Burgundy symbolizes the farm-first mentality and humble spirit of vigneron as much as anywhere in France. This is not the land of ascots, majestic chateaux with marketing firms to match. Here, astronomical rises in vineyard prices haven't changed the mindset of those farming them. There's no domaine I came across that embodies this idea more than Florence Cholet, who took over the domaine in 2019.
The winemaking at this fourth domaine is traditional with a real focus on the vineyards. Neutral and second-year barrels are used for aging to minimize new oak influence. After one year in wood, the wine is moved to tank prior to bottling to ensure tension and structure remain highlighted.
I was fortunate enough to work alongside the family at various points during the 2012 growing season before my harvest internship at Domaine Dujac. It was at then Cholet-Pelletier that I was introduced to Bernard Boisson and his children, Anne and Pierre, who have since taken over their father's vineyard holdings. Like many of the Boisson's wines, Florence produces minuscule quantities, and we currently offer the only listing in the entire U.S.
The careful study and delineation of Burgundy's vineyards over centuries mean there are secret cuvées to be had if you look close enough. Florence Cholet's Bourgogne Blanc, from vines adjacent to Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault, is our go-to white Burgundy in this category. Her bottling of Les Enseignères in Puligny-Montrachet is another of those magical wines when you learn about this lieu dit's real estate.
Puligny's Les Enseignères (Arriving soon) is located at the foot of Grand Cru Bâtard-Montrachet. As one can imagine, this site imbues the power and richness that Bâtard-Montrachet is famous for while still showcasing loads of saline-drenched minerality and verve. Truly a Puligny-Montrachet that delivers the regal frame and layered depth that's made it the most prized village for Chardonnay on the planet.
Click below to shop Domaine Florence Cholet, or check out our full selection of white burgundy.
Champagne from the grower-producers is better than ever. The writing was on the wall when I was living in France in 2012, and it felt like a sea change was underway––I was probably late to notice, but still, names like Agrapart and Chartogne-Taillet became part of my weekly hauls from the local shops in Beaune. One of the names that I was introduced to early on was J. Lassalle. And, though their entry-level pricing has remained astonishingly low at $40, all their champagnes punch well above their price point.
The rosé champagne is a wine that holds a special place in my heart within its category. The pale copper-hued stunner has perfect balance and expertly judged ripeness and dosage. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't use this time to talk more in-depth about the Cachet d'Or 1er Cru Brut Réserve––at $40, it's the most obvious price anomaly in the world of grower-champagne. Aged for three years on lees before disgorgement, it carries both the rich brioche notes you'd desire, with all the finely-woven chalky minerality that is a prereq to go hand-in-hand with the more recognized grower names that sell for double the price. The blend is as classic as the style––equal parts Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay, all from 50+-year-old vines in Premier Cru villages in the Montagne de Reims.
In 1982, after founder Jules Lassalle's passing, his wife, Olga, and their daughter, Chantal, took the reins. In 2006, Chantal's daughter, Angéline, took over as winemaker. "Une femme, un esprit, un style" (one woman, one spirit, one style). The inimitable Kermit Lynch has imported J. Lassalle for over 50 years––the longest relationship in his portfolio of legendary names.
It's hard to comprehend how one producer, like Raul Perez, can redefine the Spanish white wine category. His most monumental wine is Sketch, an Albariño sourced from a 0.5-hectare parcel of old vines in Rias Baixas, priced at $100-plus per bottle. It's worth its weight in gold, but upon release, rumors swirled that his other Albariño was going to be the proverbial mic drop moment for the variety.
Our go-to Atalier bottling, "A Cruz das Animas" comes from two parcels of Albariño vines in the Cambados area of the Salnés Valley, located in the southern portion of Spain's northwest tip. And today, we're adding "La Encrucijada" from Atalier's oldest and most sea-adjacent vines, which sees extended aging in barrel (About 14 months) on its fine lees before bottling. Raul's greatest influence is white Burgundy, and he takes every step possible to preserve Albariño's cut and delineation iwhile also pushing for maximum ripeness and flavor development.
The key steps are harvesting very late and then blocking malolactic fermentation, which allows for superb ripeness but eliminates the more viscous and creamy elements of Albariño that don't appeal to Raul. Aging is in older French foudre, which preserves tension and softens texture. Perez redefines what a mineral-driven Spanish white wine is capable of, showing the same depth and nuance I expect from Chablis and Côte de Beaune Chardonnay. Simply put, his Atalier over-delivers.
We reserve our biggest boats for the most prime catches. Today that means Jean-Michel Stephan's first-time cuvée from Syrah vines planted just outside Côte Rôtie's zone. This 100% Syrah, labeled Vin de France, was the most transcendent find for us in a long time. At $39 per bottle, this wowed us for its Côte Rôtie-like concentration of blackberry fruit, roasted meat notes, with loads of lavender and black pepper––the intensity we're accustomed to finding in bottles well over $75.
Maison Stephan's Syrah comes from just one hectare of vines in Ampuis and Chasse-sur-Rhône. As is the norm here from a Marcel Lapierre disciple, Stephan relies on carbonic and semi-carbonic fermentation with native yeasts and zero additives. Unfiltered and unfined without sulfur. Aging six months in stainless steel means this 2022 harnesses the primary fruit from the sunny growing season and has a fresh streak on the finish that screams granitic minerality.
We see this as an ideal option for holiday feasts with chicken, pork, beef, and lamb, and it will also be brilliantly served with a slight chill once we enter spring and summer 2024. We love Syrah, and this is our value champion of 2023.
There's no better introduction to Sicily's Vittoria than the dream project started by Giambattista Cilia, Giusto Occhipinti, and Cirino Strano (COS) in 1980. These groundbreakers put the once obscure Frappato and Nero d'Avola on the world map!
Driving from Mt. Etna to Vittoria reminded me just how varied the landscape and terroir of Sicily were. Temperatures rose, and the climate turned arid. It was hard to believe the place I was heading was beloved for the freshness and clarity of its wines.
They key? There's a constant breeze going through the Hyblaean mountains, and the vines here are on red clay and sand over a deep bedrock of limestone. The wind helps moderate the inland temperatures, the red sand cooling immediately after sunset, and the limestone is responsible for low pH levels in the wine, giving high acidity and nervy minerality.
I visited Giusto Occhipinti just as they were bottling a new vintage. The wines we tasted were fermented in cement and aged in large Slavonian oak casks, similar to one's used for traditional Barolo and Brunello. This technique ensures the wines accentuate crisp, refreshing notes that make the wines a joy to drink.