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Here’s the first Futures offering of the new decade. We issued the last one under the cloud of 25% tariffs on most of the wine we import, and we earnestly hoped that changes would be in the offing by the New Year. Well, changes are in prospect, but not the ones we hoped for. In December the administration announced that they may expand the tariffs to cover every bottle we import, and might raise the rate from 25% to 100%. We’re not making this up. The only positive, if you can call it that, is that they haven’t said when these increases will happen. So all we can do is move our feet fast in the hope of getting ahead of the next pronouncement. This is no way to run a railroad, but it’s the world we live in right now. So have a look at our latest set of wines, send in your order, and let’s see together if we can get it here before the guillotine falls. (If you’re inclined to add your voice to 10,000+ of your fellow Americans, comments on the proposed tariff are due January 13. Link here.)

January 2020 Futures has a great lineup of delicious wine. In Burgundy, there’s white from St. Aubin’s Domaine Gerard Thomas and from Chablis’s Domaine Gautheron, both from the excellent new 2018 vintage. For red Burgundy, there’s rich Gevrey-Chambertin from the Domaine des Varoilles from 2017. We visit the Domaine Gross in the Alsace and the Foulaquier in the Languedoc for organic and biodynamic wine, and then Bordeaux for some right-bank gems. Finally, we make our annual pilgrimage to Tuscany for some of the very best Chianti made.

If you find any of these wines of interest, please make your selections in case or half-case lots and complete the order form (linked below) by the Order Deadline of Sunday, January 19. Then light a candle for us all and stay tuned. We’ll be back in touch when the orders are finalized.

Thanks as always for your interest.

Domaine Gérard Thomas

St-Aubin, Burgundy

For years we quoted Rajat Parr’s description of St. Aubin as the sommelier’s secret – less known than its neighbors Chassagne, Puligny, and Meursault,  but capable of producing white Burgundy of great distinction at a better price. Now the secret is out, aided perhaps by a push from our warming climate.  Not long ago Jancis Robinson MW, pronounced that next to Meursault, Puligny and Chassagne, St. Aubin “should now be regarded as virtually their equal;” and these days she is by no means alone. Though the gap between prices for St. Aubin and the others has narrowed, it still represents very good value. 

The Domaine Gerard Thomas has been our source for St. Aubin for many years, and the 2018 vintage offers firm evidence of the village’s ascent into the first rank.  The growing season was hot and dry, and one where places with a bit more elevation did particularly well. We found the 2018 whites delicious, with plenty of mouth-filling material but also excellent balance. 

For the budget minded, Thomas’s Bourgogne Chardonnay 2018 is an excellent choice. It is real white Burgundy, with an attractive aromatic balance between fruit and oak.  There’s enough toast to notice, but not so much as to get in the way of the ripe fruit. In the mouth the wine has good volume, and the wine finishes well. Thomas has dialed back the oak, and the fruit showing through is classy and delicious.

The 2018 St. Aubin “Champ Tirant” is a noticeable move up.  The balance of this wine is just beautiful, with a super-attractive interplay between fruit and wood. It’s silky smooth in the mouth, with an elegance more often seen in well-made Puligny-Montrachet. And no waiting is necessary: the wine will drink beautifully now and for the next couple of years. 

If the village level Champ Tirant calls to mind a Puligny, the St-Aubin Premier Cru “Murgers des Dents de Chien” 2018 recalls Meursault. Upon opening, the nose shows a balance of aromatics similar to the village wine, but the mouth is noticeably more dense and full. With a little time in the air, the nose opens generously and becomes a worthy partner to the rich, intense mouthfeel.  The finish is strikingly long, befitting a vineyard that lies just up the hill from Montrachet, home to the world’s greatest white wine. In short, it’s a premier cru white Burgundy of the first rank. 

