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Champagne!

Amid Champagne’s glitz and glamour, winemaker Pascal Bardoux stands out. His cuvées are quietly exceptional — his tasting room is his small untidy office, where we taste slowly and thoughtfully from an old beat-up leather sofa. “Le marketing” is nowhere to be seen.

And Bardoux’s wines, humble and delicious, are comparative bargains. Much mass-market Champagne that gets to the US fetches between $75 and $100 a bottle; Bardoux’s small-batch Brut Traditionnel doesn’t even crack $50 — twice the wine at half the price.

The Guide Hachette calls Bardoux’s non-vintage brut cuvée, “a champagne for all occasions.”

Bardoux’s Brut Traditionnel is an excellent entree to the collection. A blend of 60% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir, this wine has the complexity and depth to match the finest bottles from Burgundy or Bordeaux. The nose shows plum, chalk, lime zest, and buttered biscuits; the mouth is dry, elegant, and smooth, with notes of apple and toast.

We can’t recommend this wine highly enough. There’s plenty of opportunity to enjoy Champagne as we close out the decade this month. But it’d be a shame to limit yourself to just the celebratory moments. Try pairing with sushi, creamy cheese (Delice de Bourgogne or Brillat-Savarin for example), or gougères.

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Bardoux Champagne Brut Traditionnel NV
bottle price: $49

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Bursting, Delicious Old-Vine Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc. $22

If a good Pouily-Fumé bursts from the glass with energy and life, winemaker Frederic Michot is a perfect embodiment of his wines. He sports the same no-nonsense attitude found in a glass of his Pouilly-Fumé: pure Sauvignon blanc, no oak, clean and crisp.

Michot’s side of the river may be less famous than his neighbor Sancerre, but he isn’t willing to concede it any advantage. His wines are exceptional Sauvignon blancs, full of precision, focus, clean dry fruit, and beautiful tension. Sancerre deserves its fame and acclaim; but Pouilly-Fumé is its scrappy underdog cousin, with just as much to offer, and at a better price.

Michot’s Pouilly-Fumé Vieilles Vignes is refreshing, unoaked, mouthfilling and utterly delicious. His 2020 old vine cuvée is terrific – we served it at a large family party last month to universal acclaim. Michot combines a ripe, sunny vintage with bursting tension underneath the gorgeous fruit. There’s lots of inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc around — most of it isn’t half this good.

The nose shows mango, grapefruit rind, and straw; the mouth shows ripe grapefruit, lime rind, and honey. The wine is at once mouthfilling and electric, with the persistence of richness and freshness found in finest Sancerre.

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Michot Pouilly-Fumé VV 2020
bottle price: $22

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Rich, Vibrant, “Fleshy” 2019 Red Burgundy

New winemakers in Burgundy are hard to come by. It’s a tiny region, and between small harvests, ever increasing demand, and well-established importers, it can seem there’s nothing new to discover. Which makes us even gladder of our most recent Burgundian find: the Domaine Boursot in Chambolle-Musigny.

Neal Martin of Vinous writes of a “foundation for a promising future,” and describes Boursot’s wines as “superb,” “excellent,” “very fine,” and “worth seeking out.” Having received our third vintage from Boursot, we’re pleased to report our (and Neal’s) initial enthusiasm was well founded.

Boursot is best known for their excellent Chambolle-Musignys, which are excellent and come highly recommended. But their hidden gem is their Côte de Nuits-Villages. Made from vines immediately on the other side of the wall from Chambolle royalty Frédy Mugnier’s famous Nuits-St-Georges 1er cru “Clos de la Maréchale,” this greatly overperforms its class.

The 2019 is as good as you’d expect from an outstanding vintage and supremely well-located terroir. It’s classic Boursot style: the nose is dark and briary, with Côte de Nuits cassis and hints of black pepper and toast. The mouth is punchy and juicy, with a woodsy mouthfeel laid over lots of beefy extraction. The tannins are approachable and youthful, full of energy and texture without an ounce of harshness.

Neal Martin found “plenty of energy and charm,” with a “fleshy” palate and “quite a sensual finish.” Bill Nanson wrote simply “a great CDNV! Bravo!” Is it as good as the $175 Premier Cru Nuit-St-Georges next door? Nope. But at a quarter of the price it’s easily a better buy — loaded with character, presence, and depth.

