Italian Wine Producer Reminisces About Past Truffle Hunts In New York City’s Central Park

As a group of people were led by a very enthusiastic dog, they were sometimes distracted by the diverse natural beauty of their surroundings – gentle slopes that were accented by a range of colorful autumn trees one minute and the next minute, a swath of flat grassy land that would lead to rocky ravines. From the viewpoint of onlookers, it was just a bunch of people going for a fast-paced walk with an adorable Lagotto dog that seemed like a living stuffed animal with its abundant curly, wool-ish coat. Even though some dog owners passed the Lagotto dog with their own dogs, she wasn’t dissuaded from her mission as her owner gave her an important task. Truffles, she was searching for truffles! In New York City’s Central Park of all places!

Tony May, a famous New York City restaurateur and fierce promoter of authentic Italian cuisine was behind these truffle hunts in the 1990s. His elegant Italian restaurant, San Domenico, located across the street from Central Park, opened in 1988 to rave reviews and one of the main signatures of his establishment was using top-quality truffles from Piedmont, Italy, in various dishes. Fiorenzo Dogliani, the family owner of Beni di Batasiolo – a winery in Piedmont, Italy, reminisced about the good ol’ days as he had lunch at Marea, a fantastic Italian fine dining restaurant that eventually took over the space where San Domenico used to be located. Fiorenzo expressed a warm laugh of delight as he talked about all those glorious truffles Tony would bring in – 110 to 132 lbs of truffle at a time. “There was somebody who took a flight every day to go to Milan to buy truffles [for Tony during truffle season],” exclaimed Fiorenzo. And he further noted that “one kilo” of white truffles, which is the equivalent of 2.2 pounds, can be worth “$8,000”.

Truffles and Barolo 

Bussia Bofani estate
Photo Credit: Beni di Batasiolo

Truffles grow wild in the forests of the Langhe province of Piedmont and they can typically be found underground near the roots of trees. A great deal of training goes into educating the right dog to become a truffle dog as the animal needs to be able to find these truffles underground by sniffing them out while at the same time refraining from trying to eat them. The Lagotto Romagnolo (a.k.a. Lagotto) is the dog of choice in Italy for finding truffles, with females preferred as often they have a better-developed sense of smell.

Fiorenzo Dogliani and his family certainly know the great expression of terroir these beautiful truffles add to a dish as they are the largest family-owned winery in the Langhe, with most of their vineyards planted with Nebbiolo in the distinguished wine area of Barolo. And so, the Dogliani family has truffle as well as Barolo in their blood, and like so many others, considers Barolo and truffles to be one of the most incredible pairings in the world.

Fiorenzo Dogliani
Photo Credit: Beni di Batasiolo

Beni di Batasiolo is a third-generation family owned winery that first invested in the Langhe in the late 1970s with a focus on premium vineyards in the acclaimed Barolo appellation1. Today, they are the largest family-owned winery in the region, with 70% of their production coming from Barolo among their 321 acres of vineyards. Fiorenzo owns Beni di Batasiolo with his brothers and sisters yet he is the one who has been put in charge of taking on the role of managing director for over 30 years, receiving many accolades for his contribution to the Italian wine world.

Traditionally, Barolo was a wine made up of a blend of different vineyards from various sub-sections of the Barolo appellation, and so, it gave an expression of the myriad of facets of this terroir.  Today, that is still considered by many producers to be their flagship wine, as it is the most important wine in terms of reaching the most amount of consumers. Recently though, there has been a focus in Barolo on bottlings of single cru vineyards from outstanding parcels, which were plots always known to top producers as being special yet were never individually bottled by many of these producers as there was no market for such wines. Beni di Batasiolo, with Fiorenzo leading the way, has brought a focus to these special plots by bottling many of these incredible vineyards starting more than three decades ago, and their commitment to single vineyard expression from top crus in Barolo is even in their name, as “beni” translates into “estate” and “Batasiolo” is their central vineyard where their winery and cellar is located.

Symbiotic Relationships 

Beni di Batasiolo vineyards
Photo Credit: Beni di Batasiolo

Truffles have a symbiotic relationship with the trees that live above ground within the vicinity where they typically grow underground as the truffle will give additional water and nutrients to the tree and the tree rewards the truffle with sugars. It is like the relationship between Fiorenzo Dogliani and Tony May, as Tony was on a mission to bring authentic Italian fine dining to NYC but it would be nothing without the right wines on the list. And Fiorenzo’s Barolos could never be appreciated if they were not served in an atmosphere that appreciated the fact that some of the greatest wines in the world were Italian. And since Piedmont wasn’t a popular place to visit back in the 1990s, it was essential to somehow transport people to this exceptional food and wine region without having to leave New York City, and hence, why the truffle hunts were a brilliant idea.

Today, Piedmont has become a popular place to visit in Italy and many have been able to go directly to the motherland, taking truffle hunting and winetasting tours, so there is not so much of a dire need to recreate the truffle hunt again in NYC. Beni di Batasiolo has even opened its own luxurious resort and spa in the Serralunga d’Alba part of Piedmont called Il Boscareto, which has a stellar wine list that carries all the wine producers in the Barolo designated area. But Fiorenzo still remembers those truffle hunts in Central Park that took place around 20 years ago like it was yesterday and those memories are even more prominent in his mind now, as his good friend Tony May died last year in April.

And he still misses those New York City truffle hunts, although he misses the man behind them a lot more.  

***Link to original article published on Forbes:

Beni di Batasiolo tasting at Marea in NYC
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2021 Beni di Batasiolo, Gavi del Comune di Gavi Granée: 100% Cortese. When it comes to high-quality white wines in Piedmont, Gavi tops the list. This 2021 was simply lovely with blanched almonds and wet river stones on the nose with a hint of thyme with good tension on the palate and a bright lemon confit flavor with lots of energy.

2012 Beni di Batasiolo, Barolo Riserva: 100% Nebbiolo. Supple tannins with lots of juicy black cherry fruit with rosemary oil and campfire ash with a sustained, flavorful finish.

The following five single vineyard cru wines come from the 2013 vintage. According to Fiorenzo Dogliani’s wife, Paola Marrai, who helps him run the winery, 2013 was a good year for the Nebbiolo grape in Piedmont as it was a late harvest “about 15 days later.” So there was more balance with ripeness as the skins had more time to mature. Also, there were big swings in temperatures between the day and night right before harvest, so, lovely aromatics were retained while also reaching an ideal level of ripeness for the grapes. 

2013 Beni di Batasiolo, Brussia Vigneto Bofani, Barolo: 100% Nebbiolo. A pretty nose with pressed rose petals and black licorice with a hint of tar adds to the complexity of the aromas and a slight grip to the tannins mid-palate, yet the finish has lots of finesse.

2013 Beni di Batasiolo, Brunate, Barolo: 100% Nebbiolo. Complex nose from the start with crushed rocks, wild mushrooms and fresh leather with a silky texture and round palate with lots of fleshy cassis fruit.

2013 Beni di Batasiolo, Cerequio, Barolo: 100% Nebbiolo. Enchanting nose with lilacs, baking spices and crushed white pepper that has bright red cherries on the palate intermixed with a chalky minerality and sculpted tannins that suggest that it will make great old bones.  

2013 Beni di Batasiolo, Boscareto, Barolo: 100% Nebbiolo. Deliciously generous with red currant chutney over blackberry cobbler balanced by notes of fresh basil leaves and cracked black pepper with big, broad tannins that finished with incense and dried flower aromas.

2013 Beni di Batasiolo, Briccolina, Barolo: 100% Nebbiolo. Concentrated dried red cherries with dusty earth and sweet tobacco leaf on the nose that opens up with juicy fruit on the full-bodied palate with mouthwatering acidity.

The following is the same vineyard yet from 1996, and hence, 17 years older.

1996 Beni di Batasiolo, Briccolina, Barolo: 100% Nebbiolo. Enticing nose of truffle and grilled lamb makes this wine irresistible, with still lots of fresh fruit and vitality with jasmine tea and tar dancing across the seamlessly integrated tannins.

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2 Million Wine Bottles In The Cellar Of One Of The Most Prestigious Italian Wine Producers

Library of Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico wines Photo Credit: Cantine Bertani

The antique lights, with their long necks connected to the otherworldly vaulted ceilings, gave a soft, warm glow to the never-ending wine barrels lining the stone walls. All those Slavonian oak casks filled with delicious wines emitted the most intoxicating smells and gave a thrill to those in their presence. Yet the most awe-inspiring experience was further down the corridors of the cellar, where numerous cubicles with iron gates kept some of the most precious items locked away. The Amarone wines of Bertani were tucked away in those cellars, and by the mid-1980s, over two million bottles of Amarone della Valpolicella Classico were kept safely within the Cantine Bertani wine cellars located in Valpolicella, Italy.

And despite Amarone not finding a market until the 1980s, family owner Guglielmo Bertani kept making these elegantly complex Amarone wines for decades, and so, he cellared them away until, over time, two million bottles were collected.

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico

Barrels in the Bertani cellar
Photo Credit: Cantine Bertani

The historic wine producer Bertani might have been established in the 1850s by the Bertani brothers but their legend began when Amarone was born in the 1950s. During the ’50s, the great wine of Valpolicella was the sweet red wine called Recioto della Valpolicella as it was a wine made from grapes that were harvested and left on straw mats to dry for some time; due to the drying process, a significant amount of water would evaporate leaving the grapes more concentrated with flavors and sugars. During the fermentation process, once a certain alcohol level was reached, the fermentation was arrested, leaving enough residual sugar to make it a sweet wine. But in the 1950s, a few producers had some of their Recioto fermentations go too long, to the point where all the sugars had fermented into alcohol and the Amarone dry wine was born.  

In 1958, when Guglielmo Bertani was first faced with the magic elixir that would become known as Amarone in his barrels that usually made Recioto, he was highly intrigued by this succulent, multifaceted wine. Since he knew very little about making a serious dry red wine, he sought the help of a winemaker from the Piedmont region of Italy, famous for the iconic Barolo wines. The winemaker knew nothing about Amarone or the soils and native grape varieties of Valpolicella but the more he tasted those Amarone barrels, the more he fell in love with the wines. He ended up partnering with Guglielmo as the winemaker for Bertani. They would unite to make Amarone wines on the same level as the best Barolos, based on expressing the terroir of the best plots in Valpolicella. Guglielmo continued his promise to devote himself to making Amarone, whether it sold or not.

Today, the director of winemaking of Bertani, Andrea Lonardi, gives an idea of the market demands back in the 1980s and before, as he said, when it came to the total sales of Recioto and Amarone before the ’80s, it was broken down into 98% Recioto and 2% Amarone, then ten years later it was 50/50, but today it is 99% Amarone and 1% Recioto.  


Andrea Lonardi holding up white limestone and red limestone from Bertani’s vineyards
Photo Credit: Cantine Bertani

A few factors make Bertani unique within the realm of Amarone producers in Valpolicella. The first is their soils – despite having a combination of limestone and red limestone which is typical in top vineyards, they also have the most amount of volcanic soils as Andrea Lonardi noted that Bertani owns almost 70% of the vineyards with volcanic soils in the designated Valpolicella area; giving a distinctive “iron” note to their wines as they age. The second is their drying process, typically called “appassimento” by other Amarone producers, yet they use the “messa a riposo” rules, which translates into “laying out to rest.” Today, many Amarone producers use rooms where the drying process takes place, controlling the temperature and humidity. Instead, Bertani places the grapes on a single layer of bamboo racks to dry in natural conditions, selecting 30% of their top selection of the harvest.

Drying process “messa a riposo”
Photo Credit: Cantine Bertani

For Bertani, the drying process isn’t just a method, it is part of the expression of the terroir within a particular time frame. That time frame doesn’t only end with harvesting the grapes but it ends once the drying process has finished and so the vintage is an expression of what happens during the growing season and the drying process. Also, another layer to the theory of the drying process being part of the expression of place are the research studies conducted in Valpolicella that show the main grape variety used for Amarone, Corvina, will go through genetic alterations, that heighten the terroir expression, during the drying process that has been linked to specific plots within the Valpolicella wine area.

And the third factor is that Bertani releases their Amarone wines seven to eight years later than most Amarone producers, as their 2012 was just released. The wines age in Slavonian oak casks until they are released and Andrea estimates that they lose an equivalent of 25,000 bottles of wine due to the wine evaporating in the barrel. “And so, it means in ten years, we are losing 250,000 bottles,” exclaimed Andrea, and he further described the multilayered complexity created by the wines evolving in barrel for several years but also the addition of young Amarone wine, as topping up the barrels is necessary and so the last two vintages are used; the fresh fruit combined with the aged aromas and flavors make Bertani Amarone a “light and succulent wine.”

