A Simple Guide to German Riesling: Flatiron Wines’ German Riesling 101

This week Riesling is the talk of the town. In conjunction with Rieslingfeier this weekend, we at Flatiron are embracing the opportunity to talk about one of the world’s favorite wines: German Riesling. Not everyone has been able to take a deep dive on Riesling, so our first post will give you the basics. Keep watching our site this week for a few more posts about Riesling. And, if you aren’t already, sign up for our newsletter so as not to miss out on the Rieslings we’re featuring at a deep discount.

Welcome to Riesling 101! 

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What is Riesling?

Riesling is a noble white grape that makes aromatic white wines.

Riesling grapes make a huge range of still, white wines ranging from bone-dry to unctuously sweet. Riesling is famously good at giving a taste of the terroir in which it is grown. So, for example, Riesling grown in France’s Alsace region will taste very different from Riesling grown in Germany.

Where does Riesling grow?

Riesling probably originated in Germany many centuries ago, but is grown today in much of the wine producing world, including: Germany, Austria, France, Australia, New Zealand, America and Canada.

What’s special about German Riesling?

No country focuses on Riesling like Germany. Top producers, top regions and top vineyards are all devoted to the grape. There are German Rieslings for everyone from the first-time wine drinker to the geekiest wine geek.

Is German Riesling Sweet?

Some German Rieslings are sweet, some are bone dry, and most fall somewhere in between.

How can I tell if a German Riesling is sweet or dry?

German labels can be a little confusing, but for a quick way to get a sense of whether a German Riesling is dry or sweet, just check out the alcohol level: the higher the alcohol, the drier the wines; the lower the alcohol, the sweeter.

So, if a wine’s alcohol is above, say, 12.5% or 13%, it’s dry. If it’s under about 11%, it will have at least a touch of sweetness.

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Now, if it’s in the middle, it can be tough to tell just how sweet a wine is. It will really help to know just a few German words to look out for, starting with Trocken, which is German for dry. Obviously, if you see Trocken on a Riesling label, the wine is dry. Likewise, any wine that says Grosses Gewachs is dry.

There are also words that mean a wine is at least a tiny bit sweet, like Feinherb. Other words, like Spatlese and Auslese, usually mean that a wine is sweet–unless the label also says Trocken or  Grosses Gewachs — in which case it’s dry.

Why are alcohol and sugar levels inversely related? Because you make alcohol in wine by letting yeasts convert sugar into alcohol and CO2. The more sugar the yeasts eat, the more alcohol they produce and the less sugar is left for the drinker.

What does German Riesling smell and taste like?

Many different things! Depending on where the German Riesling comes from and how ripe the grapes got, Riesling wines can have aromas and flavors ranging from (on the less ripe end) lime and other citrus, through apple-y flavors, all the way to stone fruit and even tropical aromas (at the riper end).

Germany’s best rieslings grow on very stony sites and are famous for also having intense mineral notes.

As Riesling ages, it develops complex flavors including a signature “petrol” note.

Why are German Rieslings so diverse?

The world’s greatest grapes taste different depending on where they’re grown. Factors like the kind of soils the vines grow in, the altitude, climate and exposition all make the final product taste a little different. That’s why Pinot Noir tastes very different when it’s grown in California than in Burgundy’s Vosne Romanee.

The name for the factors that contribute to these unique tastes is “terroir.” No grape does a better job than Riesling of tasting like the particular terroir in which it was grown. Wine geeks call grapes that do this “terroir-transparent.” Riesling is very terroir-transparent.

German Riesling is very diverse for two reasons. First, because German Riesling grows in some very diverse terroirs, and because Riesling is so terroir-transparent, wines from different regions will taste distinct. Second, because German Riesling is made in many different styles and ripeness levels, you can find German Rieslings of many different sweetness levels.

Is German Riesling expensive?

Not for what you get! In fact, German Rieslings offer some of the best values in the world of wine.

It’s true some German Rieslings are super expensive. But they’re rare, even though back in the day, German Rieslings were as expensive and sought-after as the very best Burgundies.

That’s just not the case anymore. The wines are out of fashion, which means they offer great values. You can find bottles under $40 dollars that offer the kind of complexity, intellectual excitement and straight-up deliciousness that would cost way more than three times that if you were buying Burgundy.

But look out: fashions change… and this one is changing fast! German wines are more and more talked about among wine geeks and tastemakers in the restaurant and culinary worlds. Already, top producers that we used to be able to stock year-round are now entirely pre-sold. Prices are creeping up.

It’s a great time to buy German Riesling, but the value window may close soon.

Can I drink German Riesling with Food?

Absolutely! It’s one of the best wines for food. No wine is better suited to a wide variety of hard-to-pair foods, from traditional German pork products, to complex Asian dishes and the modern haut cuisines blending of the two with novel techniques. German wines elevate the dinner as they enrapture the diner.

