I'm continually learning new lessons as a retailer, and I have vivid recollections of how tasting the 2013 and 2014 Edmond Cornu Bourgogne Rouge put the domaine on my radar. Small purchases of each proved to be great buys and immediately found devoted supporters. However, the wines quickly vanished from the iconic Neal Rosenthal portfolio in weeks after those initial purchases.
Edmond Cornu is famous for his terrific Grand Cru Corton, and his Les Barrigards Bourgogne Rouge is sourced from a single vineyard of old vines nearby. Each year, it delivers everything we love about Côte de Beaune's exotically spiced Pinot Noir. Vintages like 2005, 2009, and now 2019 are ideal to go all-in on the Bourgogne level red wines: More concentration, deeper texture, and finishes lengthened!
Cornu is a legend among Burgundy collectors and purists. The domaine was established in 1875, then Edmond began bottling instead of selling his grapes to negociants in 1959. Cornu's Grand Cru Corton reaches great heights, but for 20 percent of the price, Les Barrigards deserves a spot in every Burgundy lover's cellar.
"Giovanna's wines are pure, bright, fresh and juicy, with bracing acidity and lingering flavors of red fruit and flowers." — Eric Asimov, NYT
When I have the opportunity to prove that Chianti Classico can show grace and pristine fruit quality akin to Red Burgundy, I use Giovanna Morganti's Le Trame as my first example. I implore you to trust this will be your moment of clarity for Sangiovese.
Importer Neal Rosenthal's Montevertine is a benchmark for the region, but his other discovery, Le Boncie, better illustrates Sangiovese's sometimes elusive, fruit-forward profile and silken tannins. Earlier this year, Eric Asimov of the New York Times included Le Trame in his top ten list of Chianti Classicos.
Giovanna farms her fives hectares using organic and biodynamic principles. I could go down the rabbit hole on farming, fermentation, and aging specifics, but I'd like to cut this one short and say: This is a profound wine that's a joy to drink. I've lost count of the number of times I've used this bottling to convince friends that Sangiovese can be fun, approachable, and deadly serious. Below is a photo from my 2017 visit and the gorgeous color of the barrel sample that had me in love.
The Grosjean family has been farming their vineyards in the mountains of Valle d'Aosta for generations. Importer Neal Rosenthal is dialed into the alpine vineyards throughout Northern Italy like no one else. His portfolio includes diverse talents like Jean-Marie Fourrier, Jacques Carillon, and Montevertine. However, it's smaller, modestly priced producers from these esoteric regions that define the portfolio's brilliance.
As far as Italian alpine wines go, there is very little competition in the realm of organic and biodynamic estates. The village of Fornet in the Valle d'Aosta sits in the shadow of the towering Mont Blanc. As you can imagine, the high-altitude conditions provide a snap and clarity to the wines with a signature herbal note.
Petite Arvine, a local white variety, is sourced from Grosjean's Rovettaz Vineyard, situated at 700 meters above sea level. Ripe peach and fennel meet a salty, alpine-influenced finish, harnessing some of the mystical mint profile also evident in Torrette.
Also from the Rovettaz Vineyard, "Torrette" is primarily made of the native variety Petit Rouge (80%), with smaller amounts of Vien de Nus, Doucet, Fumin, and Mayolet. Black raspberry, red licorice, and wild herbs meld together to craft an absolutely delicious wine reflective of its unique place. The wine is aged in stainless steel to preserve its bright, fresh-fruited personality.
"The 2019s, according to Laurent Lignier, possess 'all the characteristics of great Pinot Noir,' and that's an analysis with which I would concur. He has once again produced a fine vintage." — William Kelley, Wine Advocate
Lignier has been imported by Neal Rosenthal (Who also represents Barthod, Fourrier, and Jacques Carillon) since the 1978 vintage, marking one of Neal's earliest and greatest successes. The style of the domaine has always been one that emphasized structure and distinct terroir-driven soil expression. Located in Morey-Saint-Denis, Lignier's wines display gorgeous rusted earth, black cherry, and hoisin note that the village is often associated with.
Each cuvée is unique and modest levels of new oak keep the focus squarely on site. The new wood regimen is 20 to 30% for Villages and Premiers, and 50% for the Grand Crus. All grapes are destemmed, receive a five-day cold soak, and then a relatively long fermentation of 15 to 20 days. The Villages wines are raised in barrel for 18 months, with Premier and Grand Crus receiving a 24-month elévage.
The newest cuvée below is the Clos de la Roche MCMLV, which comes from a special parcel of 1955-planted vines in the Monts Luissants portion of the larger Grand Cru. Just 0.25 hectares in size, the old vines here producing "millerandes" grapes, meaning the grapes are very small and concentrated.
In the magically distinctive Jura region, there are certain pockets where varieties blossom into their greatest and truest possible form. For Poulsard, locally known as Ploussard, it's the tiny village of Pupillin, located just south of Arbois. I was on the hunt for an example that lived up to what I drank while visiting the village in 2012, and after tasting through importer Neal Rosenthal's current releases, I was instantly drawn to Overynoy-Crinquand's Pupillin Ploussard.
Mickael Crinquand is the fourth generation to farm these five hectares, all of which have been farmed organically since the '80s. Here, the red clay-limestone marl soil is planted to all of the standard Jura varieties: Trousseau, Chardonnay, and Savagnin, but the oldest vines today are Poulsard.
Fermentation and aging take 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. Surprisingly, though, a sturdy tannic structure 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 excitement 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. Poulsard often shows a huge disparity in styles and, to be blunt, soundness due to its reductive and finicky nature. Overynoy-Crinquand showcases the rarefied air of Poulsard with brightness and purity unlike anyone else.
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