The year is 1895. The United States number 44, and Grover Cleveland is president. Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey are born, and inventor George Selden receives a patent for the automobile. And cross the ocean in France (then a six-day crossing by boat), a vineyard of grenache is planted just outside Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Like Chablis, the Chianti name has had a rough time of it over the years. A straw-covered “fiasco” bottle with candle wax dripping down its sides still jumps to the minds of most consumers, and for a long time Chianti’s former reputation as cheap wine of low quality was well deserved.
Burgundy can be a difficult region for budding wine enthusiasts. Confusing classifications, high entry fees, and finicky grapes can make it a tough region to crack. But to those looking for a good place to start, we can think of no better one than the Domaine Roger Belland.
The organic wine movement is alive and well in France. Every year we see more producers transitioning to organic winemaking, or at least making steps toward in that direction. Some have been at it longer than others, but no one boasts a longer history than our newest source in Châteauneuf-du-Pape: the domaine Pierre André -- organic for 35 years, and biodynamic for 24.
Sauvignon Blanc has seen a surge in popularity in recent decades. It’s hard to find a wine list these days without examples from New Zealand, California and Washington. But the original source for Sauvignon Blanc is France’s Loire Valley, where the grape (known there simply as “Sauvignon”) has been grown since the 1700s.
Autumn has begun to make its entrance. The days may still be warm and long, and for some there may be baseball left to play. But as the harvest begins once again in France, and the most precocious leaves catch fire, the season’s change is undeniable.
Much of the white Burgundy we import comes from the three usual suspects -- Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, and Chassagne-Montrachet. These classic wines usually start at around $60 a bottle, and while they’re delicious (see current Futures), we try to find a wide range of character and price. Some of our favorites come from the towns just over the border from these three.
Burgundy and Bordeaux are the two giants of French wine. In nearly every aspect — style, tradition, grape varietal, scale — they are opposites. Ansonia’s scale fits far better into Burgundy than Bordeaux; but the wines of Bordeaux continue to intrigue us, and we’re always on the hunt for something new there.
Nicolas Maillet is our favorite new source for chardonnay from southern Burgundy. His wines are classic examples of white Maconnais — cool, round chardonnay with excellent balance and little or no oak. If the Côte d’Or is home to Burgundies of pedigree and refinement, then the Maconnais is home to Burgundies of vibrancy and joy.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is one of the world’s great wines. Made famous by French Popes over seven centuries ago, the area is rich in winemaking history. Today the appellation (which covers only about 12 square miles), makes some of the most sought-after wine in the world.
The Grand Cru of Corton is massive. Stretching across a prominent hill just north of Beaune, the vineyard covers 236 acres, just 40 less than the entire appellation of Morey-St-Denis. The terroirs vary widely across the giant vineyard, and so it’s further divided into dozens of smaller “climats.” The finest of these are the three farthest north in the middle of the slope: Bressandes, Clos du Roi, and Renardes.
The 2016 September Futures issue has just been released. Futures offers near-wholesale pricing through advance orders. To place an order from our Futures program, download a PDF and submit an order form by Sunday September 18.
At the start of every tasting, Rhône winemaker Denis Basset gives us small taste of white. “Just to set the palate,” he explains, before continuing on to his rich, syrah-based reds. The white is always lovely — floral and fresh, beautifully expressive, and a perfect way to start a tasting. And every year, when we ask how much we can buy, he smiles and shakes his head. (Loyal local restaurants are to blame).
The Loire Valley is known as the “Garden of France.” Its lush rolling hillsides produce nearly every type of wine, from dry to sweet, light to dark, and white and red to sparkling and rosé. One of region’s most distinct styles is an unoaked, juicy Cabernet Franc from the central Loire Valley.
Aligoté is Burgundy’s other white grape. Forever in the shadow of the finest Chardonnays in the world, Aligoté is rarely profound and never expensive. We’ve searched for years for one to add to our lineup, and have usually come up empty -- most are too acidic, unbalanced, or thin.