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On August 2, 2012, I visited Chateau Latour-Martillac in Pessac-Leognan for a tour and tasting with Tristan Kressman, one of the principals of the Chateau, the other being his brother Loic. The Kressman family has owned and operated the vineyard since the 1930’s. The Chateau first appears to be a fairly compact physical structure with the singular exception of a large “Tour” or tower at the front. From this vantage point, the interior of the Chateau grounds and production facilities are hidden from the eye. As one rounds the structure and turns into the interior courtyard , a much larger production/warehouse facility or “chais” is revealed. It is a charming spot on a slope with a nice look-out to the Pessac hills sloping toward the river.
Chateau Latour-Martillac is one of my favorite Chateau because their wines represent to me the essence of the Pessac-Leognan terroir at a reasonable price. The reds display the classic Pessac flavors of cedar, charcoal, cigar-box and powerful dark fruit. The whites are often flinty and tightly wound but are bound up in wonderful melon and fig fruit flavors and aromas. In top vintages, the whites have the structure to age up to 20 years.
The wines have not found a huge press or consumer following in the U.S. and this has helped keep the prices down to earth. It is a friendly and welcoming Chateau with a very nice visitor’s area that features the history of the Chateau and sells the wines to visitors. The wine is made under the direction of the two Kressman brothers, a full time oenologist (Valerie Vialard) and Denis Dubordieu. Dubordieu was the white wine consultant for Chateau Latour-Martillac for ten years and is now involved with the red wine as well since the 2006 vintage. Annual production of the grand vins is about 15,000 cases from 42 hectares. 80% of this production goes into the red wine and 20% into the white wine. The red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The white is usually about 65% Sauvignon Blanc and the rest of the wine is made with Semillon.
After the tour, we tasted a vertical of the red and the white. Below are my notes and few Parker numerical scores.
Grand Vin Rouge
2001 Chateau Latour Martillac Secondary flavors of cedar and cigar now becoming more pronounced in this wine. Ready to drink now.
2005 Chateau Latour Martillac Still displaying the brute force of the vintage. Mouth tightening concentration and tannins envelope this wine in a package bound for long-term development.
2006 Chateau Latour Martillac Pleasingly concentrated and well put together for the vintage. The first vintage under Dubordieu.
2008 Chateau Latour Martillac Excellent freshness and concentration. A value vintage since it was released during a difficult economic environment.
2009 Chateau Latour Martillac A beauty. Sweet and perfectly integrated tannins bound up in glorious fruit. A great wine from this estate and meant for long term cellaring. RP 94
2010 Chateau Latour Martillac Bottled in May and showing it. Has the fruit concentration of 2009 , one will have to see if the tannins and oak round out as nicely as the 2009. RP 90-92
Grand Vin Blanc
2005 Chateau Latour Martillac Blanc Just coming out of its shell now.
2008 Chateau Latour Martillac Blanc Powerful acid and fresh fruit but less complete than the others whites.
2009 Chateau Latour Martillac Blanc Packed with great fruits characteristics and framed in wonderfully intense acid. Will age for a long time. RP 94
2010 Chateau Latour Martillac Similar to the 2009 but with perhaps a touch less fruit. Also build to age. RP 90-93.
With such a charming name, it may be hard to turn down a chilled flute of Stéphane Coquillette’s NV Carte D’Or Premier Cru Brut $45/btl. Located in Chouilly, a Grand Cru classified village in the Cote des Blancs, Champagne Coquillette is run by fourth generation winemaker Stéphane Coquillette. Stéphane’s grandparents established Champagne Saint-Charmant (see, it’s all about the charm) in 1930, which Stéphane’s father, Christian, then took over in 1950. When it came for Stéphane’s turn, his father sent him off to start his own brand, hence, Champagne Stéphane Coquillette.
To fully appreciate and understand Champagne Coquillette, it is crucial to go back to the roots…literally. The vineyards are planted in limestone soil and chalky rock, stretching tens of meters deep. This type of rock, called “roche mère” is capable of soaking up water in order to supply the vines with adequate hydration during dry spells. This particular soil is key to contributing specific aromas and flavors of the wine.
Coquillette offers several excellent champagnes, but our favorite is the NV Stéphane Coquillette Carte d’Or Premier Cru Brut, a blend of Grand Cru and Premier Cru Pinot Noir (about two thirds) and Chardonnay (one third). This pale yellow bubbly exhibits citrus-rich aromas of lemon and grapefruit, blackberry fruit and hints of smoke and vanilla. Some of the lemon and citrus notes carry on over to the palate which brings a refreshing flavor to the taste buds. Also present are floral notes, which carry through to the energetic and pleasant finish.
The great thing about champagne is that in can be enjoyed in accompaniment with almost anything: various appetizers, desserts, cheeses, or nothing at all! For Coquillette’s Champagne, we have chosen a stellar match: crab cakes topped with a mango salsa. This duo is one you don’t want to miss out on, so check out the simple recipe above and grab yourself a bottle of NV Stéphane Coquillette Carte D’or Premier Cru Brut to charm away any dinner party!
Picture this: you are sitting outside; it’s hot but not unbearably humid. You have a chilled glass of white wine in your hand which reveals an occasional sweat bead dripping down the smooth crystal of the glass. What do you have in your hand? A fabulous Chablis. More specifically, Vincent Dampt’s 2008 1er Cru Chablis Vaillons $25/btl.
