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8-Year-Old Pauillac: a “Gem” from Bordeaux’s Left Bank

The famous wine writer Hugh Johnson once wrote, “If one had to single out one commune of Bordeaux to head the list, there would be no argument. It would be Pauillac.” Best known for its three superstar chateaux – Latour, Lafite-Rothschild, and Mouton-Rothschild — Pauillac also offers excellent, less famous wines from its storied terroir.

Decanter’s Jane Anson calls Andrien Lagneaux one of “the last little guys of Pauillac.” Indeed his property is tiny — a mere 3000 bottles from just over an acre of vines — but the quality is exceptional. Lagneaux’s high percentage of Merlot (80%) makes it smoother and less austere at this stage than many other wines from the town.

Anson calls Lagneaux’s 2011 Pauillac, “rich, intense, powerful,” and “sexy.” For lovers of Bordeaux, it’s a rare hidden gem from an iconic town.

On a tip from an Ansonia reader with a few bottles in his cellar, we opened this last week and found it has developed gorgeously. The nose is ripe and very deep, with a melange of ripe raspberry, plum, iodine, earth and minerals. The mouth is dense, inky and rich, with juicy plum fruit and a cool woodsiness.

We expect this to age well for another decade or more — it’s dense wine and certainly built to stand the test of time. Give it an hour in a carafe to stretch out its legs. To be clear, Chateau Lafite this is not. But at $780 a bottle, Lafite is 11 times the price, and we’re not sure it’s eleven times better.

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Lagneaux à Pauillac 2011
bottle price: $72

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Honey, Flowers, and Green Tea: Crozes-Hermitage Blanc Returns

For many years at the start of every tasting, Rhône winemaker Denis Basset would give us small taste of his only white. “Just to set the palate,” he’d explain, before continuing on to his rich, syrah-based reds. The white was always lovely — floral and fresh, beautifully expressive, and a perfect way to start a tasting.

And every year, when we asked how much we could buy, he’d smile and shake his head — already all spoken for. Our allocation has only recently grown enough that we have any left over after futures, and we’re excited to have a few cases of the excellent 2018 available today.

Rhône whites are exotic, unusual, and simply delicious — this $25 Crozes blanc is as impressive (and as well priced) as they come.

Denis Basset runs the Domaine Saint-Clair, which he started several years ago after spending the first decade of his working life in the family’s flower business. He has rapidly gained confidence and acclaim; both Decanter and the Guide Hachette have listed him in a dynamic new generation of Crozes-Hermitage winemakers.

Basset’s white is a Rousanne-Marsanne blend (70/30), in the style of a classic northern Rhône. The nose is soft and enveloping, with tropical notes of mango, pineapple, and green tea. The mouth is rich and round, but well balanced, showing nectarine and honey notes. There’s so much exotic fruit in the nose you almost expect this to be sweet, but the mouth finishes cool and soft and dry.

This is a perfect winter white wine, with bright citrus to match rich foods, but a cozy, mouthcoating softness that makes it hard to put down. Serve some with a salty triple cream cheese and crusty bread.

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Saint Clair Crozes-Hermitage blanc 2017
bottle price: $25

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Dark, Woodsy Côte de Nuits: Delightful 2017 Red Burgundy

Winemaker:   The Domaine Ravaut is the ultimate local wine source. For 120 years the family has cultivated a loyal clientele of friends, neighbors, and workers at the stone quarry in their tiny hamlet of Ladoix. Today winemaker Vincent Ravaut still sells over half their wine to folks who walk in the front door.

Appellation:   Ladoix sits on the border between the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune, and the Ravaut’s farm vines on both sides. Today’s Côtes de Nuits-Villages is unmistakably from north of the border. The fruits are darker and more briary, with a hint of woodsy animal character from nearby Nuits-St-Georges.

Wine:   Like most of the 2017 red Burgundys, this is simply delightful young wine. It’s ripe and punchy with attractive, crackling tannins and a pleasant mineral finish. Jancis Robinson found “enjoyable redcurrant juiciness,” and “fine, balanced tannins.”

Pairing:   Serve this fruit-forward refreshing red with seared tuna for a terrific (if not perhaps traditional) match. For classicists, go with game, mushrooms, duck, or other wintery meats.

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Ravaut Côte de Nuits-Villages 2017
bottle price: $36

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Perfectly Mature Red Burgundy: 8-Year-Old Morey-St-Denis

These days cellaring wine has become a rarity. Not all wines are meant to age, and indeed the wine world’s style continues to shift toward early maturity. But for wine that rewards patience, the transformation of bottle aging is nothing short of magic.

Today we’re suggesting 2011 Morey-St-Denis 1er cru “Millandes” from Jean-Louis Amiot — it’s proof that ageworthy wine doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Located about ten yards from the famous Grand Cru Clos de la Roche, Millandes is a premier cru that always punches above its weight, but that also needs a few years to reach its potential.

Patience may be a virtue, but in this case someone else has already done the work.

This lot of 2011 Millandes comes with impeccable provenance — it just arrived a few months ago from Morey-St-Denis, having spent the last eight years resting peacefully in the cellar where it was bottled. Burghound awarded 90 points, finding it “delicious, balanced and solidly persistent,” and predicted it would be perfectly mature beginning in 2019.

We think his timing prediction is spot on. Today it’s bursting with dry fruit and secondary flavors — think woodsy notes like tobacco, leather, plums, morel mushrooms, and well worn leather. It’s in an excellent drinking window — carafe for fifteen minutes after opening (not longer).

Serve this with pan seared duck breasts and potatoes in duck fat.

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Amiot Morey-St-Denis
1er cru “les Millandes” 2011
bottle price: $75

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A Favorite Returns: Golden, Shimmering Unoaked White Burgundy. $28

Of all the white Burgundy we import, none is a purer expression of Chardonnay than Nicolas Maillet’s classic Maconnais cuvées. If the Côte d’Or offers Burgundies of pedigree and refinement, then the Maconnais offers Burgundies of vibrancy and joy.

Maillet takes this idea one step further with biodynamics, vinifying his wines with only indigenous yeasts and a slow, months-long fermentation. The resulting wines show extraordinary complexity and purity. Fruit and flowers dominate the palate, with gorgeous texture and long, supple mouthfeels.

Three new Maillet cuvées arrive in our warehouse today: 2018 Villages, 2017 Verzé, and 2016 Pouilly-Fuissé. All are excellent, but today we’re focusing on the Verzé.

Maillet’s 2017 Macon-Verzé took an astonishing ten months to finish fermentation. Most other winemakers (including his professional oenolog) would have pitched yeast, warmed the tanks, or otherwise catalyzed the fermentation — not Nicolas Maillet. “This one’s taking its time,” he told us calmly when we visited mid-fermentation. “It will get there when it gets there.”

We’re pleased to report that Maillet was right, and the resulting cuvée among the best he’s made. It’s simply gorgeous unoaked Chardonnay: white flowers and green tea in the nose, with tangerine, pear, and honey in the mouth. The Wine Advocate’s William Kelley awarded 90 points, calling it “satiny and tensile,” with “a ripe core of fruit.”

Drink this pure, golden white Burgundy with on its own or with appetizers — it’s a scene stealer in just about any context.

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Maillet Macon-Verzé 2017
bottle price: $28

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Juicy, New 2017 Red Burgundy: Joie de Vivre in a Glass. $32

The town of Maragnes is an underrated source for red Burgundy. Located at the very southern end of the Côte d’Or, it’s often left off regional maps, and its reputation is for rusticity over refinement.

But if chosen carefully, Maranges can offer unparalleled value for red Burgundy drinkers. At its best, Maranges is a less subtle but no less charming alternative to the skyrocketing prices elsewhere in the region.

A cheerful, approachable red Burgundy from a plentiful, early-drinking vintage, we think today’s wine well overperforms its $32 pricetag.

Roger Belland is an excellent source for easy drinking red Burgundy. The domaine uses a long, very cool fermentation to retain the fruit in their wines. His 2017s are even more approachable young than usual. The French have taken to calling the 2017 reds “restaurant wines,” a nod to their abundance, approachability, and charm.

Belland’s 2017 Maranges is from a south-facing vineyard and a vintage with excellent ripeness; Burghound called it “nicely vibrant” with an “appealing texture.” In the nose we found intense, juicy, bursting cranberry fruit, with notes of honey and tulips. The mouth is pleasant and punchy with young, approachable tannins, no raspiness, and a clean refreshing finish.

Think of this as somewhere between a Burgundy and a Beaujolais — the refinement of a Pinot Noir, matched with jolliness and joie de vivre of a Gamay.

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Belland Maranges 1er “Fussière” 2017
bottle price: $32

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Everyday White Burgundy from a Master of Meursault. $22

Vigneron:   Vincent Boyer is one of Meursault’s young superstar winemakers. His golden white Burgundies from Meursault and Puligny are among the finest in our cellar. Vinous calls his wines “superb” and “very impressive;” Japer Morris MW writes “Boyer seems to make better wines year after year.”

Appellation:   Chardonnay is responsible for all of Burgundy’s finest white wines. But 10% of white wine vineyards in Burgundy are Aligoté, a less celebrated grape that produces simple, refreshing wines. Aligoté is seldom magnificent, but in the hands of the right winemaker it can be delicious.

