Category Archives: France – Burgundy

Maison Louis Latour, Viré-Clessé (Burgundy, France) 2014

($20, Louis Latour USA):  Viré-Clessé is an under-the-radar appellation in the Mâconnais that was created in the late 1990s from combining two villages, Viré and Clessé, that made distinctive wines that were previously included under the umbrella of Mâcon-Villages.  It joins St. Véran, Pouilly-Vinzelles, Pouilly-Loché, and Pouilly-Fuissé as names to remember for high quality Chardonnay-based wines from southern Burgundy.  Maison Louis Latour, the well-regarded Beaune-based négociant, produces a terrific Viré-Clessé. Latour’s 2014 Viré-Clessé, from an outstanding vintage for white wines, over delivers for the price.  This mid-weight, well-balanced wine combines Chardonnay’s floral and fruity elements with a firm stoniness characteristic of the region.  Bright acidity in the finish keeps you coming back for more.  Delightful now, I predict it will give enjoyment for years, based on the pleasure I still get from drinking their 2010 Viré-Clessé. Hence, I’d buy it by the case. 91 Michael Apstein Jan 9, 2018

Simonnet-Febvre, Chablis Grand Cru (Burgundy, France) Preuses 2014

($75, Louis Latour USA):  Simonnet-Febvre, a top-notch Chablis producer, makes classically structured Chablis — tightly wound and linear.  Their Preuses, from their own vineyards, is always one of their best wines. Preuses has the reputation of being one of the least elegant of the Chablis Grand Cru.  Not in Simonnet-Febvre’s hands and certainly not their 2014.  Their 2014 Preuses is very tight and youthful at this stage.  It actually took three days to open.  But when it did it was captivating with its paradoxical austerity and power.  This is a wine to lay down for years.  Since there’s some in my cellar, I’m betting you’ll be rewarded. 94 Michael Apstein Jan 9, 2018

Château de Fleurie, Fleurie (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) 2015

($21, David Bowler Wine):  Sensational is the word that comes to mind when describing the 2015 vintage in Beaujolais.  Of course, we are talking about the cru of Beaujolais, the ten villages within that region whose wines stand apart from the remainder of the region, which explains why the name of the cru alone — without the word Beaujolais — appears on the label.  Fleurie is one of the top cru of Beaujolais.  The 2015 from Château de Fleurie is pure charm.  It conveys a wonderful mixture of red fruit flavors and minerality.  Unlike Beaujolais Nouveau, fruitiness or sweetness is not the focus.  It’s a perfect choice now with a roast chicken, hamburgers, or even pasta. 90 Michael Apstein Jan 9, 2018

Georges Duboeuf, Fleurie (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) Domaine des Quatre Vents 2015

($18, Quintessential):  The reputation of Beaujolais is that of an easy-drinking fruity wine to be consumed soon after release.  That description may be accurate for most Beaujolais, but not those from ten villages, known as the cru of Beaujolais, whose wines are far more distinctive.  There is even variability with wines from a cru.  Take, for example, this Fleurie from Duboeuf.  (To be fair, the wine comes from the Domaine des Quatre Vents and is commercialized by Duboeuf.) It’s a substantial wine, exhibiting a marvelous stony character and amazing depth.  A pleasant tannic structure imparts a welcome firmness.  It needs time — a year or two, at least — unlike the Fleurie from Château de Fleurie, which is delectable to drink now.  Indeed, the Domaine des Quatre Vents was better the second night after I opened the bottle.  This is a bargain price for a serious wine from a super vintage. 93 Michael Apstein Jan 9, 2018

Caiarossa, Toscana Rosso IGT (Tuscany, Italy) “Pergolaia” 2013

($23):  Though technically, the “third” wine from Caiarossa, the Pergolaia would finish first in a line-up of similarly priced Tuscan wines.  Of the seven red grape varieties planted at Caiarossa, the Pergolaia relies on the three most usually found in Super Tuscans: Sangiovese (88%), Cabernet Sauvignon (8%) and Merlot.  But it’s not really a “Super Tuscan” either in price or in character.  Caiarossa uses no new oak for this wine, which allows the engaging cherry-like fruitiness to shine.  Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot provide structure and fleshiness without dominating.  A subtle and attractive bitter finish adds stature not usually found at this price.  Clean and fresh, with suave tannins, it’s perfect for drinking now.  It over delivers for the price.
90 Michael Apstein Dec 19, 2017

Maison Joseph Drouhin, Pouilly-Vinzelles (Mâconnais, Burgundy, France) 2015

($20, Dreyfus Ashby):  The 2015 vintage in Burgundy delivered outstanding reds and whites.  It’s a rare vintage that is successful for both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but 2015 was.  The reds, for the most part, though engaging now, are best put in the cellar.  The whites are hard to resist now, especially those from the Mâconnais.  Pouilly-Vinzelles, a microscopic appellation compared to its more famous neighbor, Pouilly-Fuissé, can deliver equally enjoyable wines.  Usually less ripe and robust compared to Pouilly-Fuissé, the wines from Pouilly-Vinzelles often have an attractive taut and racy quality.  Drouhin’s 2015 Pouilly-Vinzelles marries that raciness with ripeness characteristic of the vintage.  Exceptionally long, this is a great bargain.  My advice?  Buy it by the case. 90 Michael Apstein Dec 5, 2017

Domaine Long-Depaquit, Chablis (Burgundy, France) 2014

($20):  Domaine Long-Depaquit, owned by the top-notch Beaune-based négociant, Albert Bichot, is one of the best estates in Chablis.  Domaine Long-Depaquit is the sole owner of an icon of Chablis, La Moutonne, a unique Grand Cru that encompasses vines in both the vineyards of Vaudésir and Les Preuses.  Equally notable — for what it is — is their village Chablis.  Grand Cru it is not, nor is the price.  It is an exceptional village wine, reflecting the unique flinty mineral aspect of the appellation.  With good concentration, depth, and an enlivening freshness, it’s a fine expression of Chablis.  It shows you need not drink Grand Cru to appreciate the wonders of Chablis. 90 Michael Apstein Nov 21, 2017

Maison Joseph Drouhin, Santenay (Burgundy, France) 2015

($29, Dreyfus Ashby):  Drouhin’s elegant and lacey style is a perfect fit for the ripe red wines of 2015.  The reds from Santenay, a low-keyed village at the southern end of the Côte de Beaune bordering Chassagne-Montrachet, can have a rustic edge to them.  Taming this rusticity — making it charming — without eviscerating the signature of the village’s wine is a difficult line to walk, one that Drouhin does marvelously with its 2015 Santenay. Glossy, but not too elegant, the rustic charm of Santenay is apparent and appealing.  Very long, especially for a village wine, this mid-weight wine is a beauty to drink now, with a roast chicken and sautéed mushrooms.  Yum! 91 Michael Apstein Nov 21, 2017