Andrea Lonardi leading a vertical tasting of Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico in New York City Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

After leading a vertical of Bertani Amarone wines at The Modern restaurant in New York City recently, Andrea marveled at the 1967, how it was like an “Italian sword” with that iron quality evident in the wine with an oxidative evolution while still having a lot of tension that was fierce in its delivery on the palate. He noted that it was like a great old Barolo as he made the point, “This is what we want to drink when we say we want to drink an Italian wine!” And he is thankful to work for an iconic winery with an extensive Amarone library that includes 45 vintages. Although they no longer have two million bottles, Andrea is sure they have at least over 100,000 bottles in the cellar but they haven’t done an official count. And they are still committed to cellaring around 7,000 to 10,000 bottles of every vintage to ensure their customers will always have access to several decade-old bottles.

And that commitment started all those years ago with Guglielmo Bertani continuing his passion of making Amarone and cellaring it, hence tying up tons of capital waiting for the market to possibly gain interest in it, which wasn’t for decades. “There will be a moment when the market will change and this is the most beautiful present that I can give to my nephews,” Guglielmo said in response to those who thought he had gone mad. And thank goodness he wasn’t afraid to follow his passion, as many might have never experienced the true “Italian sword” that a great Amarone becomes in time.

***Link to original article on Forbes:

Lineup of Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico vertical Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

Bertani, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, vertical:

1967: High-toned red fruit with zingy cranberry, saline minerality, a bolt of iron with dried red cherries on the palate with intense energy and marked acidity with an overall lightness of being.

1975: Crushed rocks, lit incense sticks and rosebud aromatics that expand in the mouth with savory flavors of dried oregano and truffles with lots of volume on the body.

1987: Vibrant right off the bat with a complex mixture of tar and crushed black cherries with a slight grip on the tannins balanced by good flesh on the mid-palate with a long, expressive finish with fresh flowers and baking spices.

1998: Pristine blackberry fruit, cocoa nibs and star anise with a broad palate and fully integrated tannins with juicy black fruit on the finish.

2000: Enchanting floral nose with pretty notes of cinnamon and nutmeg with a mineral backbone giving notes of broken limestone with round tannins.

2005: A perfumed nose with charming red fruit and crumbly chalk aromas with a touch of smoky minerality with black tea leaves and a linear body with lots of drive on the long, expressive finish.

2011: Sweet tobacco leaf and dried smoked cherries with blackcurrant strudel and fresh leather with lots of structure, freshness and ample tannins that will give this wine a ridiculously long life.

2012: The purity of fruit is stunning with red raspberries and wild mulberries with pretty violet and pressed rose petal notes and a saline minerality in the background with finely etched tannins. Extremely elegant.

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$1,000 Bottle Of Champagne Demonstrates Bollinger As A Pinot Noir Fine Wine Specialist

Roasted hazelnuts, dried lilacs and honeysuckle soared through the air as the aromatics emanated from the glass to thrill and excite the intended drinker. As the wine caressed the palate, flavors of cranberry tart and baked golden apples with hints of cinnamon stick delighted along the creamy texture. And on the finish, the crisp freshness was pure magic when it combined with the fine, tiny bubbles that sensually glided along the mouth. An outstanding Champagne that is more than just a Champagne, a fine wine that is distinctive with a strong sense of place, deep concentration and overall elegance that is on par with an exquisite Grand Cru Burgundy. It is the 2012 Bollinger ‘La Côte aux Enfants’, which is a 100% Pinot Noir Champagne from the Grand Cru village of Aÿ, and it is an exceptional monopole vineyard that the Bollinger family has owned for centuries.

Oak barrels at Champagne Bollinger
Photo Credit: Champagne Bollinger

This is Bollinger’s first release of a single vineyard, representing many key pillars of this famous Champagne house. They have been run by the same family since the early 1800s; it has always been a family business focused on owning a large amount of vineyards themselves – today approximately totaling 445 acres. Pinot Noir has always been a strong focus, with the Bollinger house located in the middle of the Grand Cru village of Aÿ, surrounded by vineyards. This village is famous for having some of the best Pinot Noir grapes in the Champagne wine region.

Classic Bollinger

For many Bollinger fans, it has been the Champagne that drank like a fine wine as even its non-vintage has a multi-layer complexity, deep concentration and that classic creamy texture that could hold up to a serious multi-course meal. They have always stayed true to their foundation which is built on a majority of Pinot Noir grapes in their blend as their flagship Bollinger Non-Vintage Brut Special Cuvée has 60% Pinot Noir, a high proportion of reserve wines (wines that have been held back for several years) that can range from a jaw-dropping 50-60% and to make it even more astonishing, 1/3 of the reserve wines in their cellars have been aged in magnum bottles for an average of ten years. Finally, a portion of the wines are initially fermented in small Burgundy oak barrels.

Bollinger vineyards
Photo Credit: Eric Vanden

And Bollinger fans could always depend on the house to keep these ridiculously high standards as well as never altering their principles to appease the latest trend, such as making Blanc de Blancs Champagne, made from 100% Chardonnay. As Bollinger’s managing director Charles-Armand de Belenet likes to say, “Bollinger is about Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir.” And it is serendipitous that he should be the managing director of such a globally renowned Champagne house that, in reality, is like a small Burgundy producer, owning its own vineyards and devoted to showing the terroir of those plots that have been in the family for generations, as Charles-Armand is from a tiny winemaking family in Burgundy.

100% Pinot Noir Terroir-Driven Wines

“This is a big change for Bollinger as the last new innovation was Bollinger Rosé, and that was about ten years ago, and now we have three new wines. It is a very exciting time for us,” exclaimed Charles-Armand as he started to talk about their new Pinot Noir projects. The projects include Vieilles Vignes Françaises (old pre-phylloxera Pinot Noir vines), Bollinger PN wines and the single vineyard ‘La Côte aux Enfants’ Champagne. When one considers how long Bollinger has kept offerings to a limited selection, with the last addition, a Rosé Champagne, added around a decade ago, it is quite the adventure for them now to dive into these very ambitious projects.

Pinot Noir grape bunch in Bollinger’s vineyard Photo Credit: Eric Vanden

The Bollinger PN represents a 100% Pinot Noir Champagne with a majority of the fruit from the same village and vintage. For example, the current release, PN TX17 has a majority of Pinot Noir grapes from the Tauxières village in the Champagne wine region and a majority from the 2017 vintage. Charles-Armand said they wanted to bring the ideals that Bollinger was built on to the consumer in a much more direct and specific way. And hence, being able to release a wine mainly from one of their top Pinot Noir villages, giving an expression of various pockets of Champagne during a particular window of time, is the best way to present their core values.

To make these wines more accessible and consistent in their desire for excellence year in and year out, there would need to be a small amount of room to add other villages and other vintages to find an ideal balance. And so, 25% of the wine comprises those decade-old magnum bottles from grapes grown in the Tauxières village. Interestingly, the markings on the label, PN TX17, are used as a shorthand in the Bollinger cellars, written on small boards above stacked bottles, to indicate the year and provenance. Through time, Bollinger would like to release PN bottlings from various villages to emphasize the varying terroirs that Pinot Noir can beautifully transmit to the drinker.

Bollinger ‘La Côte aux Enfants’

Champagne Bollinger’s sustainability
Photo Credit: Eric Zeziola

Bollinger connoisseurs may already be familiar with the ‘La Côte aux Enfants’ vineyard, which is in the Grand Cru village of Aÿ, where the Bollinger house and many of Bollinger vineyards (that they have owned for centuries) are located, as they make a tiny quantity of red wine from the ‘La Côte aux Enfants’ vineyard. Charles-Armand noted that the ‘La Côte aux Enfants’ is one of their top vineyards as it is greatly prized for its opulence and power balanced by freshness and overall elegance. The red wine comes from the southern section of the vineyard, while this newly released single vineyard sparkling Champagne comes from the northern side as the fruit in that section retains more freshness.

This single vineyard wine highlights a very special Bollinger monopole (a designated area, in this case, a vineyard, owned entirely by one producer). But just like the village bottlings of Pinot Noir called PN, Charles-Armand says they will be excited to release different single vineyards that display outstanding qualities of an array of Bollinger plots.

When one thinks about how steadfast Bollinger has been to its principles of producing Champagnes as serious fine wines, these new releases are not so much an exploration of other areas that they haven’t touched upon in Champagne but a focus on the things that have always been a part of the soul of the house. Many Champagne drinkers who have always gravitated to Bollinger might have yet to learn the extreme practices that the family continues to implement with every bottle, as consumers weren’t that curious to delve into the details of Champagne in the past. But all that has changed with Champagne lovers wanting to understand the sense of place and all the nuances that go into every bottle being popped. Champagne is no longer only for celebrations but for well-crafted meals, long conversations, or to contemplate alone – a Champagne mediation of sorts.

And so, these new releases are not only exciting because it gives consumers a great way to go deeper into these remarkable plots but it allows, after all this time, for Bollinger to finally gain recognition for the extraordinary treasures that they have always brought to the Champagne fine wine world.

***Link to original article published on Forbes:

Bollinger PN VZ16 and Bollinger PN TZ17
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

Bollinger wants to get fine wine lovers more involved in learning about their vineyards and everything they do, so, they are renovating the existing Bollinger house to include 20 rooms where people can stay and participate in master classes and vineyard visits.

2012 Bollinger ‘La Côte aux Enfants’
Photo Credit: Bollinger Champagne

Also, Bollinger has another project to bring the idea of expressing terroir to the next level. Fermenting in barrels is an essential part of Bollinger Champagne and they currently have 4,000 used barrels allowing them to ferment plot by plot. They have a cooperage that fixes any issues with the barrels but now they want to make their own. They plan to pair the forest, where the oak originates, with the Champagne village, where the grapes are harvested. Charles-Armand said it would probably take 200 years to replace all the 4,000 barrels with ones that match particular plots but Bollinger is up for the challenge.

2012 Bollinger ‘La Côte aux Enfants’ Champagne: 100% single vineyard Pinot Noir from the Grand Cru village of Aÿ ; north side of this vineyard. Roasted hazelnuts, dried lilacs and honeysuckle on the nose and flavors of cranberry tart and baked golden apples with hints of cinnamon stick caresses the palate with a creamy texture, and on the finish, the crisp freshness is pure magic when it combines with the fine, tiny bubbles that sensually glide along the mouth; a breathtaking balance of deep concentration and overall elegance. Only 1,000 bottles made; suggested retail price is $1,000.

2012 Bollinger ‘La Côte aux Enfants’ Champagne and 2016 Bollinger ‘La Côte aux Enfants’ Côteaux Champenois Rouge
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2016 Bollinger ‘La Côte aux Enfants’ Côteaux Champenois Rouge: A red still wine made from 100% single vineyard Pinot Noir from the Grand Cru village of Aÿ; south side of this vineyard. 2/3 of the grapes were destemmed and 1/3 were not destemmed. Pretty floral notes with ripe red cherries and anise seeds with forest floor and a touch of morel mushrooms with an overall charming quality with lots of chalky minerality on the finish.

A short explanation about how the PN village wines below are developed in the Bollinger cellars: the blend is chosen from a blind tasting among the cellar master and his team to find the best Pinot Noir wines of that vintage and that is how they decide which village they will concentrate on in any given year.

Bollinger PN VZ16: 100% Pinot Noir where the majority comes from the Grand Cru village of Verzenay and the 2016 vintage; 25% of reserve wines from the same Grand Cru village are in this blend. 50% of the wine was vinified in barrels and the other 50% in stainless steel tanks. The saline minerality typical with Verzenay vineyards is shining through with lemon zest aromas with a hint of brioche and tart green apple and a racy acidity on the palate with a fine-laced mousse.

Bollinger PN TX17: 100% Pinot Noir where the majority comes from the Grand Cru village of Tauxières and the 2017 vintage; 25% of reserve wines from the same Grand Cru village are in this blend. 50% of the wine was vinified in barrel and the other 50% in stainless steel tanks. Softer acidity and richer flavors such as candied ginger and peach cobbler with an underpinning of oyster shell and lemon confit with a delectable creamy body with touches of marzipan – delicious.