Dry examples are great substitutes for Sancerre or other crisp, dry whites. A fine glass of Trocken Riesling can enliven any simple fish dish. But Riesling’s real magical culinary powers come out when you look at hard-to-pair foods, especially spicy ones like Thai or Chinese.

The spice and sugar in those foods can make red wines taste austere or metallic, and dry white wines sour or just washed out. Rieslings with a bit of sugar will stand up to the sweetness and even temper the heat. The mineral cut and bracing acidity are like a squeeze of lime on southeast asian food, bringing out details and making you want more all the time.

You need to try it to believe it!

Do vintages in Germany matter?

Yes, but with a run of great vintages from 2015-2018, there’s all kinds of great stuff to chose from.

Give it to me straight: Why should I care about German Riesling?

  • Incredible values.
  • Delicious wines with a unique and ancient history.
  • Terroir-transparent wines expressing varied and unique sites
  • An incredible string of vintages from 2015, 2016, 2017 and, now, 2018
  • One of the most perfect food wines imaginable; wines that pair with everything from classic French food to spicy Asian cuisines.

Is German Riesling complicated to understand?

We’re going to make it simple for you! A deep dive into the intricacies of German wine can be complicated, but the basics aren’t that hard to wrap your head around. Over the next few blog posts we’ll show you how.

Keys to understanding German Riesling:

  • Regions. Germany is a country of wine regions. France has Bordeaux, Burgundy etc., and Germany has:
    • The Mosel, Nahe, Pfalz and Rhenheissen (and many more!)
  • Sweetness/Ripeness. Unlike France or Italy (or most wine countries) German wines from a single vineyard can run the gamut from bone-dry to unctuously sweet. German wine laws have categories (e.g. Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese) to help you understand what’s in a bottle.
  • Producers. Germany has generations-old wineries (and winemakers) preserving ancient traditions. But it has also enjoyed an explosion of interest among super-talented young winemakers who are rediscovering old traditions and terroirs, as well as breaking new ground in response to changing circumstances (including global warming).

On the cutting edge of something big: Jochen Beurer is Making Zweigelt Obscure Again

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People ask us all the time: What is wine’s next frontier? They remember when the Jura exploded on the scene. They watched prices of Northern Rhônes soar. What is next?

We don’t really know, of course. But there are a definitely a few categories that we’re keeping a close eye on. Greece is one. Another is what we’re calling “Teutonic Obscurities”: wines from Austria and Germany made from their many overlooked grape varieties.

Most of these non-famous grapes (basically, we’re talking about wines that aren’t made from the usual suspects like Riesling, Grüner, Spätburgunder, and Blaufränkisch) were for many years produced cheaply and industrially and entirely for local consumption.

But a younger, artisanally-minded generation has taken a keen interest in rediscovering these varieties and seeing them through to their full potential. These producers have been basically unknown here in the U.S., until like-minded importers started to take notice—people like Stephen Bitterolf, who discovered this amazing Zweigelt grown in Württemberg by Jochen Beurer.

Zweigelt, you might argue, is a pretty conventional grape. Plenty of it comes to America. It’s a big thing in Austria, right? Austria, yes. But not so much in Germany. There, it is a true obscurity. You see, Zweigelt was invented only in 1922, when an Austrian scientist (Dr. Zweigelt, of course) crossed St. Laurent with Blaufränkisch, and not many vines ever crossed the border into Germany.

But there are a few vines in Württemberg, the warmish southwest corner of Germany over by Baden and Alsace. There, red wine is the thing. But even in Württemberg, Zweigelt is only about 0.5% of the region’s total production. This really is a Teutonic Obscurity.

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Jochen Beurer is a champion of Teutonic Obscurities. Has was also, at one point, an actual Teutonic champion: of BMX biking. But around 2001 he switched to biodynamic farming of grapes like Trollinger, Lemberger, Portugieser….and Zweigelt.

Now, we’re not just writing about Beurer and his Zweigelt because it’s Obscure. We think that Beurer could be at the cutting edge of something big. The Zweigelt tastes, frankly, awesome. We are all too used to more industrial examples of Zweigelt from Austria, which can seem to be a little…ketchupy. But this one is all clear and pure red berries, with just a touch of something smoky adding a little complexity.

In other words, you should drink this not just because it’s some kind of curiosity, but because it is a really lovely wine that is quite undervalued!  And if this wasn’t enticing enough, we’ve discounted on just on one bottle so everyone can feel comfortable having a taste.  Just use the discount code TEUTONIC at checkout.  Good while supplies last.

Jochen Beurer, Zweigelt, 2015 – $22.99 $19.99

Buy 2015 Jochen Beurer Zweigelt

-Josh

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Poderi Colla: Piedmont Greatness in a New Life

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“Readers in search of a top flight, traditionally-styled Barolo will find much to explore in these very fine, noble wines from the Colla family.” – Antonio Galloni, Vinous

Sometimes we introduce new producers in these stories. Sometimes we revisit old classics. But this time we have the best of both worlds: an old classic that has become new again.

