• Languedoc's Prime Jewel

    Languedoc's Prime Jewel

    Outside of the iconic Cabernet Sauvignon addresses in Bordeaux, there's one name in France that can go toe to toe with these chateaux in its complexity and age-ability. Mas de Daumas Gassac. France's Southwest Languedoc region may be most famous for its value, but Herault's distinct cool microclimate has proved itself through the decades.

    Mas de Daumas Gassac was established in 1970 when Véronique and Aimé Guibert came across an abandoned farmhouse owned by the Daumas family along the Gassac river in the Herault. The typical blend is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon supplemented with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Tannat, and Malbec. Alcohol levels have remained modest through stylistic shifts, never taking Bordeaux's cues when things drastically changed in the '80s.

    The underground water springs and surrounding mountains created a relatively humid microclimate that mirrored Bordeaux's Médoc. Vine material from First Growth Bordeaux chateaux was planted here to create the greatest Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant wine of Southern France. The cooling influences and limestone bedrock are all reasons why Mas de Daumas Gassac has long stood out as a beacon of sorts for Languedoc freshness. The region has an abundance of 100-plus-year-old plantings, with the dry and favorable climate allowing organic viticulture to thrive.

    The wines are highlighted by espresso, dark chocolate, cigar box, brambly blackberries, and savory spices. The underlying verve and tension of the wines have allowed them to improve and transform dramatically with age. As always, the provenance of older wines is the critical factor in the quality you will find in glass, and I'm thrilled to offer this mint condition collection of Languedoc's star estate.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Bare-Naked Chablis

    Bare-Naked Chablis

    Finding Chablis deeply entrenched in the natural category while still delivering rigor and classicism is a challenge. For a while, hunting down ample quantities of Château de Béru, who's become a leader in the natural movement, was equally difficult, but thanks to New York importer Zev Rovine and his expansion out west, that's changed.

    The Béru family has owned and farmed Château de Béru for four centuries, their eight planted hectares being known as some of the stoniest vineyards in all of Chablis. Since 2004, it's been overseen by Comte Éric de Béru's daughter, Athénais, and she quickly converted their farming to organic and biodynamic practices. Old oak is employed for élevage, and wines are fermented with native yeasts. No filtering or fining.

    The wines really unfurl in the glass, opening up over an hour to reveal more luscious green apple, lime zest, toast, and almond paste, all held together with a brilliantly strict vein of minerality. For me, Chablis hits the highest notes when that broad wet stone mineral quality is met by a crystalline level of acidity.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Spain's Gang of Four

    Spain's Gang of Four

    Envínate, translated to "wine yourself," was created by four friends studying enology at the University of Miguel Hernandez in Alicante in 2005. Roberto Santana, Alfonso Torrente, Laura Ramos, and José Martínez slowly began consulting with wineries after college to discover forgotten sites with old vines planted on treacherous terrain. The previous generation saw the challenge as insurmountable, but this gang of four knew a treasured opportunity had presented itself.

    The reds are very dark in color, which is actually somewhat misleading, as the acid-driven and spicy flavors give a decidedly mid-weight body. Envínate is a great example of how versatile Spanish reds can be when they follow a nice recipe of shorter fermentation, neutral-vessel aging, and most importantly, sourcing from cooler climates with fascinating soils, which all play their part in delivering freshness.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Sub-$50 Pinot Noir Thriller

    Sub-$50 Pinot Noir Thriller

    In recent years of La Paulée tastings, one domaine has particularly dominated the overachiever category, and pulling off a sub-$50 attention grabber in a room filled with the most expensive and adored wines of Burgundy is no easy feat.

    The tale of magic that Didier Fornerol puts in bottle cannot be told without Burgundy legend Jean-Pierre de Smet. Fornerol worked alongside de Smet at his Domaine de l'Arlot from 1982 until 1998, then leaving to take over his own family's domaine.

    De Smet and l'Arlot's famed whole cluster regimen and translucent, traditional style of Pinot Noir is on full display in Didier's 2018 Côte de Nuits-Villages. Six hectares in Corgoloin (between Ladoix and Nuits-Saint-Georges) comprise the vines of the domaine—right in the same relative zone that put l'Arlot on the map with their NSG 1er Crus Clos des Forets and Clos de l'Arlot.

    Finding wines that overdeliver for their price point in Burgundy always marks a special day. Considering the pedigree here, the style closely tied to l'Arlot's golden era under Jean-Pierre de Smet, this small-production Pinot Noir deserves immediate attention.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Dutraive's Brightest Light

    Dutraive's Brightest Light

    Jean-Louis Dutraive's entire stable of wines falls into the elite category of Cru Beaujolais. And while he has various parcels in Fleurie, the wine that always thrills me for its lightness and more ethereal pitch is the Clos de la Grand Cour cuvée.

    The Clos de la Grand Cour is a true Clos, or walled-in vineyard. The vines here range between 30 to 80 years old. Nearly pure granite under very thin topsoil. Aged 35% in stainless steel, 30% in fûts de chêne, and 30% foudres for 9 to 12 months. Lifted spices meet fresh raspberry and cherry to give a delicate wine but with deep texture and a long finish.

    The big story of 2019 Beaujolais is that, despite another hot growing season, there is a serious beam of acidity running through the wines. For many, this has called to mind Jean-Louis Dutraive's watershed 2014 vintage. Of course, 2014 didn't see the hot temperatures of 2019, but the balance between fruit and acid is spot-on in both. These are the vintages where Dutraive shines and makes his brilliance abundantly clear.

    As compared to other titans of Beaujolais, like Foillard and Lapierre, I find Dutraive's wines often lighter in color, with a more lifted spice, and a more wild, natural element that stands out due to lower sulfur protocol. Waiting several years after release to tap into the top cuvées has been a big goal of mine. The rare aged Dutraive is pure magic when fruit begins to fall more to the background and exotic spices become more prominent.

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    Posted by Max Kogod