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Boursot Côte de Nuits-Villages 2019
bottle price: $42

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“Chiseled,” Bone-Dry 93-point Austrian Riesling

The Salomon-Undhof estate dates to 1792, and is currently on its 7th and 8th generation winemakers, father and son Bert and Bert Salomon. Their terraced vines overlooking the Danube have long been an excellent source, with the country’s preeminent wine guide calling them a “figurehead of Austrian wine history.”

Austria is best known for its Grüner-Veltliner, but Salomon also produces some terrific Riesling. This is bone dry, made from 30-50 year old vines — concentrated and intense, and with extraordinary complexity. It may cause you to rethink what’s possible from this much-maligned grape.

The just-arrived 2019 Ried Kögl Riesling is simply magnificent. It offers gorgeous dry fruit rippling with tension and minerals. The mouth is long and tense with concentrated fruit and loads of beautifully textured dry extract. The finish is dry, compact, and pulsing with energy.

Jancis Robinson found it “really well chiseled” and “particularly precise,” concluding: “classic dry Riesling with real vibrancy.” Robert Parker’s reviewer was similarly enthusiastic, awarding 93 points and finding it “clear, precise, and elegant.” He writes “this is a rich, salty-refined and very stimulating Riesling with perfectly ripe fruit and lingering salinity,” before concluding simply, “Excellent.”

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Salomon-Undhof Riesling Kögl 2019
bottle price: $28

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Delicious White Burgundy from an Iconic Winemaker

All of the winemakers we work with in Burgundy are grower-producers, meaning they farm their own grapes and produce their own wine. But over the last few years of severely diminished yields, we’ve seen several winemakers add “négociant” operations, making additional wine with purchased grapes under another label. These cuvées often put winemaker skill on display, and such is the case with the wines of Caroline Letsimé.

Though we no longer offer Caroline Lestimé’s brilliant wines under her traditional Jean-Noël Gagnard label through our regular channels, we’re excited to have a few of her “négoce” cuvées in stock – both of this year’s show off Caroline’s technical cellar chops, and carry the signature glossy Gagnard character.

Caroline’s Savigny-les-Beaune is a bit out of left field, but trust us, you want some of this. No, it’s not really near Chassagne (it’s up a side valley west of the city of Beaune), and it’s the first Savigny in our cellar. But this wine is a tremendous value, and will delight any lover of white Burgundy.

The nose is bright and perfumy, with lemon, stones and faint herbs. The mouth shows beautiful sucrocité, with a sleek round texture that finishes vibrant and fresh. As with all of Caroline’s wines, the interplay of oak, fruit and earth is seamless. With its excellent freshness we expect this to drink well for a number of years.

Tasted blind we’d have placed it in St-Aubin or even Meursault. It’s easily the best Savigny-les-Beaune we’ve ever had, and will make any fan of the Gagnard style smile.

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Lestimé Savigny-les-Beaune blanc 2019
bottle price: $55

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Fresh, Jam-Packed 2020 White Burgundy

White Burgundy is an easy wine to pair with food. At the high end, an ageworthy bottle Meursault or Puligny can exceed the subtlety and depth of a red Burgundy. Paired with a lobster risotto or veal in cream, it’s a marriage of opulence and charm.

But white Burgundy also answers the call for something uncomplicated and reliable — a Monday night pasta dish, or a hearty bowl of mussels. Gerard Thomas’s Bourgogne blanc has been our go-to white burgundy for over a decade. It has become a “house white” for many of our readers, and we’re honestly not sure what we’d do without it.

Thomas’s 2020 white Burgundies are unusually good – a hot year with low yields concentrated both the fruit and the acidity, producing wines jam-packed with flavor and freshness. All of Thomas’s 2020s deliver far above their classification, and the Bourgogne particularly so. Classy yellow fruit palate pulses with energy and golden fleshy roundness – this is entry-level only in name and price.

The nose is soft and elegant, with hazelnut and toasty oak notes melting into lemon and baked apple fruit. The mouth is round and mouthcoating, with delicate freshness acidity balancing a shimmering core. It’s delightful on its own – if you open a bottle while you’re still making dinner, better have a second bottle at the ready.