Bollinger Brut Special Cuvée
Photo Credit:
Cathrine Todd

Bollinger Brut Special Cuvée: 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier. Charles-Armand says this is the most challenging wine as they have to make it every year and deliver that classic Bollinger house style. 30% of Special Cuvée is vinified in used oak of 228-liter barrels, with some 400-liter barrels up to 40 years old. The final blend consists of 50% reserve wines of which 5-10% consists of reserve wines from magnums that average ten years in age. Complex nose of freshly made croissants with yellow flowers and lemon verbena tea with crumbled chalk and dried apricots with exquisitely fine bubbles with a long persistence. The multifaceted quality of the Bollinger Special Cuvée is unmatched within the non-vintage blends in Champagne.

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Top Wine Vintages Explored To Celebrate 2nd Growth Bordeaux Producer’s 100th Anniversary

Building at Léoville-Poyferré
Photo Credit:
Château Léoville-Poyferré

On the Left Bank of the Bordeaux wine region live the prominent First Growths of the 1855 classification, when producers like Lafite and Latour were carved into history as the fine wines that all others would aspire to reach. Even with the anointing of greatness over a century ago, these top Grand Cru Classé wines still had to make significant improvements when their superlative quality was questioned during particular decades. Still, today, they are unquestionably considered the top of the Left Bank red wines that consistently deliver year in and year out. But the châteaux that are one notch down, the Second Growths, have a handful of producers that can reach First Growth quality in some years and they are given the unofficial name “Super Second,” despite never coming close to First Growth prices even in their best years.

When it comes to the Saint-Julien sub-region (a.k.a. appellation) in this area, located below the appellation of Pauillac, where Lafite and Latour are located, there is one château that always comes to mind when thinking of a “Super Second” and that is none other than Léoville-Las Cases. Yet a sibling seems to always follow behind Las Cases, either not taken as seriously in the past or not thought of at all, and that is Léoville-Poyferré. They just recently celebrated their 100th anniversary of the Cuvelier family running the estate, which is a key factor in majorly raising the quality to such a point that some would argue that Poyferré is performing at the same level as Las Cases in some vintages, although it will typically be priced 40% less.


Multi-faceted gravel terroir on Léoville plateau Photo Credit: Château Léoville-Poyferré

One might ask if Poyferré and Las Cases are somehow related and that wouldn’t be a foolish question as they were both part of one larger estate called Léoville. And back in the mid-1800s, Léoville was considered at the forefront of vineyard management and divided in 1840 using the appendices of Poyferré and Las Cases to represent the new owners of each property. To make things even more complicated, the land would be further separated into three different estates: Léoville-Poyferré, Léoville-Las Cases and Léoville Barton. All three would be seen as equals once the 1855 classification was designated, awarding the eternal ranking of Second Growth yet along the way, Las Cases started to gain a more prestigious name, hence commanding higher prices. 

When addressing the modern history of Léoville-Poyferré, there has been no greater influence than the Cuvelier family who bought the property in 1920. Perhaps part of the issue, initially, that Poyferré couldn’t distinguish itself earlier at the beginning of the Cuvelier era is because the family had the Léoville-Las Cases owner also manage their property. That all changed when Didier Cuvelier took over Léoville-Poyferré in 1979 and learned about wine from one of the greats, Emile Peynaud, the forefather of modern winemaking. Under Didier’s guidance, the winery was redone with state-of-the-art equipment and a replanting program that spanned two decades, increasing the percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon in the vineyards and adding the first plantings of Petit Verdot, was implemented. As time went on, to those in the know, Léoville-Poyferré became one of the most exciting estates in Saint-Julien; it was the dark horse that all of a sudden started sprinting with a fierce velocity.

Didier retired a few years ago and handed the reigns to his cousin, Sara Lecompte Cuvelier, who celebrated Didier’s achievements recently with a vertical tasting celebrating the 2020 Léoville-Poyferré, the 100th vintage since the Cuvelier family has taken ownership.

1996 Vintage 

1996 Château Léoville-Poyferré
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

The vertical in New York City showcased a handful of their best vintages in recent times, some being an outstanding vintage for the Left Bank as a whole and others a shining moment for only certain châteaux, including Léoville-Poyferré. First, they displayed the 2018 Léoville-Poyferré, which is already impressing top critics with Jeb Dunnuck giving it 100 points and famous British wine critic Jancis Robinson giving it 19 out of 20 points; and anyone familiar with Jancis Robinson scoring knows she rarely gives out a high score. Also, they gave a preview of their 2020 vintage, which is bottled in a stunning anniversary bottle showcasing their vineyards. 

2000 Château Léoville-Poyferré
Photo Credit:
Cathrine Todd

Then the enchanting 2016, the lesser-known 2014, the superstar vintages of 2009, 2005 and 2000, and finally, the controversial 1996, were all in the lineup. Why is 1996 controversial? Many top Bordeaux wine collectors have differing views on this vintage as it has had more ups and downs than any other outstanding year and so some question whether it is on the same greatness level as 2000. 

From the first bottlings, the 1996s were considered excellent on the Left Bank, especially more Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blends and so as one may guess, Léoville-Poyferré made a sensational wine. There was a lot of structure and power and the great ones, such as Poyferré, would make outstanding old bones, 30 years and beyond. Yet many of these wines have had a rollercoaster ride of varying stages, one stage showing its superiority and at other times, the same bottle will take a sharp turn and seem to be at the end of its life way too early without the tannins ever completely integrating.

But 1996 is an ideal vintage to show during this momentous occasion, not only because it was a vintage that brought a lot of attention to Léoville-Poyferré but it also represents the rocky journey of this estate that was always cut out for greatness but because of some missteps, it initially lost that momentum reinforcing that greatness in the minds of Bordeaux wine critics and collectors. In a way, no matter how stellar the bottling, there is always that first reaction to assume that Las Cases is better than Poyferré, as it is like that story about the sociological experiment, that may or may not be true, where researchers sprayed monkeys with ice-cold water every time they tried to climb up a ladder to get bananas; as they rotated new monkeys into the group and older ones out, through time the more seasoned monkeys kept the newer ones from trying to climb up the ladder. Eventually, none of the monkeys in the group have ever attempted to climb the ladder and they don’t know exactly why they shouldn’t as none of those had ever been sprayed with the ice-cold water – they only knew that they should never try it.

Sara Lecompte Cuvelier
Photo Credit: Château Léoville-Poyferré

That same behavior can be seen in humans, as no one wants to make a fool out of themselves by saying in any particular vintage that they prefer Poyferré over Las Cases, as it has been passed down that Las Cases is at the top of the pecking order when it comes to the Léoville wines. Indeed, no one can argue with Las Cases’ stellar quality in many vintages; the idea of Poyferré always defaulting to an afterthought is the issue. Many have assigned it to a lesser position than what it deserves. The Cuvelier family, especially Didier Cuvelier, never gave up on the property, no matter how unfair the situation might have seemed.

Their 1996, has had the same path – at first impressing the taster with its sensational qualities but then it went through awkward stages, even indicating at times that it might be at the end of its life after only two decades. But today, it is awe-inspiring and those who didn’t give up on it have been rewarded. And the newest 2018 Poyferré suggests that it has much more to give than its fans could have imagined. And now, Sara Lecompte Cuvelier has taken the baton to bring Bordeaux lovers into the next era of Léoville-Poyferré.

***Link to original Forbes article:

Vertical of Château Léoville-Poyferré
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd
2020 Château Léoville-Poyferré
Photo Credit: Château Léoville-Poyferré

2020 Château Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux, France: 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. The preview of the 100th Anniversary bottling has hit the market as a pre-sale that will arrive in the fall of 2023. Aromatic nose of purple flowers and blueberry pie with spicy notes of nutmeg and cinnamon with a stony minerality that has a plush body with cassis flavors with an overall freshness, finely chiseled tannins and long, expressive finish with an elegant precision.

Four different wines from the Léoville-Poyferré estate were shown for their recent 2018 vintage:

2018 M de Moulin Riche
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

2018 Château Moulin Riche, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux, France: 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot and 12% Petit Verdot. The Moulin Riche is from the more western part of the Léoville-Poyferré estate, slightly further from the river, where most of their Petit Verdot vines are planted. Approachable flavors with blackberry jam and blueberry scones with a hint of fresh tobacco that has a silky texture.  

2018 M de Moulin Riche, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux, France: 69% Petit Verdot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12% Merlot. This is the second wine for Moulin Riche with 69% Petit Verdot. Crushed black cherries, licorice and rosemary on the nose with big, round tannins on the palate and black pepper on the finish.

2018 Château Léoville-Poyferré
Photo Credit: Château Léoville-Poyferré

2018 Château Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux, France: 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. Broken rocks and graphite with crushed rose petals and cigar box with a fantastic combination of intense concentration with lots of energy and sculpted tannins. Terrific!

2018 Château Pavillon de Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux, France: 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 8% Petit Verdot. This is the second wine for Léoville-Poyferré. Fresh sage leaves and baked plum tarts with drive to the palate and slightly firm tannins giving shape.

The rest of the vertical:

2016 Château Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux, France: 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. Charming wine with aromatics that dance with hints of cocoa powder, lilacs, fresh mint and espresso with an overall harmonious quality to the palate with bright acidity and a long, expressive finish.

2014 Château Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux, France: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. 2014 was a mixed bag vintage and Léoville-Poyferré came out with an intriguing beauty with spice box, dried herbs and lit embers on the nose and generous fruit on the palate that is simply delicious.

2009 Château Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux, France: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Robert Parker originally gave this wine 100 points and it is in a stunning place right now. Jasmine oil, cherry blossoms and raspberry danish twist with plush tannins, fresh acidity and a lovely balance of richness with a clarity to the nuanced layers. Can’t use the word stunning enough!

2005 Château Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux, France: 68% Cabernet Sauvignon , 26% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc. The intense concentration, expansive palate and silky texture are not a surprise, but the crystalline quality of the aromatics on the nose and the finish is a surprise and breathtaking! Sweet red fruit balanced by tobacco leaf and forest floor on the finish.

2000 Château Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux, France: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. Pristine red strawberries and white pepper with cherry blossoms and stony minerality on the nose that has a juicy body with a long, flavorful finish. At an exquisite stage in its life!  

1996 Château Léoville-Poyferré, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux, France: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc. Smoldering earth, cocoa nibs and sizzling bacon with blackberry preserves and weighty mid-palate with slightly firm tannins that are fine in quality at this stage and warm raspberry compote over blackberry sorbet, very, very long finish with finesse and power. Impressive!

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An Imprisoned Man’s Resilience Keeps Hope Alive For Wines In Southern Portugal

The fun and uplifting accordion music made people spontaneously dance around as the delicious smells of lamb stew and sausages filled the room. Wives and husbands broke out in song singing old traditional melodies, reminding themselves of their children as these were the songs they would always sing to them. The accordion player started to smile ear to ear, hearing songs that touched his soul as tears welled up in his eyes and when he couldn’t hold back any longer, they started to stream down his face. An overwhelming mixture of emotions overtook this man; some of his feelings were rooted in the happiness of seeing so much joy but there was a deep sadness as he was away from his family. His wife and kids were in Brazil and he was still in their home country, Portugal, a prisoner of the new government.

This accordion player, José Roquette, like the other men imprisoned, was a businessman who, at one time, ran one of the top banks in Portugal. Once he realized he would be sent to prison, he told his wife to leave with their kids simply saying, “All of you need to leave because then, if they kill me, it is just me.” But even with such a grim statement, he kept his spirits up as they allowed him to bring his accordion and permitted the other men’s wives to bring home-cooked food. Some of the guards would smile and laugh during these impromptu parties but others seethed with hate, as to them, in their brainwashed minds, these prisoners kept them in poverty as the propaganda from their new Soviet-like communist regime had reinforced such thoughts.

Even the talk that circulated around the prison, that all the prisoners would be taken to an arena, typically used for bullfighting, and shot dead, didn’t weigh on José as he felt there was nothing he could do about it and at least his family was safe.

Herdade do Esporão 

Sign to Herdade do Esporão estate
Photo Credit: Esporão

“My father is very brave,” said João Roquette, José’s youngest child, when telling the story of what happened almost 50 years ago. In 1975, when the Soviet Union backed the Portuguese military to install a repressive communist regime, they started throwing people in jail and everything became nationalized. João father had started a winery in the southern wine region in Portugal called Alentejo on an old estate named Herdade do Esporão (a.k.a. Esporão), one of the oldest estates in Europe demarcated in 1267, before the communist regime took over. Eventually, José joined his family in Brazil. After five years of living outside of Portugal, José brought his family back to their Portuguese home when a new election established a democratic socialist government.

