There's no producer in the Northern Rhone that continues to raise the bar each vintage like Guillaume Gilles. His 2008 was a showstopper for me at the time of release, impressing for an authenticity of Syrah that grabbed ahold of me immediately - the kind that's romantically spoken of, but rarely found in bottle.
Savage, spicy, purple-hued, and filled with crushed granite, Gilles' Syrah from the famed Chaillot vineyard encapsulates everything that habitually points me to Cornas. Last July's visit with Guillaume was a great opportunity to learn more about the young vigneron who highlights this new generation.
Guillaume trained under Jean-Louis Chave and the now-retired Cornas legend, Robert Michel. If Michel's wines were known for their uncommon transparency and light-handed touch, Gilles are darker, more ferocious, and packed with a concentration that's quite different. However, like Robert Michel, the soul of the wines from Gilles are founded on a sense of place that's undoubtedly pure granite and 100% whole cluster fermentation - just the way we like our Cornas!
Personally, falling hard for the wines of Thierry Allemand has set my eyes continually toward today's more under-the-radar producers. Allemand's 2017's will easily fetch $250+ per bottle - at less than half the price there's simply no producer deserving of more attention now than Guillaume Gilles.
Today, Gilles farms just 2.5 hectares, working by hand the famed Chaillot vineyard (pictured below) that he leased from Robert Michel. His traditional approach means zero de-stemming, aging in large neutral barrels, and no fining or filtering. That quintessential combination of roasted meats, violets, blackberries, smoke, black pepper, and the granitic "scorched earth" that Cornas derives its name from is always front and center.
One of the secret wines in the range that only sees 30 cases arrive to the US annually is his Les Peyrouses VDF, which was served last at our tasting. Les Peyrouses is a small parcel containing vines planted over 100 years ago. Unlike the granitic soils of the terraced slopes of Cornas above, this lower portion is planted on sandy and clay soils scattered with the iconic galet stones from the plain of the river. Peyrouses is akin to the more rustic country cousin of Gilles' Cornas cuvée - But, these extremely old vines create an intensely concentrated wine that leads Guillaume to pour as the finalé during visits.
And, for the 3rd time, I'm able to offer Gilles' Cornas "Nouvelle R". The name comes from the vineyard Les Rieux, situated at a very high altitude in Cornas at 450 meters above the amphitheater. The soil here is very unusual, a white granite. Prior to the 21st century, nobody had planted vines here, fearing they would not ripen properly. Of course, warming temperatures have winemakers everywhere looking for higher altitude land. At 12.5% alcohol this was a stunner when I tasted with Guillaume, and his mentor Robert Michel remarked this is what Cornas used to taste like in the '70s and '80s when alcohol levels were more modest.
In the magically distinctive Jura region there're special pockets where varieties blossom into their greatest and truest possbile form. For Poulsard (locally known as Ploussard) that fairy dust of sorts comes from the ground of the tiny village of Pupillin, located just south of Arbois. While Poulsard plantings throughout the Jura are crafted into singularly delicious wines, those from Pupillin are something entirely different.
My hunt for an example that lived up to what I drank while visiting the village in 2012 has been ongoing. After tasting through importer Neal Rosenthal's current releases that included the 2016 Overynoy-Crinquand Pupillin Ploussard, I was taken back instantaneously to that damp weekend 5 years ago. Poulsard here can often show a huge disparity in styles, and to be blunt, soundness due to its reductive and finiky nature. Overynoy-Crinquand showcases the rarefied air of Poulsard, a brightness and purity unlike anywhere else on earth.
Mickael Crinquand is the fourth generation to farm these 5 hecatres, of which all have been under organic regimen since the 80's. Here the red clay-limestone marl soil is planted to all of the standard Jura varieties: Trousseau, Chardonnay, Savagnin. But, the oldest vines today are Poulsard.
2016 in the Jura, as in nearby Burgundy, is a vintage I cannot overstate my enthusiasm for. Clarity and concentration is in total balance. Here, fermentation and aging takes 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. But, a suprisingly sturdy tannic sturcture 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 excitment 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. Of all the esteemed terroirs within the region, it's Pupillin's Poulsard that compels me the most. At $30 per bottle from a magic vintage this is the wine that's finally ended my long pursuit.
2018 in Beaujolais marks a much-needed return for growers to good yields and very high quality with a dry harvest. The last couple vintages have not been kind for vignerons in each of these areas. Massive amounts of spring rain actually proved a blessing as July and August heatwaves came next, meaning reserves of accumulated ground water was more than sufficient during through this stretch. 2018 is a ripe vintage for sure, but as compared to the bombastic 2015's, the alcohol is lower, acidity higher, and freshness a big part of the finished product.
As compared to other titans of Cru Beaujolais, Foillard and Lapierre, I find Dutraive's often lighter in color, with a more concentrated, lifted spice, and a more wild natural element that stands out from the pack due to his lower sulphur protocol. Waiting several years after release to get into top cuvées has been a big goal of mine, as the rare aged Dutraive is pure magic when fruit begins to fall more to the background and exotic spices become more prominent.
I anxiously awaited the arrival of the 2018 vintage from Domaine Savary. In Chablis where many consider François Raveneau king, it was his introduction to importer Kermit Lynch that landed this terrific, under-the-radar domaine in the states. At $33 per bottle for Savary's Old Vine cuvée, this is the greatest value to go deep on from these famed Kimmeridgian slopes.
