface.
Nuance comes from vines located in Bué vineyards, Petit Chemarin and Château. Aged in 2/3 stainless steel tanks, and 1/3 in one-year-old barrique.
2016 Vincent Pinard Sancerre Florès
$45 per bottle.
Thibaud Boudignon is one of the Loire Valley's younger stars I had really looked forward to meeting. A June visit at his centuries old cellar just outside of Savennières impressed a lot upon me. Finding Chenin Blanc of both grandiose saturation and concentration while framed with a nimble grace is a quality that Thibaud owns wholeheartedly. It was clear the focus etched at the core of his wines is completely mirrored by the man who's intent on changing the way the world views Anjou and Savennières.
Thibaud's success is based on fastidious organic viticulture, and a decisive, yet adventurous spirit in the cellar with his use of various formats for aging. The two appellations have long been associated with more oxidative orchard fruit tones and broad shouldered texture, but Thibaud's wines are cut from a very different cloth. The fruit profile leans heavily into the freshly picked citrus and pear category, with lingering salinity that's Boudignon's calling card.
Today, I'm very happy offer the 2016 release from Thibaud Boudignon.
* Drastic low yields in 2016 likely means this small allocation is all we will see, so I highly recommend viewing some of our back-vintage wines listed below.
Anjou Blanc - from 35-yr-old vines on shallow grey schist and sand. Aged in sized oak, 30% of which is new.
Anjou Blanc "A François(e)" - a special selection of the Anjou parcels named for his late mother, Francoise.
Savennières "Les Fougerais" - from 45-yr-old vines in this lieu-dit located near Coulée de Serrant. Similar soils to the Anjou Blanc, but much more volume and intensity, still with Boudignon's classic underlying tension.
Savennières "Clos de la Hutte" - from a .5 hectare parcel in this walled vineyard. Only 1,000 bottles produced annually. Finer and more mineral-driven in style as compared to Les Fougerais.
11x 2016 Thibaud Boudignon Anjou Blanc
$45 per bottle.
5x 2016 Thibaud Boudignon Anjou Blanc "A François(e)"
$69 per bottle.
2x 2016 Thibaud Boudignon Anjou Blanc "A François(e)" 1.5L
$149 per bottle.
2x 2016 Thibaud Boudignon Savennières "Les Fougerais"
$75 per bottle.
2x 2016 Thibaud Boudignon Savennières "Clos de la Hutte"
$123 per bottle.
12x 2017 Thibaud Boudignon Rosé de Loire (100% Cabernet Franc)
$29 per bottle.
3x 2015 Thibaud Boudignon Anjou Blanc
$45 per bottle.
9x 2014 Thibaud Boudignon Anjou Blanc
$45 per bottle.
16x 2015 Thibaud Boudignon Savennières "Clos de la Hutte"
$123 per bottle.
1x 2014 Thibaud Boudignon Anjou Blanc "à Francois(e)"
$56 per bottle.
2x 2014 Thibaud Boudignon Savennieres "Les Fougerais"
$99 per bottle.
12x 2013 Thibaud Boudignon Savennieres "Les Fougerais"
$75 per bottle.
3x 2015 Thibaud Boudignon Anjou Rosé de Loire (100% Cabernet Franc)
$44 per bottle.
The wines of Gérard Boulay have long been the top secret source within Sancerre's most esteemed village, Chavignol. These steep, chalky, Kimmeridgian limestone slopes are home to tiny producers who capture Sauvignon Blanc at its most crystalline defined and age-worthy. The Cotat cousins and Edmond Vatan may be the first names mentioned from Chavignol, but discerning collectors have long turned to Boulay for top quality and value when searching for the hamlet's Grand Cru level vineyards, Monts Damnés and La Côte.
Today I'm very happy to offer both Gérard Boulay's 2015 Monts Damnés and La Côte with special pricing on mixed 4-Packs.
Chavignol, in many respects, is not Sancerre. The terroir throughout Sancerre varies a great deal. Within the tiny village of Chavignol you know exactly what you are getting: Diamond-cut clarity of terroir and underlying mineral tension reminiscent of top Meursault. The band of this unique limestone in Chavignol is the same formation that reaches parts of Chablis and Champagne.
Chavignol's most desirable trait may be the unusual abundance of ripeness found in these two sun-battered slopes. The cold climate of the Loire Valley finds its greatest respite here, where the steep pitch evoked such awe that I had to pull my car over to truly take it all in during my visit. Much like in Côte Rôtie and the Mosel Valley, Monts Damnés (Damned Mountain) and La Côte are only capable of being worked by hand.
