• André Ostertag: Alsatian Sensation

    André Ostertag: Alsatian Sensation

    Domaine Ostertag has long gone against the grain of Alsatian expectations, crafting dry, disciplined wines that still summon the sunshine that marks the region. His Fronholz and Grand Cru Muenchberg Rieslings especially imbue the transparency and purity of a mountain lake. These wines are a moment of clarity for Alsace!

    Alsace is in the cool northeast pocket of France, and its protection from the Vosges Mountains means it receives the least amount of rainfall of any region. This abundant sunshine has long given Alsatian wines a rounded and golden orchard fruit quality, often with a dollop of residual sugar. However, several elements separate Ostertag from the norm. André studied viticulture in Burgundy and returned home in 1998 to employ organic and biodynamic principles in the vineyard. He also decided to ferment his Rieslings completely dry and age them in stainless steel.

    Today, Alsace is famous for having the highest percentage of organic and biodynamic producers in France. While the quality at harvest couldn't be higher, I still find few producers that execute with the same sense of harmony that Ostertag is adored for.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Anjou Outlier: Pierre Menard

    Anjou Outlier: Pierre Menard

    Pierre Menard reaches cult status in Europe for his lieu-dit (single-vineyard) Chenin Blancs. Still, I'm choosing to begin this producer introduction with a different wine, the Laïka Sauvignon Blanc. Simply put, Chenin gets the prime slopes in Anjou, where schist dominates, and the flatlands with boring soils may see some Sauvignon Blanc. However, Menard discovered one of the first Sauvignon Blanc parcels in this region, the tiny 1957-planted Clos de la Roche, located atop a slope in Faye d'Anjou.

    Before tasting Laïka, you'd be well served to expel any notion of what this variety's personality is about to deliver. "Typical" grapefruit and lime fade into the background, much like earth did when the first living creature, the dog Laïka, was rocketed into space in 1957 (hence, the name). Those flavors are replaced by saffron butter, a kaleidoscope of yellow fruits, and a mineral underpinning that only the schist-laden slopes of Anjou convey. A Parisian bistro summer sipper, this is not.

    The fermentation and aging regimen is as progressive as Menard's desire to work with this Anjou outcast grape variety. Older barrels, sandstone amphora, and tank are the vessels that combine to give us Laïka. Only a few cases enter the U.S. each year, and I'm thrilled to offer a 3-vintage vertical today. Also, do not miss his stellar Chenin Blancs below, in equally small quantities.

    We don't focus on many sweet/dessert wines outside of German Riesling, but Menard's "Cosmos" Coteaux du Layon (500ml bottles) blew us away last month, and it's the perfect pairing for cheese or dessert.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Mosel's One & Only: 2020 J.J. Prüm

    Mosel's One & Only: 2020 J.J. Prüm

    My visit to J.J. Prüm just before harvest in 2012 proved there were more mysteries than answers to be found at this historic estate. A cellar tour was off-limits, as is often the case with visitors. However, the estate's idyllic setting at the shore of the Mosel River was a fantastic place to taste wines with Dr. Katharina Prüm.

    Today's offer features the 2020 release, which harkens back to the featherweight Rieslings we saw in 2008 and 2013. The wines have a high-acid component yet are well-integrated and even softer than the previous vintages. Many things are left unknown about the methods here, but one thing is abundantly clear: These are the most regal and crystalline examples of Mosel Riesling.

    Also, we still have the rare 2007 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Grosser Ring, or auction bottles, sourced from J.J. Prüm's best füders. This vintage is a personal favorite in the Mosel, turning out wines of lighter body and finesse met with an unmistakable cool slate finish. For acid lovers of yesteryear, this is as good as it gets, and these special bottles will go even further in the cellar than their "standard" counterparts.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • The Magic Touch: 2020 Moreau-Naudet Chablis

    The Magic Touch: 2020 Moreau-Naudet Chablis

    The value that's offered in Chablis is seemingly more and more unmatched. While prices for White Burgundy climb in the Côte de Beaune, the artisanal producers in Chablis continually over-deliver, and the small domaine of Moreau-Naudet captures some of the best current affairs.

    Moreau-Naudet falls into a select camp of Chablis producers who are incredibly skilled at pushing ripeness to the maximum, the old-fashioned way, with serious hands-on farming. In the cellar, the non-interventionist approach is focused on two elements: Preserving the distinctive characteristics of each site and maintaining tension and salinity. The style here is supremely textural and deep Chardonnay with an unmistakable Chablisienne oyster-shell mineral component, exemplifying that ultimate ideal of density without weight.

    Stéphane joined his father at the family domaine in 1999 and flipped everything on its head. Today, the regimen is full-organic farming with biodynamic principles, natural yeast ferments, and 100% harvesting by hand. Relentless focus in the vineyard means picking here—in the coldest region in France for still Chardonnay—is pushed as late as possible to ensure maximum ripeness. Moreau-Naudet joins the likes of Thomas Pico and Alice et Olivier de Moor!

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Old-Vine Puligny: 2020 Bachelet-Monnot

    Old-Vine Puligny: 2020 Bachelet-Monnot

    Being introduced to Marc and Alexandre Bachelet-Monnot's Puligny-Montrachet took me back to my first glass of Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey. It was clear this domaine, too, was destined for star status. In a short time, these young brothers have also put Maranges on many collectors' maps.

    Bachelet-Monnot's Puligny Montrachet comes exclusively from old vines in four lieu dits: Les Corvées, Les Meix, Les Houillières, and Noyer Bret. This cuvée is a classic interpretation of Puligny with tension and ripe concentration. Following in PYCM's footsteps, Bachelet-Monnot chooses to ferment and age in larger barrels, with modest oak influence and a six-month stay in steel before bottling.

    The Maranges Premier Cru reds are also stellar in every way, combining regal structure and finesse centered upon a core of pristine red and blue fruits. Maranges 1er Cru Fussières is a personal favorite for its energy and precision, sourced from Maranges' highest elevation vineyard.

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    Posted by Max Kogod