Savary's old vine bottling captures everything I love about Chablis. Crushed oyster shell, cool-fruited citrus and green apple, with an uncanny texture impossible to resist conjuring the legendary wines of François Raveneau.
Chablis may be part of Burgundy, but its extreme northern setting and soil comprised of fossilized seashells share more in common with parts of Champagne and Sancerre than with the more luscious Chardonnay found 80 miles south-east in the Côte d'Or. The mineral expression matched with the cold climate of Chablis is magical for crafting wines brimming with mouth-watering salinity and faint nutty flavors that reveal themselves with air.
There's still so much of Chablis that's harvested too early, farmed without conviction, resting on the laurels of the iconic appellation printed on the label. Savary is a prime example of what the region can do the very best, pushing ripeness in this frigid northerly climate to the max, while preserving the necessary tension. Fermentation is carried out in 20% neutral wood and 80% stainless steel for their Vielles Vignes cuvée. The wine is then aged in larger, neutral demi-muids barrels.
Olivier Savary follows a long history of vignerons, but due to challenging vintages his parents had chosen not to continue the family domaine. Olivier had to start over when he finished oenology school in Dijon, and since 1984 with his wife Francine, they've slowly built what once was lost. A serendipitous introduction to importer Kermit Lynch by François Raveneau brought these stateside. While pricing of Raveneau will top several hundreds of dollars, today's old vine bottling is a perfect reminder that Chablis is still the bulls-eye for mineral-driven value Chardonnay.
"A softly spoken-perfectionist, Rémi Jobard produces beautifully pure and vibrant expressions of Meursault that merit considerable interest...The result is a precise, almost minimalist style that produces Meursault of unusual transparency: classy wines that evolve slowly in bottle. 2017 is an excellent vintage at this address."- William Kelley of The Wine Advocate (01/19)
Remi Jobard is on a roll. And the most exciting part may be that very few have really taken adequate notice. William Kelley, a true Burgundian authority in more ways than one as I see it, really nails why Remi Jobard stands out from the pack in Meursault.
Today, I'm very happy to offer four wines of Remi Jobard's 2017's that capture Meursault at its best. And, I've created special vertical 4-pack pricing on the domaine's most head-spinning value play.
Judging an entire domaine on their Bourgogne level wines is more than just fair, it's a requirement. After all, why should we pony up top dollar for Premier and Grand Crus from a domaine who can't wow us with their entry level offerings? And, in Meursault Rémi Jobard does precisely that. Sort of.
De-classifications in Burgundy might sound confusing, but in actuality they are pretty straight forward and exactly the wines I love to pounce on the most. Rémi Jobard produces three Bourgogne Blancs. I know, that's a bit odd, isn't it? I work with just one. The Cuvée Vielles Vignes (old vines) is sourced entirely from vines planted in the village of Meursault, all over 40 years of age. This is case in point for why declassifying Meursault into "Bourgogne Blanc" can be a lot of fun, very delicious, and our little secret.
Rémi Jobard has always been a personal favorite within Meursault. His protocol for fermentation is one that breaks with tradition, all with his eye's set on crystal clear reflection of terroir. This is the domaine I've turned to continually for the style of white Burgundy that hits the bulls-eye for me, especially in the face of rocketing pricing for Roulot and Arnaud Ente.
Jobard's wines are always noted for their emphasis on revealing place through an ultra-pale hue, citrus-inflection, and mouth-watering salinity that drives through the finish of each cuvée. With air in the glass they reveal ginger notes, hazelnut, and a crunchy minerality that's simply hypnotic.
The secret to these unique traits from Jobard are surely tied to his divergent protocol in the cellar. Half of Jobard's wines are aged in large foudres from Stockinger, the famed Austrian cooper celebrated for precision and deft use of oak. While the other half of production is aged in standard, smaller Burgundy barrels, of which no more than 20% new wood is used.
After one year in wood the wines are transferred to stainless steel for 6 months prior to bottling, a method employed to firm up the tension and preserve those crisp, mineral-drenched notes that this best class of Meursault vignerons have become rightfully admired for.
As I mentioned repeatedly, 2017 is the most exciting white Burgundy vintage since 2014. My vigneron friends in Burgundy remarked right after the wines settled in barrel on just how fantastic the balance was for all their 2017 whites. 2014 may have shown a touch more extract and breadth, but the 2017's may very well be the stronger vintage when all is said and done. Upon release, each four wines is already giving immediate pleasure.
Bourgogne Blanc Vieilles Vignes is sourced entirely from vines over 40-years-old, covering 6 parcels within the village of Meursault.
Meursault Les Chevalières is sourced from a 0.44 hectare parcel of 80+ year-old vines in this high altitude, and single most under-the-radar lieu dit of village. Always a site that imparts bursting salinity with a depth and finish that's anything but a villages-designate wine.
1er Cru Les Poruzots-Dessus comes from a 0.51 hectare parcel of 60+ yr-old vines in the upper "Dessus" portion of Poruzots. This Premier Cru is known for its power, but this upper parcel has much more limestone (as opposed to clay), and in turn, this showcases a much more fine-grained and graceful personality of this famous vineyard.
1er Cru Les Genevrières is Jobard's top wine, and part of the famous trio of Meursault's Premier Cru sites. A vineyard known for its elegance and regal structure that make it ideal for both the dining table and a dark corner of your cellar to slowly transform. From a 0.62 hectare parcel of 40+ year old vines.