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In a year of worldwide disruptions, we shouldn’t be surprised to find the French harvest — happening right now — a bit upside down. This year the growing season roared off to an early start and just continued to get sooner, resulting in the earliest Burgundy harvest in a hundred years. In most years Burgundians pray for sunny skies during the last week or so before the harvest; but this year it was so hot and so dry that the vignerons were praying for rain. And in a very non-2020 turn of events, they got it. Those who waited a bit for phenolic ripeness were rewarded with a good dousing the weekend before the harvest started, giving relief to the vines and bumping up the extremely low yields. Buyers will need to be selective with the 2020s, but it appears that many excellent wines will be made.

In the meantime, we have assembled a wide range of wines for September Futures, mostly 2018s and 2019s. As usual, there are delicious Burgundies, this time from the Côte de Beaune, the Côte de Nuits, and the Maconnais. From the Northern Rhône we have high-end Côte Rôtie and affordable Crozes-Hermitage. There’s also everyday red from the Southern Rhône, delicious reds from the Loire valley, and a couple of suggestions from Bordeaux’s left bank. Finally, we’ve gone back to the Jura for its interesting and distinctive offerings, and to our most recent grower Champagne source.

We hope to have found something for every taste. If anything is of interest, don’t forget to place your orders in case or half-case lots by the Order Deadline of September 20, 2020. We’ll be placing the orders in France immediately thereafter.


Domaine Bohrmann

Meursault, Burgundy

In 1754, Horace Walpole coined the word “serendipity” to describe a happy surprise. It is true that the best finds are often those you didn’t go looking for, and Meursault’s Domaine Bohrmann was just such an unexpected delight for us. It’s a unlikely story: a Belgian woman decides to buy vines in Burgundy’s Côte d’Or, where vineyards are as pricey and as hard to come by as anywhere in France, especially for the non-French. In a remarkably short time she assembles a superb group of parcels, including some with very old vines; and recruits a highly talented winemaker. We’re delighted to be the beneficiaries of this serendipity for a second vintage, and we invite you to join us in getting to know her wines well.

As you know if you read last weekend’s post, we found the Bourgogne blanc 2018 “Les Belles Gouttes” just delicious. It is beautifully balanced with a judicious use of oak. The taste will remind you of Meursault (in whose neighborhood these vines are found) — round and smooth, with surprising length for a wine of its level.

Many of you already know the charmingly named premier cru vineyard “Murgers des Dents de Chien” (walls of dogs’ teeth) from St. Aubin. It lies on top of the hill overlooking the world’s greatest white wine vineyard (Montrachet); and while it doesn’t produce wine at quite the level of Montrachet, neither does a bottle cost four figures. The Bohrmann Murgers 2018 is beautifully made wine, with a very attractive nose — a mix of minerals and precise Chardonnay fruit, topped off with a touch of spice, maybe cloves, and perhaps a little mint. The mouthfeel is equally attractive, with plenty of body and strikingly good length.

If you’re interested in village Meursault itself, we found two of them particularly attractive. Meursault “Les Durots” is closer to the classic expression of Meursault. It is at about the same elevation and in similar soil as Boyer-Martenot’s “Ormeau” cuvée, which makes for a rich and round glass that fills the mouth and the senses. While the wine is dry in the technical sense (no residual sugar), it has what the French call “sucrosité,” a taste of sweetness that increases its opulence. This is livelier and more energetic than Boyer’s Ormeau, but fans of one will like the other. Other Meursault lovers seek out village wines from “upslope” vineyards in hotter vintages, and 2018 was among the hottest in recent memory (that is, of course, until 2019 and 2020). For these folks we suggest “Les Vireuils” from the upper limits of the village. What’s striking about this wine is its elegance and beautiful balance, with a length of finish that you’d expect to find in a premier cru. It’s concentrated and intense but not lush — Borhmann’s style is subtle and refined, and both of these are modern, serious white Burgundies.

