• 1999 & 2015 Bérêche Coteaux Champenois Rouge:  Rare Birds of Champagne

    1999 & 2015 Bérêche Coteaux Champenois Rouge: Rare Birds of Champagne

    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.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Alsatian Supernova:  Bruno Schueller Mind-Bending Pinot Gris Reserve

    Alsatian Supernova: Bruno Schueller Mind-Bending Pinot Gris Reserve

    Sometimes wine takes you to unusual settings, and introductions the most mystical wines ensue. In July, that meant finding myself in rural, northern Sweden for dinner atFäviken with an eclectic mix of wine lovers from various backgrounds. There aren't many words to adequately sum up this magical weekend organized by Rajat Parr, but suffice to say, it was incredibly special. While lunches and dinners saw tables lined with everything from DRC to Raveneau to Conterno to Selosse, the true walk-away experience for me was what I found in Bruno Schueller's Alsatian Pinot Gris Reserve.

    Today, I'm happy to offer Schueller's 2017 and 2011 Pinot Gris Reserve for $44 per bottle, and down to $41 per bottle on vertical 2-packs.

    Schueller's Pinot Gris Reserve comes from Grand Cru vineyards 
    Eichberg and Pfersigberg, both with heavily limestone-dominant soils, perched west high above Colmar at the start of the dense forests of the Vosges mountains. The "Reserve" denotes extra time in barrel, and like every aspect of Bruno's approach, it's this methodical and patient pace that informs what we find in bottle.

    The Pinot Gris Reserve takes everything you've come to expect from top Grand Cru Alsace and adds about three more gears and revs up the RPM's for a level of complexity and layered depth that's in a league of its own. White peach and nectarine meet electric-charged green apple and meyer lemon, with honeysuckle and ginger notes wrapping up in an almond paste finish and a pulverized sense of minerality.Of course, tasting notes are subjective and a bit silly, but I want to impart a touch of the story on the diverse personality at hand here.

    Schueller's magic in bottle is very much traced to an extremely long growing season for his varieties, assisted by pronounced leaf cover that allows his vines to be harvested weeks after his neighbors, still maintaining equal sugar levels. There is no ploughing, nearly zero use of sulphur sprays, and there are no additives used in the cellar.Long aging for the Pinot Gris Reserve takes place in his frigid cellar in large, old foudre.

    At $44 per bottle, and down to $41 on vertical packs, Schueller's wizardry reflects everything that is so exciting in the discovery of wine and new producers still floating under-the-radar. Of course, like all great things, availability is limited. Today, we have only 12 bottles only of each vintage.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen