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Pét-Nat Arrives! Fresh New Loire Valley Bubbles

Ansonia isn’t exactly your local hipster natural wine store; (too much Burgundy, not enough Brett). But we do enjoy a bit of “natty wine” from time to time, and celebrate the largely positive influence it’s had on the world of wine. And so we’re excited today to introduce our first Pét-Nat, our most hipster wine to date.

Pét-Nat, short for péttiant-naturel (naturally sparkling), predates Champagne by a few hundred years. In Champagne, sugar and yeast are added to finished still wine, and a second fermentation under seal produces bubbles. Pét-Nat is simpler — the wine is bottled before the first fermentation ends, and ends up lightly sparkling.

Our source for this new Pét-Nat is, unsurprisingly, the Loire Valley, the Silicon Valley of France’s natural wine movement. The source is Nicolas Paget, an excitable young winemaker making tiny quantities of outstanding organic wines. Paget’s dry, refreshing Chenin blanc “Melodie” has quickly become a staple in many readers’ cellars. Today’s Pét-Nat is a similar wine, just with an extra bit of sparkle.

This is a perfect summer sipper: dry, uncomplicated, and refreshing. Look for notes of pears and stones in the nose, with apple skin and chalk in the mouth. The doughiness of Crémant and Champagne is absent — (the wine spends no time on lees) — but Chenin blanc lends a smooth, mouthfilling quality that’s cut masterfully by the fine bubbles.

We won’t be abandoning our Bourgognephilic list any time soon, but at $5/glass this was too fun to pass up. Just for a moment, put down the Perrières and give Pét-Nat a try.

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Paget Pét-Nat Aborigène
bottle price: $25

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Summer Grilling Red: New $22 Côtes du Rhône

France’s Southern Rhône valley produces rich, smooth red blends. At one end of the spectrum there’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape, famous and long-lived; at the other there’s Côtes du Rhône, uncomplicated and inexpensive. Today’s wine is from the middle.

If Beaumes de Venise calls to mind dessert wines, you’re not wrong. The town is famous for its sweet Muscat wines first planted in 600 BCE. But the terroir also produces a small amount of excellent red, with a rugged richness that makes them sturdy and crowd-pleasing.

Goubert’s Beaumes de Venise is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Cinsault, with the final grape adding a sauvage quality that makes the wine distinct and delicious. The 2018 has just arrived and it’s delightful, dense and gorgeous. All three grapes fermented together and raised in concrete tank; the wine is full of spice and garrigue, but all drawn from grapes and earth instead of oak.

The nose is dark and weathered, showing strawberry jam, honey, and earthy notes;. the mouth is lively and juicy, with pleasant structure. This is an astonishingly complete wine at $22. It’s perhaps a bit less refined than its older brother Gigondas, but what it lacks in elegance it makes up in pluck. Serve with burgers or skirt steak on the grill.

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Goubert Beaumes-de-Venise 2018
bottle price: $22

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Crisp, Zippy Muscadet: the Perfect Summer White

Region:   Grown near the mouth of the Loire River, Muscadet is at once brisk and hearty — the essence of the windswept Atlantic coast. Wine writer Lettie Teague calls it “one of the world’s best, if most obscure, bargains,” saying “a glass of $8 Muscadet will always be a better wine than an $8 glass of something else.”

Appellation:   The Muscadet region’s new “cru communal” appellations require aging 24-30 months on lees, and Martin-Luneau farms grapes in both Gorges and Clisson. Today’s wine “Deux Roches” comes from a blend of both appellations (hence “two rocks”) — the blend bears neither name, but the wine’s quality speaks for itself.

Wine:   Their 2015 Deux Roches cuvée is bright and crisp, with lime rind and melon in the nose, and zippy, refreshing acidity in the mouth. There’s an intense dryness and liveliness that’s the perfect antidote to a muggy summer evening. Pair this with anything from the sea, most perfectly, oysters.

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Martin-Luneau Muscadet “2 Roches” 2015
bottle price: $19

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Perfect $25 No Oak White Burgundy

We love enjoying wine en plein air. There’s a certain harmony in enjoying a natural wine with the sun on your skin — a product of nature adid the natural world. And among our favorites are the vibrant, exuberant, life-filled organic white Burgundies of Nicolas Maillet.

Maillet makes wine in the Maconnais, an area of southern Burgundy known for its unoaked Chardonnays. His whites are aromatically jubilant, bursting with flowers and fruit and earth and stones.

Nicolas Maillet is a passionate young winemaker, making some of the purest expressions of Chardonnay we know. With no oak to obscure the gorgeous fruit, they have the clarity of fine Chablis with the weight and roundness of a Côte d’Or Chardonnay.