José wanted to get back to working on the winery as the area surrounding their vineyards was a very depressed place with poor people who were, for the most part, forgotten. His dream was to build a wine business that was so successful that it would give opportunities to many of the families struggling in the area. But it wasn’t easy and after José and his partner spent a lot of money on an elaborate winery and cellar, as well as planting new vineyards, they were barely making enough to cover their costs. 

Despite José’s love for drinking wine, he had no experience in running a wine business, so his partner suggested selling the company and it was known at the time that the illustrious wine family, the Rothschilds, were looking for a wine estate in southern Portugal. José’s partner was in talks with the Rothschild family about visiting them and when it came up if there was an airport near the Esporão estate where they could land their private plane, the partner quickly replied yes. But there was no airport. Instead, they were able to contact a local guy who would make a runway. Even though a significant investment was never recouped, José still dreamed of lifting up the local area, so when the Rothschilds passed on the deal, José bought his partner out. He then hired a general manager with lots of experience to help make Esporão a successful wine producer. 

As time went on, Esporão wines became one of the most popular wine brands in Portugal for everyday moderate-priced drinking wines. Yet out of all six of his kids, none showed an interest in taking over which became a problem as José was approaching his golden years. José’s youngest son, João, who also inherited his father’s deep love for music, came back to Portugal after living in London and Barcelona; he was a banker by day and a jazz musician during his off time. 

Sheeps on the Esporão estate in Alentejo Photo Credit: Esporão

Despite João working at a bank in Lisbon, he decided he didn’t want to live in the city alone, so he lived in his family’s home in Alentejo with his parents, staying there three days a week. It was a fascinating time for João who was extremely intrigued by the winery, vineyards and how everything intertwined with the tight-knit community, something he desperately missed when he was away. João started to become close friends with the general manager at the winery and one day the general manager told João that he wanted to retire; still, he was conflicted as the business might not be able to continue without him.

João knew the general manager was right as it would be too much for his father to have to find a new person to run the company and João’s siblings had no interest in the wine business so his father would be forced to sell, sell to a company that may not have the same intention of helping the impoverish surrounding villages. But João wasn’t sure if he could do it as he was 32 years old and hadn’t managed more than two people in a bank. He was not the same man as his father who never doubted anything; he did not have the same confidence level. But the winery, vineyards and people had become his home and he couldn’t bear the thought of losing it so he decided to slowly transition into running things with the guidance of his general manager.

It is in the Soil 

Bird’s-eye view of Esporão estate
Photo Credit: Esporão

There was no more room to expand the market share in Portugal so João knew that they needed to find a way to build markets in other countries. They needed to start making higher quality wines if exporting was going to be the next goal, so, João and his general manager began reading books and going to conventions where they would meet one of the most respected soil analysis in the world, Claude Bourguignon. Claude believes there are two types of soils for making wine: the first expresses the grape variety and the second expresses the terroir, sense of place. Much of the Herdade do Esporão estate had many of the factors to produce a terroir-driven wine yet the soil needed a lot of work as the samples that Claude examined had very little microbial life. This sent João on a journey of understanding the ins and outs of organically grown grapes.

João Roquette on the Esporão estate Photo Credit: Esporão

But to João’s dismay, all the organic wines he tried back in 2005 seemed pretty bad as the whole impetus to go organic was to raise the quality of the wines significantly. But as he started to try organic wines around the world, he found some wonderful examples and he realized it wasn’t organic farming that was the problem. Through time, they have been able to make 100% organic work on the estate and isolate seven different types of soils among their almost 1,500 acres of vineyards with 40 types of grape varieties planted throughout as Portugal has a wealth of native grape varieties. To manage such a large and diverse ecosystem, João has hired a full-time biologist and a full-time IT guy to work in partnership with each other as the former will collect information from bioindicators and the latter will work with that data to help the vineyard management team work efficiently and effectively in the various parcels.  

Fox on Esporão estate
Photo Credit: Esporão

After a few years of setbacks in the beginning, Herdade do Esporão has been organic for over a decade and now João finds obvious markers of greater quality to the wines, such as balance, concentration, intensity and complexity, yet there is also an energy present that wasn’t there before. It reminds him of being a jazz musician and listening to the recordings where they improvise compared to redoing that arrangement, avoiding the initial mistakes. The polished set they had worked on had “no energy” to it, according to João, as there is something electric and compelling about that first improvisation. When it came to his wines, first he needed to bring the soil back to life, then he needed to keep that life going and not do anything to try to cover that vitality from coming through in the wines.

No Regrets

João is very different from his father and maybe that is part of why they have become such close friends in the process of João taking over the winery. It took a larger-than-life figure like his father to go through such unstable times, to pass on the temptation of starting a great life somewhere else but instead return to his mission of establishing a project that would keep the communities around their estate vibrant. 

Esporão estate vineyards
Photo Credit: Esporão

Today, in his own focused and quiet way, João has brought his family’s wine estate to the next level while constantly looking up to his father for inspiration. João’s wife has also expanded the mission as she left a very successful interior designer job to work with elders in remote villages who are the last to carry on their traditional arts and crafts. She commissions original pieces from them with a modern edge that is bringing appreciation from a new generation and expatriates who have moved to Portugal, and hence, commands higher prices that will not only be able to support these older people in their poor towns but encourage the younger people to take up these traditional arts.

Amazingly, João says his father has no regrets or resentment towards what happened all those decades ago when he was incarcerated. He understood that the Portuguese people were lied to, and like in many governments, the officials would rather point the finger at a particular group as causing the people’s struggles instead of taking responsibility themselves as paid politicians. His father loved the U.S. and even though it did enter his mind that the family should move to America during Portugal’s dark time, he knew that once the communist regime was thrown out, there would be a focus on improving the economies in the cities but there would be no assistance for the people in the remote villages. And all those memories – playing the accordion, people dancing and laughing, as those communities might be poor financially but are wealthy in enjoying what is most precious in life, lived in his heart.

And today, his father gets to witness with his own eyes that his mission has gone way beyond his wildest dreams as 300 families from those remote villages are employed by Esporão and it has been one of the most gratifying things he has done; so yes, no regrets whatsoever, only gratitude.  

***Link to original article published on Forbes:

Herdade do Esporão Reserva
Photo Credit: Esporão

Esporão has also invested in buying wine estates in the North, one in Vinho Verde called Quinta do Ameal and one in the Douro Valley, Quinta dos Murças. The vineyards in the Douro Valley and Alentejo are 100% organic but the Vinho Verde is not 100% organic as it is wet and cool in that area, so more difficult to do organic every year. 

2021 Herdade do Esporão
‘Monte Velho’
Photo Credit: Esporão

2021 Herdade do Esporão ‘Monte Velho’, Alentejo, Portugal: Red blend of 40% Aragonez, 35% Trincadeira, 20% Touriga Nacional and 5% Syrah. Rich blueberry fruit with hints of lilacs and blackcurrant leaf with round tannins with an overall harmony, retailing for only $15.

2019 Herdade do Esporão, Reserva, Alentejo, Portugal: Red blend of 30% Aragonez, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Trincadeira, 15% Alicante Bouschet, 5% Syrah, 5% Touriga Nacional and 5% Touriga Franca; all from the Esporão estate vineyards that are 100% organic. Multilayered juicy fruit with red cherries, blackcurrants and warm blueberries with silky texture, and crushed rocks and cocoa nibs on the long finish with lots of concentration. Impressive especially considering it only retails at $25.

2017 Herdade do Esporão
‘Torre do Esporão’
Photo Credit: Esporão

2017 Herdade do Esporão ‘Torre do Esporão’, Alentejo, Portugal: Red blend of Aragonez, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Alicante Bouschet from their oldest vineyards. An enchanting nose with raspberry tart, violets and stony minerality with an exquisite balance to this wine that will make it irresistible to anyone who tries it. It has finely etched tannins with a supple texture and nuanced layers of spice and pristine red fruit on the extraordinarily long finish. All finesse with this wine. Retailing at $300. A rare wine, as this is the fourth release, and it only comes out in outstanding vintages. The vintages released are 2004, 2007, 2011 and 2017. They have a special winery just for this wine and the Private Selection, and so, in years when they don’t make the Torre do Esporão, they will make the Private Selection instead. This special winery has lagares for foot-treading the grapes. They will launch 75% of the 2017 now and in five years, release the other 25% onto the market.

2021 Ameal Loureiro
Photo Credit: Esporão

2021 Ameal, Loureiro, Vinho Verde, Portugal: 100% Loureiro grape variety. Lemon zest and citrus blossom on the nose with an underlying note of chalky minerality with a good mid-palate weight, ripe white peach flavors and mouthwatering acidity. Vinho Verde made its name on quaffable wines but smaller producers, in the past, never made it to export markets, so the serious, high-quality white wines of the area never made it to the U.S. This is one such property that has been a pioneer in making single-varietal Loureiro, an indigenous white grape, wines for 50 years and these wines can age beautifully for a couple of decades as they take on Riesling-like qualities with age. This property belonged to João’s friend’s father as he was ready to retire, so João bought the estate. João said that Loureiro often produces large yields, hence, the wines can be thin and highly acidic, which is acceptable in a blend for quaffable, fizzy wines. But these vines are older, producing lower yields, and the vineyard is located in the warmer Lima Valley, hence, the wines have more concentration that balances out the high acidity. João also makes two other bottlings of this estate, one that uses concrete eggs and the other is a Reserva using 2,000-liter Austrian oak tuns. Retailing at $18.

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Wine Tasting Spanning 100 Years From Wine Producer Showing That Bordeaux Has Terroir

Château Le Puy century wine tasting at Le Bernardin Privé
Photo Credit: Château Le Puy

The warm wood panels, rippled blue walls and the glow of the amber-colored lights gave an overwhelming feeling of tranquility as wine trade from all over the world came to Le Bernardin Privé for an epic wine tasting that spanned a century. A unique wine producer, Château Le Puy, from the Right Bank of the Bordeaux wine region, was illustrating how their over 400 years of organic grape growing and natural winemaking practices produce outstanding wines with a distinctive sense of place that can stand the test of time – even past 100 years.  

A woman entering the room stopped in her tracks as one of the most glorious sights she had ever seen was presented: an endless line of wines ranging several decades from a well-admired producer. At first, she took a double-take as she couldn’t believe what she saw with her own eyes, a 1921 vintage! The very site of such a vintage started to make her giddy with anticipation. As the wine was poured into her glass, its pale garnet color with orange hues let her know that this was indeed a significantly older wine. “I’m going to have to swirl this wine for several minutes,” she thought to herself, as she suspected a lot of funk from a centenarian wine, and so, she would have to swirl her glass fiercely for it to blow off. But no, to her complete delight, the nose immediately beckoned to her with energetic and bright notes such as red cherries and cardamom spice and the palate was even more spectacular with the silkiest texture that she had experienced from a Bordeaux wine. However, this 100-year-old beauty still had all the benefits of age such as the complex aromatic layers of earth and cigar box with a finish that was so delicately enchanting that it took her breath away.

As she picked up the 1921 bottle, she stood there awestruck by the very notion that not only was she holding a stunning bottle of wine but it was a wine made by people who had long passed and who lived during such a different time.

1921 Vintage 

Today, Le Puy is co-owned by family member and winemaker Pascal Amoreau and as he stood there after the epic century tasting with his son by his side, he showed gratitude to his family lineage, such as his great-grandfather, Jean Amoreau, for never succumbing to the temptation of using chemicals or fertilizers in their vineyards. It was after World War I, which was plagued with brutal combat under horrific conditions, and Jean found himself in a deep depression before the start of the 1921 growing season as the stock market crashed and wiped out the family’s total savings. He blamed himself as he should have known that the times were too unstable but his smooth-talking banker had won over his trust.