If you are a fan of Puligny-Montrachet, consider Bohrmann’s offering from “La Garenne,” like Murgers at a higher elevation, and showing good structure despite the hot growing season. Like most Puligny, Bohrmann’s Garenne will enter its best drinking window later than wine from Chassagne and Meursault. Right now the pedigree shows up in the wine’s excellent length, and as the elements integrate you can expect an elegant glass. The mouth is very dry and long, full of the intense stoniness for which Puligny is known. Patience and potential are the watchwords here.

Like the Bourgogne blanc, Bohrmann’s Bourgogne rouge “Entrecoeur” 2018 is a cut above most offerings at this level. It’s from very old vines in the Pommard neighborhood, and the 2018 vintage should drink well from the day it arrives. Entrecoeur is clearly from the Côte de Beaune. The fruit leans more to the red side of the spectrum — think strawberries and raspberries more than black currants and blueberries. Though the Côte de Beaune structure is there, this ripe vintage is entirely without rough edges. Put a chicken on the grill about the time that this wine arrives and you will have the perfect match for a brisk fall day.

Most St. Aubin is white, and we expected to pass quickly over the St. Aubin red 1er cru “Derrière Chez Edouarde” 2018. Instead we were much taken with it. The fruit is like that of the Bourgogne rouge but there’s considerably more substance, depth and intensity that will serve the wine well. Right now the wine would benefit from half an hour or so in a carafe, but in a few months it should show well as soon as you pull the cork. The nose is perfumed and smoky, with gorgeous floral notes; the mouth is very fine, with chalky tannins and a really attractive texture. A wine like this will match up beautifully with rich, full flavored meats like grilled Italian sausages, roast turkey, or duck confit with duckfat-fried potatoes. We finished up the sample with grilled chicken thighs and the pairing was perfect.

The Bohrmann wine that first sent us scurrying off to secure a tasting appointment was their Gevrey-Chambertin. The 2018 vintage shows beautifully dark ripe fruit. It is very Côte de Nuits, with deep earthy flavor and briary notes. There’s plenty of black currant fruit and the promise of interesting aromas to come as the wine takes on a few years of age. For wines of power and longevity, Gevrey is the big dog of the Côte d’Or. This wine fits easily into that profile, and can be expected to deliver many years of pleasure.

(case prices)

Bourgogne blanc 2018:  $350
St-Aubin 1er cru “Murgers des Dents de Chiens” 2018:  $595
Meursault “Durots” 2018:  $650
Meursault “Vireuils” 2018:  $650
Puligny-Montrachet 1er cru “La Garenne” 2018:  $995

Bourgogne rouge 2018:  $350
St-Aubin 1er cru rouge 2018:  $595
Gevrey-Chambertin 2018:  $750

Domaine Ravaut

Ladoix, Burgundy

Vincent Ravaut is a traditional Burgundian winemaker located in Ladoix, a tiny town at the base of the hill of Corton. The domaine produces excellent Burgundies of both colors, but his bottling schedule means we’re featuring only his reds this issue. (Look for the whites in January).

The Wine Advocate’s William Kelley recently made his inaugural visit to Ravaut, reporting that he “found plenty to admire,” and calling the 2018 lineup “hearty, characterful wines with plenty of stuffing.” We loved Ravaut’s 2018s, which carry the hallmarks of a sunny growing season — intense ripe fruit, mouthfiling texture, and solid structure. Vincent deftly avoided the overripeness trap set by the vintage, and his signature mineral tension and energy balance these wines beautifully. Particularly in 2018, they offer terrific value.

Ravaut’s 2018 Bourgogne rouge is everything you want in an everyday red Burgundy. There’s fresh, ripe, red fruit in the nose, alongside pleasant minerality and a hint of smoke. The mouth is concentrated and sturdy, with attractively textured tannin and a clean, vibrant finish. The fruit profile is classic Côte de Beaune: red fruits (rather than blue) and an elegant earthiness. At just over $20/bot, this real red Burgundy at an everyday price.