The 2018 Maillet Macon-Villages is humbly magnificent. The nose explodes with spring flowers and honeysuckle, and notes of dried straw. In the mouth it’s a classic Macon — rich and full with bright floral notes, beautiful acidity, and lots of depth. Maillet draws upon biodynamics to elevate the complexity, and his wines are a true symphony of nature in the glass.

Spending time outdoors improves your mood, your health, and your soul — bring along Maillet as a companion and you’ll feel just as alive.

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Maillet Macon-Villages 18
bottle price: $25

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Smooth, “Excellent” 93-point Premier Cru White Burgundy

The 2018 vintage provided the Chablisiens with something they hadn’t seen in years: decent volume. The 2016 and 2017 growing seasons brought the trials of Job — hail, frost, freezes and everything else, it seemed. In 2018, catastrophe turned to fruitfulness, as the vines produced strikingly large quantities of ripe fruit.

The warm growing season meant wine with a different profile from the usual Chablis — rounder and riper — but it is delicious and still carries the advantageous pricing that is Chablis’s calling card these days. Romain Collet’s lineup of 2018s are excellent, showing expert balance between ripeness and acidity.

They offer excellent early drinking opportunities — one glass of today’s wine and we think you’ll know what we mean.

Collet’s Chablis 1er cru “Vaillons” is vinified and raised in a third each of barrel, foudre (large barrel) and tank — the resulting wine has no notes of oak in the nose, but has hint of softness to balance out the classic Chablisienne mineral tension.

We loved Vaillons in 2018, and so did Jasper Morris MW who gave 90-93 pts. The nose shows minerals, lemon, and a deep core of savory oyster shells; the mouth is floral and smooth, with real subtlety and elegance, and what Morris called “an excellent finish.”

Like Collet’s other 2018s, we think this will age nicely for another few years. But the 2018 sun makes at a delight today.

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Collet Chablis 1er “Vaillons” 2018
bottle price: $35

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Inky, Bursting Rhône Red: New $25 Organic Vacqueyras

The Clos du Joncuas might be the most exciting recent find in our portfolio. Based in Gigondas in the Southern Rhône, sisters Dany and Carol Chastan learned their craft from their parents and grandparents, and have themselves been farming organically for 40 years.

This is old school winemaking: ambient yeasts, no oak (not even foudres), 100% whole cluster, no fining or filtering. It sounds like a recipe for a big rustic wine, but the Chastan sisters somehow managed to produce wines of superb texture and subtlety.

We don’t know what goes into their alchemy, but it’s pretty easy to like what comes out.

Last year the 2016 Joncuas Gigondas made lots of friends among our readers. That wine is back in stock (as is the exciting 2017), but today we’re focused on their simpler wine — the 2018 Vacqueyras. This wine blew us away at our tasting this spring, and a glass yesterday of the just-arrived batch confirmed our enthusiasm.

Made from Grenache and a splash of Mourvèdre, this wine resembles a cool inky Syrah, even though it’s absent from the blend. A floral nose gives way to ripe raspberries, lavender, sweet plums and earth. This is rich wine whose first impression is nonetheless freshness. There is good underlying structure, but the wine utterly without harsh or drying tannins.

This makes a powerful argument for being the best $25 bottle in the store.

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Joncuas Vacqueyras 2018
bottle price: $25

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Dry, Fresh, Floral: Organic Loire Valley Chenin Blanc. $19

Chenin blanc is a chameleon. Its expressions range from bone dry to startlingly sweet depending on vintage, terroir, and winemaker. Vouvray is the original source for Chenin Blanc, but the surrounding towns in the central Loire Valley produce excellent examples as well.

Several years ago we spent a few days in the Loire searching for a new source for Chenin Blanc. We enjoy the sweet stuff from time to time, but our main goal was to find a simple, dry, “summer sipper” Chenin.

We don’t always find exactly what we expect when prospecting for new wines; but this time we hit the nail exactly on the head.

Nicolas Paget is an energetic and impassioned young winemaker in Touraine-Azay le Rideau (a neighbor to Vouvray). Like much Loire wine today, Paget’s wines are organic and low-intervention in style. His lineup ranges from red to off-dry white to pet nat, but it’s his dry “Melodie” we’re suggesting today.

Melodie offers Chenin’s pear-like fruit — clean, pure and delightful — in an entirely dry package. It works beautifully with food — think fish tacos or a busy summer salad — but also on its own as a patio aperitif on an August afternoon. Look for floral notes and yellow fruits in the nose, and a smooth mouth of pear, elderflower, and chalk.

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Paget Chenin “Melodie” 2018
bottle price: $19

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Provençal Rosé Returns, $19

As some of you noticed, we underbought rosé this year. Our entire summer’s worth sold out in 15 days, and by June 1 there wasn’t a drop of pink in the entire warehouse. Turns out all those people sitting at home got thirsty when the weather warmed up!

