Cru Beaujolais has been a cornerstone of our selection from the start. While Foillard, Métras, Lapierre, and Dutraive represent the foundation for the greatest value reds in France, the younger generation is now clearly making its mark. Yann may be separated from the aforementioned because of age, but when you line up his wines, it's crystal clear these are commanding interpretations of terroir.
Yann grew up in Fleurie, but after studying commerce in school and traveling through the Alps, he never expected to circle back to become its generation's brightest talent. He found himself working in a wine shop, and surrounded by passionate people, the flames of curiosity were stoked. He spent time working under perhaps the region's most revered names: Yvon Métras and Jean Foillard. Like them, Yann knew that organic farming and traditional methods in the cellar would be his path forward.
In 1992, Yann's family purchased vineyards and slowly converted them to organic farming. Yann took a more active role in leading the domaine in 2013, and he began applying what he had soaked up from his apprenticeships. Similarly, Yann's style is one of elegance, silken texture, and laser focus, expressing each unique terroir in the Famille Bertrand stable.
Vietti's Luca Currado works tirelessly to continually improve the quality of his wines and Barolo's reputation as a whole, and the 2018 vintage proved no different. Antonio Galloni wrote in his 2018 Barolo report how this was "the most erratic, frustratingly inconsistent Barolo vintage" that he has encountered in his career. Still, Vietti's Baroli were standouts from the region, and the 2018 Castiglione, Lazzarito, and Ravera earned glowing reviews, as you'll see below.
Aside from being a banner year in Piedmont, 2013 cemented a shift in Currado's philosophy—now, the Baroli lineup is nearly exclusively aged in large format botti as opposed to small French barrique. (The Ravera was the first bottling to undergo this change in 2010, and the powerful Villero was the last in the range to do so in 2013).
Many consider Vietti to have one foot in the traditional camp and one foot in the modern camp. In addition to aging in botti, the Baroli see long skin macerations (a requisite for the traditional category). If one aspect leans modern, it's their vineyard work, which is about keeping yields low and doing everything in their power by natural means to push ripeness higher.
In March, I made my first pilgrimage to La Dive Bouteille, where natural wine devotees from across the globe gather to catch a glimpse of the world’s most famous natural winemakers. Luckily for me, La Dive takes place in my favorite appellation in the Loire: Saumur. The trip wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to Domaine des Roches Neuves.
A protégé of Clos Rougeard's Charly Foucault, Thierry Germain has been practicing Biodynamics for over two decades. He is considered one of the greatest Biodynamic vigerons in France and a benchmark for the Loire. Thierry and his son Louis were amazing hosts. Our tour included a walkthrough of the winery and ancient underground cellar, followed by a detailed tasting of the Roches Neuves lineup. They have over 60 parcels throughout Saumur, but today’s offer spotlights their top Cabernet Franc.
In Saumur, the style has drastically shifted from the power of Bordeaux to the elegance of Red Burgundy. (Most domaines only perform pump-overs during fermentation to avoid extracting too many tannins). Roches Neuves especially plays up this variety's fresh streak and rose florals. Planted in 1904, Les Mémoires comes the Germain family's oldest vines and yields a soulfully deep, balanced Cabernet Franc. In addition to the typical clay and tuffeau limestone soils, there is also some flint here, which Louis believes further adds to the wine's strength and composure.
These Cabernet Francs and Chenins walk a fine balance of ripeness, freshness, and underlying tension to drive it all home—to be enjoyed now or years down the road. With time in bottle, the wines have transformational aging capabilities like the best of Burgundy. There are many great producers throughout the Loire, but Thierry remains one of the very best.
In college, when I primarily drank California wines, Priorat was my introduction to the Old World. While my palate has changed a lot since the early 2000s, it's been surprising to see a winemaker here who, in tandem, has changed the profile of the region.
Trends in the 1990s placed nearly every winery here into a camp of high extraction and high oak influence. However, Dominik Huber's lineup centers around Garnacha and Carinyena's explosive violet aromatics, with wild strawberry and an array of blue fruit tones. In the right hands, the black slate (aka llicorella) and clay soils in Priorat instill each wine with a deeply layered and saturating mineral punch.
Huber employs an organic and biodynamic approach. Given the arid climate, one would imagine this a popular regimen, but it's still rare. Infusion and semi-carbonic fermentation, which limits extraction and keeps the beastly tannins more at bay, make Terroir al Límit a complete outlier. Lastly, Huber's aging in Austrian Stockinger foudre is an integral key to preserving terroir.
This is the one destination in Priorat that you must become familiar with if your palate leans toward Burgundy and Northern Rhône. Although the wines here could never be mistaken for the former, their clarity and poise are founded on similar principles.
Collaborative efforts between friends have been a common thread within The New Spain wine scene. In the past, we've focused on the high-end, single-vineyard bottlings of Comando-G, but this afternoon's offering is the value play. At $29 per bottle, 4 Monos models how delicacy and transparency can be a Spanish red's leading traits.
GR10 Tinto comes from three villages with granite-dominant vineyards and vines ranging from 30 to 85 years old. The blend is 85% Garnacha, 10% Cariñena, 3% Morenillo, and 2% Syrah. There is certainly a core of energy and an abundance of minerality, but these fresh fruit qualities take me back to tasting grape clusters picked off the vine. It's also 4 Mono's brilliant, non-interventionist approach in the cellar that gives GR10 such sophisticated texture and structure.
The Four Monkeys, as they call themselves, clearly share a passion for lively and fruit-forward wines. Javier Garcia, Laura Robles, David Velasco, and David Moreno met while hiking in the Sierra de Gredos mountain range, located 80 km east of Madrid. All had unique backgrounds related to wine, each bringing a different element of expertise to this project founded in 2009.