Maison Joseph Drouhin, Chorey-lès-Beaune (Burgundy, France) 2015

($26, Dreyfus Ashby):  The solution to finding affordable Burgundy in the era of the region’s explosive popularity — and rising prices — is embracing village wines from top producers in great years, such as this one.  The 2015 red Burgundies are spectacular.  The perfect weather meant that wines from less prestigious appellations did especially well.  Put that together with one of Burgundy’s top producers, Maison Joseph Drouhin, and you have an excellent — and well-priced — Burgundy.  It combines red fruit note and a captivating herbal/earthy essence, which is what makes red Burgundy so distinctive.  Quite long and refined, it is a remarkable village wine.  Beautiful and satisfying to drink now, with turkey, for example, it’s balance and Drouhin’s talents predict it will evolve nicely over the next five years, so there no reason not to buy a case and impress your guests next Thanksgiving. 90 Michael Apstein Nov 21, 2017

Maison Louis Latour, Santenay (Burgundy, France) 2015

($25):  With the current market and demand for Burgundy pushing prices into the stratosphere, it’s rewarding to fine a wine like Latour’s Santenay.  For those who believe that authentic Burgundy is always expensive, I suggest you try this one.  Nature was kind to Burgundy in 2015, providing a touch of extra ripeness and perfectly healthy grapes.  Wines lower on the prestige ladder, such as this village wine from the southern end of the Côte de Beaune, benefited enormously.  It has gorgeous concentration and an ideal combination of fruitiness and complementary herbal notes.  It has surprising polish for Santenay, resulting in a wine displaying charming rusticity.  Engaging now, with a roast chicken, for example, it has the requisite balance to develop nicely over the next few years, so there’s no rush to drink it if you buy a case — as I recommend, given the price. 90 Michael Apstein Nov 14, 2017

Maison Louis Latour, Mercurey (Burgundy, France) 2015

($26, Louis Latour USA):  Here’s another example of a well-priced Burgundy from the exceptional 2015 vintage.  Mercurey, a village in the Côte Chalonnaise, is home to fine Pinot Noir-based Burgundy.  Latour’s delivers bright cherry-like fruitiness buttressed by a firm mineral edge characteristic of the wines from Mercurey.  An appealing hint of cherry pit bitterness in the finish adds to its allure.  This is an easy to recommend wine for current drinking. 90 Michael Apstein Nov 14, 2017

Domaine Louis Latour, Corton (Burgundy, France) Château Corton Grancey 2015

($132, Louis Latour USA):  Although Latour owns portions of Romanée St. Vivant and Chambertin, Grand Cru vineyards in the Côte de Nuits, I consider this Grand Cru from the Côte de Beaune to be their flagship red wine.  Latour has always felt that blending wines from different Grand Cru parcels on the Corton hill, a practice the Domaine de la Romanée Conti has embraced now that they have vineyards in Corton, produces the most compete expression of Corton. A blend of wines from their holdings in Corton-Perrières, Corton-Clos du Roi, Corton-Grèves and Corton-Bressandes vineyards, in varying proportions depending on the vintage, comprises their Château Corton Grancey.  The 2015 is one of — if not the — finest they have ever produced. Paradoxically, it is both explosive and firm.  A lush core of ripe fruit offsets and perfectly balances the dense minerality for which Corton is known.  The iron-like backbone and brilliant acidity amplifies the wine’s inherent ripeness and charms.  Long and luxurious, it’s a wine for the cellar. Don’t be deceived that because it’s from the Côte de Beaune that it will mature quickly.  The 2015 Corton Grancey will benefit from another decade or two of cellaring. If you love Burgundy, this one needs to be in your cellar. 98 Michael Apstein Nov 14, 2017

Château du Basty, Régnié (Beaujolais, Burgundy, France) 2015

($16, Jeanne Marie de Champs Selection):  The wines from Régnié, the last of the 10 villages in Beaujolais to achieve cru status, have a tendency to be hard and rustic.  Not this one.  This Régnié from the Château du Basty shows great refinement.  A charming rusticity and earthiness perfectly balances and complements its clean bright fruitiness.  Fresh and lively, there’s no over ripeness or sweetness.  This Régnié demonstrates the talents of the producer and the grandeur of the vintage.  And it’s a bargain.  Don’t miss it. 92 Michael Apstein Nov 14, 2017

Didier Montchovet, Hautes Côtes de Beaune (Burgundy, France) 2014

($29, Jenny & François Selections):  Since the prices for Côte d’Or Burgundy have gone through the roof, Burgundy lovers must look elsewhere.  The Hautes Côtes de Beaune, the hinterland really off the beaten track, is a good starting point if you can find a producer who can tame the inherent rusticity in wines from this appellation. Didier Montchovet can, judging from this white and a red (also reviewed this week).  Both mineraly and fruity, but thankfully not opulent nor filled with tropical flavors, this is a crisp and appealing Chardonnay-based wine.  Bright, balanced and precise, it’s a good choice for grilled or simply prepared fish. 91 Michael Apstein Oct 17, 2017

Domaine Oudin, Chablis Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) Vaugiraut 2014

($35, Jenny & François Selections):  Chablis remains one of the best values in white wine.  Where else can you find a Chardonnay-based wine, a premier cru no less, with such character for the price?  Nowhere.  Domaine Oudin uses no oak aging, enhancing the complexity and body of this wine by stirring the lees.  The pedigree of Premier Cru shines with that the subtle richness (we’re not talking opulent New World Chardonnay), buttressed by a crisp, long, lemony finish.  A great choice for seafood this fall. 91 Michael Apstein Oct 17, 2017

Didier Montchovet, Hautes Côtes de Beaune (Burgundy, France) 2014

($28, Jenny & François Selections):  Didier Montchovet tames the coarseness found in many wines from the “Hautes Côtes.”  In this Pinot Noir-based example, he has fashioned a charmingly rustic Burgundy than marries earthy and fruity qualities.  Montchovet must be talented, indeed, to produce a red like this from the Hautes Côtes in 2014, a difficult year for Pinot Noir in that appellation.  Ready now, it’s an ideal choice for a roast chicken with sautéed mushrooms. 90 Michael Apstein Oct 17, 2017

Domaine Louis Michel, Chablis Grand Cru (Burgundy, France) Vaudésir 2014

($66):  My advice to Chablis-lovers is to snap up this wine.  It’s really no surprise since it’s a trifecta:  Louis Michel is a great producer of pure distinctive Chablis, Vaudésir along with Les Clos are the two top Grand Cru vineyard sites in Chablis, and 2014 was a stellar vintage for white Burgundy in general.  The wine is tightly wound, befitting a young Grand Cru, waiting to explode. The riveting minerality and a lemon-like acidity are beautifully balanced, but hidden underneath the youthful vigor, waiting to emerge. Give this wine five to ten years — after all, it is a Grand Cru.  If your budget and patience allow, you should have some in your cellar.  I do.
95 Michael Apstein Oct 3, 2017

Patrick Piuze, Chablis (Burgundy, France) “Coteau de Fontanay” 2016

($29, David Bowler Wine):  Though another one of Piuze’s village Chablis comes from Fontanay, not far from Fyé, it has a very different signature, showing there are dramatic differences between the communes than make up the greater Chablis appellation.  Piuze’s 2016 Coteau de Fontanay has a touch more ripeness and roundness than his Terroir de Fyé, while maintaining an underlying and balancing vivacity and edginess.  It’s a mini Fourchaume.  These two of Piuze’s Chablis show his extraordinary talent and the complexity of the Chablis appellation.  In addition to being delicious to drink now, side-by-side they offer a fascinating trip through the subtleties of Chablis.  Next time you’re having sushi, open them both and prepare to be wowed.
90 Michael Apstein Oct 3, 2017

