Champagne is a complicated place. Since its early days the region has been inseparably linked to a sense of glamour and marketing. It can be easy to lose track of quality and distinctiveness amid Champagne’s glossy promotional haze.
Côtes du Rhônes aren’t hard to find these days. They’re cheap, plentiful, and abundant — you’ll find them everywhere from a fine restaurant to your local Costco. Most are mass produced, with low tannin and lots of fruit — they may lack flaws, but they’re short on character too.
Maranges is the Côte d’Or’s forgotten appellation. In the past it was known for its unrefined, tannic wines — Burgundians used to call it “le medecin” (the doctor) because some winemakers secretly blended it into thinner Côte d’Or reds to bulk up weak vintages. But today its reputation needs revision. Advances in winemaking and warmer […]
Like many of you, the brief warm spell this week has summer on our mind. Yes, we know, it’s a few months off still, and April snow isn’t unheard of here in New England. But after more than a year cooped up indoors, we’re ready for some sunshine and (fingers crossed) some in-person socializing.
We often say an exceptional regional level wine is a mark of true winemaker skill. And today’s Bourgogne blanc is as good as they come. Sofie Bohrmann’s fancier wines are extraordinary, and worth every penny. But pound for pound, her humble Bourgogne blanc might be her most impressive cuvée.
New winemakers in Burgundy are hard to come by. It’s a tiny region, and between small harvests, ever increasing demand, and well-established importers, it can seem there’s nothing new to discover.
The Loire Valley continues to be the epicenter of modern of French winemaking. As other regions struggle with unusually warm summers, the Loire has become a reliable place for freshness and balance, a result of a cooler climate and a dedicated organic viticulture.
The appellation of Pouilly-Fuissé is the largest and most important in Burgundy’s Maconnais sub-region. Located a full hour south from Beaune (cultural capitol of the Côte d’Or), Pouilly-Fuissé enjoys a far sunnier climate than the rest of Burgundy. Its pure Chardonnay cuvées exhibit an opulence and glamour that’s famously reminiscent of Meursault.
Patrick and Christophe Bonnefond’s wines somehow keep getting better. They’ve enjoyed a string of excellent recent vintages in the vines, but they also seem to be hitting their stride in the cellar. Once firmly in the ripe, oaky, “extroverted” camp that made them a darling of Robert Parker, the domaine has shifted towards subtler expression in recent years: less time in oak, larger barrels, and earlier harvests.
A vigneron in Burgundy once told us that making delicious Grand Cru was easy — as she put it, “we just get out of the way.” So perfect are the materials that come from these hallowed, ancient plots that a winemaker’s job is mostly to avoid screwing them up.
Conversely, we often say the mark of a good winemaker is the quality of his simplest wine. Regional level cuvées usually don’t exhibit the subtle nuances of terroir for which Burgundy is famous, but they’re a chance for a winemaker to show off cellar skills.
Michel Gros is best known for his brilliant red Burgundies from towns like Vosne-Romanée, Chambolle Musigny, and Nuits-St-Georges. But he also holds quite a bit of land in the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, a patchwork of rolling hills to the west of the Côte d’Or.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the Rhône Valley’s most famous terroir. Known for its bold, inky rich wines mostly from Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, the town’s best examples improve for decades, and can cost three figures per bottle.
The Salomon-Undhof estate dates to 1792, and is currently on its 7th and 8th generation winemakers, father and son Bert and Bert Salomon. Their terraced vines overlooking the Danube have long been an excellent source, with the country’s preeminent wine guide calling them a “figurehead of Austrian wine history.”
Cornas is a tiny appellation of only 50 growers. By rules and heritage, it’s the Northern Rhône: its wines are pure, unblended Syrah. But in spirit and character, it’s not far from the South. 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.
Vosne-Romanée and Nuits-St-Georges are neighbors with opposing characters. Vosne tends towards elegance, finesse, and spice; Nuits towards richness, more structure, and bolder flavors. In the hands of a talented winemaker, both can be superb.