When you give this glass of Chardonnay its first little swirl to lift those aromas to your nose, you get a fresh and cool bouquet with florals, spice and some earthy tones. Now take a sip. There is balance and purity in the wine showcasing lemon zest notes, with the finish lingering in a pleasant mineral explosion. Hopefully, as you are sitting outside with that glass in hand, you just happen to have some pan-seared scallops, pepper and garlic marinated prawns, or oysters with a fresh shallot sauce. Really, any type of shellfish is quite a treat with this Chablis.
The origin of this wine and its namesake, is the famed Burgundy town of Chablis. Vincent Dampt’s estate, producing solely Chablis wines, makes up slightly less than 3 hectares and lays along the left bank of the Serein River. The vineyards are planted in Chablis’ famous Kimmeridgian soil; a mix of clay, chalk and marine fossils which provide the wines with their beautiful minerality.
Born into a family of winemakers, Vincent developed an interest in the wine industry at the young age of 14, when he enrolled himself into a Beaune wine school. Vincent was able to broaden his wine knowledge by training in the Jura, working with Olivier Leflaive in Puligny-Montrachet, and travelling overseas to work in New Zealand’s Marlborough region. He then returned home to France and began producing wines with his father in 2002, until 2004, when he inherited some pieces of land. At that point, he began producing wines under his own name, Vincent Dampt.
Getting back to the glass that you are ideally still holding, I would like to pass on several tasting tips particular to Chablis wines.
-Temperature: For a Chablis Premier Cru in particular, the ideal serving temperature is 50-53 degrees Fahrenheit.
-Opening the bottle: Make sure to cut the cap under the ring of the bottle neck so that the wine does not touch the cap when it is poured.
-Glassware: Serve the wine in a specific Chablis glass which has a tulip shape with a narrower opening. This shape will allow the wine to access the palate in the perfectly precise way so that the flavors are enhanced to their maximum potentials.
Le Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet first saw mediocre success under the ownership of poet-vigneron Roland Thevenin in the 1950’s and during the 30 or so years that followed. In 1985, he sold the property to the Chablis firm Laroche, which several years later passed on the estate to Credit Foncier, a subsidiary of Caisse d’Epargne, who produced commercially-popular wines. Then, in 2002, BNP banker Etienne de Montille took over as director of the estate and the makeover ensued. His first major move was to transition to organic and biodynamical viticulture, which he successfully achieved by 2005. Additionally, under Etienne’s reign, the Domaine has grown from 15 to 21 hectares (37 to 51 acres) of healthy, fruitful vineyards. Not only did he work deliberately at transforming this estate, he also began taking a more active role in his family vineyard in Volnay, Domaine Hubert de Montille.
The Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet estate covers 23 appellations in the Burgundy region including some prestigious ones such as Chassagne-Montrachet and Nuits-St.-Georges. Most of the production consists of Chardonnay wines, although 7 out of the 20 hectares are dominated by the noble Pinot Noir. The 2009 Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet Bourgogne Blanc Clos du Chateau $24/btl is a product of 4.5 hectares (slightly more than 11 acres) of vineyards in the heart of le village of Puligny-Montrachet, one of the best Chardonnay-producing areas in the world. The “Bourgogne” title, whether rouge or blanc, covers wines that are produced in locations that do not have specific appellations and can be produced from grapes in one or more of 300 communes.
With the first swirl of this lightly golden wine, wafts of lemon verbena, straw and ripe citrus first awaken the nose. On the palate, floral notes and minerality are present with slight acidity and a long finish to bring an overall harmonious presentation in the mouth. Grab a bottle to see for yourself!
It’s not often that you get the chance to taste a Chardonnay from Burgundy’s Cote-Chalonnaise village of Mercurey, given that 90% of the village’s output consists of vin rouge. Citrus and fruit aromas are the first to tingle the nose on this Joseph Faiveley Mercurey Blanc Clos Rochette 2008 $25/btl followed by a light smokiness and wet stone. On the palate, notes of minerality and florals are distinct and crisp. The silkiness that ensues in the mouth gives it an extremely smooth finish, bringing along with it notes of pineapple and sweet apples.
At $25 per bottle, this Chardonnay is a great pick for a warm summer night dinner or barbeque, and pairs nicely with a variety of seafood dishes. Below you can find a grilled shrimp kabob recipe from Chef Billy Della Ventura to pair with this gem. All you need to do is fire up that grill, assemble your kabobs and pop a bottle of Faiveley’s Clos Rochette to enjoy a wonderfully paired and simply delicious meal.
Now for a little background and a brief history lesson…
Domaine Faiveley was founded by Pierre Faiveley in 1825.The Domaine’s reputation took hold in the early 19th century when many Burgundian wine producers began traveling to Northern Europe to trade their wines for textiles.Today, the Domaine rests in the hands of seventh generation Erwan Faiveley.The family owns vineyards in some of the most prestigious appellations such as Pommard, Gevrey-Chambertin, Volnay and Puligny-Montrachet, among others. Several climats are owned exclusively by the family including Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos des Issarts, Beaune 1er Cru Clos de L’Ecu, and the Corton Clos des Cortons Faiveley Grand Cru. Not bad, right?