Well the good news is that our crowd favorite rosé is back in stock, and none too soon. With the temperature here in Boston pushing 100 today, it’s clear that summer is far from over. We’re glad to have a couple bottles of Goubert’s crisp, dry, and refreshing rosé in our fridge, and we recommend the same to anyone south of the Canadian border. Here are our notes from May:

Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre | Lightweight and lively. The nose is dry and fresh, with dry strawberries and lime zest. The mouth is light, clean, refreshing and delightful. You forget it’s even there. Pair this with fresh goat cheese on crackers.

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Goubert Rosé 2019
bottle price: $19

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Picnic Wine: $16 Côtes du Rhône

With most socializing happening outdoors these days, we’re getting lots of requests for wines suited for a patio or a picnic. We ran out of most of our everyday wines back when everyone was busy stocking up on pasta and purell. But we’ve just restocked, and none is more welcome than today’s Côtes du Rhône.

Goubert’s humble Côtes du Rhône is the least expensive wine in our portfolio (not counting Futures), but we think it well overperforms its rank. It’s supremely versatile: gulpable, crowd-pleasing, well priced, and pairable with everything and nothing at all. It’s not the fanciest wine in your cellar, but it might be the most useful.

A Côtes du Rhône should be balanced, dark, and inexpensive — Goubert’s is all three. It’s juicy, fresh and lively on the palate. The nose showing dark wild cherries, raspberries, and a hint of menthol. The mouth is both jammy and refreshing, with notes of white pepper, licorice, and plums. And the 2019 that has just arrived is a whole lot of wine in a $16 bottle.

It’s a by-the-glass wine for your kitchen, something to enjoy before and during your meal. Serve this with anything from hamburgers to our favorite pasta: oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and ample grated parmesan.

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Goubert Côtes du Rhône 2019
bottle price: $16

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Exquisite, Unoaked Chablis from 88-Year-Old Vines. $29

Winemaker: Romain Collet has transformed his humble family domaine in Chablis into a real source to watch. Jasper Morris MW calls writes that under Romain’s direcion, Domaine Collet is “moving towards joining the pantheon of the top quality outfits” in Chablis.

Vintage: After several years of damaging frosts in Chablis, 2018 provided much-needed relief: quantity and quality. Romain told us his 80-something grandmother said it was among the best crops she could remember. The resulting wines have been delightful: ripe and smooth, but with solid foundations and good tension; we expect them to drink well early.

Wine: There are no regulations concerning what qualifies as an “old vine” in France, but Collet’s would meet just about anyone’s standard. Planted in 1932, these vines have survived everything Nature (and man) have thrown at them over nine decades. So intense and complex is their juice that Romain uses zero new oak for this cuvée, choosing instead to let the pure fruit shine through.

And shine it does — 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. This is Chablis as it was meant to be: no oak, clean, pure, lively, and smooth. We only hope we reach 88 with this amount of vigor…

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Collet Chablis VV 2018
bottle price: $29

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Licorice, Blackberry, Olive: “Seductive” New 92-pt Cornas

Domaine:   Vinous writer Josh Raynolds calls the Domaine du Tunnel “among the top producers of Cornas.” Star winemaker Stephane Robert farms an envious collection of old syrah vines around the tiny appellation, and his wines very much live up to the hype. He’s humble and quiet in person, but his wines are bold, assertive, and charming.

Appellation:   Cornas is the southernmost appellation in the Northern Rhône. Its rules are northern: pure, unblended Syrah that ages for decades. But Cornas (which means “scorched earth” in Celtic) harvests a week earlier than Hermitage (just 20 minutes north), and the vertiginous slopes produce wines with a southern, sunbaked character.

Wine:   Tunnel’s 2017 Cornas is a classic — the warm year produced lots of ripeness, making it juicy and approachable today. But there’s plenty of Cornas’s traditional sturdy foundation. Vinous and Wine Advocate both awarded 92 points, finding it “loaded with blackberries, cassis and plums,” with “very good depth as well as energy” alongside “supple tannins.”

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Tunnel Cornas 2017
bottle price: $59

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“Total Knockout” Chianti Riserva, 95 points

The Fattoria Poggerino is the lone Italian source in our portfolio. Their careful organic viticulture and unusually pure wines have vaulted them to the top of most lists of winemakers in Chianti. Vinous writes of their Poggerino’s “remarkable purity and nuance,” and Rajat Parr calls their wines “excellent” and “some of the purest expressions of the grape in Italy.”

Pooggerino’s finest wine is their Chianti Classico Riserva from the “Bugialla” vineyard. Like their other wines, it is pure, unblended Sangiovese. But the Riserva comes from their oldest vines — nearly 45 years old now — and they raise it carefully in oak before bottling.