The Colla family has one of oldest histories in the region. For many generations, they futzed about. They dabbled in Champagne-style sparklers. They learned something about Vermouth and Amaro at Carpano and ended up making their own Amaro from Moscato. But then, in the 1950s, Beppe Colla settled into Barolo fame by taking over the old Prunotto estate.

Beppe Colla hits his stride at Prunotto

At Prunotto, he was the first to introduce single-vineyard-designated Barolo to Piedmont (inspiring Angelo Gaja and Bruno Giacosa to do the same a few years later). Quality at Prunotto soared and if you ever come across old bottles from the late 1950s to the late 1980s—drink them!

But the Colla legend did not end when Beppe sold Prunotto to Antinori in 1991. The family decided to put together their own estate, in part by purchasing some of the same great sites that Beppe had worked at Prunotto.

The cantina never got much attention here in the U.S. But there they were, at this year’s Festa del Barolo seminar, standing toe to toe with the rest of the region’s top wines. Carlotta Rinaldi stopped by the shop to say hi the next day, and she joined us for a taste of Colla – just about all we ended up talking about was how great the Colla was.

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Colla’s 2013 Barolo and Barbaresco are Pure Magic

It helped that the current vintage is 2013, of course. But wow! How long had it been since we’d come across a producer new to us making Barolo and Barbaresco of such depth, seriousness, and general quality. Here was the Colla magic—steeped in tradition, fine terroir, and generations of honing techniques—embodied in a beautiful set of new wines.

We have small quantities of both their Barolo—from Bussia of all places—and Barbaresco (from Roncaglie). We think you should take at least two of each wine: one of each to try now, for sure, and at least one of each to put in your cellar. The Barbareco will start to open up in 3-5 years and the Barolo a few years later.

To incentivize you, we’ll offer 10% off any order of four or more of these wines. Just use the discount code COLLA10 at checkout.

Poderi Colla, Barbaresco “Roncaglie”, 2013 – $52.99

Poderi Colla, Barolo “Bussia – Dardi Le Rose”, 2013 – $65.99 

Shop-2013-Poderi-Colla-Barolo-and-Barbaresco

-Josh

Want to get more offers like these straight to your inbox? Sign-up for our newsletter already! As loyal subscribers already know, the newsletter is not only the best place to get first crack at your favorite, hard-to-find wines at special discounts but it’s also where we go in depth about the producers, vintages, regions and trends in the world of fine wine.

We send it once a week on Wednesday, unless, you elect to receive more. You can do so by using the form below or, here, if our site’s sophisticated technology isn’t functioning as described. 😉

Natural Discovery in 2015 Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage

Aleofane

2015 Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph: There are treats and than there are very rare treats

There’s nothing more exciting than being turned on to a truly great producer from a favorite region for the first time. Make the discovery in stellar vintage, like 2015 Northern Rhône, and you have a very rare treat.

Natacha Chave’s Crozes and St. Joseph were just such a treat. Maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise. We were at a tasting put on by Jeffrey Alpert, a very tiny boutique importer you probably haven’t heard of. He doesn’t blog, he doesn’t retail or even distribute his wines himself. But he does find absolutely stunning natural producers (like Ganevat, no less!).

But even amongst the lineup of Jeffrey’s recent discoveries, Natacha’s wines stood out. They were delicious and tasted precisely of their terroirs—but in a personal way. They were clearly made by the same vigneronne with a distinct philosophy. They shared the same feelings of freshness and unforced complexity. They evolved in the glass and, when we decided to stay and eat lunch afterwards, hers were the wines we went back to again and again.

The wines we want to drink are the wines we want to buy, so we did a little research. We liked what we learned. Natacha grew up in a winemaking family. Her brother, Yann Chave, took over the family domaine when she was still studying philosophy. And when she finally decided to make wine, she knew she needed to strike out on her own—she “just didn’t like the limitations that would go along with joining [her] brother.”

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Working without limitations, born from a tiny parcel in the old heart of Saint-Joseph

Working without limitations has led to great things. She founded her domaine, Aléofane, with a tiny parcel in the old heart of Saint Joseph. Three years later she added some old vines in Crozes. She farms organically (she’s certified) and with biodynamic techniques. She’s experimenting with new plantings of the old Sérine clone from massale selection. Sulfur use is minimal.

Her winemaking aims to let the fruit and terroir speak. She does very little extraction (a bit of pumping over) during the long, slow fermentations made on the natural yeasts. There’s about a week of maceration before she moves the wine to large demi-muids and some barrels for 10-12 months of aging. Her wines sound old-fashioned and traditional, and in a way they are. But they have an accessibility that seems to be her unique take on the approach.