For considerably more depth and a darker profile, consider Ravaut’s Côte de Nuits-Villages 2018. The Ravaut vines straddle both halves of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or, and tasting these first two reds side by side the terroir shift is unmistakable. Reds of the Côte de Nuits offer darker fruit — think blackberries and plums — and a meatier, woodsier feel. The 2018 Côte de Nuits has a beautiful floral character not found in the Bourgogne, as well as extra length. Both should drink well this fall.

This year we’re suggesting two reds from Ravaut’s higher end — both will require and handsomely reward cellaring. First, the 2018 Aloxe-Corton, a village level wine with exceptional concentration. From old vines in an east facing vineyard, this wine is middleweight with excellent intensity and a serious nose showing iodine, anise, violets, and black raspberry. The mouth is long, distilled, and very tightly knit together — think a sculpted middle distance sprinter, rather than a linebacker. This will never be an enormous wine, but give it 4-8 years and you’ll have a perfumed, elegant wine full of tension and finesse.

Finally, Ravaut’s Grand Cru Corton-Bressandes. Bressandes, along with Renard and Clos du Roi, is considered the finest plot on the famous hill. The nose is massive and perfumed, with wild red fruits, fresh violets, and cocoa. The mouth is big, smooth, young and compact — Corton is a traditionally long-lived wine, and the Ravaut domaine has avoided modernizing the style. Kelley found it “full bodied, fleshy and elegantly muscular,” concluding “it has turned out very well.” Give this 5 years at least, and 10 if you can manage.

(case prices)

Bourgogne rouge 2018: $250
Côte de Nuits-Villages 2018:  $395
Aloxe-Corton 2018:  $525
Corton-Bressandes Grand Cru 2018:  $995

Nicolas Maillet

Verzé, Maconnais, Burgundy

Nicolas Maillet makes distinguished white Burgundy in the Maconnais. This part of Burgundy, which lies about an hour south of the Côte d’Or, sees more sun and so its Chardonnay tends to be more ripe and round than that of its northern neighbors. Maillet is a man of great enthusiasm. He farms organically, uses only ambient yeasts, and insists that his wines be allowed to make themselves. If in a given year that means a fermentation of three months instead of three weeks, so be it. The wines are all raised in enameled vats.

We offer three wines from Maillet. The first two are from in and around his village of  Verzé, whose limestone-rich soils always yield Chardonnay with great purity of fruit. With no oak to get in the way, the clarity of these wines is striking. The slope from which the Macon Villages comes faces west, and the late afternoon sun makes for wine that is particularly round and ripe. The Macon Verzé comes from an east-facing slope, which produces wine of more prominent minerality. Both wines are gorgeous, with distinctive lemony fruit supported by good underlying acidity. We know we’ve told you about this video before, but if you listen to Maillet himself describe these wines, they can’t help but taste better.

Maillet’s third wine is from “La Roche” in Pouilly-Fuissé, a vineyard just reclassified as a premier cru. Since 2016 he has stopped raising this wine in oak barrels. You won’t miss the wood at all, in fact it is remarkable how complete this wine is and how typical of its place. It is a wine of much intensity and concentration, definitely worthy of the premier cru label; and with reasonably cool storage you need be in no rush to drink it. All three of these wines are excellent value for the price.

(case prices)

Macon-Villages 2018:   $250
Macon-Verzé 2018:   $275
Pouilly-Fuissé 2017:   $395

Domaine des Sanzay

Saumur-Champigny, Loire Valley

The Loire Valley continues to be the epicenter of natural winemaking in France. As wine writer Rajat Parr put it recently, “In recent years, no region of France has captured the fancy of sommeliers and young wine lovers like the Loire Valley.”

