White Burgundy is one world’s greatest gustatory inventions. Rarely does the marriage of winemaker, grape, and land create the perfection possible here. Many of the finest wines we’ve ever tasted -- of any color or origin -- have been Chardonnays from the golden hillsides of Burgundy.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the perfect cold weather wine. Made famous by French popes in the 14th century, and then again by Robert Parker in the 1980s, the area is rich with winemaking history. Today the appellation, which covers only about 12 square miles, produces some of the most sought after wine in the world.
Beaujolais might be the perfect wine for the fall. Crisp air and turning leaves are an excellent match for a the cool fruit and punchy mouthfeel of first-rate Beaujolais. The region is still best known for the Beaujolais Nouveau, a quaint local custom turned global marketing phenomenon. But there’s far more to Beaujolais than cheap candied red wine.
Most wine collectors begin their cellars with the European canon: Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne from France, Barolo and Brunello from Italy, and perhaps Ribera del Duero and Port from Spain. But no collector’s cellar is complete without an array of German Rieslings.
When we shape our portfolio, we look for wines that “punch above their weight.” These are wines that exceed expectations based on the price tag and the name on the label -- bottles that, if tasted blind, you’d put in a higher class. A recent such discovery is a premier cru white Santenay from Roger Belland.
The Rhône River divides into two very different halves. The Northern Rhône features syrah-based wines from the dramatic slopes of towns like Côte Rôtie and Hermitage. The Southern Rhône offers blends of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, most famously from Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
“Affordable” is not a word that’s often associated with Burgundy. With high demand and low supply, Burgundies often fetch prices that elicit eye rolls from casual drinkers. At many domaines, entry prices start at $50 and rise quickly thereafter.
From the rock-covered fields of Châteauneuf-du-Pape to the mold- and hail-prone slopes of Burgundy, the French plant vines in the most unusual places. And no location makes a vigneron’s life more complicated than the strikingly steep slopes of Côte Rôtie. Here all vineyard work must be done by hand, as tractors and machinery would tip over.
ometimes timing is everything. We managed to land at the doorstep of the Domaine Quivy at the perfect moment, just after his longtime US importer retired. We were looking for a new source for Gevrey-Chambertin and Quivy needed a new distributor. Sources for high-end Burgundy don’t become available very often, and we were hopeful.
We think white Burgundy is the purest expression of the Chardonnay grape. It drinks well on its own, and reaches magnificent heights with food; but prices often restrict white Burgundies to special occasions. We try hard to find examples that are priced to enjoy on a weeknight.
Syrah is a grape of many forms. Grown everywhere from Spain to Switzerland to South Africa, it ranges from rich and dark to delicate and refreshing. But most agree that Syrah’s finest expression comes from the Northern Rhône, in places like Hermitage, Côte Rôtie, and Saint-Joseph.
Most wine in the US is opened too young. Blame it on retailers moving inventory or on our age of impatience, but it’s increasingly rare to enjoy a bottle that has been been properly cellared. Which is why we’re always excited to find older vintages still available at French domaines.
We stumbled upon the Domaine Nicolas Maillet last year during a visit to the Maconnais, and he has turned out to be one of our best finds. Maillet is a man full of passion -- for his vineyards, for his rootstocks, for biodynamics, and for the purity of his harvest. And he manages to translate all of this energy into extraordinary wines.
We recently celebrated our sixth year as a père et fils business, a multigenerational approach that is common in Burgundy. The Belland family in Santenay is a particularly impressive example. Their domaine has operated since 1839, and today Roger and his daughter Julie comprise the 5th and 6th generations. With 176 years of experience, the Bellands know their terroir intimately.
It was a cool and dewy morning in the Loire Valley when we visited the Domaine Frederic Michot back in June. We had little more to go on than a brief note in a French wine guide promising a small scale, excellent Pouilly-Fumé. The rutted tracks in the ridges above the hamlet led to a modest house with a small tasting room attached.