There is no better way to welcome the warm weather and the summer ahead than by opening the season’s first bottle of crisp, refreshing berry-scented rosé. As Memorial Day approaches, thoughts of lazy summer afternoons, balmy evenings and plenty of well-chilled rosé are filling my head. I couldn’t be more excited that rosé season is finally here!
Defending Rosé’s Reputation
This charming pink-hued wine has had to overcome a somewhat sullied reputation. Sadly, its resemblance to cringe-worthy “White Zinfandel” has caused many to disregard this delicious, elegant wine. A side note on White Zin – This rosé imposter became popular in California and the U.S. during the 1970s and 80s, at a time when white wine was more fashionable than red. Producers like Sutter Home capitalized on the fad, crafting pale colored wines from red grapes. Sutter Home’s first batch of semi-sweet White Zin was actually a fermentation gone-awry where the yeast died out before consuming all of the sugar. Enough about White Zin though, we’re talking about rosé!
Colors & Styles
Coming in a range of colors, from the very palest of pinks to darker ruby-purple toned shades, rosé is one of the most aesthetically pleasing wines to behold. Some have hints of orange, while others display vibrant tones of iridescent magenta.
Rosé is made from just about every red grape you can think of, but the most common are the varietals of France’s Southern Rhône Valley – Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsaut and Mourvedre. Rosés made in the south of France are most often dry and can range from delicate, pale pink, lighter styles to more full, robust, darker pigmented examples, depending on the combination of grapes used as well as the winemaking process. One of the Southern Rhône’s most notable rosé appellations is Tavel, producing dry wines that are fuller bodied and well-structured. Within the Loire Valley, the Anjou region is well known for Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grolleau based rosés, which are produced with varying levels of sweetness.
The pink wines of Spain are called rosado and are usually made from the Garnacha grape (the Spanish equivalent of France’s Grenache). Spanish rosados are usually made in a darker, fuller-bodied and more robust style than their Provencal counterparts. In Italy, rosé translates to rosato, and are there made with an array of Italian grape varietals, depending on the region, such as Nebbiolo in Piedmont, Sangiovese in Tuscany and Negro Amaro in Southern Italy. The majority of Italian rosatos are darker colored and more full-bodied. California has followed the example of Southern France, making some delightful rosés from the Southern Rhône varietals, among others. Pink wines are made in every wine producing region of the world, so there are many to explore and enjoy!
Rosé Wine Pairings
Rosé is incredibly food friendly. Here the brisk acidity and refreshing quality of a white wine come together with the body and structure of a red wine, making it compatible with a range of dishes. To quote Julia Child, “Rosés can be served with anything.” Far too often, this versatile wine gets pigeon-holed as an aperitif or salad course wine, when in actuality, it pairs marvelously with more substantial main course dishes, like grilled pork, roasted chicken and stewed fish. Some sublime rosé pairings that are not to be missed include cured meats, fish that has been fried, grilled or stewed, grilled pork and grilled shrimp.
The food and wine pairing possibilities don’t stop here though…this remarkable wine works well with barbecue flavors, sausage, hamburgers, Mexican food, egg dishes and pâté. Rosés that have a touch of residual sugar are perfect for spicy cuisines, like Szechuan and Thai food. And of course, just about any salad gets along well with this cool, crisp rosy wine! Salad Niçoise is the classic pairing in this category and one of my personal favorites for hot summer weather.
How It’s Made
Rosé usually starts its vinification journey as if it were going to be made into red wine. There are effectively three methods used for making rosé wine. The most widely used method, and the way that rosés have traditionally been produced in Europe, is by shortening the amount of time the grape skins and juice stay in contact after the grapes are crushed. During this maceration period, the skins are left to sit on the juice for one to three days, imparting some of their color. Once just enough color has been extracted, the pale juice is then drained or run off the skins and fermented the same way that white wine is almost always fermented, in stainless steel tanks.
The second method, most often used for Grenache grapes, is called saignée. Here the grapes are destalked and lightly crushed, then allowed to sit on their skins for eight to 12 hours. The pale colored juice is then run off from the skins and continues on to fermentation.
In the third method, red grapes are pressed and the juice is immediately run off the skins for fermentation, so there is no maceration period. This is the process used for making the wine that is called vin gris (literally ‘grey wine’) in France.
In the EU, it is illegal to make quality rosé by blending red and white wine together. The only exception here is in Champagne, where blending is sanctioned. Rosé Champagne is made by blending white wine from Chardonnay with red wine from Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier.
Rosés to Try Now
If you’re looking for the perfect summertime quaff, the 2010 Bieler Pere et Fils Sabine Rosé Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence is wonderful, showing aromas and flavors of raspberry, cherry and wild strawberry, along with racy minerality and bright acidity. You’ll want to drink this rosé every chance you get this summer.
The 2010 Domaine Saint Ser Cotes de Provence Saint Victoire Rosé Prestige is an elegant summer wine, offering delightful aromas of wild red berries, hints of watermelon and lemon zest. This is a great wine with salmon dishes, and ideal for traditional Provencal meals such as Bouillabaisse.
The 2010 Prieure de Montezargues Tavel Rosé is an exceptional wine from the Southern Rhône’s Tavel appellation. This rosé has enticing style and finesse, showcasing raspberry and strawberry notes, along with subtle peach aromas. On the palate, red berry flavors mingle with Provencal herbs and spices, resounding in the full-body, freshness and length of this gorgeous wine.
