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Located in the village of Chichée, just to the southeast of Chablis proper, the Picq family has tended to its small parcels of vines for several generations. Brothers Didier and Pascal quickly established themselves as rigorous growers after taking over this 32-acre domaine from their father, Gilbert, who retired in 1976. Pascal is in charge of the vineyards for the family, while Didier mans the cellar and makes the wine.

The Picq style of Chablis is classic, with the unique expression of minerality that the chardonnay only picks up in these rolling hillside vineyards of the Yonne Valley, coupled with a racy acidity and depth that comes with low yields, meticulous winemaking and fine parcels of vines. Picq is careful to keep yields as low as possible each year, pruning back severely each winter and routinely crop-thinning on two occasions each summer. Starting in 2006, they have converted to 100% natural yeasts for all of their cuvées. All of the Picq Chablis bottlings are fermented and raised in stainless steel tanks to protect the wines’ underlying expressions of terroir.

Domaine Gilbert Picq et Ses Fils offers up a pair of premier crus, both located in the village of Chichée. These include the Vaucoupin (an underrated premier cru in Chablis) and a more powerful, but equally soil-driven premier cru of Vosgros, which is produced from the family’s oldest premier cru vines.

Situated in the commune of Chichée, Vaucoupin is a highly regarded premier cru on the right bank (east side) of the river Serein (all seven of Chablis’ grand crus are on the right bank). The Picq parcel is in the steepest section of the vineyard, on a forty-five degree slope and must be completely tended by hand, including at the all important harvesting time. It is a beautifully situated premier cru, which produces a wine with a lovely chalky, oyster shell base of soil, and notes of spring flowers and beeswax augmenting the lovely tart citrus core of fruit.

Generally speaking, the right bank premier crus usually produce bigger and more powerful wines whereas the left bank produces wines with more of an emphasis on elegance and finesse,” according to Burghound’s Allen Meadows. The 2008 Gilbert Picq Vaucoupin is excellent. Citrus with some honey and buttered popcorn on the nose. Solid minerality, orchard fruit, some tropical notes, oyster shell and oregano on the palate. Full, fleshy and long.

My friend Tim contends that if you couldn’t produce a good Chablis in 2008 that you shouldn’t be in the wine making business. While that might be true, this wine bears more than just the marks of a good vintage. 12.5% alcohol. Imported by Polaner Selections.

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“To say that his grapes are spun into gold would not be far from the truth; they are entirely otherworldly.”   Kermit Lynch

Jura is is home to some forty different grape varietals and its own style of winemaking that is quite unique.  While it might be a small and not very well known region, it is filled with some of the world’s great wine makers. One of my favorites is Jean-François Ganevat. His family has been making wine as far back as 1650, although the family supplemented their  grape growing with a dairy to support production of the local cheese, Comté, until 1976.

After working both for his father and for the prestigious Domaine Jean-Marc Morey in Chassagne-Montrachet, Jean-François returned to the Jura in 1998 to take over the family domaine. With only eight-and-a-half hectares, the family had seventeen different local varietals planted of both red and white grapes—an incredible amount of variation considering the size.

Ganevat creates a stunning number of cuvées, ranging between thirty-five and forty every year. It is not only the number, but the manner in which he makes his wines. He is a fervent perfectionist and insatiable lover of details with each cuvée receiving a highly individualized élévage. He takes the time to de-stem by hand and each cluster is carefully trimmed with scissors. Other very well-run estates larger than Ganevat’s employ just one or two people. Ganevat, however, employs eight people full time to tend to every detail.

The domaine is certified as biodynamic and Ganevat only uses minimal doses of sulfur.  Many would fear it hurting the wines during transport, but he ages many of his whites on the lees for extended periods of time (from two to eleven years).

In the Jura, many of the wines go through a traditional, intentional oxidation; however Jean-François gravitates toward a more Burgundian style, using a method referred to in the Jura as “ouillé” (meaning the barrels are topped up as the wine ages). This is the normal practice throughout the world of wine, and prevents the wine from slowly oxidizing in the barrel. In contrast, a wine made using the “sous-voile” method is not topped up in the barrel. As a result, a thin layer of yeast forms on the top of the wine, which the Jura winemakers refer to as the “voile” or veil. This prevents the wine from turning into vinegar in the barrel, and allows it to slowly age and develop a range of unique flavours, including the nuttiness and spices that are so pronounced in Vin Jaune.