Working like this, on her own terms only, means the wines get all her attention and are incredible expressions of her vision of the terroir. It also means there aren’t a lot of bottles. She’s been discovered in Europe, so almost none of the little she makes comes to America.

 

We should really keep these for ourselves, shouldn’t we?

We bought all we could and offered them to our newsletter subscribers, leaving us with just bottles.  Normally, with a new discovery like this, we would have gleefully stashed away the rest in our library but, after discussing amongst ourselves, decided that the wines were just too delicious and the story too good that we had to share what little we had left.

As such, we are thrilled to be offering a sampler pack to our loyal blog readers, good while supplies last: buy any 3 or more of these wines and take 10% off with the code ALEOFANE10, at checkout. Shop all the wines now or learn more about each, below.

Shop-All-2015-Aleofane

DOMAINE ALÉOFANE, CROZES-HERMITAGE, 2015 $27.99

Good structure, very fine tannins, mineral notes. Fairly old vines (from the ‘70s) and so some depth, but absolutely delicious right now. John Livingston-Learmonth liked the wine and gave it a ****(*) rating (very high for him!).

DOMAINE ALÉOFANE, ST. JOSEPH ROUGE, 2015 $32.99

This is a slightly more serious wine with sharper-edged minerality and one that we’ll be laying down (as well as drinking now). JLL says “this is rather stately, impressive.”

DOMAINE ALÉOFANE, ST. JOSEPH BLANC, 2016 $29.99

Delicious Marsanne/Roussanne 50/50 blend that is generous up front and mineral and fresh on the finish. Only 250 cases made.

-Josh

Want to get more offers like these straight to your inbox? Sign-up for our newsletter already! As loyal subscribers already know, the newsletter is not only the best place to get first crack at your favorite, hard-to-find wines at special discounts but it’s also where we go in depth about the producers, vintages, regions and trends in the world of fine wine.

We send it once a week on Wednesday, unless, you elect to receive more. You can do so by using the form below or, here, if our site’s sophisticated technology isn’t functioning as described. 😉

A cut above the rest: 2013 Collemattoni Brunello

2013 Collemattoni Brunello di Montalcino

2013—a very good Brunello vintage

Don’t yawn! I know vintage hype can be tiring, especially in Italy, where climate change has (for now, at least)—really been a friend to wine. The message can get repetitive. For instance, in Montalcino three of the past four vintages (2010-2013) have been all-stars (and early tastes of 2014s have even revealed some gems in that tricky year).

But having too many good vintages in quick succession is a good problem to have, right? So I’m not going to shirk from asking you to pay attention to the 2013 Brunelli, as it’s what we call a “classic” vintage with especially strong communication of terroir. The wines are lifted, light-filled things of beauty. One of the best examples I’ve tasted so far is from Collemattoni, an organic estate with holdings in Sant’ Angelo in Colle and Castelnuovo dell’Abate.

Like the same year in Piedmont, from which we have already seen many great releases, Tuscany enjoyed a longer, cooler growing season with more sun hours than in the preceding couple of vintages. Timing of the harvest was trickier in Tuscany, though, with a threat of September rain. Producers who picked too early or too late ended up with wines that don’t show the full potential of the vintage.

But those estates that got it right, Collemattoni among them, turned out wines of exceptional elegance and balance.

Why Collemattoni?  A cut above

Seriously under-known relative to its quality, Collemattoni is a very traditional estate, using a 20- to 25-day maceration and aging the Brunello in large Slavonian casks for at least 30 months. Their most modern twist is environmentalism: not only are they certified organic, but 80% of the winery’s electricity comes from solar panels and biomass processing.

Meanwhile the pricing is definitely a throw-back to past years. And if you take advantage of our Blog Special, you’ll have some delicious wine for now and (if you can cellar it) many years of future enjoyment.  Through Sunday 6/24, just use the code – COLLEMATTONI13 – once you add the wine to your cart.

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Collemattoni, Brunello di Montalcino, 2013 $49.99 $45.99 on 3 or more bottles.

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There’s nothing better of a summer evening than a big steak off the grill (or out of the cast iron skillet) with a bottle of Brunello. This Collemattoni is great now, but only going to get better with time.

-Josh

Want to get more offers like these straight to your inbox? Sign-up for our newsletter already! As loyal subscribers already know, the newsletter is not only the best place to get first crack at your favorite, hard-to-find wines at special discounts but it’s also where we go in depth about the producers, vintages, regions and trends in the world of fine wine.

We send it once a week on Wednesday, unless, you elect to receive more. You can do so by using the form below or, here, if our site’s sophisticated technology isn’t functioning as described. 😉

The delicious case of Benjamin Zidarich

Zidarich Malvasia 2013

Long before Sicily, there was Friuli

Friuli is special. It’s where the old Austrian empire ran into Italy, and where the Eastern Bloc of the Cold War met the West.