Patrick Piuze, Chablis (Burgundy, France) “Terroir de Fyé” 2016

($29, David Bowler Wine):   There is a longstanding tradition of identifying vineyards when making Chablis Premier and Grand Cru.  Fewer producers do that with village wines, preferring to simply label the wine Chablis.  Piuze, who like many relatively new small négociants owns no vineyards, opting instead to buy grapes from local growers, is able to take an intermediate approach.  He labels his village Chablis according to the commune from which the grapes come.  His 2016 “Terroir de Fyé,” from the tiny village of the same name, is focused and precise, displaying crisp and cutting minerality.  It’s a mini Montée de Tonnerre, and given prices of white Burgundy these days, a bargain.
90 Michael Apstein Oct 3, 2017

Domaine des Gandines, Crémant de Bourgogne (Burgundy, France) NV

($17): Domaine des Gandines, a family run winery located in the Mâconnais, produces a variety of still white wines from that region, Viré-Clessé, and Macon-Peronne, that are available in the U.S.  This Crémant, as good as it is — and well priced to boot — is not available yet, but hopefully that will change. Organically certified, the family has expanded the Domaine gradually since it was founded in 1925 to its current 25-acres. This Crémant, from their young Chardonnay vines, is pure and delicately fruity with substantial depth and length for a wine made from young vines. A double-duty wine, its suaveness makes drinking it as an aperitif a pleasure, while its density allows you to take it to the table.
90 Michael Apstein Sep 19, 2017

Joseph Drouhin, Volnay (Burgundy, France) 2015

($50): As the 2015 red Burgundies begin to hit retailers’ shelves, they confirm my initial enthusiasm for this vintage.  Take, for example, this Volnay, a village wine from one of Burgundy’s top négociants.  Floral and lacey, it conveys the quintessential Burgundy characteristic that I call “flavor without weight.”  It dances on the palate amplified — not in power, but in length — by lively acidity.  Though it’s in its primary red-fruit stage, savory earthy notes peek through.  It reminds us that super enjoyable Burgundy can be found at the village level.  Engaging now with roast chicken in a mushroom sauce or grilled salmon, it has the requisite balance — and Drouhin’s skill — for wonderful development over the next decade. 90 Michael Apstein Sep 19, 2017

Château des Jacques, Fleurie (Burgundy, France) 2015

($28, Kobrand Wine & Spirits): This Fleurie comes from two sites within the village.  (Jadot has yet to make a single vineyard wine from Fleurie.)  One site is at a higher elevation and cooler, which Cyril Chirouze, Château des Jacques’ winemaker, says provides grapes that impart elegance to the wine, while the other warmer site provides power.  His explanation is readily apparent after just one sip — though it’s impossible to stop after one sip. Floral and polished, this Fleurie delivers both seductively charming power and finesse.  This is not “Beaujolais” as you know it — it’s Fleurie.
92 Michael Apstein May 23, 2017

Château des Jacques, Moulin-à-Vent (Burgundy, France) 2015

($28, Kobrand Wine & Spirits): This Moulin à Vent combines the best of Fleurie and Morgon.  It’s remarkably fresh and approachable with juicy fruitiness and deep mineral-like flavors.  You can almost taste the granite soil.  It has less spice compared to the 2015 Château des Jacques Morgon, but silkier tannins.  This is a marvelously complex and long wine with great finesse, reflecting the grandeur of the site and the vintage. Don’t miss it — it will re-define your idea of wines from this region.
94 Michael Apstein May 16, 2017

Château des Jacques, Morgon (Burgundy, France) 2015

($28, Kobrand Wine & Spirits): Anyone who doubts that Beaujolais can excite needs to taste Château des Jacques’ 2015 trio of Morgon, Fleurie and Moulin-à-Vent, three of the 10 Beaujolais crus.  The crus are 10 villages in the northern part of the region whose bedrock is either pink granite or a blue-black volcanic stone and whose wines are so distinctive that only the name of the village, not Beaujolais, appears on the label.  Maison Louis Jadot, one of Burgundy’s best producers, purchased Château des Jacques and its vineyards in Moulin-à-Vent in 1996 and subsequently has expanded by purchasing estates and vineyards in Morgon and Fleurie.  With their focus of specific vineyard sites, Jadot is showing the world that Beaujolais can offer the same thrilling diversity using only one grape, Gamay, as the rest of Burgundy does with Pinot Noir.   Though Jadot’s goal is to show the distinctiveness of individual vineyards in Beaujolais, their flagship wines are the ones from the villages themselves, according to Cyril Chirouze, Château des Jacques’ talented and energetic winemaker.  (It’s a philosophy seen in Champagne where producers make distinctive vintage Champagne, but consider their non-vintage bottlings the standard bearer.)  This Morgon, a blend of wines from several sites within the village, including the renown Côte du Py, is surprisingly lush for Morgan — then the firm backbone chimes in. It’s a study in power and freshness.  Great spice in the finish just adds to its allure.
92 Michael Apstein May 16, 2017

2015 Burgundies: Superb for Both Colors…Don’t Miss Them

After having tasted literally hundreds of barrel samples from négociants and small growers while on my annual pilgrimage to Burgundy in November, followed by a series of important importers’ tastings New York City earlier this year, (again, mostly barrel samples), it’s clear to me that the 2015 Burgundies are stunning.

With her typical understatement and wry smile, Véronique Drouhin of Maison Joseph Drouhin, summed it up, “There’s no question it is a good vintage.”  I would go further–2015 is a great vintage for both the iconic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay-based wines. This is, moreover, the case in all of the subregions of Burgundy:  Chablis, Côte d’Or, Mâconnais, and Côte Chalonnaise–and is equally great for the Gamay grape, the staple of the Beaujolais region. The only downside is, as is frequently the case with Burgundy, the limited amount of wine and the prices.

Today, I will focus only on the 2015 reds, while saving my thoughts about the whites for a future column.

Though it’s trendy today to write only about small growers’ wines, I think it is critically important to taste the wines from the major négociants. Indeed, the table of the major négociants is the best place to begin tasting the wines of the new vintage.  This enables one to gain a sense of the vintage as a whole, with examples of reds and whites drawn from throughout Burgundy, giving broad overview, not merely the viewpoint of a grower whose plots might lie in only one or two villages.  It should also be pointed out that all the major négociants, such as Bouchard Père et Fils, Maison Joseph Drouhin, Maison Louis Jadot and Maison Louis Latour, own substantial vineyards and are thus growers themselves.  Latour, for example, is the largest owner of Grand Cru vineyards in all of Burgundy, including the plums of Corton and Corton-Charlemagne. Additionally, and this is especially important for the 2015s, négociant wines are more widely available (which also helps explain why they are less trendy, especially among the sommelier crowd.)

Consumers could reasonably ask why I am assessing wines in barrel since I have a longstanding policy (set out in a column linked to below) of not reviewing individual barrel samples, which won’t even be bottled for months and will not be in the market for another year, when there are excellent wines from 2014–especially the stunning whites–that are already on retailers’ shelves?  It’s simple:  Shrinking supply and increasing demand means the time is right to buy “futures” to get the wines you want at a more reasonable price.