It’s always their top performing wine, regularly winning acclaim from critics. But the 2016 caught special attention.

Vinous’s Antonio Galloni was seriously impressed with Poggerino’s regular $25 Chianti Classico, awarding 92 points and calling it “gorgeous…aromatically lifted and juicy on the palate… the 2016 is impeccably done”

But he somehow found even better things to say about the 2016 Riserva. Awarding 95 points and calling it “a total knockout,” he wrote of its “superb depth and textural richness.” We agree — the mouthfeel of this wine is extraordinary, combining a palate-coating intensity with balance, fine tannins and polish.

Galloni concluded by calling it “fabulous in every way.” It’s hard to improve on that, so we wont try.

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Poggerino Chianti Classico Riserva 2016
bottle price: $45

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Supple, Earthy, Delicious: Old-School 2014 Pommard

Appellation: Pommard
The town of Pommard produces the Côte de Beaune’s boldest wines — they’re sturdy and masculine, and usually age beautifully. Pommard is often compared with its neighbor Volnay, which tends to produce wines of elegance and finesse.

Vintage: 2014
Burgundy critic Steven Tanzer calls 2014 “a delicious midweight vintage with alluring fruit, juicy supporting acidity, expressive terroir character, supple tannins.” We’ve found many of the 2014 red Burgundies are in a terrific place now.

Wine: Mégard Pommard
Mégard’s Pommard vines are near the border between Pommard and Volnay. The wine draws from both terroirs, blending Volnay’s tension and minerality with Pommard’s meaty richness. Now six years on from harvest, this is classic, old-school, earthy red Burgundy that’s just singing today.

Pairing: Magret de Canard (Duck Breasts)
There’s no better pairing for old-school Burgundy than duck. Here’s a primer on how to get it right: Hunter Angler Gardner Cook

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Mégard Pommard 2014
bottle price: $54

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“This is Superb.” Majestic 94-point Premier Cru Meursault

Meursault is a village stuck in time. Its narrow crooked streets and pointed steeple perch on a hill above fields of weathered vineyards first planted by monks in 1098. The golden nectar of these fields has been known for centuries, and today it is as sought-after as any wine in the world.

Meursault has no grand crus, but its three famous premier crus — Perrieres, Genevrières, and Charmes — almost make up for it. These exceptional terroirs produce some of Burgundy’s greatest wines of any color. Today we’re focused on Genevrières.

In his excellent recent book Rajat Parr describes Genevrières as: “crystalline in structure, at once gossamer and formidable.” We’ve asked to buy Vincent Boyer’s Genevrières for years, but received our first allocation only last year.

We found the 2017 Genevrières magnificent, among the best white Burgundies we’ve had in years. Critics were similarly effusive; Burghound awarded 92 points, finding it “sleek” and “refined,” citing “lovely minerality” along side “pear and apple” and “acacia blossom.” Steven Tanzer of Vinous found awarded 91-94 points, calling it “at once thick and piquant,” and “classic, dense, vibrant,” and concluding “this is superb.”

Simply put, this is extraordinary wine — it’s not cheap, but greatness rarely is.

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Boyer-Martenot Meursault 1er “Genevrières” 2017
bottle price: $132

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Smooth, Intense Northern Rhône Red: “the Best in 55 Years.” $25

Much has been written about the 2015 vintage in Burgundy, one of the best in at least a generation. But the vintage also blessed other regions in France, in particular, the syrah-based wines of the Northern Rhône. Jancis Robinson speculated the 2015 Northern Rhones might be “the best in 55 years.”

We don’t open 1962 Hermitage very often, so we’ll have to take her word for it. But we can say that they’re extraordinary wines — inky, dark, and mouthfilling but with exceptional balance and refined tannins.

With a few years under their belt these wines have become terrific. The greats (Cote Rotie, Cornas, Hermitage) will age for decades; many others are ready now.

Denis Basset is a young winemaker who is passionate and very talented – our tasting appointments with him we rarely begin (and never end) on time. His pure-syrah wines are a perfect marriage of Northern refinement and sun-baked Southern richness.

We bought about twice our normal quantity of the 2015 Crozes-Hermitage “Etincelle,” anticipating a bright future. Whether it was foresight or luck, we’re pretty pleased to have it around now. The 2015 Etincelle is a triumph — astonishingly intense and concentrated, but at 13.5% alcohol a balanced and refreshing glass as well.

The color is an inky black-purple, with a savory nose showing cloves, blackberries and violets. The youthful raspy tannins have given way to a gorgeous polish — it remains dense and smooth with classic notes of plum and black pepper. It’s a drink-now gem from a magnificent year.

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Saint-Clair Crozes-Hermitage “Etincelle” 2015
bottle price: $25

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