The Les Chalasses Marnes Bleue ’08 is Savagnin topped up. Aromatics of sherry, orchard fruit with some burnt rubber, funky cheese (?) and caramel. More orchard fruit and sherry notes on the palate with some citrus, nuttiness, tropical fruit and melting butter. Rich and complex — a beautiful and unique bottle of wine.

His ’08 Chardonnay Grusse en Billat might be even better, as least for my taste. The minerality comes through on the nose and the palate with orchard fruit and lemon oil. Taut and acidic, but with such purity and freshness. A very refined and elegant wine that really leaves a strong impression.

His red wines equal the whites. The ’09 Côtes du Jura Plein Sud and Cuvée Julien are both outstanding. I expect all of the wines are built for the long term, the whites included given the extended aging on their lees. His wines are not widely available, but they are worth seeking out and each one a treasure. His wines are imported by Jeffrey Alpert Selections and Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant.

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There have been a number of regions/wines in the last few years that have grabbed my attention. The Rhône valley,  Muscadet, Beaujolais and Spain all have been on the short list in the last few years. A couple of years ago I had my first wine from the Jura wine. People will call them nerd wines, claim they are not accessible and an acquired taste. There may be some truth to that, but they are also some of the most distinctive, memorable and intriguing wines available.

After a number of recent Riesling tastings, I decided to offer up a Jura tasting to the group. Last week, we got together at Palena  and my friend Tim and I pulled together a list of wines that included the following:

N.V. Hubert Clavelin Crémant du Jura Brut
2007 Domaine de l’Aigle a Deux Tetes Côtes du Jura En Quattre Vis Vieilles Vigne
2007 Domaine de l’Aigle a Deux Tetes Côtes du Jura Vieilles Vignes en Griffez
2008 Emmanuel Houillon Arbois Pupillin Maison Pierre Overnoy Chardonnay
1993 Emmanuel Houillon Poulsard Arbois Pupillin Maison Pierre Overnoy
2007 Jacques Puffeney Trousseau Arbois Les Berangères
2009 Domaine Ganevat Côtes du Jura Plein Sud
2007 Philippe Bornard Arbois Pupillin L’Ivresse de Noé

The Ganevat seemed to pull the most votes for wine of the night, although the Puffeney and the ’08 Houillon were also outstanding. The nose on the ’93 Houillon is not something I will soon forget — New Jersey turnpike, burning tires, some brett and flatus (eau de ewwww)….it burned off a bit as the night went on. It might not sound appealing,  but I was rather fond of it.  In the glass it looked like a cloudy mix of rose and iced tea. The nose and the appearance led me to believe that it would be tired (if not dead) and not too pleasant, but it was very vibrant and showed quite well.

The nose on the L’Ivresse de Noé was all about fresh apples — really a thing of beauty. I also really liked the wines from L’Aigle a Deux Tetes. I preferred the En Griffez over the En Quatre — it’s had a bit more weight and richness — and might be mistaken for a white Burgundy, though you would be hard pressed to find as good of a white Burgundy for $23.

All of the wines made for a very interesting tasting. There were many wines that were considered — and those that were overlooked may soon have their chance as I am thinking we need to do a Jura night at least a couple of times a year so that people can get their nerd on. Palena was a great pairing as well, love their menu — roast chicken is a great paring for Jura wines, and the roast chicken at Palena might be the best I have had. Jura wines are great food wines. They tend to have good acidity and can be a bit austere, they want (and at times need) food to be enjoyed. In my opinion, they also tend to be some of the best wines to pair with cheese.

It didn’t take long for me to open another bottle of Jura. Last night I opened a Montbourgeau Côtes du Jura, very interesting Poulsard — could not say if it was a red wine or a rosé, but it was really delicious — strawberry and watermelon jolly rancher (tart red fruit that just makes you salivate), really juicy and very accessible.

I can’t say I have completely taken to some of the oxidized whites from Jura, but maybe it is a taste I will acquire. Regardless, these are some of the greatest wines and they deserve a place in your heart and cellar.