From the renowned Guigal estate, the 2010 E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rosé is a blend of native Rhone varietals – 50% Grenache, 40% Cinsault, 5% Mourvèdre and 5% Syrah. On the nose, fresh, expressive aromas of raspberry, redcurrant and citrus leap from the glass. On the palate, this wine offers pure flavors, ripe fruit, great balance and plenty of finesse.
Finally, traveling to Italy, the 2010 Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo Il Mimo Nebbiolo Rosato is a fabulous, food friendly Northern Italian rosato made from the Nebbiolo grape. This delightful rosé is very true to Nebbiolo’s character, offering red fruit, handfuls of raspberries and red currants, along with beautiful floral notes. The 2009 Il Mimo is lovely, crisp and refreshing with plenty of backbone, firm tannins and a mineral-laden finish. This is an excellent wine for food pairing and will complement everything from fish to heartier meat dishes.
To browse all of our delicious rosés and to stock up on this excellent summer wine, CLICK HERE.
The buzz surrounding 2009 Burgundy began long before its release and now that these wines are available for purchase, the excitement over this truly spectacular vintage continues. While rumors that 2009 was going to be the next 2005 have been laid to rest for the most part, it is clear that both vintages share a superior quality and success that spans the entire region, from Chablis to Beaujolais. It is true that the praiseworthy 2009 vintage is the most widely successful since 2005, yet the two vintages are different and 2009 has something very enticing to offer, the drink me now element!
At this point, it would be remiss to not mention the profundity of the 2008 vintage. The difference between ’08 and ’09 is that the former will require patience and needs more time in the cellar, whereas the latter is already showing marvelously – instant gratification.
Back to ’05 versus ’09. Dry conditions in 2005 caused vine stress and led to high tannin levels. These strong tannins plus the vintage’s higher acidity are the recipe for serious structure and great aging potential. Burgundy’s 2009 growing season was marked by a hot, sun-filled August with below average rainfall. However, there had already been enough rain in May, June and July to prevent drought, giving the fruit softer tannins and lower acidity than the conditions in 2005. The resulting ’09 Burgundies are delicious, fruity and showing beautifully now. Intensely fragrant with concentrated flavors, these wines are approachable in their youth, but will no doubt age as well as their great predecessors, such as those from the 1999 vintage.
2009 has proven to be terrific vintage for both red and white wines. The reds offer rich aromatics and fruit flavors, with soft tannins and pleasant textures. These Pinot Noirs may not age quite as long as their 2005 counterparts, yet they possess the allure that draws us to red Burgundy again and again, that elusive elegance and grace. The delicate fruit aromas, floral fragrances and whisperings of exotic spices sing in this superb vintage.
The 2009 white Burgundies are equally as seductive. These rich, soft Chardonnays are nothing short of being delightful to drink now. Excellent balance, plentiful fruit and pure, persistent minerality give these wines poise and magnetism.
The youthful charm of the 2009 vintage makes these wines extremely difficult to resist. Those who have patience will surely be rewarded, but one could argue, why not start drinking the 2009s while I’m waiting for my 2005s to become more approachable?
Buying Guide: Top Producers and Wines
Christophe Cordier is a hot name in Burgundy’s winemaking scene. Located in the Maconnais region, in Fuissé, Domaine Cordier is known for premium wines made from the very best vineyard sites. Pure, focused aromatics and opulent, intense well-balanced flavors are hallmarks of Cordier’s style. His wines offer both extraordinary quality and value. Christophe is a proponent of crafting wines from hand-harvested, low yielding vines and minimal intervention in the vineyard. Fermentation is carried out in wood, giving the wines integrated flavors and incredible texture.
Both the 2009 Domaine Cordier Pouilly-Fuisse Vielles Vignes ($24) and the 2009 Domaine Cordier Vire Clesse Vieilles Vignes ($37) are excellent white Burgundies to try. At these prices, you could open these wines and enjoy them any night of the week!
Domaine Marc Morey is one of the Côte d’Or’s most renowned and sought after producers. In the 1950s, Marc Morey began making wine in the cellar of his family’s 100 year-old home, establishing his domaine in the heart of the Chassagne-Montrachet village. Today, Morey’s daughter Marie-Jo and her husband Bernard Mollard carry on the legacy that he began, making focused, terroir-driven wines. The domaine’s ownership spans nearly 25 acres of Villages, Premier and Grand Cru vineyards. The couple’s daughter, who works with them at the estate, will continue the family’s tradition of winemaking.
We are excited about everything that Domaine Marc Morey has to offer, from their 2009 Domaine Marc Morey Rully 1er Cru Rabource to their 2009 Domaine Marc Morey Chevalier Montrachet. These are white Burgundies that you won’t want to miss out on.
Domaine Joblot, located in the tiny village of Givry, in Burgundy’s Côte Chalonnaise, is a small producer crafting some very serious red Burgundies. Here, brothers Jean-Marc and Vincent Joblot work together to create powerful, fragrant wines that are truly sublime. The brothers take meticulous care in their winemaking, carefully selecting grapes from low yielding vines, destemming 100% of their fruit and using the finest oak barrels. The resulting wines are limited production and superior quality with a style resembling the best of Chambolle-Musigny. It is no wonder that Domaine Joblot has developed a cult following!