We know what he means. We’ve found ourselves opening more and more Loire Valley wines recently, whatever the occasion. Organic viticulture, balanced wines, and affordable prices have all become the default in the Loire, a trend we celebrate enthusiastically.

The Domaine des Sanzay’s rosé has been a hit for two summers running now — this year’s sold out in two weeks. We’ll certainly be getting more next spring, but with autumn’s arrival near we’re returning to their reds. Red in Saumur-Champigny means Cabernet Franc, a grape that shares the stage in Bordeaux blends, but shines unblended in the Loire.

Sanzay’s signature Saumur-Champigny cuvée, made from 40 year old vines, was just delicious in 2018 — we’ve sold out, they’ve got more, so we’re importing it again. This is exactly what you want Loire Cab Franc to be: pure, joyful, unoaked, and refreshing. Clean, juicy fruits burst from the glass on the nose — think wild cherries and fine gravel. The mouth is clean, fruit forward, inky, and intense, like a juicy Beaujolais with more serious texture. Pair this with anything calling for a lively red — the wine is so jubilant and easy that you’ll want to have a bottle around at all times. Anything from cheese and crackers to a fine roast chicken will match with ease.

Sanzay’s old-vine cuvée comes from several 50 year old plots, and offers more depth and intensity. Look for concentrated dark fruit, with notes of wild cherry jam and graphite. This wine spends a bit of time in oak before bottling, but it’s not obvious — just enough to melt together the components. The tannins offer a foundation that’s solid but not aggressive, and particularly in this warm year, we think this should drink well for another 3-4 years. Serve this with duck confit over a French salad.

Finally, this year Sanzay has offered us a small allocation from Les Dares, one of their single-parcel cuvés. The vines here are nearly 60 years old, giving small yields and very intense fruit. This cuvée spends more than a year in barrel, and the resulting wine is serious, elegant, and ageworthy. We’d give this 2-3 years before trying it, and would love to try it in 10. The oak in the 2017 has already started to melt into the fruit, adding hints of mint and thyme to the dark, masculine fruit. Well-aged Cabernet Franc can rival Burgundy for subtlety and depth in red wine. This isn’t Clos Rougeard, but at under $30 a bottle, it might be a better buy.

(case prices)

Saumur-Champigny 2018:   $195
Saumur-Champigny Vieilles Vignes 2018:   $275
Saumur-Champigny “Les Dares” 2017:   $350

Domaine Bonnefond

Côte Rôtie, Northern Rhône

By now we’re used to reading glowing reviews of the Northern Rhone gems from the Domaine Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond. We shouldn’t have been surprised to see another one this year, but in May Vinous’s Josh Raynolds took the high praise up a notch, calling the 2018s “the single most impressive set of bottlings I have had here since I started annual visits with Bonnefond in 2005.” Not surprisingly, all of the scores begin with a 9.

We were impressed, too. We begin with two wines from the 2019 vintage: the Syrah “Sensation du Nord” and the Condrieu “Côte Chatillon” are always bottled a year ahead of the Côte Rôtie. Wine lovers who don’t know Condrieu, where the Viognier finds its greatest expression, should take note. It’s one of the world’s few great wines meant to be drunk young, and the wine is all about gorgeous aromas. Best served in the largest balloon glass you can find, Condrieu is a wine to enjoy all by itself. Raynolds awarded the 2019 94-95 points, finding aromas of “fresh nectarine, pear, orange and pungent flowers,” and noting that “sappy citrus, orchard fruit and honeysuckle flavors stain the palate and deepen steadily with air.” Our first experience with the wine was during summer in Provence, with the still intense late-day sun glinting in the liquid. It was a moment we’ll never forget.

Despite the modest appellation “Collines Rhodaniennes,” the Bonnefonds’ Syrah 2019 provides a way to sample their excellent winemaking at a modest price. Josh Raynolds found “blueberry, dark chocolate and a hint of black pepper” in the wine, and praised its “good depth and a touch of olive on the long, subtly tannic finish.” We haven’t sampled this vintage, but it’s a perennial favorite, and at just over $20/bot, about as good a value as you can find in the Northern Rhône.