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I spent much of the weekend entering my wines into cellartracker. Though it is rather time consuming process, I had come to the conclusion that I need to do something to track my wines. In the process of getting organized, I realized I had more Muscadet than I had thought. I decided to do something about that and set aside a bottle from Luneau-Papin. I thought it would be fun to cook something on Sunday that might pair well with it. I have had the wine on three previous occasions and really liked it. It’s an interesting example of the varietal in that it offers just a touch of residual sugar. It spent 42 months on the lees — it’s a bit rich and almost creamy, but brings all the acidity you would expect from a Muscadet.

There’s nothing like Muscadet with fresh oysters or clams and it is always a great choice for seafood dishes. That said, the varietal is very versatile and pairs well with many things beyond just seafood. I happen to love it with spicy Asian dishes.  A few weeks back, I made curry laksa — and was eager to make it again. The Pueri Solis seemed like a perfect pairing. The spice would work well with the touch of residual sugar and acidity. In addition, the soup’s broth has some sour and citrus flavors (in part from the fish sauce, lime juice and red curry paste) that would pair well with the wine’s citrus notes.

Unfortunately, this time my curry laksa was not quite as good as the previous effort. I made the chicken broth from scratch, buying a whole chicken and cooking it with water, a couple of celery stalks, a couple of carrots, ginger, garlic, lemon juice, lemongrass, a little fish sauce, soy, mirin, fresh thyme, curry powder, tumeric and various other spices. After the chicken was cooked, I removed it and let it cool and then pulled all of the meat. I put the broth through a strainer and put it aside.

In a dutch oven, add some curry paste and oil over medium heat. After about 7 minutes, add shallot, ginger and garlic. After 5 minutes, add the chicken, serrano pepper, green onions and spices (curry powder, tumeric, poultry seasoning). Add chicken broth, 2 star anise, 2 cloves and a small handful of chopped cilantro and simmer for 30 minutes. At this point, you could also add shrimp if you like and simmer until cooked (about 5 minutes). Add coconut milk, more cilantro and baby bok choi and let sit for 10 minutes.  In a bowl, place bean sprouts, green onion, cooked Chinese noodles and bean thread, add the soup and 1/2 of a boiled egg.

The last time I made this, I only used chicken thighs that I dry rubbed with curry, tumeric, cumin and salt and then grilled. I thought the meat was much more flavorful and resulted in a better bowl of soup. I was able to improve this on the second night by adding some grilled chicken that I had marinated. I also opted for David Chang’s Slow-Poached egg that puts the standard hard-boiled to shame.

The Muscadet did pair very well, though a riesling, grüner or chenin blanc might also be good options.

The Luneau-Papin Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Pueri Solis 2005 is imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. Pierre and his wife Monique are the seventh generation to run the domaine, though their wines are more likely to be found listed under Luneau-Papin or even Pierre Luneau, than under the estate’s true name (Domaine Pierre de la Grange). There is a broad and varied range of cuvées produced at Luneau-Papin, which in many cases reflect vineyard or terroir of origin.They have approximately 40 hectares of vines, with 38 hectares planted to Melon de Bourgogne and the remaining 2 hectares committed to red varieties. The vineyards are situated in Le Landreau, Vallet and La Chapelle Heulin, about 20 kilometres from Nantes itself. The vines average forty-five years although some are well into their seventh decade.

Related posts:
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Le L d’Or 2005
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sevre et Maine L D’Or 2002
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Excelsior 2005
Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sevre et Maine “3″ 2005
Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Granite de Clisson 2007
Domaine de la Pépière “Vieilles Vignes” Clos des Briords Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2007
Michel Brégeon Muscadet Sevre et Maine 2002

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Domaine Gramenon is one of the most respected producers in the Rhône. In his book on the wines of the Rhône valley, Robert Parker classified Gramenon in the same category as Beaucastel and Fonsalette.

In 1998, owner Phillipe Laurent nearly doubled the area of his vineyards by purchasing some 50 acres in Vinsobres. A year later, he died in a tragic accident and his wife decided to sell some 35 acres the Perrin brothers at Beaucastel.