Wine:   Boyer-Martenot’s Aligoté is unlike any other we’ve had, with a rich mouthfeel and unusually complex bouquet. Through 45+ year old vines and barrel fermentation, Boyer turns this ordinary grape into a smooth, delightful white with notes of wild honey, herbs, flowers, and classic green apple. Burghound calls it “vibrant, fresh and utterly delicious.”

Pairing:   Pair this with appetizers: cheese (particularly comté) and crackers. We often use this wine to begin a cocktail party — it’s clean and refreshing, interesting but not intrusive.

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Boyer-Martenot Aligoté 2017
bottle price: $22

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Gamay for your Turkey: Bold, Inky 2015 Beaujolais

Vignerons: From meticulously cultivated old vines and with careful use of oak, the Perrachon creates remarkably delicious and refined cuvées. Perrachon’s reds are honest, complex, delicious red Burgundies; they just happen to be made from Gamay.

Appellation: Beaujolais is best known for the Beaujolais Nouveau, a cheap insipid red rushed to market a month after harvest. Today’s wine is its polar opposite: Moulin-a-Vent, known as the “King of Beaujolais,” produces the regions most serious and impressive wines.

Wine: Today’s pure Gamay is dense and inky, drawing from vines planted in the 1930s. From a near-perfect vintage, this 2015 is perfectly extracted and carefully aged in oak barrels. With a few years under its belt, today it shows a beautifully dark, brooding nose of violets and anise. The tannins are juicy and full, with crackling texture and crunchy finish.

Pairing: This is an excellent candidate for Thanksgiving dinner — your guests might guess Syrah before Gamay. But between now and then, pair it with a steak in a cast iron pan and cold-oil frites. Close your eyes and you’ll be transported to a Parisian brasserie.

You might also like: Our five other Beaujolais reds, or our Beaujolais Sampler

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Perrachon Moulin-a-Vent Burdelines 2015
bottle price: $28

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“Very Impressive” 90-point Old-Vine Meursault

Burgundians have made wine in Meursault since 1098. Over the last nine centuries the village has proudly earned its glowing reputation, and today is among the most sought after wines in the world. Though it has no Grand Cru vineyards, Meursault’s wines are shimmering white Burgundies at their finest.

We began buying from Vincent Boyer more than a decade ago, and since then the international wine press has widely acclaimed him as a rising star. One of our favorites each year is his Meursault “Narvaux,” a village level white considered among Meursault’s finest. Boyer coaxes his 70 year old Chardonnay vines into perfect expressions of this extraordinary terroir.

Burghound named this wine “Outstanding” and a “Top Value” for the vintage. He awarded 90 points, finding “volume and richness,” with a “classic Meursault nose.” We loved this wine from the barrel, and found it even better in bottle.

The nose shows baked lemons, pineapple, flowers and stones. The mouth is typical Meursault, a perfect balance of rich golden fruit and stony depth — weight and richness without heaviness. Serve this a just a bit below room temperature, with veal or chicken in a cream sauce.

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Boyer-Martenot Meursault “Narvaux” 2017
bottle price: $69

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Vibrant, Biodynamic Dry Riesling. $19

To the uninitiated, Riesling is a cheap, insipid wine — rarely interesting, and never noble. But to those in the know, Riesling can be vibrant, dry, and extraordinarily well priced.

No white grape varietal communicates its origin as fluently. As writer Terry Theise puts it, “Riesling does more than just imply terroir: it subsumes its own identity as fruit into the greater meaning of soil, land, and place.”

The most recent addition to our Riesling collection is a dry cuvée from Domaine Gross, a small, biodynamic family source in Alsace. A perfectly dry, everyday white wine under $20.

Vincent Gross is a young, enthusiastic winemaker practicing biodynamic viticulture, and producing truly exciting wines. With the retirement of Francis Muré, our longtime Alsatian source, our discovery of Gross couldn’t be timed more perfectly.

Gross’s 2016 Riesling is everything you want it to be. The nose is a gorgeous marriage of high-toned fruits and stony minerals. The mouth is dry and electric — notes of grapefruit, lemon peel, apples and pears.

Pair this on its own, with fish dishes, or with a classic tarte flambé (Alsatian Pizza). You’ll find yourself wishing all $19 wines were this good.

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Gross Riesling 2016
bottle price: $19

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Old-Vine Gevrey-Chambertin: “Velvety, Super Rich, Outstanding”

Each town in Burgundy produces wines of a distinct character. Some are dark and brooding, others are lightweight and ethereal – but the boldest and most intense is Gevrey-Chambertin.

Our producer here is the Domaine des Varoilles, whose vineyards were first planted in the 12th century. Today their vines aren’t quite 800 years old, but they’re well over 70, and produce magnificently dense and concentrated juice.

