• 1793-Outlier: Provence's Clos Cibonne Rosé

    1793-Outlier: Provence's Clos Cibonne Rosé

    That was the year the Roux family purchased the estate from Jean-Baptiste de Cibon and planted the rare goblet-trained Tibouren red variety. Tibouren is as obscure as the style of rosé that has been made here for centuries. And, the single red wine example from Cibonne is a departure stylistically from most Provence reds, as its lighter-bodied style and elegant personality strut their stuff when bottles are served chilled––a perfect summertime red.

    The Cibonne rosés (five of them) are the main attraction here, and rightfully so, as they can all age and develop positively for a decade or more. Cuvée Tradition is aged in 100-year-old foudres sous-voile (under a thin veil of flor) giving faint hints of briny clementines and almonds. The fruit is not emphasized in this rosé like most, instead, notes of cardamon and anise take a prominent role next to the white peach and strawberry foundation.

    If there's one thing that impresses all who drink Cibonne's rosés for the first time, it is surely the un-ending finish that lingers with spice and salty fruit thanks to the proximity of Cibonne's vines from the Mediterranean, just 800 meters away. If you've ever wanted a jolt of excitement for Provence reds or rosés, this is the historic domaine you need to try.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Next in Savoie: Domaine des Côtes Rousses

    Next in Savoie: Domaine des Côtes Rousses

    If you are curious about alpine wines, you must check out Savoie's native red variety, Mondeuse. One of the best examples we have encountered this year comes from a first-generation vigneron: Nicolas Ferrand.

    Coteau de la Mort, or hill of death, was one of many ancient hill vineyards re-planted during Savoie’s renaissance in the 1990s, thanks to early champions like Michel Grisard of Prieuré St-Christophe. In 2013, it became a part of the 1.5 hectares Ferrand purchased when starting Domaine des Côtes Rousses. Saint Jean de la Porte, one of Savoie’s top crus for Mondeuse, has distinct red clay soils mixed with limestone and moraine. Ferrand has farmed organically from the beginning and utilizes horses and sheep in the vineyards.

    Wink Lorch, author of Wines of the French Alps (2019), describes Coteau de la Mort as “a devout and serious wine,” comparing its taut youthfulness to a meditative monk. What a description! It's comparable to Northern Rhône Syrah, with high-toned black cherry, black pepper, and pressed rose petals, but today, the 2018 bottling is also juicy and sleek. It's fair to say Ferrand has our attention with this current release—a refreshing take on this sliver of Savoie history.

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    Posted by Sydney Love
  • Etna's Grand Cru Carricante: Benanti

    Etna's Grand Cru Carricante: Benanti

    Many have sought to express this distinct terroir from the eastern slope of the volcano, but one family is most synonymous with the greatest heights it has achieved. Etna doesn't have a classification system to rank estates or vineyards like Bordeaux and Burgundy, but if there was one Grand Cru white from these volcanic slopes perched over the Mediterranean, it would surely be Benanti's Pietra Marina.

    Sourced from 80-year-old vines, Pietra Marina showcases Carricante at its most structured and age-worthy. While salinity is a hallmark of this grape variety, the defining element here is a tightly wrapped core of citrus, orange peel, and almond. There's a frame and touch of austerity to Pietra Marina that shows a discipline worlds apart from the more oxidative and plush style of wine commonly found in Milo. In the end, it's the vein of minerality and grip that appropriately put this benchmark bottling on the table with top Chablis and Burgundy. 

    Benanti's story began in the 1800s, but it was in 1988 that the estate began to garner fame. Giuseppe re-examined and questioned every aspect of Benanti's viticulture and winemaking, challenging conventional wisdom on clones and their compatibility in each parcel. Aging in stainless steel is a crucial element in keeping this southerly white wine so fresh and crisp. But make no mistake—it's these same qualities that give Pietra Marina its backbone to age in your cellar for many years to come.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Oenophile's Brew: Cantillon Lambic Beers

    Oenophile's Brew: Cantillon Lambic Beers

    When it comes to beer, Cantillon is the holy grail, and for lovers of wine, there is no substitute. In June 2018, I finally made my pilgrimage to Brussels and visited this 1900-founded Lambic brewery.

    Lambics, also referred to as sour beers, initially pulled me in for their vinous qualities and unusual persistent finish. I oftentimes find a flinty reductive quality that calls to mind White Burgundy. There is also driving intensity and crazy levels of concentration that conclude with unparalleled freshness. Cantillon spontaneously ferments their lambics with natural yeasts, made with about 35% wheat, 65% malted barley, and relatively small amounts of aged hops.

    In the 1950s, there were hundreds of Lambic brewers within this Pajottenland region of Belgium, but only a few remain. Production is extremely labor-intensive, and other brewers didn't have the financial incentive to continue this tradition. Changing gears into beer territory isn't always easy, but once you taste the magic from this fabled Lambic producer, you will become a believer!

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Châteauneuf du Pape Célébrité

    Châteauneuf du Pape Célébrité

    In Châteauneuf du Pape, walking the fine line between elegance and rusticity is difficult, but Domaine Pégau embodies the precision of this balance like none other. Their progression over the last ten years to highlight a more lifted style while maintaining a sense of opulence is a hot topic for lovers of the Southern Rhône Valley. While the estate produces several cuvées, their Cuvée Réservée fulfills the best value and sharpest focus on this fabled terroir.

    The Reservée has always been the prime CdP for value, but Laurence's recent move to raise the Grenache and lower the Syrah percentage in the blend has done wonders for its clarity and persistence. Licorice, dark fruits, woodsmoke, game, and wild garrigue are hallmarks of every bottle of CdP. Pégau captures these notes with an impressive mineral streak and fine-grained tannins that stand out from the pack. A rack of lamb alongside Pégau has become one of my ultimate pleasures.

    Laurence Féraud works with her father, Paul, in carrying on a steep tradition started by their ancestors in 1607. The backbone of the estate is their old Grenache plantings dating back to 1907 in the famed La Crau vineyard, where limestone mother rock sits below the iconic, round galet river stones. They use whole clusters for vinification, and the wines age in large foudres crafted nearly a century ago. Both elements are crucial in preserving a sense of vibrancy in their Grenache-dominant blends.

    Truth be told, the Southern Rhône pulled me into France way back when I was finishing college. Today, I pull bottles from this region with much less regularity—much of that has to do with producers chasing after power and points. However, Pégau never succumbed to altering their methods. I can't tell you how refreshing it is to have a select few producers that still makes wines that they love to drink and their ancestors would be proud of today. Pégau is everything sacred about tradition and should be celebrated as often as possible.

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    Posted by Max Kogod