Michelle Aubery-Laurent and her son Maxim-François continue to make wines in a pretty natural way, with sulphur dioxide used just at assemblage. Their vineyards are farmed organically, and they never filter or fine their wines.

Their wines are not very well-known in the United States as they are available on a limited basis, though it seems they are starting to get more attention.  Someone familiar with their wines from years ago recently told me they made some rather odd wines. He had not had any of their wines in a number of years. I poured him some of the 2008s from Domaine Gramenon and he seemed to like them and say these were not the wines that he remembered. I originally found Gramenon’s wines through Kermit Lynch’s newsletter. He described them as a pure expression of biodynamically farmed, old vine fruit with knock-out flavors tempered by a core of strong minerality. My first vintage of the Sierra du Sud was the 2007. I think I paid $28-32 a bottle. The 2009 can be found for about $22 a bottle.

The Sierra du Sud is 100% Syrah, half aged for seven months in old oak. Like the 2007, it is very deep, dark inky ruby in color, with bright aromatics of red and dark fruit and some earth and bubble gum. It explodes in your mouth with black currant, plum and more bubble gum. This is even more approachable than the 2007, perhaps just a bit more ripe as well. The 2008s had a bit of funk and a little more going on — which is not to say I didn’t like the 2008s, as I do consider myself to be pro-funk when it comes to wine. The 2009 might be a bit less complex — just pure, unadulterated fruit — definitely in the quaffable and fun category. 13.5% alcohol. Imported by Kermit Lynch.

More wines from Domaine Gramenon:
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Côtes du Rhône Blanc Vie on y Est 2008
Domaine Gramenon Ceps Centenaires La Mémé 2000

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Many have said the 2009 vintage is the best ever for Beaujolais. I’m not going to argue with that having enjoyed just about all of the 09s. Jean-Paul Thévenet and Marcel Lapierre’s wines have been my favorites to date, though each time I have a bottle of Lapierre it seems to distance itself from all others. That said, there are some wines downstairs still to be had — Foillard’s Morgon Cuvée Corcelette Vieille Vigne  and his Morgon Côte du Py, Lapierre’s Morgon Cuvée Marcel and others.

Last night I opened a bottle of the Thibault Liger-Belair Moulin-à-Vent La Roche. The wines from Thévenet and Lapierre show a more feminine side, while this is more masculine. A bit more body and fruit as well as a bit darker, but also focused and soft. I can’t say this appealed to me at the same level as the Thévenet or Lapierre (which isn’t a fair comparison), but it is well made and definitely has a delicious factor. To make it even more impressive, this is the first release since Thibault Liger-Belair bought a piece of property in Beaujolais.

He owns 8 acres in Moulin-à-Vent and the average vine age age is 60 years. He sold-off the grapes in 2008, as Thibault contended it would take more than a year of working with the vines to perform to his desired standard. Thibault is currently transitioning the vineyards to be farmed biodynamically.

The Thibault Liger-Belair domaine is located in Nuits-St.-Georges and has almost 18 acres under vine. The domaine has been in the Liger-Belair family for 250 years, having been passed down through the family for the next 5 generations. In 1982 Xavier Liger-Belair died and the business was sold. That same year Xavier’s son, Vincent Liger-Belair, took over the buildings and restructured the domaine by having three sharecropper winemakers handle the work. Then in 2001, Vincent’s son, Thibault Liger-Belair, took over the vines as the winemaker and created Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair. His wines are imported to the U.S. by Vineyard Brands.

Related posts
Thévenet Morgon Vieilles Vignes 2009
Jean & Agnes Foillard — Morgon Cuvée Corcelette Vieille Vigne 2007
Jean Foillard Morgon Côte du Py 2007

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Domaine Gramenon is one of the most respected producers in the Rhône. In his book on the wines of the Rhône valley, Robert Parker classified Gramenon in the same category as Beaucastel and Fonsalette. In 1998, owner Phillipe Laurent nearly doubled the area of his vineyards by purchasing some 50 acres in Vinsobres. A year later, he died in a tragic accident and his wife decided to sell some 35 acres the Perrin brothers at Beaucastel. Michelle Aubery-Laurent and her son Maxim-François continue making wines in a pretty natural way, with sulphur dioxide used just at assemblage. Their vineyards are farmed organically, and they never filter or fine their wines.