Pascal Amoreau and his son
Photo Credit: Château Le Puy

Jean’s wife sold beans from her garden to help the family out and one day she took a more prominent role in becoming the winemaker when all the men enlisted in the army for World War II. But during that time, Jean could not even imagine another colossal war or that things could get even worse for him and his family. The good growing season for the wine grapes lifted his spirits and the warm summer encouraged him to spend as much time outside as possible which came in handy as he hunted for game to keep the family going without the safety net of savings. Amazingly, he never buckled to try the easier route of using chemicals once they became available after the Second World War as his wine Le Puy was cherished for its “medicinal” properties and out of the medicinal wines in the area, it was considered the highest quality. Over 40 years later, in 1964, Jean’s son helped establish an organization that pioneered agro-biology and biodynamics in France, sticking to biodynamics for decades even when such practices were ridiculed. But the Amoreau family upheld the values of practicing biodynamics1

Château Le Puy’s Commitment to Terroir 

Château Le Puy estate
Photo Credit: Château Le Puy estate

Le Puy’s fierce commitment to the expression of terroir, sense of place, in their wines goes against the general preconceptions of what Bordeaux mainly emphasizes, such as the name of the château or the larger sub-region (a.k.a. appellation). The specific vineyards, many times, do not take center stage. Harold Langlais, a partner with the Amoreau family in running Château Le Puy, illustrated this point by saying that they always have someone coming by their property asking why they don’t have a sign with the name of the château on it. And it is because Le Puy is first and foremost about the vineyard being the star, hence, why they do not focus too much on their name. 

The vineyards of Le Puy are located on a limestone rock plateau just east of Saint-Émilion and Pomerol and the limestone does a good job of absorbing water, so during hot temperatures, they still have a good natural water supply, which allows for transpiration2, cooling the microclimate within the canopy of the vines. Interestingly, the châteaux that produced fresh wines during the extraordinarily hot vintage of 2003 in Bordeaux had soils that retained water. But making sure to work naturally in the vineyards is not enough for Le Puy for the overall expression of terroir as they made sure that almost half of their 247-acre estate is made up of a protected natural reserve with forests and ponds that surround the vineyards, hence, truly living up to the biodynamic ideal of encouraging harmony through natural symbiotic relationships. According to the Amoreau family and Harold Langlais, it is impossible to have true biodynamics without a thriving ecosystem.

Château Le Puy uses horses in their vineyards Photo Credit: Château Le Puy

Once the grapes are harvested, it is then critical to not alter the purity of the terroir in the winery, and so, Le Puy has a low interventionist attitude in the cellar: spontaneous fermentations with wild yeasts coming from the vineyards, no punch-downs and no pump-overs for extraction as they macerate the wine like a tea and no filtration.

The Future of Le Puy

Back in 1921, Pascal’s great-grandfather could have never imagined that Le Puy would someday build a devoted following all over the globe. Of course, they have a core group in the Western world of Le Puy lovers, yet on the other side of the earth, they have one of the most famous fine wines in Japan. In 2004, two Japanese manga (graphic novel) authors featured 12 fine wines in their hit comic series called The Drops of God, with there being a 13th wine called ‘The Drops of God,’ which was never revealed in the comics as it stated that every person has their own personal taste of what ‘The Drops of God’ wine should be. But when the television adaptation of this comic series came out in 2010, the 2003 Château Le Puy was chosen as ‘The Drops of God.’ Pascal’s father, Jean-Pierre, ceased international sales of the 2003 as he was afraid that the price would be driven up to such a level that their wines would become out of reach for their longtime loyal customers.

And today, while the Amoreau family and Harold Langlais continue the work that goes back 400 years, they have expanded the mission to include a more precise expression of terroir with their Château Le Puy ‘Barthélemy’, which comes from a plot that has 12 inches of clay top soil above the limestone rock plateau as opposed to their flagship wine Château Le Puy ‘Emilien’, sourced from the rest of the vineyard, which has topsoil that contains red clay, silt and limestone above the limestone rock, with ‘Barthélemy’ being typically a deeper and denser wine. Also, their ‘Retour des Îles’ wines, which include four barrels of ‘Barthélemy’ that are placed on a cargo ship that only uses sails to propel the boat, travels for eight months on water replicating how wines traveled in the distant past, display an intriguing evolution to the expression of terroir that is created by such a journey. And one day, Harold said he would like to hold onto the bottles of their flagship Château Le Puy ‘Emilien’ wines longer so that when it reaches the end consumer, it shows its “full identity.”

Many of the practices of Le Puy, such as the various biodynamic practices, make common sense and it comes down to having a large workforce with 20 workers in the vineyards. Yet how some of these practices are implemented, such as following the moon’s phases, can be challenging concepts to wrap someone’s head around. But Harold says it best when he emphatically states, “We make emotional wine,” and he explains it by saying that Jean-Paul Sartre, a French writer and existentialist, said something to the effect that emotion is the sudden dive of one’s consciousness towards the magic.

There is a time and place to judge things based on numbers and statistics as well as the acceptance of the grimy aspects of reality that is part of a life lived. Yet, at times, even the most agnostic realists will find themselves on their knees asking for something greater than themselves to help them find the light in the darkest times in their lives. That something greater has many names given by various people worldwide, but to the team at Le Puy, it is simply known as magic.

***Link to original article published on Forbes:

Château Le Puy: 1 Century 1921-2021 of Wine Photo Credit: Château Le Puy

Château Le Puy ‘Emilien’ vertical tasting:

1921: Garnet color with orange hues, an energetic nose with bright notes such as red cherries and cardamom spice and an incredibly silky palate with broken earth and cigar box notes on the finish – delicate yet vibrant.

1932: Deeper garnet color with cinnamon stick and nutmeg on the nose and zingy sour red cherries with dusty earth on the palate.

1944: Similar in color to ’32 with aromas of dried wildflowers and toasted almonds with some grip on the tannins and dried herbs on the finish.

1949: This color was lighter than the ’44, with an exciting nose of crumbled gingerbread and bacon fat that has a linear body with tart red fruit.

1953: This was one of the palest colors with a delicate nose with subtle hints of forest floor, white pepper and black raspberry fruit on the palate with a fine tannic structure.

1957: Such a refreshing nose that is reminiscent of a walk in the forest after it has rained, with fresh basil leaves and savory spice on the finish.

1964: Sandalwood incense with crushed rose petals and ripe black raspberry fruit with sculpted tannins giving it lift.

1971: Interesting that this vintage could compete for the palest wine with the ’53. A very pretty nose with lots of perfume and sweet fruit such as cherry pie and cinnamon rock candy with a hint of cured meat to balance the sweet qualities with a round texture.

1977: Some youthful ruby hues showing in the color with fresh sage and thyme on the nose and a fleshier wine than the previous vintages with wild berry flavors.

1980: Mint and eucalyptus on the nose with dried blueberries and touches of morel mushrooms that has a real finesse to the texture.

1985: Fine sediment in the wine with more ruby hues showing in the color and leather on the nose with blackcurrant leaf with chewy tannins.

1987: Stewed cherries and hints of tar with broken rock and a bright finish.

1990: Pale ruby nose with dried bay leaf and wild strawberry aromas with lots of vitality and an overall sense of balance and harmony with a good amount of weight and high acidity.

1995: Freshly picked curry leaves with exotic passion fruit notes and zingy cranberry lift on the finish.

1998: A touch of lavender and dried mulberries with pressed flowers and fine tannins that gently glide on the palate.

2002: Herbs de Provence with black fruits and slight grip to the tannins with an intense focus and drive on the palate lifted by crisp acidity at the end.

2005: Darkest color so far with cassis on the palate highlighted with notes of licorice and asphalt with fine laced tannins.

2012: A stunning purity of fruit in this wine with strawberry, raspberry and cranberry that has a chalky minerality intertwined with an agile body that dances across the palate.

2019: Baking spices, blackberry scone and cocoa dust balanced by delicious umami notes with lush tannins and a juicy finish.

2021: Crumbled limestone and strawberry preserve on the nose with an enchanting violet note in the background with a hint of black pepper and lots of structure, yet it is fine in quality with well-managed tannins.

Château Le Puy ‘Barthélemy’ wines

2001: Bright and energetic right from the start, with lots of juicy fruit with marked acidity and a floral finish. 

2006: Lots of intense, concentrated red cherry and blackcurrant fruit with a stony minerality that has tremendous vitality and energy and a long, flavorful finish.

‘Barthélemy’ Retour des Îles

2016: This wine was aged in barrel on a sailboat and has a gorgeous nose of cocoa nibs, star anise and candied lilac flowers with supple tannins and an overall vivacity that is simply irresistible.

1A biodynamic vineyard is minimally dependent on outside materials and meets its requirements for overall health by the living biodiversity of what is on and surrounds the vineyard.

2Transpiration is the exhalation of water vapor through the stomata of the plant.

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Special Limited Edition Portuguese Wine Honoring A Leading Figure In The Douro Valley

View from the second floor balcony of the Symington family home on the Quinta dos Malvedos property

“Time for dinner,” is heard in the distance as a boy runs around with his dogs along steep rocky paths. The several layers of dirt that cover every inch of him indicate that it was a great day. “Time for dinner!” his mother yells a second time and the boy knows he shouldn’t press his luck so he dutifully runs back home. He sees his charming house coming up the road as he hurries down the path; it is a lovely place made of off-white stucco with ceramic roof tiles and an enchanting wrought iron balcony on the second floor where his mother stands to call for him. The boy dashes into the house before his mother can reach him and his grandparents at the dinner table immediately call for him to join them as he tracks dirt all over the house. His mother quickly enters the dining room and gives her son a quick wipe with a big, soft towel and, finally, everyone settles down for dinner as delicious smells emanate from the kitchen.

As night starts to descend around the home, the bright glowing lights from outside fade and the stories would begin. The boy’s grandfather and father talk about the family business, the current harvest, the concerns about costs and the plans for the future. The boy was transfixed on their discussions, never fully understanding what they were talking about but he knew he wanted to be part of the conversation one day. He would ask his grandfather to tell the stories he loved to hear about the past; no electricity, dangerous conditions along the river and the fight to preserve the way of life in their remote and desolate region. The grandfather was like a superhero to this young boy and the boy would wonder, one day, if he could become a heroic giant like his grandpa.

Once dinner was finished, the boy’s grandfather and father would go out onto the veranda, which during the day has a stunning view of the river and the ancient stone terraced vineyards on the side of surrounding mountains. It is an entirely different kind of beauty at night – the beauty of darkness and silence. Both his father and grandfather would quietly sit there, their bodies sinking in their chairs as they drank their Port1 wine and a sense of serenity would wash over the boy making him wish he could freeze time at that moment, as no other feeling felt as good.

Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos 

Quinta dos Malvedos winery

All grandfathers seem like heroes to their grandchildren but, in this case, this grandfather, James Symington, played a pivotal role in his family’s legacy safeguarding Port production and the preservation of its ancient vineyards in the Douro Valley in Portugal. The home where James, his son Rupert and his grandson Hugh spent so much of their family time was on their Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos property.

The Graham’s Port house is where it all began for the Symington family, the largest owners of vineyards in the historic, designated Douro Valley wine region. In 1882, Andrew James Symington, James’ grandfather, left the comfort of Scotland to take an adventurous ocean voyage to Porto in Northern Portugal, a port city where much of the Port production was brought to export to other countries. He worked for a Scottish family, with the surname Graham (the founding family of Graham’s over 60 years earlier) and then eventually Andrew started his own Port business. From the beginning, the Graham family’s goal was to make exceptional Port wine and that was the foundation on which Andrew James Symington built his Symington Family Estates. A couple of generations later, Andrew’s grandson, James, with his siblings, purchased Graham’s from the founding family and with it, the estate of Quinta dos Malvedos which is at the heart of Graham’s Vintage Ports.

The couple of parcles that make the Graham’s Stone Terraces on the Quinta dos Malvedos property

The outstanding quality of the Quinta dos Malvedos grapes make up the central core of Graham’s Vintage Ports when a vintage is declared and in years when a vintage is not declared, it makes a fantastic Single Quinta Vintage Port (SQVP), a single estate (a.k.a. quinta) from a single vintage. The SQVP category is one of the most exciting for Port wine collectors. Even more thrilling and rare is the bottling of Quinta dos Malvedos ‘The Stone Terraces,’ made only from two parcels of 18th-century schist stone-terraced vineyards on the Quinta dos Malvedos property, which has proven over time to produce a very distinctive sense of place.

Graham’s Six Grapes 

James Symington not only purchased Graham’s, where his grandfather started the legacy of the Symington Port family but he took another important property that used to source for Graham’s called Quinta da Vila Velha and he restored it to its former glory. James purchased the riverside property of Quinta da Vila Velha with his son Rupert back in the late 1980s and it became just as important of a place as Quinta dos Malvedos – where they would have their family dinners. And in honor of his father, Rupert is releasing a very special limited bottling of Graham’s ‘Six Grapes’ called Special Vila Velha Edition, sourced exclusively from a strict selection of Quinta da Vila Velha grapes.

