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2016 Premier Cru Red Burgundy: Jovial and Gourmand

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 chosen carefully, Maranges can offer excellent value for red Burgundy drinkers. The wines never reach the complexity of Vosne or Chambolle, but can offer a less subtle alternative at far better prices.

These days we’re enjoying the 2016 Maranges 1er cru “Fussière” from the Domaine Roger Belland, a cheerful, approachable red Burgundy with unusual class for its level.

Jasper Morris MW calls the Belland domaine “A very reliable source of modern, sleek, stylish and elegant Red and White Burgundies.” We agree — the Belland wines are smooth and accessible at all levels of their lineup. Today’s Maranges is lively, round, and, as Belland puts it, “very gourmand.”

In the nose there’s 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. Burghound found it “very round” with “nicely voluminous flavors” and “pliant tannins.”

Think a pinot noir with the jovial soul of a Beaujolais.

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Belland Maranges 1er cru 2016
bottle price: $35

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Bold, Velvety New 2017 Red Burgundy

Winemaker:   Where much red Burgundy tends towards subtleness and finesse, the Varoilles style is noticeably more intense. They harvest relatively late, and use a long cold soak to extract loads of flavor and texture from their grapes.

Appellation:   Varoilles is best known (and deservedly so) for their terrific village-level and premier cru Gevrey-Chambertins. They only began making a Bourgogne-level wine two years ago, but it’s an exciting addition to their lineup.

Wine:   The nose is big and spicy, with briary blackberry fruit, notes of woods, cinnamon, and a hint of ginger. The mouth is bold and smooth with a solid texture laid under intense masculine fruit.

Suggestions:   No need to cellar this — as with all 2017 red Burgundies, it’s chewy, juicy, approachable and delightful. Pair it with roasted meats (duck, if you can find it these days), or a roasted chicken on a Sunday afternoon.

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Varoilles Bourgogne 2017
bottle price: $42

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Inky and Delicate: Soaring Northern Rhône Syrah, $25

Winemaker:   Denis Basset is a charming, energetic, fast talking young winemaker with a knack for channeling his terroir. His organic cuvées from Crozes-Hermitage are popular in Parisian restaurants, and it’s easy to see why — they’re balanced, honest, refreshing, and focused.

Appellation:   Crozes-Hermitage is near the southern end of the Northern Rhône Valley. Forever in the shadow – literally and figuratively – of the great hill of Hermitage, its pure-sryah cuvées offer earlier drinking windows and friendlier pricetags.

Wine:   Basset’s 2016 Crozes-Hermitage “Etincelle” is at once dark and soaring. The fruit is intense, sinewy, and full of blackberry jam and spice. But the mouthfeel is vibrant and delicate; Decanter awarded 91 points, calling it “fresh-faced” and “piercing.”

Pairing:   Go with meat for this cuvée — short ribs or lamb. Or for the herbivores in your family, a hard sheep cheese on crackers.

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St-Clair Crozes-Hermitage “Etincelle” 2016
bottle price: $25

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“Perfectly Balanced” & “Mouthwatering”: Delicious New 2018 St-Aubin

Burgundies are not getting any cheaper. With limited supply and ever-increasing demand, good values are harder and harder to find. But one Burgundian town that continues to deliver far more than people expect is St-Aubin. And we’re not the only ones to notice.

Rajat Parr writes writes that St-Aubin “produces some of the best-value Chardonnays in the world,” and Jancis Robinson says it “should now be regarded as virtually the equal” of Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet.

Our source here is Gérard Thomas, a small family domaine has lived and made wine in St-Aubin since the 1940s. Their 2018s have just arrived and they’re rich, electric, and bursting with life.

Thomas’s Bourgogne blanc is as good as entry-level white Burgundy gets; their St-Aubin 1er cru “Murgers des Dents de Chien” is elegant, overperforming and classy. Today’s wine is their village-level St-Aubin, sitting beautifully between the two.