Their wines are not very well known in the United States as they are available on a limited basis. I found Gramenon’s wines through Kermit Lynch’s newsletter. He described them as a pure expression of biodynamically farmed, old vine Grenache with knock-out fruit flavors tempered by a core of strong minerality. Some might not want to pay $30 for a bottle of Côtes du Rhône, but I was able to pick up a sampler pack of their wine from Kermit Lynch at 25% off and each one of the wines has been a winner.

Last year I found some older vintages of Domaine Gramenon at MacArthur Beverages in Washington, DC — including a few bottles of their Ceps Centenaires La Mémé from 2000 and 2001. The Centenaires La Mémé is made from 100 year old Grenache vines. It is fermented with stems and aged without any sulfur dioxide additions. Gramenon’s wines are said to show best in their relative youth, so wasn’t sure what to expect from a bottle from the 2000 vintage. Copper plum in color, definitely showing a some age. Still showing some lush and silky fruit on the palate, though not as bright as the younger Gramenon’s I have had. It’s picked up a lot of complexity and has also softened and mellowed. Not sure I would sit on this much longer, but it was a memorable bottle. Add another notch to why this domaine is on my list of favorites.

Related posts:
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Sierra du Sud 2007
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Côtes du Rhône Blanc Vie on y Est 2008
Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides Côtes du Rhône 2007

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Domaine Pierre de la Grange is considered one of the best domaines of the Nantais, a region that marks the most northwestern point of all France’s vineyards. Pierre and his wife Monique are the seventh generation (the family has owned the property for more than 200 years) to run Domaine Pierre de la Grange, though their wines are more likely to be found listed under Luneau-Papin or even Pierre Luneau, than under the estate’s true name. They have approximately 40 hectares of vines, with 38 hectares planted to Melon de Bourgogne and the remaining 2 hectares committed to red varieties. The vineyards are situated in Le Landreau, Vallet and La Chapelle Heulin, about 20 kilometres from Nantes itself. The vines average forty-five years although some are over seventy.

There is a broad and varied range of cuvées produced at Luneau-Papin, which in many cases reflect vineyard or terroir of origin. The leading cuvées are the L d’Or (a weighty expression of Melon de Bourgogne) and the Semper Excelsior Clos des Noëlles.

L d’Or is sourced from vines more than 45 years old grown on granite and mica terroirs in Vallet, one of the Sèvre et Maine communes. The vines are cared for along the lines of lutte raisonnée, and are nourished with just a little organic manure. The fruit is harvested by hand, pressed using pneumatic equipment, and the juice is then allowed to settle before a four week temperature-controlled fermentation by indigenous yeasts, regulated to 20ºC. There is also a warmer macération pelliculaire, a period of skin contact, at 30ºC. The wine is then stored sur lie for nine months before bottling.

The nose is a bit reserved with some citrus, mineral and floral notes. It’s a bit more revealing on the palate. Stony minerality with citrus, orchard fruit and some creamy almond notes. Rich and broad, good acidity and complexity.  A great example of what some age can do with Muscadet — and I wouldn’t hesitate to sit on this for another 5-7 years (or more). Recommended and an outstanding value at $22 a bottle. 12% alcohol. Imported by Louis/Dressner.

Related posts:
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Le L d’Or 2005
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Excelsior 2005
Pepiere Muscadet Sevre et Maine “3″ 2005
Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Granite de Clisson 2007
Domaine de la Pépière “Vieilles Vignes” Clos des Briords Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2007
Michel Brégeon Muscadet Sevre et Maine 2002

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Marie and Marcel run Domaine Richaud, with Marcel as winemaker and Marie as manager. Marcel makes some wonderful wines, mostly of the little known village appellation Cairanne. Many consider him one of the top 2 or 3 producers in the appellation. His estate is made up of plots inherited from his parents as well as rented parcels, so some grapes are sold to the local co-op or to négociants. The wines are made in the vineyard by pruning short, never using synthetic fertilizers, keeping the average age of the vines over 25 years old and keeping yields low. His wines are made in large capacity cement vats, each varietal is vinified separately and blended some 8 months later. The wines are not frequently racked and are not fined or filtered.