Domaine Joblot wines are superior quality at incredible price points. Available quantities of the 2009 Domaine Joblot Givry Celliers aux Moines and the 2009 Domaine Joblot Givry Clos de la Servoisine will not last long.
Domaine Joseph Drouhin is one of Burgundy’s finest and most important domains, showcasing the very best of each area within the region. From the beginning, Drouhin’s style has been elegant, balanced and harmonious, always striving for perfection in its wines. Domaine Joseph Drouhin wines possess a distinctive purity of taste. In their youth, they have fruity and alluring aromas, and as they age, these wines develop extravagant complexity. Crafted to age gracefully for up to forty years or more, the Drouhin portfolio is filled with gems from the very best Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards.
Some of Domaine Drouhin white Burgundies to try now, or to add to your cellar, include the 2009 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches and the 2009 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet. For Drouhin red Burgundy, the 2009 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Volnay and the 2009 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Vosne-Romanée are superb choices!
Henri Boillot is a 5th generation winemaker in Burgundy and has established Maison Henri Boillot as an exemplary Burgundian producer. Boillot family has been growing vines in the region since 1855, founding Domaine Jean Boillot in 1885. Henri took over the family estate in 2005, after making a name for himself with his own négociant business and his rich, powerfully styled Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Henri’s stunning wines convey his meticulous technique and passion for natural, sustainable farming practices that maintain the soil’s authentic character.
Henri Boillot’s wines are produced from only the finest sites in the Cote d’Or. Whether a Bourgogne Blanc or Clos Vougeot Grand Cru, Boillot uses the very best grapes, resulting in wines of sublime purity and distinction.
If you’re interested in trying these extraordinary red and white Burgundies, we recommend the 2009 Maison Henri Boillot Volnay Les Chevrets, the 2009 Maison Henri Boillot Meursault Les Genevrieres and the 2009 Maison Henri Boillot Puligny Montrachet Clos de la Mouchere.
Domaine Faiveley is located at the heart of both Burgundy and the Côtes de Nuits, in Nuits-Saint-Georges. Founded by Pierre Faiveley in 1825, Domaine Faiveley has been passed down through seven generations. The family owns vineyards in some of Burgundy’s very best regions, including Gevrey-Chambertin, Pommard, Volnay, Puligny-Montrachet, Mercurey and more.
Domaine Faiveley is known for its fine, age worthy wines, the result of exceptional vineyard sites and a particularly lengthy fermentation period. Faiveley’s wines are transferred to oak barrels for maturation and stored in their vaulted cellars, which date back to the 19th century.
The 2009 Domaine Joseph Faiveley Chablis Les Clos, the 2009 Domaine Joseph Faiveley Gevrey Chambertin Clos des Issarts and the 2009 Domaine Joseph Faiveley Gevrey Chambertin Les Cazetiers are just a few of this legendary producer’s highly-rated wines.
Named for the beautiful port city on the Garonne River, the Bordeaux wine region is the pinnacle of prestige, producing the most celebrated and desired wines in the world. The region has a long and rich history of vine growing and winemaking, with written record dating back as far as the first century! From the Atlantic Ocean, the region spreads southeast along the banks of the Gironde Estuary, eventually branching off into the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers with vineyards sprawling from their vital shores.
Situated at 45° latitude, Bordeaux has a temperate, maritime climate, due to the influence of the Gironde Estuary and the region’s close proximity to the Atlantic. On the coast, giant sand dunes and evergreen forests aid in the moderate climate and protect the vineyards from powerful ocean winds. All of these environmental factors combine and result in mild weather year-round. The springs are usually pleasant with plenty of rain, ensuring water supply for the growing season, and summers are generally sunny, hot and humid. The temperature typically remains warm with nice coastal humidity well into the fall. This temperate climate, strongly influenced by the ocean and rivers, has the potential to vary greatly from one year to another, which is why knowledge of each vintage is so important when considering the wines of Bordeaux.
The red and white wines of Bordeaux are almost always made from a blend of different grape varietals. The reason for this is directly related to the variant weather patterns and climatic differences between years. The various grapes each have a different reaction to the weather, so by planting different grapes and blending their wines, winemakers can make good wine even if the weather was bad during the growing season. The main grapes used for Bordeaux’s red wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, and for the white wines of the region, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle.
For any wine lover, it is a worthy investment to spend some time getting acquainted with Bordeaux, its various areas and wine styles. Not only does it produce some of the most exquisite and age-worthy wines, Bordeaux has also had an enormous influence on winemaking styles and techniques throughout the world, most notably in the “New World” regions of California, Chile, Australia and South Africa.
Areas and Appellations
Bordeaux is divided into three main areas: the Left Bank, the Right Bank, and the area between the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers, called Entre-Deux-Mers (meaning ‘between two seas’). There are three levels of Appellation Contrôlée (AC) status in Bordeaux. The Generic AC status is at the base of the pyramid and can be given to wines produced anywhere in Bordeaux. Generic appellations include Bordeaux AC and Bordeaux Supérieur AC. District AC is the next step up and can sometimes be the highest status possible for certain areas, such as Entre-Deux-Mers. A District AC can encompass multiple Commune ACs. For example, the Haut-Médoc is a District ACs, which covers a handful of the most prestigious communes. Commune AC status is at the top of the pyramid and is the highest designation in Bordeaux. The only exception is Saint-Émilion Grand Cru AC, which is superior to the commune status of Saint-Émilion AC.