The Bonnefond brothers’ reputation, of course, comes from their terrific Côte Rôtie. The famous “roasted slope” consists of vertiginous vineyards along a small stretch of the Northern Rhône — so steep as to preclude the use of tractors in working the vines. The Bonnefonds’ regular cuvée of Côte Rôtie, “Colline de Couzou,” is no ordinary entry level wine. Raynolds called it “awfully impressive” and “distinctly suave,” awarding it 93 points. We found the dark, ripe fruit just lovely, with added notes of pepper, minerals, and maybe a touch of iodine. Over the decades, Christophe has reduced the amount of new oak he uses, and in this cuvée he is down to just 10%. This leaves plenty of room for the interplay of the wine’s other elements, and we expect this wine to age gracefully, giving pleasure for many years.The 2018 vintage of this wine blew us away; we’d compare it to the Rochins cuvée in a less favorable year.

The two top Côte Rôtie cuvées are indeed something special, garnering 95 and 96 points from Vinous. Both are very concentrated and intense, with sweetly lush dark fruit blended with a violet floral side, exotic spices and smoky minerality. It’s very hard to choose one over the other, but you won’t go wrong with either (or both). Rozier is silkier, finer, and more mineral; Rochins a little beefier and more masuline. There’s just a bit more new oak in Les Rochins than in Côte Rozier, and in our experience Rochins takes a bit more time to come into its own. Raynolds had plenty of compliments for both. He found Rozier “impressively concentrated but surprisingly energetic, courtesy of its spine of smoky minerality;” and he thought that Rochins “manages to be rich and powerful and elegant as well, showing superb balance and velvety, even tannins that shape an extremely long, floral- and dark-fruit-driven finish.”

The Bonnefonds continue to improve their excellent winemaking, and the Northern Rhône continues to be blessed with terrific vintages. We’ve never been shy about our enjoyment of these wines, but we’re even more confident you’ll enjoy them now.

(case prices)

Syrah 2019:   $250

Côte Rôtie “Colline” 2018:  $575
Côte Rôtie “Rozier” 2018:  $725
Côte Rôtie “Rozier” 2018:  $750

Condrieu 2019:  $525

Domaine Saint-Clair

Crozes-Hermitage, Northern Rhône

The Northern Rhône produces the world’s finest Syrah, but not everyone has the budget or the patience for Hermitage, Cornas, or Côte Rôtie. Fortunately there is also Crozes-Hermitage, an appellation that produces real Northern Rhône Syrah at a remarkably good price. Our producer there is Denis Basset, who took over his family’s vines more than a decade ago after a near-death encounter with a 25,000 volt electric line.

Denis produces two cuvées of all-Syrah Crozes-Hermitage rouge: the entry-level Etincelle (French for “spark”) and an old vine cuvée called Fleur Enchantée. Etincelle offers dark blackberry fruit mixed with black pepper. Its élevage is 9 months in small oak barrels, and it carries just a hint of oak in its aromatic profile. This medium-weight wine is meant to be drunk in the first 5 years or so. “Fleur Enchantée,” an homage to the Basset family’s horticultural roots, comes from 50 year-old vines. It’s noticeably more concentrated and intense than Étincelle, shows a bit more new oak, and offers more complexity — a bit of black olive and smokiness along with the fruit. It can be cellared for up to eight or ten years. Both wines are available in magnums as well as bottles.

Basset has a small plot across the Rhône in St. Joseph, the appellation just south of Côte Rôtie. As in Côte Rôtie, the vineyards are on steep slopes. What is more, the soils are hard granite terraces, inspiring Denis to name the wine “les abimes de l’enfer,” or “the depths of hell.” The St. Joseph, also 100% Syrah, always needs a bit more time than the Crozes, but we have opened some wonderful bottles. The mineral line is more prominent here, and the wine can be aged longer as well. Look for dark, sauvage notes in the nose, with more depth and refinement than the Crozes.