It’s also where the earth enjoys an unusually dense patch of limestone, and a climate ideal for producing fresh white wines and late-ripening red varieties. No wonder that—since long before Sicily emerged on the world stage—Friuli has been a center for experimenting, for natural wine-making, and for simply making lots of delicious wines.

Everybody associates all this with Gravner, and his bold, frankly tannic orange wines that shocked the wine world when they first appeared. But others have followed in his direction, with variations on the theme. Neal Rosenthal—importer of Cappellano, Bea and other great nature-focused Italian wines—has discovered a new one and just brought him to market.

Gravner-light: Zidarich’s lovely orange Malvazia

Benjamin Zidarich is definitely nature-focused. He farms biodynamically and expects to receive certification this year. In the winery he makes his white wines naturally and a touch orange—he leaves the juice on the skins for a bit to extract color, flavor and all the goodness skins and their polythenols have to give. But he takes a much gentler approach than you find at Gravner.

You see this in the color. The orange hue is obvious only when you hold the glass up to the light. And you get it in the taste. While many orange wines emphasize fruit peel and tannic power, that stuff is just an afterthought in Zidarich’s wines, which are really focused on minerality and the flavor of the grape variety.

In this case, the grape variety is lovely Malvasia. You can think of it as the Viognier of Italy—or spell it with a Z instead of S and call it the Viognier of Slovenia. The Malva(z/s)ia of Zidarich is in particular like Condrieu, with captivating florality—white flowers, jasmine—weaved together with tense fruit flavors. The limestone soils seem to float to the surface, lifting the wine with a light layer of minerals. The skin contact rounds out the wine, giving it presence and—we understand from the Rosenthals, who tasted a 12-year-old example—good aging capacity.

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It’s a lovely dance between playful and serious, and also an excellent pairing for summer vegetables! This week only (through Sunday 6/17), we have a special price for blog readers. To take advantage, just use the code – ZIDARICH – once you add the wine to your cart.

Benjamin Zidarich, Malvasia/Malvazia, 2015 – $42.99 $36.99 

Buy Benjamin Zidarich, Malvazija/Malvasia, 2015

-Josh

Want to get more offers like these straight to your inbox? Sign-up for our newsletter already! As loyal subscribers already know, the newsletter is not only the best place to get first crack at your favorite, hard-to-find wines at special discounts but it’s also where we go in depth about the producers, vintages, regions and trends in the world of fine wine.

We send it once a week on Wednesday, unless, you elect to receive more. You can do so by using the form below or, here, if our site’s sophisticated technology isn’t functioning as described. 😉

Eric Asimov’s Wine School: Get Aligoté for Your Next Lesson

Eric Asimov’s latest New York Times Wine School is up, and we’re studying Aligoté this time. And once again, you can find that wine here!

Aligoté is a longtime favorite variety at Flatiron Wines. Over the years, we’ve featured examples from many of our favorite producers, who also happen to be among Eric’s faves. But, as usual, we never get very much of them, so what we have we always offer to our loyal Weekly Newsletter Subscribers first — and with great discounts, too.

The email for this month’s Wine School lesson went out earlier this week. You can see it here now, NY Times Wine School: Aligoté, and be sure to click through to see what wines are left.  There has been a great amount of interest, as usual, but don’t panic if we’re sold out of something (or everything!). Because, as they say, the best is yet to come!

Next month we expect to have enough of the de Villaine Bouzeron to offer to our email subscribers separately. We tasted the wine last week, and it is absurdly delicious. I’ll be drinking a bunch, and laying some down for a while, too.  So if you missed out this time and you’d like to hear as soon as it’s available, be sure to sign up!

Without further delay, here are the wines for your next lesson on Aligoté, all available at 10% off on any three bottles from the list (mix and match or solid).

Browse the full selection of wines now, by clicking here, or learn more about each below before purchasing.

Domaine Michel Lafarge, Bourgogne Aligote “Raisins Dores”, 2015 $26.99
From 70-year-old Aligoté vines in Meursault, this is one of Burgundy’s greatest values in high quality white wine. Beautiful every vintage, but especially wonderful in 2015. We’ve had in-store tastings of this wine in the past (including poured by the Lafarges themselves!) which you were hopefully able to attend.

Sylvain Pataille, Bourgogne Aligoté, 2016 $29.99
“If you can find Sylvain Pataille, snap it up,” says Asimov. Here it is–go for it! And if you want hear much more directly from Sylvain Pataille, take a listen to the I’ll Drink to That podcast on Aligoté. It’s a great deep dive on the variety in general!

Domaine Leroy, Bourgogne Aligote, 2011 $89.99
Lalou Bize-Leroy may be the greatest winemaker in Burgundy. She is certainly certainly the greatest female octogenarian winemaker of culty $1,000 Burgundies. Imagine having risen to that level in the wine trade as a woman born in the 1930s. And then imagine still making Aligoté in 2018. I can’t believe I get to drink this wine.