Jancis Robinson’s reviewer loved this wine, finding “spicy citrus on the palate and on the nose. Lovely richness of pure lemon and just-ripe apricot fruit perfectly balanced by mouth-watering acidity. Persistent and pure.”

From a warm year and a masterful domaine, this unusually good value white Burgundy for under $50.

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Thomas St-Aubin 2018
bottle price: $42

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Dark, Woodsy Red Burgundy: Delightful 2017 Côte de Nuits

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 Burgundies, 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 or duck and mushrooms, or ham and potatoes gratin on Easter.

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

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Honey and Apple: Chiseled Dry Alsatian Riesling. $22

One of the surprise hits in our portfolio last year was the dry Alsatian Riesling from Domaine Gross. It embodies everything we’ve been writing about dry Riesling for years — affordable, refreshing, complex, and endlessly food-friendly.

We ran out of the 2016 quicker than expected, so we’re glad to have the 2018 in stock at last. It’s a worthy successor — thicker and more savory than the 2016, with a fresher mouthfeel and a dry, fruit-skin finish.

Sommeliers often call Riesling their “desert island wine.” Now that we’re all on desert islands of sorts, here’s a good chance to see why they’re right.

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 2018 Riesling shows lemon, mineral, lime, and honeysuckle in the nose. The mouth is dry and more substantial than last year’s — the attack is rich and mouthfilling, followed by a chiseled beam of acidity and minerals. Look for notes of herbal honey, green apple, coriander and pear.

This wine was singing (see below) with a butter chicken recipe we made last night. Or if your local Indian or Thai restaurant is still doing takeout, pick some up and pair it with this. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better food-wine under $25.

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Gross Riesling 2018
bottle price: $22

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Pantry Wine: $16 Côtes du Rhône

Most of us are getting better acquainted with our pantry these days, stocking up on pasta, canned goods, toilet paper, and other necessities. We won’t go as far as to claim that wine belongs on an “essentials” list, but we’ll put it in the category of “strongly prefer not to go without.”

So today we’re suggesting a supremely versatile wine — gulpable, crowd-pleasing (not that you’re having anyone over any time soon), and delightfully affordable: the Goubert Côtes du Rhône.

This won’t be the fanciest wine in your cellar, but it might be the most useful.

A Côtes du Rhône should be three things: balanced, dark, and inexpensive. Goubert’s is all three. The relatively low alcohol, keeps it fresh and lively on the palate. The blend of six grapes classic Rhône grapes forms a rich, hearty, dark wine. And it’s inexpensive enough to pull out at a moment’s notice.

Goubert’s 2018 Côtes du Rhône is the expressive and refined, 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.

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
bottle price: $16

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Extraordinary 2018 Premier Cru Old-Vine White Burgundy: 94 points, $39

Cyril Gautheron makes Chablis in its most stripped down form. His pure Chardonnay cuvées are intense and full, but draw their substance from their fruit instead of oak. They show minerality, depth, ripeness, and gorgeous texture.

For years we’ve bought three cuvées: Petit Chablis, Vieilles Vignes, and Vaucoupin 1er cru. Today we add a second premier cru: Montmains. Gautheron’s label for this wine also says Vieilles Vignes, and he’s not kidding — the vines date to the 1930s.

For readers that know Gautheron’s cuvées, Montmains shows all the intense, boldness of Vaucoupin, with an even silkier and deeper texture. The bottle we opened yesterday was gorgeous: concentrated essence of Chablis, with notes of seashells, dry lemon zest, and hints of melon.

Decanter’s Master of Wine Tim Aitkin was seriously impressed, awarding 94 points, writing “this is all about texture and fruit intensity rather than oak. Sappy, fresh and intense… lovely focus and zip and leesy, waxy concentration.”

Chablis remains a source for unparalleled value in the wine world — from anywhere else an old-vine cuvée with this concentration and polish would run $75+. Quantities limited, we don’t expect this to be around long.

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Gautheron Chablis 1er “Montmains” 2018
bottle price: $39

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“Sleek” Premier Cru Volnay: Dried Flowers and Silk

Red Burgundies aren’t known for their heartiness. Pinot Noir is a delicate, thin-skinned varietal — light in color and body. It usually displays subtlety over strength, polish over power.