Along with the top two wines from Boulay, there's a small amount available of his villages level Chavignol ($32), as well as two vintages of his rosé of Pinot Noir - always one of France's most transformative and age-worthy.
Although any Boulay Chavignol can bring fireworks to a range of pairings from shellfish to bone-in pork chops, there may be nothing more satisfying than serving alongside your favorite goat cheese. Some iconic partnerships simply do not tire!
2015 Gérard Boulay Sancerre Monts Damnés "Comtesse"
$59 per bottle.
Sourced from a special parcel within Monts Damnés of 50-75 year-old-vines next to Vatan's Clos la Neore.
2015 Gérard Boulay Sancerre La Côte
$55 per bottle.
Special E-mail Chavignol 4-Pack Pricing: $213 (Regularly $228)
2 bottles of each: 2015 Monts Damnés "Comtesse" & La Côte
2013 Gérard Boulay Sancerre Clos de Beaujeu
$41 per bottle.
2014 Gérard Boulay Sancerre Monts Damnés 1.5L
$95 per bottle.
2013 Gérard Boulay Sancerre La Côte 1.5L
$112 per bottle.
2005 Gérard Boulay Sancerre Clos de Beaujeu
$69 per bottle.
2016 Gérard Boulay Sancerre Chavignol
$32 per bottle.
2016 Gérard Boulay Sancerre Chavignol Rosé of Pinot Noir
$32 per bottle.
2014 Gérard Boulay Sancerre Chavignol Rosé of Pinot Noir
$34 per bottle.
There's no place I've visited that carries the same undercurrent of excitement like Anjou. The Loire Valley region has long been associated with sweet wines, but today there's a group of winemakers who are turning that playbook upside down. They focus on dry wines, using meticulous organic viticulture and minimal sulphur as the foundation for change in this region of complicated identity.
Of this band of vignerons, Guyonne Saclier de la Bâtie of Château de Bonnezeaux is the brand new arrival to the US that I've been waiting to write about. Her first and only release from a two-hectare parcel of old Chenin Blanc vines epitomizes the magic capable in Anjou.Today I'm very happy to offer the resurrection of the Château de Bonnezeaux, the 2016 La Montagne Cuvée Salve Regina at $45 per bottle, and down to $42.25 on 4-Packs. We are one of only two listings in the entire US for this inaugural release.At first pour, Cuvée Salve Regina's very pale yellow hue initially got me engaged. It's often from this area I'll find more darker peach and apricot notes that totally miss the mark with their heavier handed Chenin expression. It's the fresh white pear, honeysuckle, and meyer lemon all woven together here with a mineral spring finish that was just irresistible. The concentration of bright acidity and crushed rock notes that linger on the palate stands in stark contrast to anything else I've come across. And the distinctive cardamom note on the nose and the palate only adds to the intrigue here.Château de Bonnezeaux's first release in over thirty years comes from two parcels of Chenin Blanc vines blended together: a 70-yr-old vineyard in Bonnezeaux and a 40-yr-old vineyard in the Coteaux du Layon. Both appellations have long stood as where sweet Chenin Blanc reaches its apogee, but the archaic French laws have kept vignerons from pushing the envelope to see what else was capable here. Today, dry wines from these two regions are often required to be labeled with the humble Vin de France appellation you see pictured below.The names Mark Angeli, Stephane Bernaudeau, and Richard Leroy should be addressed. This trio of mentors has been a pivotal force in grooming the new generation in Anjou. It was working under these producers that Guyonne found her voice for Château de Bonnezeaux, and in her wine the spirit of these three names is obvious. Minimal sulphur is a common thread for all, and the resulting wilder elements of spices and aromas is intrinsically tied to each of the domaine's spellbinding wines.
I thought it would be fun to also put together a special mixed 6-Pack of my favorite Anjou natural wine producers. The six have worked together, informing and challenging each other to show a side of Chenin Blanc that has never been displayed here before. These wines are each produced in minuscule quantities, and many are the only listings in the US today.To order please reply directly to this email.2016 Château de Bonnezeaux La Montagne Cuvée Salve Regina$45 per bottle.Special E-mail 4-Pack Pricing: $169 ($42.25/bottle)*Anjou Whisper 6-Pack Pricing: $368 (Regularly $396)2014 Ferme de la Sansonniere (Mark Angeli) Anjou Les Fouchardes (Monopole)
2014 Stephane Bernaudeau Les Onglés VDF
2016 Château de Bonnezeaux La Montagne Cuvée Salve Regina 2016 Benoit Courault Anjou Gilbourg
2014 Vins Hodgson (Mai et Kenji) Les Aussigouins VDF
2014 Richard Leroy Anjou Rouliers