The Left Bank
The Left Bank of Bordeaux hugs the western shores of the Gironde Estuary and the Garonne River. This area is divided into three main district appellations, from north to south: Médoc, Haut-Médoc and Graves. The Médoc AC and the Haut-Médoc AC lie west of the Gironde, and the Graves AC is south of the city of Bordeaux and lies west of the Garonne.
The Left Bank is renowned for long-lived, red wine blends in which Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape varietal, and Merlot and Cabernet Franc make up a lesser proportion. Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in the gravel and clay soils of the Left Bank, which support water drainage, and the very best wines come from the vineyards with more gravel content. Five commune appellations are famous for producing some of the finest Cabernet blends in the world: Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Margaux within Haut-Médoc, and Pessac-Léognan in Graves.
The Left Bank is also home to the infamous white wine appellations, Sauternes and Barsac, known for their sublime botrytis-affected dessert wines. These luscious, sweet wines are made from a blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. The Sémillon grape is thin-skinned and therefore highly susceptible to botrytis mold under the right conditions – misty and humid autumn weather. These grapes are carefully hand-harvested and produce luxuriant, sweet wines that are high in refreshing acidity.
The Right Bank
The Right Bank of Bordeaux lies east of the Gironde Estuary and the Dordogne River. Here, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are the main grape varieties, with small amounts of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon grown as well. This area is home to the important commune appellations of Saint-Émilion, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, Pomerol, Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac.
Saint-Émilion, the namesake of the charming, picturesque town is the most significant of these appellations. Within Saint-Émilion, the vineyards cover a range of soils and produce a variety of wine styles. The appellation can be divided into three different areas, each with a special soil type. To the northwest, the gravel and limestone soils are more conducive to Cabernet Franc vines. To the southeast, the elevated plateau has high limestone content and produces the finest Merlot dominated blends. Many of the wines classified as prestigious Saint-Émilion Grand Cru come from the limestone rich vineyards of these two areas. These wines are marked by complex red berry qualities, opulent tannins and cedar notes that develop with age. The third growing area is located at the base of the elevated plateau and is composed of sandy soils. The wines from this area are lighter-bodied with relatively lower price tags.
The Pomerol appellation lies in close proximity to Saint- Émilion and boasts intriguing, rare wines that come at a higher cost. These wines offer rich notes of blackberry and a unique spiciness. The prestigious vineyards of Pomerol include the legendary Pétrus and Le Pin.
Finally, the Right Bank’s greatest value wines come from the appellations of Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac, which are to the west of Pomerol.
Between the Rivers
The Entre-Deux-Mers appellation lies in between the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers and produces Bordeaux’s dry white wines from Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. The important commune appellation of Saint-Croix-du-Mont is located here, making divine sweet wines that are similar to Sauternes.
Bordeaux’s Classification System
Bordeaux’s well-known 1855 Classification has remained intact to this day, despite many changes to the individual estates (châteaux) and their properties. It all came about in the event of the 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris when Napoleon III requested an official classification of Bordeaux’s best wines. The wine brokers got together and devised a system, based on their own judgment as well as market values, which organized 61 châteaux into five classes according to importance, first through fifth growths. Bordeaux’s Chamber of Commerce then presented the 1855 Classification at the exposition and it has been in place ever since.
Under the 1855 Classification, all of the red wines are from the Médoc appellation, with the exception of Château Haut-Brion, from Graves. It is an undertaking to memorize all of the château and their classifications, but the five First Growths (Premiers Crus) are relatively easy to remember:
Château Mouton-Rothschild (classified as Second Growth until 1973)
Château Haut-Brion (Graves AC)
The classified white wines were all from the Sauternes appellation, with Château d’Yquem given Premier Grand Cru Classé status, followed by 11 First Growth châteaux and 14 Second Growth châteaux.
In 1932, the Cru Bourgeois classification was introduced, which includes 200 plus estates and is essentially the status just below Fifth Growth. The three Cru Bourgeois classes: Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur and Cru Bourgeois, are meant to be updated every ten years or so. The wines of Graves were classified in 1959, and, unlike the 1855 Classification, each listed wine is simply awarded Cru Classé status.
Saint-Émilion has a unique procedure in which classifications are built into the appellation system. The Saint-Emilion Grand Cru appellation is divided into the following: Premier Grand Cru Classé, Grand Cru Classé and Grand Cru. Every 10 years, the châteaux in the region can submit their wine to be considered for initial Grand Cru classification or for reclassification.
As consumers setting out to explore Bordeaux, there is a wealth of knowledge to wrap our heads around. It is important to have a general understanding of the various areas and wine styles of the region because this will help in choosing bottles that are to your taste. For those of us who fall in love with Bordeaux, it may be worthwhile to delve a bit deeper into more specific knowledge of the great vintages, the châteaux and the classification system.