Richaud’s wines are said to be very popular in France, selling out almost immediately after release. I have read that sales at the estate’s tasting room account for the majority of all sales (though I find that difficult to believe).  On a trip to Paris last September, we went to dinner at Le Gorille Blanc on our first night. They had Richaud’s ’07 Galets by the glass. I took that as a sign that it would be a great meal — and it was (a wine list can often tell you a great deal about a restaurant).

In the United States, it takes a little bit of work to find his wines. Chambers Street in New York is one of the best bets (they currently offer the ’05 l’Ebrescade and the ’08 Galets) or K&L on the left coast, but I have also been pleasantly surprised to find some of his wine at Arrowine in Northern Virginia. Recently, I was very pleased to see Richaud’s ’06 Cairanne at Ripple in DC (and reasonably priced at $40 and change a bottle).

The 2007 Cairanne is a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Carignan. 70% is aged in cement tanks, the rest in barriques, some of them new. Deep, dark purple in color. Aromatics of black cherry, violet and some garrigue. Ripe, juicy dark fruit on the palate. Velvety, but with a bit of chew. A wee bit of a brawler this one, weighing in at 15% alcohol. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. Recommended, though if memory serves I slightly prefer the ’06…

Other wines from Domaine Richaud:
Domaine Richaud l’Ebrescade 2005
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets 2007
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne 2006

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Muscadet is produced at the western end of the Loire Valley, near the city of Nantes in the Pays de la Loire region neighboring the Brittany  Region. More Muscadet is produced than any other Loire wine. The Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine sub-appellation is the most productive and notable region of Muscadet, producing more than three quarters of the region’s entire production. In fact, more AOC Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine is produced on a yearly basis than in any other single AOC in the entire Loire Valley.

It is made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape, often referred to simply as melon. The grape variety used to produced Muscadet, Melon de Bourgogne, is a relatively neutral grape. Winemaking techniques have involved in the region to adapt to the grape’s limitation and bring out more flavor and complexity. The most well known of these techniques is sur lie aging, where the wine stays in contact with the dead yeast cells left over after fermentation (the lees).  The technique was discovered, almost accidentally, in the early 20th century. Traditionally Muscadet producers would set aside a barrel of wine for special occasions, such as a family wedding. This “honeymoon barrel”, as it became known, would take on more flavor and texture due to it contact with the lees.  Through this process, autolysis occurs which contributes to a creamy mouthfeel that may the wine seem to have a fuller body. The release of enzymes during this process inhibits oxidation is also said to improve the aging potential of the wine.  During this process, the wine is usually not racked for several months. While in many wines, the lack of racking could have the undesired consequences of developing off flavors or other wine faults. However, the relative neutrality of the Melon de Bourgogne grape works in the favor of the Muscadet wine and poses minimal risk to developing off flavors.

Many top producers have been experimenting more and more with sur lie aging. Top producers like Marc Ollivier, Pierre Lunea-Papin, André-Michel Brégeon, and others are making great wines that showcase specific terroirs within Muscadet, and often involve lees aging for longer periods than are allowed under the appellation rules. In this case, Bregeon’s Muscadet Sevre et Maine 2002  spent 85 months (over 7 years) on its lees before bottling. Michel first began experimenting with extended aging sur lie in 1982 and bottled his first wine using this technique in 1985. The results provide further evidence that Melon de Bourgogne is a noble grape.

I opened this bottle with some rather high expectations as Kermit Lynch wrote this is the most exciting Muscadet you will ever taste. I tasted this side by side with the Pepiere Muscadet Sevre et Maine “3″ 2005. Both wines are outstanding and deserve time in the cellar, but I have to say that I would give the edge to Marc Olivier’s “3” — of course that is my own subjective opinion, that said both wines are worth seeking out. They also offer tremendous value (in this case a that spent over 7 years on its lees for around $20).

Highly recommended. 12% alcohol. Imported by Kermit Lynch.