The domaine also offers a single white Crozes-Hermitage called “Un Matin” (one morning). It is barrel-raised blend of Marsanne (70%) and Roussanne that is wildly popular with restaurants in the region — we waited three years before getting our first small allocation. The wine makes a delicious apéritif, blending beautiful tropical fruits, say apricot and white peaches, with floral aromas. This is a favorite at our house around Christmastime, perfect with creamy cheeses for an afternoon soirée.

(case prices)

Crozes-Hermitage “Etincelle” 2018:   $250
Crozes-Hermitage “Etincelle” 2018 (6x 1.5L):   $250
Crozes-Hermitage “Fleur Enchantée” 2018:   $275
Crozes-Hermitage “Fleur Enchantée” 2018 (6x 1.5L):   $275
Saint-Joseph 2018:   $350

Crozes-Hermitage blanc 2019:   $265

Domaine le Souverain

Sablet, Southern Rhône

Eric Chauvin is a thoughtful winemaker making carefully-crafted wines at affordable prices. His practices organic viticulture, and his wines have the hallmark earthiness of low-intervention practices. They’re straightforward and delicious: easy to buy and easy to drink.

Our perennial favorite from Chauvin’s Domaine le Souverain is his Séguret — 65% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 5% Mourvèdre. Raised in stainless steel, this wine is pure, delicious fruit: look for plums, lavender, minerals and dark berries. There’s excellent freshness and attractive tannins, making it an option for both cocktail hour and dinner. There’s lots of Rhône wine out there for under $15, but almost none of it is this good.

We’re skeptical of too much oak in wines — it’s easy for winemakers to get carried away with flashy flavors and buttery texture. And every year when we taste Eric’s unoaked Séguret (above), bursting with gorgeous fruit and flowers, we’re reminded that oak just isn’t necessary. And then… every year we taste Eric’s oaked cuvée from Sablet, and end up concluding, “you know, that’s somehow really delicious too.” The oak the Souverain Sablet reserve isn’t quiet or loud or subtle or offensive — it’s beautifully handled, and perfectly integrated. At less than a buck more a bottle, we can honestly recommend both. Our preference is probably still the Séguret, but we don’t think either will disappoint.

(case prices)

Séguret 2019:   $175
Sablet 2018:    $185

Domaine Ligier

Arbois, Jura

The Jura is only about an hour east of the Côte d’Or, but it is an alternate universe, with its own traditions in grapes, in winemaking techniques, and even in bottle size. In Burgundy one descends to the cellar to taste the unfinished wines; for the Jura’s most distinctive wines one ascends to the attic. In Burgundy the vignerons carefully top up the barrels throughout elevage to keep out oxygen; in the Jura’s attics there’s an airspace at the top of the barrel to encourage the development of a veil of yeast. We could go on, but the point is that the wines of the Jura are different. We love all sorts of wines, and drinking those outside the usual list from time to time enhances our appreciation of the whole range.

Our source in the Jura is the Domaine Ligier in the town of Arbois. Our first suggestion there the 2018 Poulsard, a red wine that somewhat resembles a dark, orange-tinged rosé. The nose is just as unusual, combining notes of herbal honey with red currants, dusty cherries, and smoke. The mouth is crisp, lightweight, and seriously refreshing — serve with pizza this fall, and if there’s any left by spring, drink it by the pool.

For truly red wines, Ligier’s 2017 Trousseau from the Arbois appellation is a bit more polished. Trousseau isn’t all that different from red Burgundy — its fruit resembles a rustic pinot noir. The 2018 is nicely ripe and medium bodied, with dark cherries, some floral notes, and a touch of toast. After some time in the bottle the wine picks up meaty notes of game. This wine is a good choice for a picnic or any venue where the purpose is refreshment rather than profound reflection.