If you’re just getting acquainted, start out with a selection of red wines from both the Left Bank and Right Bank. There are many reasonably priced Bordeaux wines out there that are perfect for exploring and comparing Cabernet Sauvignon-based Left Bank blends and Merlot-based Right Bank blends. Pop a bottle open with your next meal, or set up a side-by-side tasting comparison of wines from the two areas. And don’t forget to try the delicious, refreshing, dry white wines from the Entre-Deux-Mers.
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Burgundy is one of the world’s most intriguing wine regions, best known for its exceptional Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays produced in an awe-inspiring array of styles. With its multitude of appellations and vineyards, each having a unique terrain, Burgundy offers an unsurpassed study in the highly sensitive nature of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to various growing conditions. While Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the most renowned of Burgundy’s grape varietals, the red Gamay and white Aligoté are also among the main grapes grown in the region. Gamay is the star of the Beaujolais region, flourishing in the granite soils there, and Aligoté is mainly used in sparkling wines.
Deciphering Burgundy’s classification system can be confusing, to say the least. When examining a wine list or an individual wine label, different vineyard names can appear next to a single village name, which is further complicated (thanks to Napoleonic Law) by the various vineyards having multiple owners, each producing their own wines for better or worse. Understanding Burgundy’s nomenclature and the characteristic styles of each region will give you an upper hand when shopping for your next bottle. So, how does the system work and what should we look for on the label?
First, let’s get acquainted with the five regions of Burgundy. From north to south, these are: Chablis, Côte d’Or (Côte de Nuits & Côte de Beaune), Côte Chalonnaise, Mâconnais and Beaujolais. Burgundy’s classification system is quite unique and is significantly different than that of Bordeaux. In Bordeaux, individual producers (château), are awarded Premier Cru or Grand Cru classifications, while in Burgundy, these classifications are given to individual vineyard sites, which are then elevated to Appellation Contrôlée (AC) status. Thus, Bordeaux has about 60 appellations compared to Burgundy’s 600 plus!
In ascending order, Burgundy’s hierarchy begins with Regional Appellation Contrôlées (ACs), which always include the word Bourgogne in their name. There are generic Bourgognes, which can come from anywhere in Burgundy, such as Bourgogne Rouge and Bourgogne Blanc, as well as more exclusive regional ACs; i.e. Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune.
The next step up the ladder are District ACs, which exclude the word Bourgogne in their title and are named according to the wine regions of Burgundy. District ACs include Chablis, Mâcon, Côte de Chalonnaise, and so on.
Village (a.k.a. Commune) Appellations
Next up, we have Village Appellations, which are named after specific villages and divided into two groups: non-Premier Cru villages and the more elite Premier Cru villages. The name of the village (commune) will always appear on the label and will sometimes be accompanied by a specific vineyard, if the wine comes from only one vineyard site. However, if the vineyard is not Premier Cru, its name will appear in smaller print on the label.
Premier Cru Appellations
Premier Crus are esteemed single-vineyard appellations, which explains the plethora of ACs in Burgundy. To further complicate things, each vineyard (called climat in Burgundy) can have multiple owners, each producing their own wine. A vineyard under sole-ownership is distinguished as monopole on the wine label. Premier Cru status will almost always appear in print on the label, but may sometimes be designated by the village and vineyard name sharing the same font size.
Grand Cru Appellations
Finally, at the very top, we have the most prestigious Burgundies of all, those distinguished as Grand Cru appellations. There are a total of 33 Grand Crus, one in Chablis, and the remaining 32 in Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune, along the Côte d’Or. Labels of Grand Cru wines simply state the vineyard name, since these names are so well recognized in the region. For example, Chambertin and Montrachet are Grand Cru vineyards, located in Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune respectively.
When considering the wines from the Côte d’Or, we encounter a number of hyphenated names, such as Gevrey-Chambertin and Puligny-Montrachet. The reason for this? In the early 1900s, some of the villages along the Côte d’Or decided to hyphenate their village name to their very best vineyard, in order to increase sales of their village wines. In the case of Puligny-Montrachet, Puligny is the village, and Montrachet is the Grand Cru vineyard.
Wine Styles by Region
Chablis, always 100% Chardonnay, is arguably the most elegant expression of this grape in the world. This northern-most region in Burgundy, located in the valley of the Serein River, has a challenging, cool climate, which is reflected in its wines. The soils of the region are predominantly limestone, with the best wines, the Grand Cru and Premier Crus coming specifically from Kimmeridgian limestone. Characteristically, the wines of the region are lighter bodied, with citrus and green fruit flavors, high acidity, and refreshing minerality.
The “Golden Slopes” are so named because the vineyard leaves turn a brilliant gold color at the end of the growing season, after harvest. To the north, the Côte de Nuits produces full-bodied, age-worthy, Pinot Noirs that are second to none. These Pinots offer aromas and flavors of cherry, raspberry and strawberry that evolve into savory, gamey characteristics. To the south, the Côte de Beaune produces some of the world’s most complex, premium Chardonnays as well as lighter styled Pinot Noirs. These Chardonnays are fermented and aged in new French oak and can age beautifully for a decade. They have a fuller body, intriguing texture and unrivaled complexity.
The Côte Chalonnaise produces Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that are similar to those of the Côte d’Or, but at lower price points.