But what they lack in weight they more than make up in elegance. The reds of Burgundy are unmatched in their ability to convey complexity, subtlety, and grace. In the Côte de Nuits it’s hard to pick a favorite town, but in the Côte de Beaune one name stands above the rest.

Volnay embodies the velvety silkiness of red Burgundy as well as any town in the region. Our producer here is the Domaine Roger Belland, who marries Volnay’s elegance with the domaine’s approachable style. The result is exceptionally fine red Burgundy, that’s also drinkable young.

Three of Volnay’s vineyards stand above the rest: Caillerets, Champans, and Santenots. And so from a town with no Grand Crus, these wines are as good as Volnay gets. (For a 2017 from Caillerets, check the current March Futures.) Today’s Volnay is from the premier cru Santenots vineyard, right along the border with Meursault.

Belland’s 2017 Volnay-Santenots premier cru is a delight. The nose shows plum, blackberry and spice; the mouth is tense and full, with fine tannins, and a savory, gamey finish. Burghound awarded 91 points, calling it “attractively sleek,” spicy and fresh” and “overtly floral.”

One of our best customers (with a serious Burgundy cellar) opened a bottle of this recently, and told us he and his dinner guest nearly came to blows over the last glass in the bottle.

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Belland Volnay 1er “Santenots” 2017
bottle price: $69

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Fleshy and Vibrant: New Everyday White Burgundy

White Burgundy is among the food-friendliest wines around. It works at the high end – an ageworthy Meursault, decanted for an hour, with veal medallions in a cream sauce, a hint of lemon, carefully sauteed mushrooms, a sprig of parsley… you get the idea.

But it answers the call for something uncomplicated and reliable — a Monday night pasta dish, or a hearty bowl of mussels. Gerard Thomas’s Bourgogne blanc has been our go-to white burgundy for nearly a decade now. It has become a “house white” for many of our readers, and has been for a number of well known restaurants in Boston and Philadelphia as well.

It doesn’t make Meursault promises — but it way over delivers for $6/glass.

The 2018 Bourgogne from Gérard Thomas has just arrived. All of Thomas’s 2018s are lipsmakingly good — a tasty combination of fleshy texture and shimmering energy. At each classification level the wines drink above their weight.

The Bourgogne is always good with food, and the 2018 is no exception; but this vintage has a fuller texture, making it delicious on its own. The nose is soft and elegant, with hazelnut and wood notes melting into lemon and baked apple fruit. There’s solid acidity and plenty of body, and it’s more mouthfilling than most wine of its class.

We strongly recommend setting aside a night for a high-end white Burgundy — Thomas’s other 2018s are great options. But for a busy weeknight when all you need is something balanced and crisp and refreshing, this is as good as Bourgogne blanc gets.

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Thomas Bourgogne 2018
bottle price: $29

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Rich, Muscular New 2016 St-Emilion Grand Cru

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 we’re excited to release our Grand Cru St-Emilion from the Chateau Montlisse, from the exceptional 2016 vintage. It’s a mouthfilling, intense, drink-now red Bordeaux that packs much more than $7/glass of punch.

Made from 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, it’s a rich, velvety blend with a classic combination of dark fruit and spice. Wine Advocate awarded 91 points, finding it “medium-bodied, soft, refreshing and elegant,” with “quiet intensity.” Antonio Galloni of Vinous found it “soft, pleasant, [and] easygoing.”

This wine requires no patience: 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.

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Montlisse St-Emilion Grand Cru 2016
bottle price: $35

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Berries & Earth: Gulpable, Organic, Refreshing Côtes du Rhône. $19

Last Spring winemaker Eric Chauvin took us out into his vines for our tasting. He believes fervently in organic winemaking, and wanted us to taste his wine en plein air, amid the rich earth from which they spring.

The combination was magic — Chauvin’s wines pulsate with life and energy, a result of his low-intervention style and careful organic viticulture. Tasting them outside brought out their vibrancy, connecting us to the millenia of wines made from the very same earth.