Old ledgers at the Graham’s Port Lodge

The ‘Six Grapes’ label is an historic and iconic one rooted in the six grapes symbol used in the 1800s as a code for Graham’s winemakers to identify the barrels with the best wines, which were often bottled as Vintage Port. Starting in the early 1900s, Graham’s decided to bottle a Reserve Port selected from these barrels, and hence, why their ‘Six Grapes’ Reserve Port has always held a highly esteemed place within Graham’s portfolio, having higher status than even their LBV (Late Bottled Vintage) Port. 

Although ‘Six Grapes’ Reserve Port does not have the rarity or exclusive appeal that the SQVP or ‘The Stone Terraces’ may have, it does consistently have a beautiful expression of fruit with an overall vibrant and youthful quality that over-delivers for the modest price and it is widely available on the marketplace as it is an extremely popular brand. It is the ideal wine to introduce Port to a novice as it gives a good impression of the incredible aromatics, flavors and complexity that the Douro Valley can express, especially when it comes from top-selected barrels from Graham’s estates, yet there is tons of bright, juicy fruit making it irresistibly delicious. And so, it is perfect for new Port drinkers as well as more seasoned, ones who prefer to have a bottle of ‘Six Grapes’ as an everyday wine, which is easy, especially considering the bottle will last up to six weeks after being opened.

Because of the popularity of ‘Six Grapes,’ there has been a demand for special edition bottlings and so other special editions include Six Grapes: Special River Quintas Edition, which is made from two of Graham’s top estates and Six Grapes: Special Old Vines Edition which is sourced from old vines over 40 years old.

The Spirit of the Douro Valley

After a long stretch of grueling working hours that can go on for several months, there is nothing more precious to Rupert Symington than spending time in that serene silence on the veranda at his Quinta dos Malvedos family home. But nowadays, instead of him connecting in that silence with his father, James, he spends it with that little boy, now a man, his son Hugh, who has taken some of the heavy burden of helping with sales in the U.S. As they share a glass of Port, the Six Grapes Special Vila Velha Edition, they bask in the memories of Rupert’s father, Hugh’s grandfather, who passed away two years ago. As the moonlight shines slivers of light cutting through the dark cover of night, it hints at the glimpses of ancient terraces carved within steep slopes, enhanced by the sound of the flowing river. “This is what the Douro is all about,” Rupert says softly, as he and Hugh go back to silently drinking their Port honoring a heroic giant of the Douro Valley.

***Link to original article on Forbes:

Six Grapes Reserve, Six Grapes Reserve Special River Quintas Edition and Six Grapes Special Vila Velha Edition

A quick note about Port wine: it can be a misnomer to think of it as a sweet wine that should only be paired with dessert. Because Port has many layers of complexity, the higher the quality status, the more layers and so the sweetness takes a backseat to the multifaceted aromas, flavors and structure. Its residual sugars are natural sugars from the grapes so the sugar is also part of the expression of grape varieties, place and hundreds of years of tradition. It is very easy to forget that it is a sweet wine when tasted, as due to all the complex layers, it is great to pair with hearty meals and fantastic with spicy foods such as curry. But since the natural fruit sugars balance all the other layers, it is an entirely balanced wine that can be consumed on its own.

NV Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Ruby Port: When one thinks about how many people love to drink wines with a sweet quality that are just marketing gimmicks, Six Grapes, which has beautiful sweet red fruit yet also violets, smoldering earth and dry herbs wrapped in great energy and overall freshness, becomes a more authentic choice than many of these other wines that hits one over the head with one-dimensional sweetness. Retailing around $25 and lasting around six weeks after opening, it is one of the best ways to satisfy that sweet fruit craving.

NV Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Ruby Port, Special River Quintas Edition: The regular Six Grapes Reserve is already impressive, and always has been, but this Special River Quintas Edition takes it up several notches. Wow! The quality of the tannins is exquisite as they set up a firm framework on the entry to bring precision and focus to the generous fruit yet once it hits the mid-palate and the finish, the tannins melt into silky ribbons. Plush mid-palate with flavors of plum pie balanced by zesty orange peel, and again, those tannins – impressive! Only retailing between $40-$45 as it delivers at a much higher price point.

2020 Graham’s Vintage Port

NV Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Ruby Port, Special Vila Velha Edition: The beautiful homage to James Symington by his son Rupert that features James’ beloved Vila Velha estate. Candied violets and rose petals with smoked black tea and crushed rocks with intense blackberry and cassis flavors with fine tannins; only 12,000 bottles produced.

2020 Graham’s Vintage Port: This Vintage Port celebrates the bicentennial anniversary of Graham’s. Lots of brambly berries with hints of tarragon and citrus blossoms that has a sculpted texture balanced by plenty of fleshy fruit on the palate that has a lifted and extended expressive finish.

Vertical of Quinta dos Malvedos:

2010, 2004, 1999 and 1987 Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos

1987 Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Port: Lit cigar with dried red currants with bay leaf and high acidity that has an expressive finish with notes of star anise and fennel fronds.

1999 Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Port: Lifted, bright aromas of eucalyptus and pine that is nimble as it dances on the palate with juicy cassis and vibrant red cherry flavors with fresh tobacco leaves in the background.

2004 Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Port: This wine immediately jumped out of the glass with an aromatic nose of dark fruit, cocoa dust and broken slate and if one thinks it can’t get any better than the nose, then wait, the palate is incredible with supple fruit texture, richly decadent body and an extremely long and flavorful finish.

2010 Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Port: This wine is extremely harmonious already at this relatively young age for a Vintage Port. Fresh mint on the nose with layers of stony minerality and kirsch on the juicy palate intermixed with bitter dark chocolate and spices with a lovely freshness on the finish.

1Port is a fortified wine with a neutral spirit added during fermentation, leaving some of the natural sugars from the grapes in the final product.

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The California Wine Revolution, Natural Practices For Fine Wine, Celebrates 60th Anniversary

While the California wine industry was moving towards a more technical approach, a group of men who desperately wanted to connect with nature decided to throw themselves into making wine in California during the early 1960s. They had heard about a legendary vineyard on the Monte Bello Ridge high up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, part of the Central Coast of California, an area planted with vines since the 1870s that piqued their interest. The Monte Bello cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards, planted on terraced slopes with limestone soil, with temperatures moderated by the Pacific Ocean and high altitudes up to 2,700 feet, seemed as if it would produce elegant wines but they needed to be sure.

Old vines at one of Ridge’s vineyards
Photo Credit: Ridge Vineyards

The men purchased a small plot within the Monte Bello estate with which they would make a quarter-barrel of wine during the 1960 and 1961 vintages and it was one of the best wines they had ever had; so, the men re-bonded the winery on their property as Ridge Vineyards in 1962. But they didn’t want to get in the way of this fantastic vineyard, and hence, they pushed back against the wine technical driving force surrounding them at the time. They were going to start a wine revolution by proving that less is more when expressing terroir. Ironically, all of these men were Stanford Research Institute engineers.

Ridge Vineyards 

The founding engineers (Dave Bennion, Hew Crane, Charlie Rosen and Howard Ziedlerfirst) were able to slowly buy back various plots of the original Monte Bello estate, adding a field blend vineyard down the road dominated by Zinfandel grape vines, planted in the late 1800s, to their portfolio. They made their first Zinfandel in 1966 after their first official Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon in 1962.

After increasing their production to fewer than 3,000 cases a year, far from where they needed to be to make a profit, they found a winemaker, a Stanford graduate in philosophy, Paul Draper, to join their partnership. Paul is a living legend, who, from the very start, shared the low intervention, more natural approach aligned with the founding engineers’ mission. He restored the old limestone winery built into the mountainside that the first vineyard owner constructed in the 1890s and he felt that their resources needed to be put into leasing and buying top vineyard sites that would help them establish a global reputation for outstanding wines. Unlike many people with lofty goals, he was able to achieve such a feat. But making wine, in California of all places in the ’60s and ’70s, that would compete in the fine wine world yet made with natural practices, wasn’t the only revolution he started.

Ingredient Labeling 

David Gates, Paul Draper and John Olney
Photo Credit: Ridge Vineyards

“After making my first four vintages of Monte Bello (’69, ’70, ’71, ’72) and tasting again the superb ’62 and ’64 made by the founding partners, I thought we should do something to show how few ingredients are needed to make truly fine wine,” noted Paul Draper. When Paul reached out to the federal authority that approved wine labels all those decades ago, he was told “no”; because it was not required, no one else did it and it would be confusing to customers. With federal approval in 2008, a neighboring winery in Santa Cruz Mountains had a list of ingredients on many of its wine labels, so Paul was determined that Ridge Vineyards would do the same. With Ridge’s 2011 vintage, they began to list ingredients on their labels as well as explain each ingredient on their website. Paul further explained his intentions, “As more of our estate vineyards were certified organic and we could put “organically grown” on the label, we began to ask ourselves, does “organic” mean anything at all for your health if chemical additives were used once the grapes reached the winery?” 

Ridge Vineyards is also atypical for a medium-sized winery as they have had their own lab since 1971, as most wineries back then had their analysis done by outside wine laboratories. Today’s head winemaker and COO of Ridge, John Olney, talked about how over the past several decades, Ridge has built a sophisticated laboratory that helps to complement their hands-off approach in their winery as it allows for natural fermentation, lower levels of sulfites and the minimum amount of invention during the winemaking practices by making sure that the wine is always in a stable state during each stage. 

One of Ridge’s vineyards covered in snow
Photo Credit: Ridge Vineyards

Of course, this does not mean that those who are not using ingredient labeling should be accused of using undesirable additives as, for some, it is a cost that they cannot take on, or many producers find it could create fear and confusion of listing natural additives in tiny quantities that are misunderstood by the public; such as small amounts of sulfur in wine that is much lower than many of the food products that people eat daily. Yet one thing is for sure, Ridge gives a pure expression of their vineyards that deserve nothing less as the fruit is stunning.

Motive: Marketing or Philosophy 

Today, it has become trendy for relatively new, big-brand wines to list their ingredients, giving the impression that they are made of purer ingredients that are better for the consumer than most other wines on the market. This is a very dangerous marketing campaign because it maligns other wine producers who have decided to focus on their vineyards, history and philosophy instead of an ingredient list and just simply saying that there are grapes in the wine and not much else doesn’t tell a consumer the whole story of what is in that bottle.

But Ridge Vineyards, started by engineers and a philosophy major, wasn’t exactly being run by marketing experts – far from it! There is no doubt about Monte Bello having an illustrious history and sense of place that some have called America’s First Growth and Ridge is rooted in a solid commitment to avoid anything that gets in the way of wine drinkers being able to experience the true glory of their vineyards.

Paul made a valid point that putting “organic” on a wine label seemed pointless if one didn’t know the ingredients in the bottle. But what is remarkable is that many fine wine connoisseurs worldwide love the Ridge Vineyards wines and their hearts skip a beat when Monte Bello comes to the table – and some have no idea of their commitment to low-intervention winemaking and ingredient labeling. His philosophy in showing the world what is in the bottle, unadulterated, is to stand behind the greatness of his vineyards. And 60 years after the first official vintage of Ridge Vineyards, it is finally getting wider recognition for being one of the first to push for complete transparency in the wine world.  

***Link to original article on Forbes:

60th Anniversary Ridge Vineyards tasting in NYC
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

60th Anniversary Ridge Vineyards Tasting:

David Gates, senior vice president of vineyard operations, said that they only make a small quantity of Monte Bello Chardonnay in certain vintages. When it comes to the difference between the Estate Chardonnay and the Monte Bello Chardonnay, the Monte Bello is a parcel and barrel selection of the best Estate Chardonnay.

2012 Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello Chardonnay: Ripe golden apples and honeysuckle with a smoky minerality with hints of nutmeg with good concentration balanced by a nimble energy.

2006 Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello Chardonnay: Lots of chalky minerality right off the bat with lemon custard and graham cracker flavors that had a creamy yet textured body with bright acidity and lots of energy on the finish.

“The founders were looking for only Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in California in the 1960s, and instead, they found all these field blends, including Lytton Springs and Geyserville,” said John Olney, head winemaker and COO. The first Ridge Zinfandel blend was Geyserville in 1966, with a section of the vineyard containing vines more than 130 years old; the vineyard is composed of Zinfandel, Carignane, Petite Sirah and Mataro (Mourvèdre). And another iconic Zinfandel of Ridge is Lytton Springs which had its first vintage in 1972. Lytton Springs has Zinfandel vines that are over a century old and interplanted with Petite Sirah, Carignane, Grenache and small amount of Mataro (Mourvèdre). And despite the vineyards only being two miles apart, the Geyserville “has a little firmer acidity, more red fruit, rounder, more forward” than the Lytton Springs, according to John Olney.