Related posts:
Pepiere Muscadet Sevre et Maine “3″ 2005
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Le L d’Or 2005
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Excelsior 2005
Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Granite de Clisson 2007
Domaine de la Pépière “Vieilles Vignes” Clos des Briords Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2007

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In the early 1980s, Marc Olivier (an engineer at the time) decided to move to the country for a slower pace of life. His father owned some vineyards in the cool Atlantic-influenced zone of Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine but was not a winemaker. He took over his father’s vineyards and bought a parcel called Clos de Briords from a neighbor. Marc’s first vintage was 1985 and his primary goal as a winemaker at the time was to simply complete fermentation. As such, he began fermentation using cultured yeasts and finished the wine off with a dose of SO2.

As he matured as a winemaker, he experimented with ambient yeasts and began bottling with minimal amounts of SO2. The results were extraordinary; the wines showed greater depth, richness and complexity. Encouraged by his success, Marc began transitioning all his vineyards to organic and continued his minimalist approach in the winery. His wines have since become the benchmark for the region and have exposed a world of previously unknown potential in the area.

Marc Ollivier’s wines are the antithesis of a modern commercial “product.” He hand harvests (a rarity in the region). Ripening is slower, and the longer hang-time before harvest allows for optimal maturity. He only uses natural indigenous yeasts to start fermentation. The vinification techniques are traditional for the area: no skin maceration but direct pressing within 2 hours of picking, racking of the must after 12 hours to remove the solid matter, and controlled temperatures, not to exceed 71.6 degrees F, for the fermentation. He never uses sterile filtration, only permitting one light filtration prior to bottling.

He is the only grower in the whole region to not have a single clonal selection in his vineyards. Over the last century grape growers have lost a huge proportion of the plant diversity in their fields. It’s a rare treat to be able to buy wine from a grower that still has all original genetic stock in his vines. The virtues of Ollivier are reflected in his wines, they are some of the finest expressions of Muscadet, not to mention that they are also a tremendous value given their caliber.

The grapes for the Pepiere “3” come from the same parcel as the famous “Granite de Clisson” bottling and have spent three years on the lees and an additional 1.5 years in the bottle, making it rounder on the palate. This is a new release from Marc Ollivier, the wine was a vat of 100 hectolitres, 80% from designated “Granite de Clisson” vines and 20% from old vines in the Pepiere vineyard (also on Clisson granite).

Rich, supple and broad on the palate. Pronounced acidity —  balanced with some fat and richness. Citrus, with saline, a little tropical fruit and loaded with minerality. 12% alcohol.  Imported by Louis Dressner. Highly recommended.

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More than 10 years ago, Philippe Bravay took over the family domaine and dedicated himself to preserving the unique traditions and special characteristics that Chateauneuf brings to the world. The domaine is quite small, only 5 ½ hectares of which over half is on vines approaching 100 years old, all situated in the lieu-dit Ferrand. He uses organic growing techniques, limits yields strictly (his Côtes du Rhône yields less than 2 1/2 tons to the acre, and the Chateauneuf du Pape even less) and vinifies traditionally.

The Chateauneuf du Pape is 90% Grenache, the vines ranging in age from 60 to 100 years of age, and the balance the other twelve Chateauneuf varietals. From these he obtains superb natural ripeness, usually in excess of 14%. The vinification is traditional and the aging is for the most part in large oak foudre, but also a portion in barrique, but no new oak.

He produces a couple of Côtes du Rhônes as well. The 2007 Côtes du Rhône Cuvee Antique Vieilles Vignes was good, but wasn’t one of my favorites from the ’07 vintage. But I was really impressed with the 2006 La Ferrande. It is made from 100 percent Syrah. Nose of dark fruit with pepper, olive and earth. On the palate, more dark fruit with some bright notes of red fruit with tar and earthy notes. Dense and complex with impressive length on the finish. A very good bottle of wine at under $20 a bottle. 14% alcohol. Imported by Weygandt-Metzler. Recommended.

The Weygandt portfolio is impressive in terms of quality and diversity, and I am especially fond of the Côtes du Rhônes in his value — the quality is outstanding and the wines also offer a great value as well. They just announced an offer on their site for a 25% off a purchase when you sign up for the email list — they usually just send a weekly email detailing the Saturday tasting line up and any other special events or sales….to sign up go to http://www.weygandtwines.com/ and click “Join our email list” and you’ll receive the coupon in the confirmation email.