The whites from the Jura are even more strikingly different, and we’re excited to offer three from Ligier. Here the starring grape is Savagnin. Just like a Spanish sherry or madeira, Savagnin develops its distinctive flavors through slow oxidation in those attics, under a protective veil of yeast. In fact, a fino sherry is the closest thing we know to a dry savagnin. If you like fino, you will like this wine; if you don’t, you might not. As an introduction to dry savagnin, we suggest Ligier’s Arbois “1001 Nights” 2016, a blend of 70% veil-matured Savagnin and 30% Chardonnay. It has the same dry nuttiness as a fino, but the dose of Chardonnay rounds the wine out and broadens its appeal. Look for notes of hazelnuts, dried apple, and toast.

Vin Jaune represents the highest level of oxidative Savagnin. The wine spends more than six years under the veil, over which time a third of the volume evaporates, and the wine transforms into something intense, rich, and complex. Look for a dizzying array of flavors and aromas — walnuts, hazelnuts, caramel, curry, coffee, toast, butter, cocoa, citrus zest, and more. The wine comes in traditional 620ml bottles called “clavelins,” which represents about what’s left after six years of aging 1 liter of wine. What do you do with this wine? Easy — serve it with real Comté, at least 24-36 months old, for one of the world’s iconic food-wine pairings. The pairing works beautifully for the Arbois, and even better for the Vin Jaune. (We’re fans of Vin Jaune, but as it’s unlikely to become your next house white, we’re lowering our minimum purchase to 3 bottles.)

Finally, for dessert, consider Ligier’s Vin de Paille. The reference to straw (paille) comes from the drying process that precedes fermentation. At the harvest, Savagnin, Chardonnay and Poulsard grapes are spread out on beds of straw to dry for several months. In January of February, they are pressed gently and the very concentrated juice begins a leisurely fermentation, which stops before all the sugar is consumed, leaving a naturally sweet wine. The elevage is three years, followed by bottling in half-bottles. The resulting wine has an alcohol level around 15% and shows lovely notes of fruit confit (oranges and apricots), beeswax and honey. It goes well as an apéritif, with foie gras, or after a meal, either with dessert or all by itself.

(case prices)

Poulsard 2018:   $175
Trousseau 2017:   $195

Arbois “1001 Nuits” 2016:   $275
Vin de Paille 2014:   $425
Vin Jaune 2012:   $595

Bordeaux Reds

St-Emilion, Margaux, St-Julien

Prices in Bordeaux have spiked over the last decade, fed by demand and investment from Asia and elsewhere. But beneath the stratospheric upper tier pricing lies wines of real value; Bordeaux, remember, produces ten times as much wine as Burgundy, and for careful consumers there’s plenty of interest. We’ve spent considerable time in recent years seeking out well-made wines with realistic prices, and are excited to offer two ideas from iconic left-bank towns: Margaux and St-Julien.

If you know anything about Margaux, it’s probably about the iconic Chateau Margaux. But there’s more to the appellation than the famous First-Growth chateau. Margaux’s sandy, gravel-filled soils produce some of the Left Bank’s most elegant red wines; Jancis Robinson cites their “haunting perfume” and “silky texture.” This issue we’re suggesting the 2014 Marguax from Larrieu Terrefort. This 2014 is just entering its drinking window, and we’re excited to enjoy this over the next few years. Today the nose is gorgeous, with a beautiful combination of spice, dried roses, and cool earth. The mouth is serious and masculine, with a long smooth mouthfeel and graceful finish. Drink this now (from a carafe) with well marbled steak, or hold for another 2-3 years.