Today we’re suggesting Varoilles’s 2014 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru Monopole “Clos des Varoilles:” bold, muscly, and powerful – a prototypical Gevrey.

The Varoilles style is extracted and ageworthy, but this wine is already silky and seductive. Burghound called it “outstanding,” awarding 92 points and citing “spicy aromas of pungent earth, plum and underbrush.” He called it “velvety, super rich and very suave” with a “serious and powerful finish.”

Look for notes of briary black fruits, toast, smoke, earth and plum. Pair this with duck breasts and crispy potatoes – a perfect winter pairing.

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Varoilles Gevrey-Chambertin
1er cru “Clos des Varoilles” 2014
bottle price: $85

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“Quintessential” Chablis: 90 point Unoaked White Burgundy. $26

White Burgundy makes an excellent “by the glass” wine for your house. It pairs with a wide range of foods, and with no food at all — an essential component to a well-stocked cellar. Think of it as wine’s Swiss Army Knife, useful in far more often than predicted.

Jean Collet’s entry level Chablis is particularly versatile, with enough freshness to match veal and mushrooms in a cream sauce, but enough ripeness for a glass after a long day of work. Collet’s 2017 Chablis is even better than usual, from a year with perfect balance between ripeness and tension.

The Wine Advocate’s excellent new Burgundy reviewer William Kelley called this “well worth seeking out,” awarding 90 points, and calling it “glossy and textural, with good concentration, racy acids, and a long, delineated finish.” He goes on to say “the combination of ripe fruit with quintessentially Chablisien cut and tension is compelling.” Kelley named it one of his “six great values on the market.”

We agree and are pleased to have some left in stock. The nose is clean, pure, and precise, showing pear and stones. The mouth is brisk and lively but also intense and smooth, with an enticing roundness punctuated by vibrant minerality. With entertaining season upon us, it’s as useful as a good pocket knife.

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Collet Chablis 2017
bottle price: $26

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Bold 2015 St-Emilion: Rich, Muscular 92pt Bordeaux

Most of the world’s Merlot is undistinguished. Its default expression is a soft, rounded wine lacking tannin, acidity, and character. “Global” merlot is smooth and easy, but neither distinctive nor particularly interesting.

But in Bordeaux, Merlot thrives as an essential component to the region’s most iconic wines. And its center stage – where the grape reaches its ultimate expression – are the Right Bank towns of Pomerol and St-Emilion.

Today’s Grand Cru St-Emilion from the Chateau Montlisse comes from the exceptional 2015 vintage. It’s punchy, unmistakably well made, and particularly in 2015, way overperforms its price.

Made from 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, it’s a rich, velvety blend with a classic combination of dark fruit and spice. Critic Jeb Dunnuck awarded 92 points, finding it “seriously good” and “sexy,” with its “beautiful balance” making it “already hard to resist.”

The mouth is rich and muscular, with fleshy, approachable tannins supporting the gorgeous fruit. Look for notes of plums and toast with cassis, dark chocolate and dried violets. These days good Bordeaux often carries a three- or four-figure price tag, but it’s good to remember that it doesn’t have to. Serve this with good steak or veal, or something roasted on a Sunday afternoon.

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Montlisse St-Emilion Grand Cru 2015
bottle price: $38

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Unoaked $32 Premier Cru White Burgundy: Vibrant and Pure

Chablis is a singular place. Its combination of deep stony soils and cool climate exists nowhere else on earth. These factors produce a similarly unique wine — mineral and crisp, pure and clean.

Traditionally Chablis is made without oak influence. In recent years, modern vignerons have begun to oak their wines more aggressively, particularly among their higher-end cuvées. But winemaker Cyril Gautheron uses oak sparingly and carefully — when he thinks the wine doesn’t need it, he doesn’t use it.

Today’s wine, the Chablis 1er cru “Vaucoupin” is pure, shimmering Chardonnay. Gautheron keeps his entirely unoaked, allowing the stony soil to show through as delicate minerality. One taste and we think you’ll agree: the wine doesn’t lack anything.



The 2017 Vaucoupin is at once vibrant and voluminous. It shows a beautiful ripe core laid over an intense beam of stony freshness. This is pure, elegant, and remarkably long — it begins with flowers and fruit, and finishes (after a while) with freshness and minerality. The nose shows lemon rind and salt air; the mouth is long, tense, and full of energy.

It’s hard to imagine a purer interpretation of the Chardonnay grape, particularly under $35. The briny freshness of oysters (or a lemony-prepared fish) is a perfect foil for the brisk energy of the Vaucoupin.

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Gautheron Chablis 1er “Vaucoupin” 2017
bottle price: $32

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