The domaine also offers a Puligny-Montrachet premier cru from “La Garenne.”  Like most fine Puligny, the wine will show its best a bit later than other white Burgundy. For drinking now we’d recommend some time in a carafe; or simply give it 6 months or a year before trying it.  All the elements for first-rate Puligny are there: good supporting acidity, plenty of material, and a lengthy finish. With a bit of time to knit together, Thomas’s 2018 Garenne will be as impressive as its pedigree suggests it should be. 

(case prices)

Bourgogne 2018:   $295
St-Aubin “Champ Tirant” 2018:   $395
St-Aubin 1er cru “Murgers des Dents de Chiens” 2018:   $495
Puligny-Montrachet 1er cru “La Garenne” 2018: $695

Domaine des Varoilles

Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy

The 2017 growing season was kind to the vignerons of the Côte de Nuits. Where 2016 was a high wire act, requiring vignerons to deal with threats of frost and maladies of the vines throughout the year, 2017 offered a respite from these cares.  There were no extremes of weather, the season unfolded predictably, and the grapes achieved good ripeness and generous yields. 

In fact, generous is a good word to describe the 2017 red Burgundies, which have trickled in steadily since last Spring. We opened many during the holiday season at the depot, and they were uniformly precocious and easy to like — taster after taster found it hard to leave the depot without taking at least one bottle to try at home.  

Gevrey-Chambertin produces wines of power, and they often need time to round out and develop before they show well; but within the category, the 2017s from the Domaine de Varoilles follow the vintage style. They will be approachable young, and you can expect them to be expressive earlier than usual.  The domaine has offered a Bourgogne for only a few years, but they have met with much enthusiasm among our buyers. The 2017 has nice density for a wine of its class, with good dark fruit supported by firm tannins. A bit of time in a carafe will be in order during the early months, but before long it should drink well from the time you pull the cork.

Having a monopole is a rare thing in Burgundy, but owning four of them — two village and two premier cru — is nearly unheard of.  The smaller of the village monopoles is the Domaine’s Gevrey-Chambertin “Clos du Couvent,” located on the flat adjacent to the Domaine and the town center.  In 2017, this wine offers ripe fruit in the nose and a medium-weight mouth supported by supple tannins.  It should drink well soon with a bit of air — look for a deeply floral nose with intricate notes of spice and leather in the mouth.  The larger village monopole is “Meix des Ouches,” a particularly well located parcel right next to the premier cru Champonnet.  When we tasted the 2017 Meix des Ouches, it showed particularly well, with deep, dark fruit in the nose and on the palate. Burghound praised its “delicious middle-weight flavors” and found “notes of poached plum, forest floor, and a whisper of oak in the nose.”  Meix des Ouches 2017 is rich and mouthfilling, and will easily provide pleasure for a decade. It’s more serious than the Couvent, and seemed closer to a premier cru than to a village wine. 

Of course, the two premier cru monopoles show every bit of their pedigree.  The Clos des Varoilles (pictured above at left), from a huge monopole (by Côte d’Or standards) in the heart of the village’s best stretch of premier cru terroir, is classic Gevrey:  big, dense, and rich. This is muscular wine from 45 year-old vines in deep soils, and its brooding, deep character will need some time to evolve. The smaller La Romanée adjoins it (pictured above at right), but its 60+ year-old vines offer a different character.  The soils here are lean and rocky, and the wine’s mineral side predominates. La Romanée is leaner, elegant more than powerful, but is just as impressive overall. Both are long and full of life – Hammel has channeled this exuberant vintage into wines of real polish and class.

At the Grand Cru level, the Domaine owns a well-located parcel in Charmes-Chambertin.  The wine is impressive in the 2017 vintage, with much density and intensity. Burghound found “notably ripe aromas of dark raspberry, cassis, and spiced plum.” This is a wine that will require a few years in the cellar to show its potential, even in this early-drinking vintage.  But five, ten, or fifteen years down the road, it can be expected to integrate fully and express its fine pedigree.