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Thomas Bourgogne 2020
bottle price: $29

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Pure, Essential Chablis: Unoaked Premier Cru White Burgundy

More than anywhere else in Burgundy, winemakers in Chablis have felt the impact of recent warm vintages. Earlier harvests and more sun exposure have meant riper grapes and wines with fleshier, richer textures. This style of Chablis can support more oaking, and some winemakers have begun to increase the exposure to oak barrels.

Not Cyril Gautheron. His commitment to original Chablisien style is unwavering, and even today’s premier cru, bursting with an extra dose of citrus fruit and energy, is 100% stainless steel. Gautheron’s 2020 Chablis 1er Vaucoupin is pure, shimmering, and unadorned — a modern Chablis in a perfectly classic style.

Gautheron’s vines here are 50 years old, and produce intense concentrated juice. The clay-rich, south-facing soils produce a wine that Cyril somehow manages to reign into a neat, precise package. We found a terrific blend of fruit, freshness, savory herbs and minerality, with a hint of saline on the finish. Bill Nanson found “saline-edged citrus complexity. Chablis pure!”

Oaked whites and raw fish don’t get along well, but that’s no concern here. Pair this with tuna tartare, crudo, sushi, or – most perfectly – raw oysters. Or a lobster bisque and a fresh spring salad.

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Gautheron Chablis 1er “Vaucoupin” 2020
bottle price: $39

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Cool, Refreshing Delicious 2019 Red Burgundy. $34

Sofie Borhmann is a bit of an anomaly in Burgundy. She’s not French (she’s from Belgium), not well known, and exports very little to the US. In a tiny region with exploding demand and skyrocketing prices, her wines are quiet, well priced, and relatively unknown. We found them on a restaurant list in Beaune, and after some persistence managed to track her down.

It was worth the effort – her wines have become favorites among many of our readers for their clarity, meticulous oaking, and excellent pricing. Most of her wines in our portfolio are whites, but her reds – particularly today’s Bourgogne rouge – are terrific as well.

This is everything Bourgogne rouge is supposed to be – low oak, lovely red fruit, excellent energy, and a perfect Burgundian blend of earth and berries.

Borhmann’s Bourgogne vines are across the RN-74 from Pommard. At 35 years old, they’re more mature than many Bourgogne-level vines, and their fruit produces a wine of real complexity. She uses 70% whole clusters, giving the wines excellent definition and exquisite tension.

The nose shows seductive, crushed ripe red fruits, overlaid with a soft floral character. The mouth is perfectly ripe, smooth, and delicious, with fine chalky tannin supporting the bursting fruit. The 2019s possess an extraordinary balance of fruit, tension, and texture — some cuvées are destined for future greatness, but this one requires no patience.

This is everything you want from an everyday Bourgogne rouge. Nobody you serve it to will know the domaine, but after a sip or two they won’t care.

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Bohrmann Bourgogne rouge 2019
bottle price: $34

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Wine that Wants to be Water: Delicious, Bone-Dry Muscadet. $22

We’re not sure where you’re reading this from, but we hope it has air conditioning. Everywhere from Beaune to Boston to Bordeaux has been baking this week. When it’s warm out we like to drink Chablis and cooled Beaujolais; but when it’s this brutally hot, there’s just one answer: Muscadet.

Muscadet is a crisp, precise, dry white wine that is the essence of freshness. It’s also abundant and inexpensive. Made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape, the best examples are raised “sur lie” (on the lees) to add complexity. In recent years Muscadet has undergone a reinvention of sorts with the elevation of three of the region’s best towns to a new “Cru Communal” status.

Today’s wine comes from one of these leaders in the new wave of Muscadet. Martin-Luneau is a family domaine farming old vines on the plains south of Nantes. Today we’re pleased to release the 2016 “Gorges” Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine. Combining exceptional terroir with extended years on the lees, this is an unusually complex take on a classic.

The 2016 Gorges is a perfect antidote to late summer muggy weather. It’s pure and clean, showing melon, dried spring flowers, and lemon zest. The mouth is smooth and very dry, with notes of salt air, stones, and green apple skins. It’s refreshing and full of energy.

Oysters are the longstanding pairing of choice with Muscadet, and the thick savoriness in this wine is an exceptional foil for the fresh brininess of an oyster. Make sure to drink lots of water this week – but once you’re well hydrated, pour yourself a chilly glass of Muscadet.