Remi Jeanniard, Bourgogne Aligote Vielles Vignes, 2016 $17.99 
Great, small, natural producer. Eric didn’t mention him, but at the price it’s a no-brainer, anyway. More 60-70 year old vines, but this time, from vineyards within Morey-Saint-Denis.

Domaine Henri Prudhon, Bourgogne Aligote, 2015 $19.99
Classic producer Neal Rosenthal brings to us. Delicious and precise and *not aligoté doré, so perfect as a point of comparison with, say the Lafarge.

-Josh

Want to get more offers like these straight to your inbox? Sign-up for our newsletter already! As loyal subscribers already know, the newsletter is not only the best place to get first crack at your favorite, hard-to-find wines at special discounts but it’s also where we go in depth about the producers, vintages, regions and trends in the world of fine wine.

We send it once a week on Wednesday, unless, you elect to receive more. You can do so by using the form below or, here, if our site’s sophisticated technology isn’t functioning as described. 😉

Asimov’s latest The Pour post is a gem

Eric Asimov’s latest post, “Everyday Wines: The Most Important Bottles You Will Drink,” at his New York Times Blog, The Pour, is a gem.

And I’m not saying that just because he said to “find a good wine shop” with a link to his article saying that “[i]nstitutions like Chambers Street WinesFlatiron Wines & Spirits and Crush Wine & Spirits in New York are great for expert and novice alike, and they serve a nationwide clientele.” No, this has nothing to do with validation in the National Press…

It’s because Eric has, once again, nailed how we actually drink wine. His eight tips are spot on and we’d recommend you read them.  Here is a helpful link to read it now.

Their spot on but, of course, we all have our own twists to add. Here are my four addenda, together with a case of everyday wines to embody the principles.

  1. Don’t let the hunt for novelty blind you to the charms of the classics. There’s a risk of a kind of reverse snobbery, “Oh, I never drink [Bordeaux/Sancerre/Rioja/whatever].” It’s trite but true: the classics are classics for a reason. There may be oceans of indifferent, factory-made Sancerre and Bordeaux; but there are also tons of fantastic, terroir focused growers making wines that have stood the test of time.
  1. Don’t worry about finishing the bottle. Lots of wines, especially young, hardy ones, will easily last a day or two after you’ve opened them. In fact, just like grandma’s stew, many of those wines will be better on the second or third day, when a little oxygen has helped them to open up and show what they’ve got.You don’t need a fancy system to keep the wine, either. Just put the cork in it and put it back in the fridge. Or if you want to keep the wine even longer, as soon as you open the bottle, pour half of it into an empty half-bottle, cork it, and stick it in the fridge. It will be exposed to almost no air and will last for days and days.
  1. Get a decanter. Just like lots of young wines do better on the second day thanks to the extra air, so do they do better out of a decanter. Not sure if you like your wine decanted? Throw half the bottle in the decanter and leave the other half behind. Compare them in 30 or 60 minutes and see which one you like better.
  1. But wine by the case (and off our Newsletter). Eric is right that it helps to go above the $10-$12 price range to find wines that are much more interesting. One way to afford to reach a little is to take advantage of case discounts. Flatiron, for instance, offers 10% off (our already low prices!) when you buy 12 or more bottles.

And now, to put our money where our mouths is, here’s a case of wine, at a super-extra-special 15% discount for blog readers, who purchase all the featured selections, below. It embodies Eric’s principles and ours and we think it’s a great way to load up on the kind of reasonably priced gems that can make any dinner at home a special treat.  For those who prefer to build their own case, you are welcome to do so at 10% off.

buy-now

Without further delay, here are our featured selections. Happy reading and, when you are ready, purchase The Pour inspired case by clicking on the button above or build your own case here now!

Featured wines:

1. Duzsi Tamas Kekfrankos Roze 2016 ($16.99)
An organic, dry rose from Hungary with a citrus nose and floral tones. 100% Kekfrankos, the Hungarian word for Blaufrankisch. This has become a staff favorite as be believe there is no better value for a mineral driven rose.

2. J.H. Selbach Riesling “Piesporter Michelsberg” 2015 ($12.99)
An excellent value in classic Mosel Riesling from the great 2015 vintage. This is a great place to start if you want to get to know Mosel Riesling, but also a great every-day drinker for whenever you need something delicoius.

3. Casa de Mouraz Dao Blanco “Encruzado” 2015 ($17.99)
Encruzado Is a grape with the remarkable ability to convey a rounded weight in the midpalate while maintaining crisp minerality. That means it can handle full-flavored fish dishes, but can also be just fine on it’s own. Croquetas de Bacalao were made for a wine like this. Biodynamically farmed by a husband and wife team, they lost their winery and half of their vines in the devastating fires last year, but they won’t be down for long.