Yields in 2015 were low, making it the fifth consecutive short crop.  Demand for Burgundy continues to grow–the wines remain tremendously popular in the U.S. while being embraced more and more by consumers in Asia.  Producers and fellow writers to whom I spoke in Burgundy were effusive in their praise for the vintage.  (Granted, producers always love the vintage they have to sell, but the widespread enthusiasm and broad smiles regarding the 2015s was especially striking.)

With futures, the customer pays for the wine before having the opportunity to taste the finished product.  The risk is obvious–maybe you won’t like it–or worse, the retailer from whom you purchased the wines, fails to deliver what you’ve paid for upfront and disappears with the dough.  To minimize the risks, you should only purchase from producers whose wines you’ve liked in the past and only from reputable merchants with whom you’ve done business.  Ignore the hype from unknown retailers promoting their “newly discovered” grower.  Do trust retailers like Ian Halbert from Gordon’s in Boston, Joe Kluchinsky or Mark Wessels from MacArthur Beverages in Washington, D.C., and David Netzer from The Wine House San Francisco, whose advice will rarely lead you astray.

Listen to recommendations from writers or retailers you trust, but remember:  No one has tasted the finished wines because, with rare exceptions, they have not yet been bottled.  Although all the great Burgundies are made from the one grape–Pinot Noir or Chardonnay–each barrel of wine, even from the same vineyard, is different for multiple reasons:  The age of the barrel differs (new oak or one-year old barrel); the juice in each barrel is different because of the variation even within a vineyard, and the evolution of the wine barrel to barrel is not uniform. Tasting the “same wine” from different barrels in a producer’s cellar shows the extraordinary range of flavors and textures and explains why producers blend the wine from all the barrels before bottling.  Tasting in Méo-Camuzet’s cellar, Jean Nicholas Méo emphasized that although we were tasting “representative” barrel samples, the final blend had not been made and the wines “by no means were ready.”

The 2015 Burgundies are so alluring because the weather during the growing season was itself perfect:  Warm, sometimes hot, with rain only when it was needed, a little at the beginning of August and then again at the end of the month, according to Drouhin.  Critically, the harvest took place under ideal weather conditions–no rain to spoil the grapes.

Anne Parent, one of the leading producers in Pommard, described the 2015 vintage as having “great energy,” and her wines confirmed that assessment.  She was amazed at the pristine condition of the grapes at harvest, discarding less than one percent of them at the sorting table.  The fruit was in such perfect condition that Parent opted, for the first time, to include a small percentage of stems (whole clusters) during fermentation, noting that the stems “add some interesting structure so that it is worth including them if you can be assured they are ripe.”  Echoing Parent, Frederick Weber, the winemaker at Bouchard Père et Fils, noted that, “There were healthy grapes; like 2005…nothing to sort.”  He described the tannins as silky and delicate, and was quick to add that at Bouchard they were careful not to over-extract during winemaking.

The only potential downside is that since the weather at harvest was perfect, some growers waited, and waited, and waited to harvest, coaxing every last bit of ripeness out of the fruit.  Hence, some wound up with over-ripe grapes that translated into slightly jammy wines.  Pierre Bart, from the eponymous domaine in Marsannay, suggested that there will likely be two types of wines produced in 2015:  The ones whose grapes were picked at the right time, and others in which growers waited too long. The key, according to Megan McClune the newly installed managing director at Maison Jessiaume, was to pick a little early, forgoing the last bit of ripeness, but capturing the all important acidity to keep the wines lively and fresh.

The team at Maison Louis Jadot, led by Frédéric Barnier, did just that. The proof is in the pudding too:  Jadot’s line-up of 2015 reds is magnificent, lively and fresh.  Tasting the same wine from different barrels in Jadot’s cellars reminded me of why it’s difficult to recommend a particular wine based on tasting from a single barrel.  But tasting barrel samples can indicate overall quality and style and whether particular villages or areas stood out.  Well, Jadot excelled in 2015, but it’s hard to claim that one village did better than another because their overall line-up of wines was stunning.  My advice:  Buy what you can afford.  Don’t overlook their wines from less hallowed terroirs, such as Maranges, Pernand-Vergelesses or Monthélie.

Louis Fabrice Latour, the head of Maison Louis Latour, commented–only half-jokingly–“2015 was the greatest vintage of my life.”  Indeed, Latour’s array of reds (all of which had been bottled) that I tasted in New York earlier this month supported his opinion.  The warm vintage complemented Latour’s racy, elegant style.  With not an over-ripe flavor to be found, the wines reflected their village and vineyard origins perfectly.  Beaune tasted like Beaune, while Vosne-Romanée tasted like Vosne-Romanée.  Latour’s village Vosne-Romanée was positively stunning (93, $87), more beguiling than most producers’ premier crus.  Latour’s Beaune Vignes Franches, from their own parcel, which they’ve owned for over 100 years, was captivating, showing the splendor of premier cru from that village (95, $82).  Corton Grancey (97, $165), their flagship wine, with unbelievable length, elegance and complexity, was spellbinding.

At Maison Drouhin, Véronique’s broad smile revealed her real opinion of the vintage while we tasted.  She explained that they opted to harvest early, the beginning of September, to capture acidity and delicacy.  That decision paid off big time–Drouhin’s reds are lacey and elegant.

Though Drouhin’s reds, like many of the other 2015 reds are, by and large, charming and deceptively easy to taste now, the best ones, at the premier and grand cru level, have the requisite structure and balance to develop the alluring flavors for which Burgundy is known over the next decade or two.  I would plan on cellaring them for at least a decade and then revisit them to see how they are developing.  But even many of the reds with a “lesser” pedigree, such as Bourgogne Rouge or those from less well known villages, such as Marsannay or Monthélie, will benefit from a few years of bottle age–if you can keep your corkscrew away from them.

My advice to those with some experience with Burgundy is to rely on producers whose wines you’ve liked in the past–and then check with your banker.  But don’t let prices put you off from the 2015 Burgundies.  There are plenty of great Burgundies at more affordable prices.  If Bouchard’s top wines do not fit your financial profile, consider their less prestigious wines that still pack enormous enjoyment, such as their Monthélie or their Beaune du Château Premier Cru, which comes from 17 parcels they own in different premier cru parcels that are too small to vinify and commercialize individually.

Similarly, if $80+ for Latour’s Beaune Vignes Franches is above your budget, try their Santenay (90, $32) or Mercurey (89, $27), wines from unheralded villages that offer great enjoyment.  In the same vein, if Parent’s show-stopping Pommard or Corton is out of your price range, opt for her wines from less prestigious appellations, such as her Ladoix or Bourgogne Rouge “Selection Pomone.”  She makes Selection Pomone, which includes grapes from vines located in Ladoix but that are, by law, too young for inclusion in wines from that appellation, only in top vintages.

Alternatively, find wines from a producer, such as Domaine Jessiaume, whose quality has been transformed recently, but whose prices have yet to reflect it.