2005 Ridge Vineyards, Geyserville from 3-Liter bottle: An open and generous nose with lush red cherries and baking spices intermixed with star anise and a gracefully broad body with fleshy fruit that has lots of energy on the finish.

1999 Ridge Vineyards, Geyserville from 3-Liter: Broken earth with subtle hints of raspberries and rhubarb with white pepper and poppy seeds and silky tannins and refreshing acidity.

2005 Ridge Vineyards, Lytton Springs from 3-Liter: Blackcurrant fruit with notes of licorice and dried herbs with structured tannins that give lift to the concentrated fruit.

1999 Ridge Vineyards, Lytton Springs from 3-Liter: This shows how Ridge’s Zinfandel blends can age beautifully with plenty of supple black cherry fruit with added layers of black pepper and crushed rock that has tannins with big shoulders balanced by plush black fruit on the mid-palate; a harmonious wine.

David Gates, senior vice president of vineyard operations, decanting the wines
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

Monte Bello was initially 100% Cabernet Sauvignon until 1975, but through time Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot were planted as it was difficult to fully ripen the Cabernet Sauvignon decades ago in the cool climate of Santa Cruz Mountains, just like in Bordeaux, and so other Bordeaux varieties were added to bring balance. The 1964, listed as the last wine, was only 11.5% alcohol.

2013 Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello: 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot. Ridge Vineyards usually re-releases their Monte Bello wines again onto the market after ten years, and so this 2013 is currently available on the market. This is a stunning wine, from the multi-faceted aromas and flavors of cassis, espresso, truffles and a stony minerality with plush texture that has firm tannins with racy acidity giving vitality to the intensely concentrated fruit along the extraordinarily long finish. Wow!

2005 Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello from Magnum: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. Redcurrant preserves with cocoa powder and upheaved earth with hints of fresh sage and slightly firm tannins that has lots of juicy fruit on the palate.

1996 Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello from Magnum: 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot and 9% Petit Verdot. A lovely aromatic nose that is still so vibrant with boysenberry and black raspberry with allspice in the background that has intense flavors on the palate with lots of focused energy.

1988 Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello from Magnum: John Olney said that this wine does have a bit of Brettanomyces (Brett) as it was a learning process of how to work naturally without unwanted yeasts converting into sometimes off-putting aromas during fermentation. But Brett can range in qualities from barnyard to gamey notes and this wine has a hint of grilled pork ribs, which is an aroma loved by some people and so the Brett may not be an issue for some, adding layers of smoldering earth, brambly fruit and tree bark with a textured body.

1977 Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello from Magnum: Smoky note that is reminiscent of lit charcoal, wild berries and graphite with blueberry scones and bacon fat with a linear body with fierce energy and lift on the finish.

1964 Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Fresh tobacco leaf and hints of tar with layers of sandalwood, cigar box and forest floor in the background that has well-integrated tannins and marked acidity, giving a mouthwatering finish.

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Blind Tasting Wine With The Most Famous Wine Consultant In The World

As the breathtaking Andes Mountains were framed in the big bay window, a seemingly endless line of Argentinian wines shone in the sunlight as a small group of top professional winemakers from Argentina tasted the bottles before their honored guest arrived. The numerous wine stains on the white table cloths indicated that the professionals were hard at work as there was a nervous energy in the air creating a manic tempo, like a fast swing dance, with many ups and downs, backs and forths, and the tempo never slowed, except for one abrupt moment. The room temporarily froze as everyone looked towards the door, where an elegantly dressed man with a warm, boisterous laugh entered the room.

Mountains behind Clos de los Siete
Photo Credit: Clos de los Siete

Michel Rolland, the most famous wine consultant in the world, originated from Bordeaux, France, and his reverence within the wine industry is without compare. On that day in Argentina, back in 1988, he was given a lineup of some of the most well-known wine producers in Argentina, to get to know the wines better, as he was called by one of the top producers, Arnaldo Etchart, to help out with his project in Argentina.

“Arnaldo was a very nice man who had a winery with a great reputation in Salta, Argentina, and he asked me to come to help. I was curious about Argentina, I had never been there before, and I knew nothing about the wines,” noted Michel during an intimate blind tasting in a restaurant called Sweetbriar, tucked away in Manhattan, New York City. The blind tasting consisted of a vertical of his Argentina wine project, Clos de los Siete. That first tasting of Argentina wines back in the 1980s initially inspired this project as his curiosity was piqued. It has been quite a journey for Michel and Argentina because when he first came to the country, the wines were nothing like what they are today. “The Cabernet Sauvignon wines were awful,” Michel said bluntly, but he could tell that there was potential in the Malbec wines. Through time, Argentina Malbecs not only took the world by storm, but the Cabernets have also reached high-quality status.

Michel Rolland 

Michel Rolland
Photo Credit: Clos de los Siete

Michel was born on the Right Bank of Bordeaux in the small village of Pomerol in the late 1940s and at the time the Left Bank had all of the wine glory; the winemakers in Pomerol had no fancy classification that would automatically give them a formal hierarchy. The Rolland family was one such wine producer with their small plot of vineyards surrounding their Château Le Bon Pasteur winery and their son, Michel, would not only go on to raise the quality of wines in Pomerol but also in the rest of Bordeaux. He would eventually become the most famous wine consultant in the world with his remarkable tasting skills and blending talent.

At university, Michel met his future wife, Dany, who is also an enologist, and they opened their lab in the early 1970s where they started their consulting business, which still thrives today with their daughter joining them. His reputation became so renowned in the wine world that other places around the globe would chase after him to consult on their wine projects and so he was one of the first to go out to Napa Valley and beyond. 

As with any tremendous fame, there are critics as two of the greatest sins of the wine business are to be successful and to become internationally recognized. The wine world is one where many know going in that it will be a thankless job and the pay will only be just enough to get by, and for some, balancing more than one job may be necessary. And so, one has to be so passionate and hopelessly in love with what one does that it will sustain the person through many tough times. So some see Michel as an inspiration – one of the few who can do what he is most passionate about in the wine world while also being successful while others can’t help but feel envious and pick apart everything he says and does. 

Michel Rolland
Photo Credit: Clos de los Siete

But for those who have gotten the opportunity to taste a wide range of wines on which Michel Rolland has consulted, it is evident that there is no one style he is forcing across the board as each estate has its own sense of place and its own sense of balance; there is also the influence of the winemaker, which Michel greatly respects. And despite many winemakers learning a great deal from Michel and watching him practice his passion for blending, it was different at the beginning of Michel’s consultant career, as the winemakers initially thought Michel would take over their jobs. “I would never want the job of a winemaker as I have the greatest job in the world,” Michel said with a boisterous laugh.

Michel has consulted on some of the most fantastic wines in the fine wine world, but his love and talent for blending shines the most through his Clos de los Siete project in the Uco Valley in Argentina. In 1998, he convinced some adventurous Bordeaux producers to come to Argentina and build a winery where Michel would also build his own. They would each make their own wines but then each winery would present a part of their production to use in Michel’s blend that would include all the wineries to make Clos de los Siete. It was considered crazy at the time and although, in some ways, Michel does admit it was a gamble as he chose a place where there was no vineyard yet, in other ways, he used his knowledge and experience to pick an excellent site. The slope and soil were critical factors in selecting the site and today it has paid off since Michel noted that in 20 years, there has only been one hail storm and there has never been any frost – two issues that plague many vineyard areas in Argentina as well as all over the world.

Clos de los Siete vineyards
Photo Credit: Clos de los Siete

It is a fascinating project as each of the winemakers at Bodega y Viñedos Monteviejo, Cuvelier Los Andes, Bodega DiamAndes and Bodega Rolland will highlight a different aspect of the terroir. So, it is the blending that combines the various expressions of the sense of place of the same land in the high-elevated Vista Flores district in the Uco Valley of Argentina. And every year, Michel says he can always count on one of the winemakers saying that he has made the best wine for that vintage. Still, the final blend of all the winemakers is always the best, as nothing can compare to the complete personality of the terroir presented in Clos de los Siete. 

Clos de los Siete

As the small group sat in that NYC restaurant, blind tasting the different vintages of Clos de los Siete, everyone realized that the wines were ideal expressions of Michel’s love for blending wines. His charm and overall joyful energy were on full display that day, although when it comes to blending or assessing a wine, he becomes brutally honest, even with himself. He had no issues revealing that he initially thought the Clos de los Siete would only be approachable, easy-drinking wines and never thought for a moment in its inception that they could age so beautifully. He was happy with how all the wines in the blind tasting had evolved except for the 2015, as it was too thin for him. It was a vintage described on its tech sheet as a “Bordeaux” year and Michel noted his disagreement with such a descriptor as Bordeaux has come a long way and he is one of the reasons for its ascent into high quality winemaking.  

Sunset at Clos de los Siete vineyards
Photo Credit: Clos de los Siete

It is remarkable to think of Michel as that young boy in the quaint, tiny village of Pomerol walking his family vineyards all those years ago. Yes, everything he witnessed would be a part of his life as he knew he would do something involving wine. But how could anyone ever imagine, especially back then, that he would be able to find his purpose in life relatively young and, in the process, completely change the wine world? In every man and woman’s life, there is a point when he fiercely searches for where his talent lies and the purpose of his time on earth. For many, that mission is only partially satisfied and most people never get the chance to discover their gift.

But once in a long while, against all odds, someone is placed on a path where his extraordinary gift is evident and he can succeed in ways that are unimaginable, capturing lightning in a bottle, and that someone is Michel Rolland.

***Link to original Forbes article:

Blind tasting of Clos de los Siete vertical
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

Clos de los Siete wines tasted in a blind tasting:

2019 Clos de los Siete Photo Credit:
Cathrine Todd

2019 Clos de los Siete, Vista Flores, Valle de Uco, Argentina: 50% Malbec, 24% Merlot, 11% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. 2019 was noted as a “great vintage,” and the wine illustrated great fruit. Pristine blackberry and black cherry aromas with hints of cocoa powder, broken rocks and baking spice with silky tannins along the juicy and flavorful finish; an overall elegant quality to this wine.

2018 Clos de los Siete, Vista Flores, Valle de Uco, Argentina: 55% Malbec, 19% Merlot, 12% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. This vintage was noted as being the “best vintage in 30 years”. An intoxicating nose singing with floral notes, ripe blueberry and blackberry fruit, and an intense minerality with intense concentration balanced by bright acidity and seamlessly integrated tannins with a very long and expressive nose – stunning.

2017 Clos de los Siete, Vista Flores, Valle de Uco, Argentina: 52% Malbec, 21% Merlot, 15% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. Frost in the spring made this a low-yielding vintage. Lush fruit such as blackcurrant preserves and blueberry pie that has a slight grip to the tannins, which gives some much-needed structure to the plush fruit on the palate.

2015 Clos de los Siete, Vista Flores, Valle de Uco, Argentina: 58% Malbec, 23% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Syrah and 1% Petit Verdot. This was called the “Bordeaux” vintage, which produced lighter wines since it was so rainy. Dusty earth, dried herbs and subtle black and blue fruit flavors that is thin on the palate with a nice freshness on the finish.

2010 Clos de los Siete, Vista Flores, Valle de Uco, Argentina: 53% Malbec, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 11% Syrah and 1% Petit Verdot. 2010 was a warm, dry vintage that had an excellent fruit concentration with more evolved notes of espresso and fresh tobacco with a rich flavor of mulberry cobbler with round tannins.

2009 Clos de los Siete, Vista Flores, Valle de Uco, Argentina: 57% Malbec, 15% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah and 3% Petit Verdot; considered a very good vintage on the cooler side. Hints of violet petals with wild mushrooms and blackberry jam on toast create an intriguing nose with plenty of juicy fruit on the palate and very fine tannins; a harmonious wine with lots of nuances.

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A Family Wine Estate Lost While Dealing With Father’s Alzheimer’s

The surreal California coastline seems like a dream to a young man from Burgundy, France, who was swept away by the place, the wines and the people who have a casual, warm temperament balanced by a fast-paced creative energy. He became completely inspired by the idea that anything is possible in this stunning paradise while meeting people from all over the world who have moved to “The Golden State” to live their dreams. The 24-year-old young man was to stay two to three years in California just after having graduated from the University of Dijon to gain international experience so he could return to his family’s wine estate, Edouard Delaunay, to work with his father, hopefully bringing valuable contributions back from his time spent in the U.S.