4. Montesecondo Toscana Rosso Sangiovese 2016 ($21.99)
Sangiovese can be so pretty, especially in the hands of master winemaker Silvio Messana, who crafts wines of remarkable purity and balance. The quality/price ratio of his rosso (which could be classified as Chianti if he wanted it to be) is always exceptional, but the 2016 vintage is just ridiculous.

5. Ryme Cellars, Vermentino “Hers Carneros, 2016 ($22.99)
Ryme, a husband and wife team who set out to make terroir focused wines in California from mostly Italian varietals. This cuvee is the result of competing winemaking styles. Hers is pressed, settled clean and bottled early resulting in crisp, citrus notes with a slightly herbal and bitter almond finish.

6. Fabre Montmayou Gran Reserva Malbec 2014 ($22.99)
Fabre came from Bordeaux and found old vines — like over 100 years old — in high altitude sites in Argentina. He’s been making incredibles Malbecs and Cabernet from those sites ever since, showing the exuberance of Argentinian fruit but with Bordeaux sensibilities.

7. Bodegas Albamar Rias Baixas Albarino 2016 ($20.99)
Here we have lightning in a bottle: mineral verve & tenacious salinity. Albamar’s take is elegant & cutting—dancing across the palate with electric ease. Clean, fresh, and wonderfully balanced.

8. Domaine de Fontsainte Corbieres Rouge 2016 ($12.99)
Medium-full and well made. Herbal accents written on rich black cherry. Good vintage through and through. Terroir is there. A label you can look at day after day and still think “Hey, that looks good to drink”. One of the best bargains in the shop.

9. Domaine des Terres Dorees (Jean-Paul Brun) Beaujolais “L’Ancien” 2016 ($17.99)
Totally delicious, easy to drink, but with never cloying. Light bodied but fine; an elegant texture married to bright juicy fruit. Planted on limestone for a strong kick of minerality. And from a great bojo vintage!

10. The Whole Shebang North Coast Red “Eleventh Cuvee” NV ($15.99)
Shebang is the second label from the guys at Bedrock. This is an unabashedly big wine, but not made big by oak. Rather, it is the old vines (Zin, Syrah, and Grenache) that gives it its size, which is then tempered by some older wine (it’s 35% solera). An all-occasions red.

11. Chateau Bournac Médoc Cru Bourgeois 2015 ($19.99)
Classic Bordeaux is a beautiful thing, and the Bournac really delivers. You get smoky, spicy aromas and the plush, dark fruit of the excellent 2015 vintage. A perfect burger wine.

12. Domaine Luneau-Papin, Muscadet Vieilles Vignes “Clos des Allees”, 2016 ($15.99)
Some of the most serious Muscadet out there, and yet it’s so easy to love.
Luscious but nervy, with plenty of minerality. So much complexity for the $.

We also have a weekly newsletter with stories on new arrivals, which we generally offer to our subscribers at very special, limited time (and Newsletter-only) discounts. You should take advantage by signing up here, or using the pop-up form below!

Saint Joseph’s Feast Day and the wines of Saint Joseph

Saint Joseph Wines for the Feast of Saint Joseph

Saint Joseph Rouge (the red wine of Saint Joseph) is made with Red Syrah and up to 10% of the white grapes Marsanne and Roussanne. Saint Joseph Blanc (the white Saint Joseph) is made from Marsanne and/or Roussanne). They are excellent wines with a variety of foods and we love any excuse to open a bottle with dinner.

Sam Sifton’s most recent What to Cook this Week noted that Monday, March 19 is the feast of Saint Joseph. That immediately put me in mind of the delicious wine of the same name from the Northern Rhone. What a great excuse to enjoy a Monday evening bottle of Saint Joseph!

Then I read that the feast is traditionally a Lenten one, and my first instinct was disappointment. Saint Joseph is mostly known for intense red wines that you want to drink with hearty, meaty dishes: roasted lamb, Cassoulet, that kind of thing.

White Saint Joseph

But that’s silly. First of all, Saint Joseph is also home to stunning white wines that pair perfectly with all sorts of vegetarian meals. And it turns out we have two of the very top small-grower Saint Joseph Blancs in stock right now, wines that are especially fascinating to compare side-by-side, from Monier-Perreol and Hervé Souhaut.

Souhaut has become a darling of the Natural Wine Movement™. His wines are pure and full of life and exploded on the scene as exemplars of what natural wine could be. Today they are chased almost as much as the other elites of that movement, Foillard, Lapierre, etc.

Monier-Perreol, on the other hand, has stayed somewhat under the radar, collected mostly by in-the-know wine geeks and died-in-the-wool fans of M-P’s importer, the great Kermit Lynch. It’s hard really to understand why they haven’t blown up more. They’re a small family domaine of the very old style. They farm Biodynamically, even practicing a traditional polyculture, with apricot orchards on their land. The wines are delicious and, like Souhaut’s, pure and terroir-specific (John Livingstone-Learmonth even M-P’s wines “notably pure” and ranks them as one of his rare “soil to glass transfer” producers”—one of the elites of the old-school, terroir focused producers).