For newcomers to Burgundy, the 2015 vintage offers a fantastic opportunity to learn about the region’s allure. Pick one of the major négociants and start sampling a range of their wines, starting with the Bourgogne Rouge and working your way up the prestige ladder to a regional wine, such as Côte de Beaune Villages, and then to village wines, such as Santenay or Savigny-lès-Beaune. By sampling wines from the same producer, you’ll understand the Burgundians’ focus on terroir since the winemaking is basically the same and drink some delightful wines in the process.

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March 29, 2017

Email me your thoughts about Burgundy at Michael.Apstein1@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter @MichaelApstein

To read a column indicating my reservations about rating wines based on barrel tastings, please see:
 http://winereviewonline.com/Michael_Apstein_Against_Barrel_Tastings.cfm

Simonnet-Febvre, Chablis Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) Fourchaume 2014

($35, Louis Latour USA): Fourchaume is a Premier Cru vineyard that lies on the right bank of the Serein River, adjacent to the string of Grand Cru vineyards.  To my mind, it is typically the most opulent of the premier crus with more ripeness and less minerality than the others.  Simonnet-Febvre’s 2014 Fourchaume is richer and riper than their Vaillons or Mont de Milieu, but consistent with their style, is very racy with an attractive edginess.
91 Michael Apstein Mar 14, 2017

Simonnet-Febvre, Chablis Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) Vaillons 2014

($28, Louis Latour USA): Chablis remains, in my mind, the most undervalued area for top white wine.  And for those looking for “unoaked Chardonnay,” it is that style’s birthplace.  Maison Louis Latour, one of Burgundy’s top producers, acquired Simonnet-Febrve, a house established in 1840, in 2003 and a year later installed Jean-Philippe Archambaud as managing director.  Under his leadership, Simonnet-Febrve has catapulted into the top rank of Chablis producers.  They made an exquisite line-up of Chablis in 2014.  This Premier Cru Vaillons has an appealing flowery component accenting its minerality and balanced by riveting acidity.  What a bargain!
92 Michael Apstein Mar 14, 2017

Simonnet-Febvre, Chablis Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) Mont de Milieu 2014

($30, Louis Latour USA): Simonnet-Febvre owns a piece of the Mont de Milieu vineyard, which may explain why it is always one of their top wines.  Mont de Milieu (literally, the mountain in the middle), located on the right bank of Serein River near the strip of Grand Cru vineyards, takes its name from its location in the middle, separating the dukedoms of Burgundy and Champagne of the past.  Vigorous and stony, the 2014 Mont de Milieu, is sleek and long.  It should be in everyone’s cellar.  It will take on additional complexity with a few years of bottle age.
94 Michael Apstein Mar 14, 2017

Domaine Louis Latour, Corton Clos du Roi (Burgundy, France) 2014

($95, Louis Latour USA): In addition to using some fruit from their holdings in Clos du Roi vineyard, Latour also bottles a wine made exclusively from grapes grown there.  Wines from Corton Clos du Roi often have a plushness and luxurious texture — showing it’s good to be the King — that make them especially attractive.  Latour’s 2014 Corton Clos du Roi displays that plush, luxurious quality and at this stage is a bit fleshier than the Grancey.  Impeccably balanced, it too should develop magnificently over the next decade.  While I’m sure Latour’s 2015 Cortons will be superb, don’t overlook this one and their Grancey from 2014.
94 Michael Apstein Mar 14, 2017

Domaine Louis Latour, Corton (Burgundy, France) Grancey 2014

($117, Louis Latour USA): Latour’s Corton Grancey, a Grand Cru and their flagship wine, is a blend of four Grand Cru vineyards on the hill of Corton: Corton-Perrieres, Corton-Bressandes, Corton-Clos du Roi, and Corton-Grèves.  The proportion each vineyard contributes to the finished wine varies vintage to vintage.  What doesn’t vary is the quality of the wine.  Firm and tightly wound at this stage as expected for a Grand Cru, fine tannins surround a core of red fruit.  Befitting a young wine, it unfolds slowly in the glass with telltale herbal and an almost iron-tinged character.  Though the 2014 reds risk being overshadowed by the ripeness and exuberance of 2015s, don’t let that deter you from buying this 2014.  The 2014 Corton Grancey sings — give it a decade so you can hear all the notes.
95 Michael Apstein Mar 14, 2017

The Renaissance at Jessiaume: A Multi-National Collaboration

In parochial Burgundy, where even French citizens from outside the region are viewed with skepticism, an American–and a woman no less–is leading the Anglo-American-French team that is intent on resurrecting Domaine Jessiaume.  With the quintessential Burgundian tiles adorning their building, Domaine Jessiaume, which dates from the mid-19th century, is one of Santenay’s iconic properties.  Of course, looks aren’t everything, and in years past, I can recall thinking:  If only the wines were as captivating as the building. Well, now they are…thanks to the newly installed Directrice, Megan McClune, and her young French winemaker, William Waterkyn.

Full disclosure:  I’ve known Megan, her husband, Matt, and their children for years, sharing many meals and excellent wines both in Beaune and in the U.S. They are friends.  So on one hand, I might not be entirely objective about her work, but on the other hand, I’m likely the only critic who has tasted Jessiaume’s entire line-up through the transition–from the 2012 vintage, which frankly was torture, to the 2013s (almost as painful) to the excellent 2014s and the truly exciting 2015s–and can attest to the evolution of the Domaine’s wines.

Domaine Jessiaume had remained in the Jessiaume family for four generations, from the mid-19th century until–enter the British component–Sir David Murray, a Scottish businessman and industrialist, purchased the estate in 2007.  Initially, Murray kept on the Jessiaume brothers, allowing them to continue making the wines and running the estate, but then in 2014, he hired McClune to run the show.  Although McClune had no winemaking experience, she knew her way around a winery–and how to run one.  She had been the export manager–and basically the CFO–for Alex Gambal, another American, who, as a grower and négociant based in Beaune, had been making headlines with his Burgundies.

McClune, who clearly had a vision for the domaine, wasted little time in hiring Waterkyn, a Frenchman of Belgian extraction, completing this multi-national team.  She took an enormous risk hiring this young winemaker who had graduated from oenology school only the previous year.  Waterkyn’s previous experience was limited to a six-month stint at A to Z winery in Oregon and then six months as an assistant to Geraldine Godot, Gambal’s talented winemaker.  But McClune, with her sharp eye and intuition, saw a smart, motivated individual who was unencumbered by the all-too-common French dogma of “that’s the way things are done.”  She saw in him someone open to new ideas and feedback and, as she described him, “someone who’s hungry to make his own way.”  With the history of the estate, she realized that there was “a lot of baggage to shake off” after four generations of the same family running the domaine.  She wanted someone who was willing–indeed, really eager–to discuss options and to make “new history.”

One method open to producers seeking to increase quality virtually overnight is to declassify some of the wines.  Including a healthy amount of subprime Volnay Premier Cru in a village Volnay increases the quality of both.  McClune opted not to use that method, but took a more gradual approach, which explains why the wines from 2012 through 2015 have gotten progressively better.  She started a transition to organic viticulture, which will be complete by 2019.  McClune explains, “You don’t make the transfer instantaneously because it shocks the vines.” She noted that the first vintage that will have the Bio label is 2019.  She attributes the movement to organic as one reason Jessiaume’s 2015s were so good.