Farther south in the Mâcon region, Chardonnay is King. Thriving in the warmer climate and limestone soils, these wines are characteristically rich and full-bodied with ripe citrus flavors. The most distinguished wine of the region is Poully-Fuissé, offering aromas and flavors of peach and melon, and savory qualities from barrel aging in new French oak.
Beaujolais is home to the Gamay grape, which produces fruity red wines that taste of cherry and raspberry. A special winemaking technique called carbonic maceration can impart unique aromas of bananas, bubblegum and sweet spice. Beaujolais often gets dismissed as a less than serious wine region that produces insipid Beaujolais Nouveau, the youthful wine released each year on the third Thursday of November. However, there are those of us who appreciate the fun, fruity character of Beaujolais Nouveau, and find the presence of banana aromas in wine to be more interesting than off-putting. Wines labeled as Beaujolais-Villages AC come from the villages in the north of the region and make up a quarter of production. The Beaujolais Crus are the most distinct, highest quality wines of the region. There are ten cru villages in total: Saint-Amour, Juliénas, Chénas, Moulin à Vent, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Morgan, Régnié, Côte de Brouilly and Brouilly.
Terroir and Burgundy’s Classification System
Terroir is a French term that encompasses the individual soil, landscape and climate of a particular growing region. This concept is the backbone of Burgundy’s classification system. The Cistercian monks, who began acquiring vineyards in the region during the 11th century, were the first to explore, observe and record the affects of terroir on grape growing. Discovering the influence of individual growing sites led the Cistercians to begin recognizing the various Crus. Consequently, the Burgundian classification system, with its scores of appellations, was born.
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My first meeting with Jeremy Seysses occurred as he dined with Robert Bohr, formerly the wine director of Cru. Robert had selected a bottle of Villa Bucci Verdicchio Riserva 2005, and a magnum of the Conti Constanti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1997. Four worries immediately came to mind.
1. Crap, I hope both of these bottles are still in stock.
2. Crap, what kind of glass would they prefer for the verdicchio?
3. Crap, do we have perfectly polished glassware?
4. Who the hell is Dujac and why are the wines so expensive?
A year later, after meeting and tasting with Jeremy, only three of these worries still remain, and the fourth has been answered to great satisfaction. Simply put, Dujac is one of the finest domaines in not just Burgundy, but in the world.
The best of Burgundy often consists of small, family-run operations, and Domaine Dujac is no different. Jeremy’s father, Jacques, first purchased Domaine Marcel Graillet in Morey-St.-Denis in 1967. Slowly but sure over the last 40 years, their holdings have increased within the Côtes-de-Nuits, encompassing the other important villages of Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, and Vosne-Romanée. A small négociant company, Dujac Fils et Père, has also been established, and these wines demonstrate the same, exacting standards and nuances as the Domaine wines. Above all else, the wines of Dujac are all about the most natural and unobtrusive expression of grape and terroir in a bottle.
Before the Burgundies were poured, we tasted two wines of a relatively new project of the family, Domaine de Triennes, in Southwest France. Even with my enormous handicap of having virtually no blind-tasting skills, both the white and red Vin de Pays du Var were immediately recognizable as viognier and a cabernet-syrah blend. The viognier was light, fragrant, with none of the heaviness or lack of acidity that often mars these wines as being tiring to drink. The cabernet and syrah, along with a dollop of merlot, each contributed its intrinsic, dominant qualities of cassis and black pepper, respectively, and the result was a harmonious blend of which most Napa vintners would be jealous. The oak from older Dujac Burgundy barrels played a minor role, gently buttressing the fruit with a touch of smoke and roundness.
Of course, it was still the Burgundies that stole the show. Of the five from the 2008 vintage, two stood out unanimously: the Puligny-Montrachet from the négociant arm, and the Chambolle-Musigny.
The Puligny was exactly as it should be, a pure, unadulterated version of young chardonnay with multiple dimensions. A mix of citrus, stone and tropical fruit aromas weaved in and out, all with a refreshing backbone of acidity and minerals. Not knowing where the grapes were sourced, my best guess is that a significant amount came from Premier Cru vineyards. While it does not quite reach the level of Grand Cru, it certainly drinks as well as many Les Pucelles or Les Demoiselles, and betters many Premier Crus. The only catch? This wine is made in such tiny quantities that only 209 cases were produced. And the pricing is half as it should be!
The Chambolle-Musigny, which to my surprise was tasted after the Gevrey-Chambertin, was the star of the reds. Clive Coates sums up the village poetically: “Delicate, yes; but feeble, no.” This eloquent description fits Dujac to a tee. The wine is silky, seductive, with sweet, soft tannins that invite you to take another sip. Ripe wild strawberries and red cherries dominated the bouquet. While the Gevrey and the Morey were both very good quality for the village-level, they were simply outclassed by the Chambolle. The finest village-level Chambolle I had tasted up to this point had been the Cathiard Clos de l’Orme; the Dujac is right there as well.
The most insightful part of the hour spent with Jeremy, however, was not tasting the wines themselves. Unlike many other winemakers, proprietors, importers or distributors, Jeremy simply told a few brief stories, interspersed with a couple of sarcastic yet observant remarks about the wine industry in general. Aside from providing some technical information, he saw no reason to boast of his wines, nor recite ratings from popular publications. Is it a mere coincidence, then, that both the business and wine making philosophy is one and the same, that is, to let the wines speak for themselves?