Finally, we’re suggesting our first Saint-Julién. Located just south of Pauillac, this appellation is best known for combining intensity and elegance. Jane Anson MW cites “balance,” “character and finesse” as its hallmarks. The Chateau la Bridane vines lie on high gravel outcrop immediately next to those of Léoville-Las Cases, and the wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (47%), Merlot (36%), Cabernet Franc (13%), and Petit Verdot (4%). We’re importing Bridane’s 2017 St-Julien, so a bit of patience will be required, but we found lots to like. Look for a traditional, serious nose, with inky notes of plums, cigar, iodine, and earth. The mouth is intense and firm but nicely polished, long but not voluminous — at 13% alcohol this is more like the classic Bordeaux of a generation ago. We’re excited to see how this develops, and invite you to join the ride.

(case prices)

Chateau Larrieu-Terrefort Margaux 2014:   $425
Chateau la Bridane Saint-Julien 2017:  $450

Jacques Robin

Côtes des Bars, Champagne

We’re pleased to be revisiting our newest grower Champagne source: the Domaine Jacques Robin. Most Champagne, including our primary source Pascal Bardoux, comes from the three main subregions: Montagne de Reims, Côte des Blancs, and Vallée de la Marne. But Robin is in the increasingly popular Côte des Bar, a southern satellite subregion of Champagne about half way between Reims and Dijon.

The soils of this region are the same Kimmeridgian mixture as nearby Chablis — a blend of chalk, limestone, and clay, rather than the chalk-limestone of the rest of Champagne. The addition of clay gives the wines a broader mouthfeel than those from northern Champagne, and we found all four Robin wines delightfully rich on the palate.

First, Robin’s rosé Champagne, called “Cuvée Rubis.” Made from 100% pinot noir, this shines an attractive dark salmon in the glass. The Robins allow some of the grapes to soak on the skins, and press others for clear juice; then they combine the lots and vinify together. The resulting wine is approachable, well-priced, and delightful. The nose shows strawberry, raspberry, lime zest, and cassis — indeed tasted blind we might have guessed it already a kir. The mouth is dry and beautifully textured, with clean fruit and just a shadow of tannin. The Guide Hachette gave a star, citing its “delicateness” and “good length.” This is hardly Robin’s most elegant cuvée, but at around $30/bot it’s hard to think of a more pleasant (and prettier) glass.

A half-level up their price scale, we’re suggesting two cuvées — Topaze (pure Chardonnay), and Secret de Sorbée (pure Pinot Noir). The difference in these wines is striking. Topaze is refined, elegant, and subtle; the nose is fresh and clean with notes of lemon, chalk, and green apple. The mouth beautifully blends citrus and earth — it calls to mind a white Burgundy with bubbles. The Secret de Sorbée might be a bit less subtle, but it’s no less delicious. The nose is darker and fuller, with notes of autumn spices and a wilder apple, maybe braeburn. The mouth is fuller too — richer in body, still dry, but with added texture and length. The Topaze is a sharply tailored banker’s suit; the Sorbée is a three-piece in tweed. We think you’ll look good in both.

And finally we’re returning to Robin’s finest wine, their vintage cuvée “Kimmeridgienne.” The 2007 of this wine made many fans among our readers, and we’re excited to offer the 2011 vintage, which we found a worthy successor. Made from 100% pinot noir, the wine spends 7+ years on the lees, and the payoff in depth and complexity is immediately evident. The nose is gorgeous and refined, showing notes of cream, brioche, creme brulee, coffee, and hazelnut; the mouth is dry and very long, with notes of candied fruit, chalk, and butter. Vintage grower champagne of this caliber can easily cost twice this or more — if there’s room in your budget, we expect this to surprise and delight.

(case prices)

Champagne “Rosé” NV:   $385
Champagne “Topaze” NV: $425
Champagne “Secret de Sorbée” NV:   $425
Champagne “Kimmeridgienne” 2011:   $725

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, SEPTEMBER 20.

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 Pennsylvania. Many of those who aren’t near Boston will choose to collect their wine in Sharon Hill, PA. For such people, we offer pickup at a new storage location for a month after arrival.

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.