(case prices)

Bourgogne 2017:   $395

Gevrey-Chambertin “Clos du Couvent” 2017:   $685
Gevrey-Chambertin “Clos du Meix des Ouches” 2017:   $750

Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru “La Romanée” 2017:   $995
Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru “Clos des Varoilles” 2017:   $995

Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 2017:   $1,795

Gevrey-Chambertin “Meix des Ouches” 17 (6x 1.5L):   $795
Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru “Clos des Varoilles” 17 (6x 1.5L):  $1,095
Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 17 (6x 1.5L):   $1,795

Domaine Gautheron

Fleys, Chablis, Burgundy

After the hail, frost, drought, and flood of the last five years, the Chablisiens would have settled for anything short of a plague of grenouilles. But 2018 delivered not just relief, but rejoicing – quantity and quality, and an all-around delightful vintage.

At our tasting in April, winemaker Cyril Gautheron was full of his usual reserved enthusiasm. Despite having been up all night fighting frost in the vines, he was exuberant about his 2018s in tank — and by the end of the tasting we were too.

Gautheron’s always-delicious Petit Chablis is just that in 2018. The expanding geographical limits of “Petit Chablis” have caused some controversy in the past decade, but we can assure you — this is the real deal. (Gautheron began our tasting with a Bourgogne cuvée from grapes bought elsewhere in Burgundy, with the same elevage as the Petit Chablis. Once we moved on to the Petit Chablis, it was immediately clear we were back on stony ground.) The hot summer of 2018 gives this cuvée a bit more flesh on its bones, but underneath is the classic stony minerality. It’s perfectly balanced, with bright yellow fruit, lime zest, and minerals. And at under $20/bot we plan to enjoy it all spring and summer long.

The 2018 Chablis Vieilles Vignes shows increased depth and a different character of fruit. Where the Petit Chablis is all ripeness and stones, the old-vine cuvée is deeper and more serious. There’s no oak apparent, but the wine shows a soft savory spice that suggests grape skins, herbs, and dried flowers. Think Chablis that wants to be Muscadet: dry, intense, stony, and full of life. It will pair beautifully with oysters, sushi, and broiled fish with lemon.

It’s hard to imagine improving much on the 2017 Vaucoupin, which as been wowing readers all summer and fall. But the 2018 Chablis 1er cru “Vaucoupin” does just that — it’s very long, ripe, and full of tension. There’s no oak to obscure the gorgeous ripe fruit, and the nose bursts with spring flowers and dry lemon fruit. The mouth shows the unmistakable power of premier cru terroir, and the finish is noticeably longer and more elegant than the Petit Chablis or Vieilles Vignes. Serve this with a goat cheese quiche alongside smoked salmon or even asparagus. Or pour it on its own – your guests won’t need anything else to entertain their palates.

Finally a new cuvée from Gautheron — Chablis 1er cru “Montmains.” The ever ambitious Cyril began making this cuvée last year, taking advantage of the cash-poor local wine market to begin “renting” 80-year-old vines in one of the town’s finest left bank premier crus. The old vines here produce remarkably intense wine, and this cuvée was extremely dense and long. Cyril raises this cuvée for a bit in oak barrels, but the wine draws all its intensity from the fruit and stones. It shows just how good a winemaker Cyril is, and just what old vines in exceptional terroir can do.

(case prices)

Petit Chablis 2018:   $235
Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2018:   $250
Chablis 1er cru “Vaucoupin” 2018:   $345
Chablis 1er cru “Montmains” 2018:   $375

Domaine Gross

Guberschwir, Alsace

Vincent Gross is our new source in the Alsace; discovered by happenstance just as Francis Muré entered retirement after supplying us with wine for two decades. Gross is part of a new generation of winemakers across France who are farming organically, working biodynamically, and vinifying with minimal intervention. The results are striking, and occasionally very different from those of conventional winemaking.