These aren’t the fanciest or the most ageworthy wines in our portfolio. But it’s hard to think of any that are more alive.

We discovered Eric Chauvin’s wine three years ago in a bistro in Séguret. It took a few days to track him down — his Domaine le Souverain has no website, no road sign, and he didn’t answer our first few calls. But after finally connecting we realized quickly what a find he was.

Chauvin’s wines are intense and beautifully balanced Rhône blends that drink more like a Gigondas or Vacqueyras than the Côtes-du-Rhône pricing suggests. His 2018 Séguret is gorgeous — deep and juicy, with a blackberry and lavender nose, with a cool earthiness that fans of the Mas Foulaquier will immediately recognize. The mouth is beautifully balanced, with softened but present tannins, clean dark fruit, and a faint smokiness in the nose.

Enjoy this with a homemade pizza, or unwind with a glass on its own on a weeknight after work.

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Souverain Séguret 2018
bottle price: $19

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“Really Delicious,” “Creamy” New 2018 White Burgundy

The best kept secret in a Burgundy collector’s cellar is his stash of St-Aubin. From a once forgotten valley wedged between the superstar towns of Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet, the wines of St-Aubin are some of the most overperforming wines we know. Jancis Robinson calls it now “virtually the equal” of its famous neighbors.

Gerard Thomas’s terrific crop of 2018s has just arrived in our warehouse, and we’re thrilled to have them in stock. Today we’re beginning with our favorite, the 2018 premier cru St-Aubin from “Murgers des Dents de Chien.” From a beautiful plot overlooking the hill of Montrachet, this special plot is only a few hundred yards from White Burgundy Mecca itself.

The St-Aubin 1er cru is exquisite wine — consistently excellent year in and year out. It’s polished and modern, and drinks like a far fancier bottle. St-Aubin is hardly the secret it once was, but it still provides nearly unparalleled white Burgundy value

The 2018 of this cuvée is sleek, sophisticated, and delicious. Winemaker Isabel Humbert has channeled the extra weight from the warm summer into a powerful, mouthfilling, delicious wine, which nonetheless retains its vibrancy. The oak is perfectly integrated into the wine, with notes of yellow fruits, pears, and spice. Jancis Robinson’s reviewer found “generous fruit, creamy texture and really delicious harmony.”

Whie Burgundy isn’t getting any cheaper, but St-Aubin continues to get better. We think this 2018 still way overperforms its pricetag, and look forward to enjoying it for years to come.

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Thomas St-Aubin 1er cru “Murgers” 2018
bottle price: $52

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“Gorgeous,” “Impeccable” 2016 Chianti Classico. $25

French wines have long been the focus of the Ansonia portfolio. Of the 45 winemakers we work with, about half are from Burgundy, and all but a few are French. Our longtime exception to this rule is the Fattoria Poggerino.

Poggerino’s wines are all pure sangiovese — dark, delicately balanced expressions of an intense, powerful grape. We’ve worked with Poggerino for almost 15 years, but recently their star has risen dramatically. In his recent book Rajat Parr calls their wines “excellent” and “some of the purest expressions of the grape in Italy.”

Poggerino’s 2016 Chianti Classico has just arrived, and it’s simply terrific. It shows strawberry jam and anise on the nose, and cherries and roses in the mouth. The texture is firm and long, with excellent aging potential, but it’s finer grained than in some recent vintages, offering gorgeous, velvety immediate drinking.

Vinous founder Antonio Galloni was effusive: “Poggerino’s 2016 Chianti Classico is gorgeous. Aromatically lifted and juicy on the palate, the 2016 has much to offer. Black cherry, plum, tobacco, new leather, licorice and spice… the 2016 is impeccably done. Best of all, it will drink well right out of the gate. 92 points”

We think this is among the finer vintages of Chianti Classico that Poggerino has made. And at $5/glass, it’s a no brainer.

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Poggerino Chianti Classico 2016
bottle price: $25

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