The other major improvement was in the winery, which was dirty, dark, and clearly neglected.  The first step was a thorough cleaning followed by some simple renovations that made a big difference, such as changing the lighting and replacing the floors.  McClune reasoned that while you need a clean environment, you don’t need–or want–one that is sterile, else the wines will be sterile.  You just need a well-lit, organized, clean cellar.”

McClune’s vision was to focus on the domaine wines and highlight the individuality of the climats, Burgundy’s claim to fame and the reason UNESCO recognized the region as a “Heritage Site.”  She wants Jessiaume’s wines to be fully transparent regarding their origins.  Sure, their Beaune Cents Vignes should express the terroir of that site and taste different from their wines from Santenay.  But, more importantly, McClune emphasizes passionately, that within Santenay, their Comme should be clearly distinguishable from their Gravières and their Clos du Clos Genet.  “These sites within Santenay are all special, even Clos du Clos Genet, which is not a premier cru [unlike the other two].  You need to respect their unique terroir.”

To concentrate of these wines, she immediately jettisoned the négociant business that Jessiaume had started in 2008, which means they are now focusing on 13 wines instead of 30.  “That business made no sense,” explains McClune, her CFO experience speaking.  “Customers were coming to us for our domaine wines.  If they wanted a wine from Morey St. Denis, they would go to a grower there, or a well-known négociant, not us. It [the négociant business] was a distraction.”

McClune still buys a small amount of grapes or wine from growers to fill particular needs.  For example, Jessiaume cannot fill all their customers’ requests for a Bourgogne Chardonnay and Bourgogne Pinot Noir exclusively from their vineyards, so they supplement their production by buying from other growers.  Similarly, in a year like 2015, when yields were down, they made only one-half a barrel of Volnay so McClune purchased a little to fill the barrel.  Combining estate and non-estate fruit is legal and commonplace in Burgundy, as long as the wine is labeled as a négociant, not a domaine, bottling.

The key decision for McClune and her team regarding the 2015s was when to harvest.  They agonized because the weather was perfect.  They felt no pressure to bring the crop in because no rain, which could dilute the grapes or result in rot, was predicted.  They nevertheless pulled the trigger, bringing everyone in a week early.  McClune explained their thinking, “Ripeness wasn’t an issue, but acidity might be.  We wanted to capture the acidity and keep the wines fresh.”  It proved to be an excellent decision, at least in my mind, because Jessiaume’s 2015s are not only gloriously rich, but also bright, lively, and well balanced.  In short, not overdone.

*       *       *


I tasted Jessiaume’s 2015s in November 2016 during my annual trip to Burgundy.  They were either tank samples (wines that had been racked, the blend completed and were waiting in stainless steel tank to be bottled early in 2017) or representative barrel samples that Waterkyn had prepared.  I avoid scoring barrel samples to guide consumers to a specific wine because the wines are not finished.  However, barrel samples do allow assessment of how a producer has done with a particular vintage.  And Jessiaume hit the bull’s eye in 2015.

Maison Jessiaume’s Bourgogne Pinot Noir is charming, with bright ripeness. It’s what I call a “roast chicken” kind of wine.  The Domaine’s Auxey-Duresses comes from the lower (non-premier cru) part of Les Ecussaux vineyard.  Ripe, clean and juicy, it shows the enjoyment village wines can deliver. Someone knew where to draw the line that separates village from premier cru in this vineyard.  From the upper part of the vineyard, their Domaine Auxey-Duresses Premier Cru Les Ecussaux, is a touch bolder with far more complexity and depth compared to its village counterpart.  Fragrant, delicate, yet paradoxically intense and long, Maison Jessiaume’s Volnay is a pretty wine.  It reinforces the wisdom of searching out village wines from top producers. The Domaine’s Volnay Les Brouillards is more structured than the village Volnay and more disjointed, likely as a result of a greater percentage of whole clusters during fermentation.  It lacks the suave texture of the others at this stage, but judging from all of the others, it will likely turn out just fine.

Domaine Jessiaume excelled with their 2015 reds from Santenay.  They are like no other wines they’ve made and truly exciting to taste so clear is the distinction from one vineyard to another.  Their Clos du Clos Genet, despite being “only” a village wine, is always one of their most captivating.  The 2015 is no exception.  With an uncommon gracefulness, it’s just delicious, even at this stage.  The Santenay La Comme, bigger and brawnier than Clos du Clos Genet befitting its Premier Cru ranking, exhibits the charming rusticity for which Santenay is known. Their Santenay Les Gravières balances juicy ripeness with a delectable earthy woodsy component.

In past years, Domaine Jessiaume’s Beaune Cent Vignes has played second fiddle to their wines from Santenay.  But in 2015, this Beaune Premier Cru shines along with Jessiaume’s other reds.  Ripe and suave, an uplifting acidity amplifies its beauty.

Jessiaume’s 2015 whites, like many other white Burgundies I tasted, were rich and forward, ideal for current consumption.  The 2015 whites in general are excellent for those looking for an introduction to the charms of Burgundy because their splendor is immediately apparent.  They exhibit the ripeness of the 2009s, but with better vibrancy.  Maison Jessiaume’s 2015 Bourgogne Chardonnay would be a marvelous introduction to white Burgundy. Their Domaine Auxey-Duresses Les Ecussaux, similarly forward and ripe, has more complexity and density. The Santenay Les Gravières Blanc is bolder and chunkier with lots of up-front fruitiness but also remarkable acidity.

It is truly gratifying to see another sleeping Burgundy house awaken.

*       *       *


Email me your thoughts about Domaine Jessiaume or Burgundy in general at Michael.Apstein1@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter @MichaelApstein

March 1, 2017

Domaine Christian Moreau Père et Fils, Chablis Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) Vaillon 2015

($41, Frederick Wildman & Sons): Domaine Christian Moreau Père et Fils labels his Vaillon as the singular, omitting the “s” to emphasize that their grapes come from the original and heart of the vineyard, not an adjacent vineyard that is allowed to use the name Vaillons.  Their parcel — and of course their talent and attention to detail — explain the stature of this wine.  A clear jump up from their village Chablis, it shows the stature of Premier Cru, with more length and complexity.  Its vivacity and stoniness screams Chablis!  Shellfish anyone? 91 Michael Apstein Feb 14, 2017

Domaine Christian Moreau Père et Fils, Chablis (Burgundy, France) 2015

($29, Frederick Wildman & Sons): With everyone raving about the Chablis and other white Burgundies from the 2014 vintage, those wines from 2015 may be overlooked, which would be a shame.  Domaine Christian Moreau made an exceptional village Chablis in 2015, a year that produced riper whites compared to 2014.  Fabien Moreau thought the key to their success in 2015 — and they were across all levels — was that they picked early to capture freshness.  This Chablis has a touch more ripeness than their captivating 2014, but plenty of verve and minerality to remind you of its origin.  Those who prefer less steely Chablis will really love it.  But frankly, even those, such as myself, who prefer more steely Chablis, will still love it.
89 Michael Apstein Feb 14, 2017