We begin with two white wines that you will have no trouble recognizing: a Pinot Blanc and a Riesling. Gross’s Pinot Blanc 2018 is a blend of equal parts Pinot Blanc and Pinot Auxerrois, a variant on the grape found in only the Alsace these days. Vinification is slow, with indigenous yeasts, followed by eight months on the lees before bottling. The wine makes a delicious apéritif. In the mouth it is soft and round, with a lovely aroma of white peaches and a light citrus touch. This is a great bottle to open when friends stop over and you’d like to pour something more interesting than another bottle of mass market chardonnay.

The 2016 Riesling was one of the hits of last year’s importations, with a vibrant profile, expressive in the nose and fresh in the mouth. Customers discovered it in tastings at the Newton depot, and our stocks seemed to disappear overnight. The 2017 Riesling is a worthy successor. This is dry wine that features a beautiful mineral line and clean, pure fruit. There’s plenty of energy, and the nose adds a touch of spice. While we have often opened the 2016 with canapés before a meal, it pairs beautifully with a wide range of foods: anything stir-fried, and particularly foods with Asian spices. It is an inspired match for David Tanis’s Thai-style Clams in Coconut Broth.

If you’re interested in something a bit different, we have two more wines to recommend. The first is an orange wine made with Muscat grapes from the Mittelweg vineyard. “Orange” wine comes from white wine grapes that are vinified like a red — the fermentation takes place on the skins rather than from juice pressed off the skins before fermentation. The result is extraction of elements from the skins: some tannin, some color, some elements that add their own flavors. After a leisurely maceration of 25 days, the wine is pressed off the skins and raised in foudres for 8 months, then bottled without the addition any sulfur. Mittelweg 2018 is strikingly expressive, not quite like any other wine you have tasted. The mouth is very dry, with white pepper and herbs. The mouth shows plenty of muscat fruit for sure, but also herbal honey and notes of hay similar to sauvignon blanc. The nose has an attractive note of Cascade hops that reminded us of the Peeper ale from Maine Beer Company.

Finally, there is a barrel raised Pinot Noir, also bottled without any added sulfur. The Pinot Noir “R” 2017 recalls homemade strawberry jam, offering ripe, sweet Pinot fruit alongside dark violets. The wine has a Burgundian feel after 12 months in small barrels with a variety of ages. Micro-oxygenation without the sulfur that retards evolution creates a wine that seems mature despite its tender age. This is not a wine to lay down, but rather one for those who love ripe Pinot fruit in a Burgundian wrapper. Buy and drink within a year or two.

(case prices)

Pinot Blanc 2017:   $195
Riesling 2017:   $195
Muscat VDM “Mittelweg” 2018:   $365
Pinot Noir “R” 2017:   $365

Mas Foulaquier

Pic-St-Loup, Languedoc

PIerre Jequier and Blandine Chauchat suffered the trials of Job over four difficult vintages, as many Syrah vines died from a rare malady and the weather created challenge after challenge. The 2019 growing season was an easy one at long last, and Pierre and Blandine look forward to producing normal volumes again. But in the meantime, our personal stocks of Foulaquier are down and we asked if they could find us some bottles from among the few they were able to make over recent years. They have offered us limited quantities of wines that are drinking well right now, and we invite you to replenish your stocks as we replenish ours.

Orphée 2017 is equal parts Grenache and Syrah, entirely vat-raised and offering exuberant fruit. It is rich, smooth, and very easy to drink. Whether you pair it with a plate of pasta, a pot roast, or a wintry stew it will warm your palate and your heart. There’s still a little bit of the 2017 vintage left, and we’re planning to add some to our cellar.

From the 2015 vintage, there are a few bottles of each of Petit Duc and Gran’ Tonillieres. Petit Duc is home for Foulaquier’s old vine Grenache, from sixty-five year old vines planted after a freakishly cold winter in the nineteen fifties that killed every vine in Pic St. Loup. The 2015 vintage is delicious right now. The tannins provide support and definition but no harshness at all.  The Grenache fruit recalls strawberries, but ripe, sweet ones. The same vineyard has sixty-five year old Carignan, and those grapes find their way into Gran’Tonillieres, a truly elegant wine of much complexity. The fruit is dark, ripe raspberries, and a pleasant mineral line comes along as well. As with the Petit Duc, the old-vine tannins deliver structure but not a punch. 