“You should come back! Your father is tired and he needs help!” said the young man’s mother on the phone one day after he had barely spent a year in California. And so, he didn’t question it but jumped on a plane back home where he would help his father. But something wasn’t right as the young man’s father did not seem like the same man that he was before he left. And his father’s ability to perform everyday tasks seemed to get more difficult for him as time went on; within a few months, his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. While mourning the loss of the father he knew, this young man needed to take over quickly during an unfortunate economic time in 1991. It was during the first Gulf War and inflation was high with a significant increase in the cost of living. Moreover, Burgundy’s property taxes had already become exorbitant and this young man needed to make sure his parents had enough money to live out the rest of their retirement.

Edouard Delaunay’s winery and cellars,
Château de Charmont
Photo Credit: Edouard Delaunay

So the young man reached out to one of his father’s longtime friends, Jean-Claude Boisset, who had already bought many vineyards and wineries in Burgundy to purchase Edouard Delaunay. That way, the young man’s parents would have a nice nest egg, even if it left him with nothing. So he decided to move down to the South of France with his future wife, a winemaker from the Rhône Valley (just south of Burgundy). She had heard that the Languedoc wine region in the South was the best place for young people with zero resources to start a winemaking business. 

No Money But a Strong Work Ethic 

That young man was Laurent Delaunay and his family’s estate, Edouard Delaunay, was named after the founder and his great-grandfather; in an ideal world, he would have been the fifth generation taking over. But life had other plans, so Laurent, with the help of his wife Catherine, went down to the Languedoc to figure out how they could make wine with “no winery, no vineyards, no money, no anything.”

“We were able to convince some local people to allow us to make our own wines in their wineries,” said Laurent. And with lots of hard work, they made wine while quickly developing new markets around the world, especially in the U.S., from 1995 to 2003. Then, one day, he received a call from an old friend back home as his friend’s father wanted to retire – he was an owner of a small company in Burgundy that distributed and marketed the wines of small Burgundy producers. It was an excellent opportunity to find a way back to Burgundy. Even though he and his wife had successful businesses in the South and they had very little time to dwell on the past, Laurent wanted to renew that connection with what he lost. They were back living in Burgundy and grew their business to represent 180 Burgundy producers, becoming the largest distributor of small, independent domaines1. But as Laurent got older, frustration started to build as he wasn’t making his own wines in Burgundy. He had a few opportunities to buy some vineyards and then a négociant2 house but none of those deals worked out and it didn’t seem right in his gut.

Edouard Delaunay old vintages
Photo Credit:
Edouard Delaunay

Then, one day, as fate would have it, Laurent saw Jean-Claude Boisset at a restaurant in the Burgundy village of Nuits-Saint-Georges and after Jean-Claude’s guests left, Laurent took that serendipitous moment to invite Jean-Claude to join him for coffee. At one point in their conversation, Laurent mentioned his old family’s estate that he sold to Jean-Claude and that he was seeing it on the market less and less, which Jean-Claude admitted that they had bought a lot of wineries lately and they hadn’t given the Edouard Delaunay name the attention that it needed. Laurent asked if he could buy his family’s estate name and winery back and Jean-Claude agreed as he always respected what Laurent did for his parents. But Jean-Claude would not sell back the vineyards, which probably would have been impossible for Laurent to buy anyways as some of their vineyards were in the very expensive village of Chambolle-Musigny.

Edouard Delaunay

When Laurent walked back into his family winery, he was struck by the intense emotions he felt that were buried deep within him. Seeing all the areas where he would play as a child and the smells that were unique to his family’s cellars brought back a flood of memories that mainly conjured all those times he spent with his father teaching him various winemaking techniques as an adolescent, an adolescent who dreamt of the day he would work side by side with his father as a man, which sadly never came to pass. At that moment, he swore he would bring Edouard Delaunay back to its glory by reestablishing the name among the top Burgundy wines of the world. So first, he completely renovated the winery with state-of-the-art equipment to accommodate small-volume, high-quality wine. Next, he hired his winemaker, Christophe Briotet, the chief winemaker and cellar master at the School of Viticulture in Beaune. Laurent’s father had always respected those chosen to be the chief winemaker at the School of Viticulture in Beaune as he felt they picked the people who had the best sense of how to express the terroir of the various vineyards in Burgundy.

Old bottle of Edouard Delaunay in the cellar
Photo Credit: Edouard Delaunay

The last thing he needed was to find grapes to buy, so Laurent reached out to everyone in his network to give him the contact information for the growers he most wanted to work with in Burgundy. And even though being from Burgundy himself, he knew that growers have long relationships with well-known winemakers and négociants2, and they would never jeopardize those relationships by working with a new producer in town who wanted to give a go at making Burgundy wine. But never say never, especially when it comes to certain circumstances, as all the producers were thrilled that he was resurrecting his family’s estate and they were more than happy to sell him grapes; some would even set aside the equivalent of a couple of barrels of their grapes from their top Grand Cru vineyards just for him because as they saw it, it was his “birthright.”

His first vintage was 2017 and they produced wines from 20 different appellations3 from the heart of Burgundy in the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. Laurent slowly increased their offerings over the years and today they make wines from around 30 different appellations. He has also taken on the task of expanding into the vineyards of the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, where his winery is located, only three miles outside of the well-known red wine village of Nuits-Saint-Georges. He makes the case that the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune, which makes up the most valuable Burgundy vineyard land known as the Golden Slope a.k.a. Côte-d’Or, were designated with incredible skill and accuracy by the monks many centuries ago yet no one has formally designated the vineyards of the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits. The Hautes-Côtes de Nuits has Jurassic limestone soil and the vineyards range in altitude between 980 to 1,300 feet; such altitude could be more ideal today with consistently warmer temperatures due to climate change.  

Within a short time, Laurent’s winemaker, Christophe Briotet, has won awards from the International Wine Challenge (IWC), first winning Red Winemaker of the Year in 2020 and then White Winemaker of the Year in 2021. And last year, Laurent was asked to become the president of the Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB), a non-for-profit organization of wine growers/winemakers and négociants that handle the present and future challenges of the Burgundy wine region. As someone who had already been through a multi-generational wine family’s worst nightmare of having to sell, as well as being a great businessman and marketer by building a successful business with global distribution out of nothing, there is no one better suited for the job. And so Laurent goes around the world talking to various wine enthusiast groups to inform and inspire them about the current state of Burgundy and where the wine region wants to go in the future. One of the things he would like to implement is to inform English-speaking countries like the U.S. that the name of Burgundy in French is Bourgogne (pronounced bor·gaan·yuh) as they are the only wine region in France where the name is changed in English.

Stronger Foundation Avoids Desperation

Laurent Delaunay holding a bottle of 1990 Edouard Delaunay, the last vintage his father made
Photo Credit:
Edouard Delaunay

Laurent had everything anyone wanted: successful businesses, fulfilling work and a great partner in life with his talented wife Catherine, however, there was still something missing as one should never live in regret, especially when life forces one’s hand. He did the right thing when it came to taking care of his parents but it was undoubtedly a very unfair position for someone who wasn’t even 25 years old to have to navigate. Overwhelmed with a bad economy, escalating inflation and excessive property taxes, he needed more than ever to talk to his father and lean on him for advice and comfort. But his father needed him and the clock was ticking so he did what he had to do, only thinking of his parents.

And so, although it doesn’t make business sense to try to reinvigorate and reestablish a neglected family estate in a highly competitive Burgundy fine wine market, when one hears Laurent’s story, it makes complete sense, as a part of him was taken the day he sold. 

Laurent is grateful for every grape that enters his winery from all the wine grape growers who are willing to sell him his “birthright” as no one knows more than he does what it is like to have great vineyards, that are part of one’s legacy, to be swiftly lost by the cruelty of the randomness of life. 

He has never felt closer to his father, as all the precious time he spends in the winery and cellars is filled with memories that are as vivid as if they happened yesterday. The transition of one generation to the other did not happen the way Laurent’s father wanted it to happen but Laurent has more than made up for that over the past five years. And as unfortunate as the initial selling of his family’s estate may seem, it gave him the drive to go down to the South of France to build a booming wine business gaining marketing savvy and global distribution know-how. And he is now part of helping other small, independent Burgundy wine producers build a strong business foundation for their multi-generational estates, so what happened to him decades ago never has to happen to another family again. 

***Link to original Forbes article:

2018 Edouard Delaunay, Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Aux Murgers”
Photo Credit: Cathrine Todd

The French word Bourgogne is used below instead of the English word Burgundy:

2018 Edouard Delaunay, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Baudines”, Côte de Beaune, Bourgogne: 100% Chardonnay. Lovely Anjou pear, crumbled hazelnuts and a touch of warm spice on the nose with juicy nectarine fruit on the palate intermixed with dried lemon verbena and good mid-palate weight with a long, expressive finish.  

2020 Gruhier & Delaunay – Associated Cousins, Chablis Grand Cru “Les Preuses”, Chablis, Bourgogne: 100% Chardonnay. Intense chalky nose with a fierce stony minerality highlighted with lemon blossom that becomes mouthwatering on the palate with flavors of lemon zest and white peach that has lots of energy on the mineral-laced finish.

2020 Edouard Delaunay, Hautes-Côtes de Nuits “Les Rouards”, Bourgogne: 100% Pinot Noir. This non-designated vineyard called Les Rouards is near the Vosne-Romanée border and so it has similar beautiful floral notes with a silky texture that has plenty of backbone – interesting to see how this will age in time. Ripe black cherries, cinnamon stick and broken earth dominate the flavor profile at this time but there seems to be so much more underneath waiting to evolve with time.

2019 Edouard Delaunay, Nuits-Saint-Georges Village, Côte de Nuits, Bourgogne: 100% Pinot Noir. This Nuits-Saint-Georges village wine is a blend of three vineyards that come from older vines. One is north-facing and so the fruit is more aromatic with high acidity and the other two plots are south-facing and so they bring the richness and body to balance out the other plot. Crushed rocks, fresh tarragon and a touch of cumin seeds with concentrated and zingy flavors of raspberry coulis on the palate that has fine tannins and a linear drive to the finish.

2018 Edouard Delaunay, Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Aux Murgers”, Côte de Nuits, Bourgogne: 100% Pinot Noir. Wet stones and dried cranberries on the nose with an intoxicating smoldering incense aroma in the background that has dark, brooding fruit and finely etched tannins with a long, flavorful finish.

2019 Edouard Delaunay, Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Crots”, Côte de Nuits, Bourgogne: 100% Pinot Noir. Lifted aromatic nose with lilacs and cherry blossom grounded in an underlying compelling undergrowth aroma with extremely silky tannins that caress the palate with fleshy red cherry and a stunning delicacy on the finish with pristine fruit and minerality.

2019 Hospices de Nuits, Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Porrets St. Georges”, Côte de Nuits, Bourgogne: 100% Pinot Noir. A very pretty wine with lots of violets and blueberry fruit that has plum pie flavors on the palate intermixed with ripe red cherry fruit that has an overall elegance balanced by fruit generosity. Laurent talked about how the Hospices de Beaune is very well-known but the Hospices de Nuits needs to be rediscovered. It is much smaller than the Hospices de Beaune auction and it is focused on the 1er Crus of Nuits-Saint-Georges. The Hospices de Nuits, which owns 30 acres, is the largest land owner of 1er Crus of Nuits-Saint-Georges, according to Laurent. The auction happens on the 3rd Sunday of March and so it is later than the Hospices de Beaune, and hence, the wines are already tasting better and MLF has almost finished. The auction takes place at Château du Clos de Vougeot and it has recently been opened to the public.

2019 Edouard Delaunay, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru, Côte de Nuits, Bourgogne: 100% Pinot Noir. This wine’s aroma was wafting from the glass the moment it was poured, begging the Burgundy lover to try an extraordinary wine that was multi-layered with black truffles, forest floor, pressed rose petals and jasmine flower; supple fruit on the exquisitely textured body with velvety tannins and sexy concentrated red fruit that is at the same time charming with its nuanced delivery of the fruit with an outstandingly long finish. Stellar wine!

1Domaines are parcels of land under the control of the winemaker/owner in Burgundy.

2Standard wine négociants buy wine and handle the packaging, marketing and sales. Also, there are some négociants that will buy grapes or unfermented wine juice and do the winemaking themselves, or they buy fermented wine and make tiny improvements to the wine as well as age it.

3An appellation is a designated wine area many times to indicate quality status with it specifically used in Burgundy under categories such as villages (communes), 1er Cru (Premier Cru) vineyards and Grand Cru vineyards.

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