Maison Louis Jadot, Bourgogne Blanc (Burgundy, France) 2014

($17, Kobrand Wine & Spirits): This sensational bargain is clearly marketed to New World wine drinkers with the word Chardonnay in large type emblazoned on the label.  Marketing aside, with zesty energy and a hint of seductive creaminess, its flavor profile and character shouts — in a refined way — white Burgundy.  This is a blend of Chardonnay-based wines from the Mâconnais, the Côte Chalonnaise, and importantly, the Côte d’Or.  The inclusion of wine from the latter, and of course the stellar 2014 vintage for whites, explains why this Bourgogne Blanc stands out.  I have extensive experience with how marvelously well Jadot’s wines develop with bottle age.  Even this one, with its lowly Bourgogne Blanc appellation, will provide enjoyment for years to come, so buy it by the case — or two.
90 Michael Apstein Feb 14, 2017

Alex Gambal, Bourgogne Blanc (Burgundy, France) 2014

($25): The 2014 vintage for whites in Burgundy across appellations is exceptional, ranking with 2010 and 2008.  The across-the-board quality is a boon for consumers because even wines from the lowliest appellations from top producers, such as Alex Gambal’s Bourgogne Blanc, shine.  Gambal, an American who started in Burgundy about 20 years ago, both owns vineyards — even a parcel of the famed Bâtard-Montrachet — and buy grapes from his neighbors and colleagues.  His 2014 Bourgogne Blanc has more depth and intrigue than you’d expect at the price. It’s classic white Burgundy with mineral-infused flavors and vivacity.  If you’re looking for big California Chardonnay, look elsewhere.  But for classic white Burgundy, look no further.
91 Michael Apstein Feb 14, 2017

Auvigue, Saint-Véran (Burgundy, France) 2014

($18): Consumers should snap up as many 2014 white Burgundies as they can.  It’s a great vintage across appellations, from Chablis in the north to the Mâconnais in the south.  And it’s in the south of Burgundy where you really find bargains in 2014.  In the hands of a super-star producer, such as Auvigue, wines from less prestigious appellations, such as this one from Saint-Véran, over deliver for the price.  You’d be hard pressed to find a more satisfying Chardonnay-based wine for $18.  Crisp, with a hint of creaminess, it has more finesse and length than you’d expect.  Buy it by the case because the energy of the 2014 vintage will allow it to develop over the next few years.
90 Michael Apstein Jan 10, 2017

Auvigue, Pouilly-Fuissé (Burgundy, France) Les Crays 2014

($32): Auvigue is one of the very top producers in the Mâconnais.  Their name on a label is an assurance of quality.  They make a range of wines from area including several from Pouilly-Fuissé that express the enormous — and wonderful — diversity of that appellation.  This one, Les Crays, comes from a vineyard in the commune of Solutré, one of the four communes that comprise Pouilly-Fuissé.  Fermented entirely in barrel, none of which are new, it has a weight and sophistication often lacking in wines from Pouilly-Fuissé.  It has the vigor of the 2014 vintage, a great one for white Burgundy, meaning that as good as it is now, there’s no rush to consume it.  Put a few bottles away for five or so years so you can see for yourself how beautifully Pouilly Fuissé from a top producer can develop.
92 Michael Apstein Jan 10, 2017

Bouchard Père et Fils, Meursault 1er Cru (Burgundy, France) Genevrières 2014

($96): Bouchard Père et Fils, one of Burgundy’s top négociants, is also a grower, owning over 300-acres of vineyards in the Côte d’Or, including 30-acres of Grand Cru and about 180-acres of Premier Cru.  They consistently excel in their Meursault.  This magnificent Meursault Genevrières is a blend of two plots, totaling over 6-acres, that they own.  One plot is lower down on brown soil, which imparts richness, according to their winemaker, Frédéric Weber, while the other is higher on white limestone.  This is a fabulous Genevrières, delivering richness, spice and vivacity. From my experience with Bouchard’s wines, it will develop nicely for a decade, though it’s hard to resist now.
94 Michael Apstein Jan 10, 2017

Bouchard Père et Fils, Chevalier-Montrachet (Burgundy, France) 2014

($300): Bouchard Père et Fils, owns over 1/3 of this Grand Cru vineyard that sits just above Le Montrachet, making them its largest owner.  Their roughly 6.5-acres are located in all four terraces of the vineyard, which helps explain why their Chevalier-Montrachet is so complex.  Each terrace has slightly difference soil and exposure so they vinify the parcels separately and then blend them to create a single wine, according to winemaker Frédéric Weber.  Bouchard’s 2014 Chevalier-Montrachet is both explosive and elegant.  Rich and steely, it’s a study in paradox.  Seemingly endless, it continues to dazzle the palate after you swallow.  (It’s one of those wines that you can’t spit at a tasting.)  So, if you’re a 1-percenter or have just won the lottery, here’s a wine for you.  Based on Bouchard’s track record with Chevalier-Montrachet, I’d cellar the 2014 for at least a decade.
98 Michael Apstein Jan 10, 2017

Chateau du Basty, Régnié (Burgundy, France) 2015

($17, Jeanne-Marie de Champs Selection): Chateau du Basty, situated a stone’s throw from Régnié and Morgon, two of the Beaujolais cru, has been in the same family since 1482 so it’s safe to assume they know something about the area.  When I tasted there last November, there was no electricity because of a wind storm.  Their wines, however, provided all the electricity that was needed.  Gilles and Pernette Perroud, who own the estate, avoided the pitfall of over ripeness in their 2015s, making an enthralling line up.  Take this Régnié.  The ever so slightly rustic tannins that make the wines from Régnié distinctive and appealing were beautifully balanced by the ripe fruitiness of the 2015 vintage.  Everything — earthiness, tannins, red fruit — is present. Nothing is out of balance or awkward.  The quality and price of this wine is another example of why the crus of Beaujolais are poised to a big hit in the coming years.  Try it this winter, or even over the next several years, with a long-simmered stew.
91 Michael Apstein Jan 10, 2017

Domaine Louis Latour, Pernand-Vergelesses Premier Cru (Burgundy, France) En Caradeux 2014

($35, Louis Latour USA): This is what everyone is looking for in white Burgundy — an affordable overachiever.  Three elements come together in a “perfect storm” to create this overachiever.  First, there’s the village itself.  Pernand-Vergelesses lies “behind” the hill of Corton (to the west) and is often overlooked since it is hidden as you drive the main road of the Côte d’Or.  These “hidden” villages are an excellent place to find an affordable overachiever.  Secondly, the En Caradeux vineyard, a Premier Cru, is good real estate, lining across the valley and actually facing the vineyards that comprise Corton-Charlemagne.  And finally — and probably most importantly — is the producer.  As a négociant Maison Louis Latour has a “green thumb” with wines, finding sources of top quality grapes and transforming them into exciting red and white Burgundy.  Less well appreciated is that Louis Latour is also a Domaine, owning and farming 120-acres of its own vineyards.  (Indeed, they are the largest owner of Grand Cru vineyards in Burgundy.)  This wine comes from the portion of the En Caradeux vineyard they own.  Hence it carries the Domaine Louis Latour label, which is subtlely different from their Maison label. Along with a wonderful tension between perfect ripeness and enormous energy characteristic of the vintage, it delivers an alluring combination of spice and minerality. The wine is a steal — a baby Corton-Charlemagne — with the advantage of being far more approachable and enjoyable at a young age compared to that Grand Cru.  Latour’s whites evolve and develop beautifully with years of bottle age, so stock up on this one and drink it happily now and over the next five years.
94 Michael Apstein Dec 6, 2016