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Martin-Luneau Muscadet “Gorges” 2016
bottle price: $22

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Elegant Refreshing Northern Rhône Syrah. $24

Syrah grown in most of the world is bold, rich, smooth and voluminous. In the Northern Rhône the grape takes on a different style: lower alcohol, less mouthfilling, more spice, more energy. Recent scorching summers have blurred this style a bit, but 2020 was a welcome return to normal. Decanter writes of “A reliably fresh, balanced and approachable vintage – a return to classicism.”

Praise continues to pour in for the Domaine Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond. Their Northern Rhône reds are pure syrah, and display an exquisite balance of texture, fruit, subtlety and depth. The wines continue to improve each year — Josh Raynolds of Vinous declared his tasting last year “the single most impressive set of bottlings I have had here.”

Christophe’s 2020 syrah is terrific and calls to mind a ballet dancer – strong and chiseled but quick and light on its feet. The nose is spice forward, with black pepper, nutmeg and rosemary – the black fruit is there but taking a back seat to the savory elements. The mouth is gorgeous and refined, with refreshing tension and lovely intensity – it’s perfectly extracted, leaving not an ounce of harshness. Pretty and precise instead of ponderous.

In 2020 the blurring lines between Northern Rhône Syrah and “global” Syrah have snapped into focus – there’s only once place this wine could be made. Time will tell how the 2022 vintage turns out (it hit 101 degrees in the Côte Rôtie yesterday), but this wine at least is a welcome dose of freshness.

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Bonnefond Syrah 2020
bottle price: $24

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Gorgeous 2019 White Burgundy from Meursault

Well-priced white Burgundy is getting harder to find. Chablis continues to be a great source of value, and particularly in the summer we find ourselves pairing crisp, unoaked Chablis with almost everything. But sometimes the meal calls for a white with a bit more gravitas, and for such an occasion we head to the heart of Burgundy. 

Prices on white Burgundy from the Côte d’Or are headed skyward, but there are still pockets of value if you know where to look. A few years ago we stumbled across Sofie Bohrmann’s wines at a Beaune restaurant. Formed in 2002 with just 1.5 hectares of vines, she has no other US importers and almost zero critical reviews.

Bohrmann is a master of careful oaking. Her terrific cuvées from Meursault, Puligny, and St-Aubin channel each town’s terroir with honesty and precision – just enough wood to support the wine, but not enough to get in the way.

Borhmann’s Bourgogne blanc comes from 40 year old vines, giving the wine an intense, distilled mouthfeel and excellent length. The 2019 is an extraordinarily complex wine for its level. The nose is smooth, elegant, floral, and concentrated, with more than a passing resemblance to Meursault. The mouth is cool, impressively long, and vibrant — ripe and ready to drink immediately. 

This continues to be among the most impressive regional-level Bourgogne blancs we’ve tasted in years, and it keeps getting better. Pair with a plate of shrimp scampi.

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Bohrmann Bourgogne blanc 2019
bottle price: $34

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The Best Sub-$40 Red Burgundy in Our Cellar

Michel Gros produces some of our favorite red Burgundies. His style is smooth and elegant, with warm, enticing notes of toast, red berries, and a silky texture. Gros’s village level and premier cru wines can be truly extraordinary, but they often need investment and patience to achieve their potential.

But not all Gros wines hail from such exalted zip codes. Gros makes several “petits vins,” which aren’t as complex or long-lived, but offer a chance to sample his brilliance at a more affordable price. Particularly in a stellar vintage like 2019, his regional level wines overperform by a mile.

Gros’s best regional-level cuvée is the Fontaine-St-Martin, a large 7 hectare plot split between white and red. This is always a step above the rest of Gros’s regional wines, and in 2019 the distinction holds true. Burghound found it “outstanding,” “excellent,” and a “big and rather serious wine by the standards of the appellation,” with a “sneaky long finish” and “excellent volume.”

The nose shows perfume, toast, red berries, and minerals, with a precision and tension that reminded us of a village Morey-St-Denis. The mouth is rich and deep, with lots of concentration and complexity. Blind taste someone on this and they’d put it somewhere on the Côte de Nuits. Only you (and your wallet) will notice the difference.

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Gros HCDN Fontaine-St-Martin 2019
bottle price: $39

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