The 2016 Calades is Syrah-dominated, and still shows a bit of the reduction inherent in the grape.  But with some time in a glass, the reduction blows off and the wine is dominated by the lovely scent of violets that is fine syrah’s marker.  It’s a leaner wine than Petit Duc or Gran’T, but there’s an elegance here that would provide a lovely complement to a few lamb chops seared in a hot pan or on the grill.  

Foulaquier and Gross occupy the “natural” end of our portfolio. They’re well made wines that trade expectations for excitement — low or no use of sulfur means they taste (and act) more alive than conventionally made wines. When possible we love to enjoy them outside, where they seem to commune with the natural world. While they can be tricky to pin down, on today’s “natural wine” spectrum they’re still at the conservative end. We hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we do.

(case prices)

Orphée 2017:   $295
Petit Duc 2015:   $350
Calades 2016:   $395
Gran’Tonillières 2015:   $395

Vignobles Dauriac

St-Emilion, Bordeaux

Just as Burgundy’s Côte d’Or has the Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Nuits, the world of Bordeaux is divided between the Right Bank and the Left Bank. The difference in the wines is greater in Bordeaux, with the Left Bank wines dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon and those of the Right Bank by Merlot and Cabernet Franc. This means that the best of the Left Bank wines require significant time to achieve their best expressions, while the Right Bank wines offer a wider window of pleasure. Right Bank wines tend to offer more generosity and less structure, particularly in their youth.

As the home to Chateau Petrus and a few of its neighbors, tiny Pomerol stands at the apex of the Right Bank. But much larger St. Emilion is only a step behind, with many storied properties and excellent quality, particularly in its top wines. Our source on the Right Bank is Christian Dauriac, who has assembled fine properties in both of these appellations.

In St. Emilion, classifications are reviewed every decade, so estates have the possibility of sinking as well as rising. Under Dauriac’s ownership, the flagship wine Chateau Destieux was promoted from Grand Cru to Grand Cru Classé in 2006. This offering is for the 2016 vintage, which is big and rich, with all sorts of potential for the future. The 2016 Destieux has garnered much praise from the critics, particularly from Vinous founder Antonio Galloni, who thought it a “terrific showing.” When the wine was still in the barrel, he rated it 90-93; but in January of 2019 he upped the rating to 94, calling it a “gorgeous, modern St. Emilion” that offers “tremendous depth, . . . dark, jammy fruit, chocolate, spice, and new leather.” His colleague Neal Martin said it was “among the best wines I have tasted from this estate.” Nor do you need to rush to drink it; the wine ages beautifully. We recently opened a bottle of the 2005 and thought it was wonderful.

No one needs to drink Chateau Destieux every day, though, and for lesser occasions Dauriac offers Chateau Montlisse. Montlisse 2016 doesn’t have the depth, length, or stuffing of Destieux, but it is delicious wine in a similar style that is priced for regular drinking. It is medium bodied, smooth and elegant. As the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perotti-Brown put it on the way to awarding 91 points, “the palate delivers a quiet intensity of red and black cherry layers with subtle spicy sparks and a savory finish.”

From Pomerol, Dauriac offers Chateau Clemence. Merlot’s deep, sweet, blackberry fruit dominates this wine, which is silky smooth on the palate in this vintage, even at this early age. Ms. Perotti-Brown admired its “cedar, cigars, earth and tree bark with a core of red and black plums, blackberries and kirsch.” (92 points). You won’t need to identify all these elements to enjoy the wine, which will drink well from its earliest days and then, we may hope, age gracefully.