In my opinion, the following are a few of Weygants best Côtes du Rhônes from their portfolio:
Les Aphillanthes
Domaine Alary
Domaine Grand Nicolet
Domaine Charvin
Domaine Les Grands Bois
Domaine Beau Mistral

Other Favorites from the 07 Côtes du Rhône Vintage
Domaine Gramenon Sierra du Sud
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône
Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides Côtes du Rhône
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône-Villages-Cairanne
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets
Escaravailles Côtes du Rhône

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Marie and Marcel run Domaine Richaud, with Marcel as winemaker and Marie as manager. Marcel makes some wonderful wines, mostly of the little known village appellation Cairanne. Many consider him one of the top 2 or 3 producers in the appellation. His estate is made up of plots inherited from his parents as well as rented parcels, so some grapes are sold to the local co-op or to négociants. The wines are made in the vineyard by pruning short, never using synthetic fertilizers, keeping the average age of the vines over 25 years old and keeping yields low. His wines are made in large capacity cement vats, each varietal is vinified separately and blended some 8 months later. The wines are not frequently racked and are not fined or filtered.

Richaud’s wines are said to be very popular in France, selling out almost immediately after release. I have read that sales at the estate’s tasting room account for the majority of all sales (though I find that difficult to believe).  On a trip to Paris last September, we went to dinner at Le Gorille Blanc on our first night. They had Richaud’s ’07 Galets by the glass. I took that as a sign that it would be a great meal — and it was (a wine list can actually tell you a great deal about a restaurant). In the United States, it takes a little bit of work to find his wines. Chambers Street Wines in New York is one of the best bets, but I have also been pleasantly surprised to find some of his wine at Arrowine in Northern Virginia.

The 2006 Cairanne is a blend of 36% Grenache, 38% Mourvèdre, 18% Syrah and 8% Carignan. 70% is aged in cement tanks, the rest in barriques, some of them new. Deep purple in color. Aromatics of black cherry, violet and bubble gum with some garrigue, herb and spice.  Lots of ripe fruit on the palate — black cherry, black raspberry with a little  asphalt and cassis. Soft, smooth and velvety in the mouth. 14.5% alcohol. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. Another example of why Richaud produces some of my favorite wines in the $25 and under category from the Rhône valley, along with Domaine Gramenon and Les Aphillanthes. Recommended.

Other wines from Domaine Richaud:
Domaine Richaud l’Ebrescade 2005
Domaine Richaud Côtes du Rhône Terres de Galets

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The Jura is a narrow valley in the remote hills between Burgundy to the west and Switzerland to the east. Most Americans have never been exposed to the wines from the Jura (though they have probably had their cheese). For centuries, the Jura existed in isolation, developing its unusual grapes and styles of wine, which the rest of the world essentially ignored, until recently.

Today, wine geeks and lovers are discovering the wines and it now borders on obsession for those that have been bitten by the Jura bug — and Jacques Puffeney is on many people’s short list of best producers. His prowess in both the vineyards and the cave has earned him the nickname among his colleagues of “the Pope of Arbois.” Eric Asimov described Puffeney as a creator of “jagged wines in a silky-smooth world.”

He normally begins harvest in late September, everything is done manually. It commences with the Chardonnay, then the Poulsard, followed by Pinot Noir and Trousseau and finally, the Savagnin is picked. The Poulsard experiences a 15 to 20 day cuvaison. The wine is then racked into foudres (not new) where the malolactic fermentation takes place. The reds are aged at least two years and sometimes 30 months in barrel depending upon the structure of the vintage.

The Poulsard “M” takes its name from the town of Montagny-les-Arsures. Bright ruby in color, but totally transparent. Aromatics of red fruit with some rose petal as well as some funky gaminess and oxidized notes. Cherry, rhubarb, red currant and a little blood orange and herbaceous — with solid minerality. Lean and firm with almost perfect balance as well as lots of grip and acidity. 12.5 percent alcohol. I thought this was unique, thought provoking and just plain delicious. For my taste, I thought this showed best when served at about 48 degrees. Imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchant. Recommended.

Related posts:
Jacques Puffeney Arbois Pinot Noir 2006

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