Domaine Parent, Corton Blanc (Burgundy, France) 2014

($190, Jeanne-Marie de Champs Selection): White Corton is a rarity, since most producers label it Corton-Charlemagne.  Indeed, Anne Parent, who runs the eponymous domaine with her sister, Catherine, says she legally could label hers as Corton-Charlemagne, but since it comes from the east-facing portion of the hill in the Ladoix-Serrigny commune, she prefers to label it simply…Corton.  Domaine Parent, best known for their stellar wines from Pommard where they are based, also makes a stunning white Corton, in part because Anne Parent does not cut corners.  For example, when she replants a vineyard she lets the ground lie fallow for four to five years so that, as she says, “the soil can rejuvenate itself.”  And then she notes, “You need 10 years for vines to become ‘settled,’” before they produce high-quality fruit.  No wonder her 2014 white Corton sings.  It conveys a beguiling combination of floral notes, pineapple-like spice and a seemingly endless vibrancy, which amplifies all of the components.  Befitting a Grand Cru Burgundy, I’d put it in the cellar for a decade — if you can keep your hands off it.
96 Michael Apstein Dec 6, 2016

Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches Blanc, 2010

With about 17 acres, Maison Joseph Drouhin, one of Burgundy’s best négociants, owns roughly half of this premier cru vineyard, which is located at the southern end of Beaune, bordering Pommard. The vineyard takes its name from the honey-bees (mouches à miel, literally honey flies) that loved the warmth of the site. Though Beaune is best known for its red wines, Drouhin has planted half of their vineyard to Chardonnay. Drouhin’s Clos des Mouches Blanc is their flagship white even though it is not their most expensive or prestigious white wine. It is consistently one of Drouhin’s best and most exciting whites with uncanny finesse, a rarity among white wines from Beaune. The 2010 Clos des Mouches Blanc, from an exceptional vintage, is just starting to show its grandeur.

Vivino 2017 Wine Style Awards
November 30, 2016

Bouchard Père et Fils, Beaune Grèves, “Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus,” 2009

Bouchard, one of Burgundy’s top producers, own this 10-acre plot, which is situated in the heart of Beaune Grèves, an 80-acre Premier Cru vineyard, which itself is one of the top Premier Cru vineyards in Beaune, a town that lacks Grand Cru vineyards. The Carmelite sisters, the original owners of the plot, named it after the baby Jesus because they considered that the birth of the Sun King (Louis XIV) was a miracle since his mother, Anne of Austria, was sterile. Bouchard Père et Fils (not be confused with Bouchard Aîné et Fils) purchased the plot in 1791 from the government after many vineyards were nationalized following the French Revolution. It’s Bouchard’s flagship and never fails to thrill.

Vivino 2017 Wine Style Awards
November 30, 2016

Christian Moreau Père et Fils, Chablis Premier Cru, Le Vaillon, “Cuvée Guy Moreau,” 2014

The label predicts great things for this wine—Christian Moreau Père et Fils (not be confused with J. Moreau & Fils) is a top-notch producer and 2014 was a great year for Chablis—and the wine delivers them. Cuvée Guy Moreau comes from a 2.5-acre plot planted in an ideal portion of the vineyard by Guy Moreau in 1934. The fruit from these old vines adds enormous depth and complexity to the wine while retaining the quintessential racy zing of Chablis. Fabian Moreau, the current winemaker and in charge of this family Domaine, notes the fermentation starts in stainless steel tanks and then a third of it or so goes into older oak barrels. He thinks this technique adds structure without detracting from the wine’s enormous minerality. I agree.

Vivino 2017 Wine Style Awards
November 30, 2016

Château des Quarts, Pouilly-Fuissé (Burgundy, France) Clos des Quarts 2013

($70, Becky Wasserman Selection): Seventy bucks for Pouilly-Fuissé?  That’ll get your attention, but so will the quality of this wine.  It’s a joint venture between two Burgundy super-stars, Dominique Lafon from Meursault and Olivier Merlin from the Mâconnais, who purchased the vineyard together.  It’s a spectacular Pouilly-Fuissé, showing the heights that that appellation can achieve.  Rich, but not over ripe, stony and creamy, it has wonderful balance — nothing is out of place — and terrific length.  It conveys an unusual refinement for a wine from Pouilly-Fuissé.
93 Michael Apstein Nov 15, 2016

Olivier Merlin, Macon Blanc (Burgundy, France) La Roche Vineuse 2013

($21, Becky Wasserman Selection): I first became aware of Domaine Merlin’s wine when I tasted — no, drank — his stunning Moulin-à-Vent in a Paris bistro.  I’ve been a fan ever since.  It turns out that the Domaine makes stunning white wine as well.  This is a great example of the Domaine’s talents.  Cutting and clean, with good body and concentration, it delivers far more precision and character than most wines from the Mâconnais.  I just had the 2010 of this wine in a Paris restaurant.  It has developed beautiful complexity, so there’s not rush.  At this price, the 2013 is a steal for what it offers.
90 Michael Apstein Nov 15, 2016

Domaine Sylvain Pataille, Marsannay (Burgundy, France) Clos du Roy 2014

($49, Becky Wasserman Selection): The producers in Marsannay have petitioned the authorities to elevate some of their vineyards, all of which now are lumped together and sold under the village name, to Premier Cru.  Clos du Roy is a prime candidate for promotion as this wine demonstrates.  Premier Cru quality in all but name, it is long and refined with a clear Côte de Nuits earthy character.  Its polished tannins allow immediate enjoyment, but the balance suggests it will develop beautifully with bottle age.  This is distinctive and authentic Côte de Nuits Burgundy at less than $50 a bottle, sadly a rarity these days.
92 Michael Apstein Nov 15, 2016

Domaine Sylvain Pataille, Bourgogne Rouge (Burgundy, France) La Chapître 2012

($57, Becky Wasserman Selection): Sylvain Pataille, a terrific producer based in Marsannay, produces this Bourgogne rouge from vines that average about 35 years of age.  Indeed, a third of the vines in this 2.5-acre vineyard date from 1950s.  The old vines explain the gorgeous complexity and density you rarely fine in Bourgogne Rouge.  Lovely to drink now, it will surely gain more subtlety in the coming years.  Sadly, the worldwide clamoring for distinctive red Burgundy explains the price.
87 Michael Apstein Nov 15, 2016

Simonnet-Febvre, Saint Bris (Burgundy, France) 2014

($12, Louis Latour USA): Though the appellation is just Saint Bris, the wines are often referred to as Sauvignon St. Bris, incorporating the name of the grape into the appellation.  Saint Bris, located just southwest of Chablis, is an anomaly in Burgundy because it is the only area where Sauvignon Blanc is allowed, indeed, required.  The variety makes sense since the area is close to, and has similar soil as, Pouilly sur Loire and Sancerre where Sauvignon Blanc thrives.  Simonnet-Febrve, a top-notch Chablis producer, made a zingy lime-tinged version that is impossible to resist.  Crisp and cutting, drink it with anything from steamed clams dipped in butter to spicy sushi.  It’s steely and a steal.  Buy it by the case.
90 Michael Apstein Nov 1, 2016