(case prices)

Montlisse St-Emilion Grand Cru 2016:   $350
Destieux St-Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2016:   $850
Clemence Pomerol 2016:   $995

Destieux St-Emilion Grand Cru Classé 2016 (6x 1.5L):   $850
Clemence Pomerol 2016 (6x 1.5L):   $995

Fattoria Poggerino

Chianti, Italy

Our annual visit to the Fattoria Poggerino comes with bad news and good. First the bad: no oil. The olive crop was small and “of a rather poor quality,” so they decided not to make any this year. We’ll be carefully metering out what’s left chez nous over the next fifteen months, and suspect many of you will do the same. Cross your fingers for a better crop in 2020, and in the meantime credit Piero Lanza for his integrity.

The good news, however, concerns the wine: it’s as good as ever, and available in new formats. We’re thrilled to offer magnums in the Chianti Classico and Riserva, and double magnums (3L) in the Riserva. They’re delicious, relatively well priced, and lots of fun. Poggerino continues to make better wine each year — Rajat Parr calls them “some of the purest expressions of the grape in Italy.”  Vinous’s Antonio Galloni calls them “fabulous,” concluding that “the Poggerino wines stand out for their remarkable purity and nuance.”

We begin with Poggerino’s Labirinto, a younger vine Sangiovese that’s an easy-drinking bargain. We’re offering the 2017 again — partly because it is still delicious, and partly because Poggerino didn’t make any Labirinto in 2018. (The explanation is far happier than the disappointing olives — the 2018 vintage was so successful that all the Chianti grapes went into the Classico. Something to look forward to in two years.) In the meantime, the 2017 is drinking beautifully — it began as a punchy, ripe, pleasantly chewy wine last spring, and over the last year has become smoother and classier. The price is the same; the quality has improved. We drink it early and often, and enthusiastically counsel the same.

Many readers have already reserved some Chianti Classico through our preview email last week, but for those who missed it, we’ll recap. This is as good a Chianti Classico as Poggerino has ever made — there is strawberry jam and anise on the nose, with cherries and roses in the mouth. Galloni was effusive, awarding 92 points and writing: “Poggerino’s 2016 Chianti Classico is gorgeous. Aromatically lifted and juicy on the palate… a supple, beautifully perfumed Chianti Classico. The 2016 is impeccably done. Best of all, it will drink well right out of the gate.” It’s available in 750ml and 1.5L bottles.

Galloni somehow found even better things to say about the 2016 Riserva. Awarding 95 points and calling it “a total knockout,” he wrote of its “superb depth and textural richness.” We agree — the mouthfeel of this wine is extraordinary, combining a palate-coating intensity with balance, fine tannins and polish. Galloni concluded by calling it “fabulous in every way,” and suggesting a drinking window beginning in 2024. We’re excited to offer this one in 750ml, 1.5L, and a very limited number of 3L bottles. Have a graduation party, wedding, round-numbered birthday or anniversary in your future? These will wow guests before you even open the cork.

(case prices)

Labirinto 2017:   $195
Chianti Classico 2016:   $250
Chianti Classico Riserva “Bugiala” 2016:   $395

Chianti Classico 2016 (6x 1.5L):   $250
Chianti Classico Riserva “Bugiala” 2016 (6x 1.5L):   $395

Chianti Classico Riserva “Bugiala” 2016 (3L):   $195

If you have any trouble submitting the new order form, you can always email us your order. Or give us a call with questions: 617-249-3657, or

The deadline to place orders for this issue is: SUNDAY, JANUARY 19.

Questions? Need advice? Call us: (617) 249-3657.

Pick-up in Massachusetts. We store our inventory in a basement in Newton (437 Newtonville Ave), and open it up to the public on Saturday afternoons. Futures customers can pick up their orders here during Saturday open hours, or by appointment.

Pick-up in Delaware. Many of those who aren’t near Boston will choose to collect their wine in Delaware. For such people, we set times for pickup at a temporary storage location and the owners pick their wine up there over the course of the two or three weeks after it arrives.

Shipping elsewhere. In most states we can arrange for shipping at an additional cost that varies by location ($3.50 per bottle to the addresses west of Chicago; $2.50 per bottle east of Chicago). If shipping interests you, let us know the state and we will figure out if it can be done.