These aren’t the kind of producers whose wines we expect to see stick around, so I was pretty excited to find them both in stock (for now). Particularly since they complement each other so well. You see, Saint Joseph Blanc can be made from Marsanne and/or Rousanne. There are no rules requiring any particular proportion of each grape, so some examples are a blend of the two grapes and others are 100% one or the other.

And while Monier-Perreol and Souhaut have much in common in terms of philosophy and approach, their white Saint Joseph’s are polar opposites in terms of varietal: Monier-Perreol’s is 100% Marsanne and Souhaut’s 100% Roussanne.

The differences between Marsanne and Roussanne can be a bit of a mystery, even to devoted wine geeks. So tasting these two wines is a rare and exciting chance to really dig into their identities. The received wisdom is that Marsanne brings power and richness, and Roussanne elegance and freshness.

And these wines show why that’s the received wisdom: there’s no doubt some truth to the view. But tasted side by side, these wines also show the limits of the received wisdom. Souhaut’s Roussanne has plenty of acidity and a fresh, accessible feel of mountain air. But M-P’s wine is hardly lacking for freshness, either. And while it may be the slightly richer wine in the mouth, it’s not like Souhaut made a wine without any base notes.

Both are accessible now (the M-P especially with a little air) but take on all sorts of complexity and depth with time in the cellar.

These wines will be great with any vegetarian meals you cook up, in honor of Saint Joseph or otherwise. And with spring just around the corner, not matter what the weatherman says, these are definitely wines for the times. And don’t feel like they’ll only work with vegetables and fish. They’re also great with Chicken or veal, or with a plate of cheese after the meal.

Red Saint Joseph

Even if the Feast of Saint Joseph was traditionally a Lenten one, we would be remiss to let the day pass without grabbing some St. Joseph Rouge for later in the week. There will be meat on our tables and St. Joseph makes some of the most magical and under-appreciated wines for pairing with dinners of all sorts.

We all think of Burgundy as an ideal restaurant wine, since it can work with so many dishes, from fish through steak. But Saint Joseph Rouge also has its own, broad range. There are the lighter, purer examples—almost like Syrah-based Burgundies—with very fine tannins and lovely fruit. They are delicious with white meats and even heavier fish dishes. Then there are the meaty, bloody examples that are naturals for roast lambs and game.

Ordering in BBQ? Don’t sleep on the Syrah! It cuts through sauces, complements deep rich meaty flavors, and will keep you coming back to watch how the bottle is opening up, long after you’ve had your fill of meat!

We have great examples of Saint Joseph Rouge from both ends of the spectrum, and one beauty from right in the middle.

Big and Savory Saint JosephDomaine Faury Saint Joseph 2015 ($29.99)

Faury’s St. Joseph is one of our favorite examples a perfectly-pitched meaty St. Joseph. It’s got the bacon fat and hints of black olive framed by the mineral notes and pure berry fruit. But it’s never clumsy or big for the sake of being big: like all the great Northern Rhones, it’s got elegance to spare.

The 2015 is a super vintage and we only have a bit of this wine left. But we’re about to get the 2016—which will be amazing, too. If you want to hear about that as soon as it lands (and get a special, Newsletter-only discount, in the bargain) sign up for our Weekly Newsletter here, or using the form below.

Light and Burgundian Saint Joseph Jean-Baptiste Souillard Saint Joseph 2015 ($37.99)

Souillard is a young up-and-comer who trained in Burgundy (among other regions) and is imported by Burgundy legend, Becky Wasserman. He takes a decidedly Burgundian approach to his winemaking. While his Syrahs taste like Syrahs, the emphasis is definitely on the airy and straight-up delicious aspects of his terroirs and variety of choice.

Goldilocks Saint Joseph – Natacha Chave’s Domaine Aléofane Saint Joseph 2015 ($32.99)

Natacha is from a family of vignerons, but set out on her own to make the wines she wanted to make: beautiful, fresh and balanced, with succulent Burgundian fruit, but pronounced savory notes too. This is great stuff, and not yet discovered in America.

To help you celebrate Saint Joseph’s feast, we’re discounting all our Saint Josephs for the week on our web store. They’re 10% off, 15% if you buy 6 or more. But this is an online-only offer for readers of our blog: use coupon code FEAST18 to take advantage before end of day Sunday March 25th.

 

Domaine Gramenon’s “Ceps Centenaire La Mémé”

Domaine Gramenon Ceps Centernaire La Meme 2016There’s rare, and then there’s rare. And Gramenon’s top wine, the “Ceps Centenaire La Mémé,” has always been rare.

For years, the New York allocation was so tiny that the local agent refused to work with it for fear of disappointing too many customers. But we begged and we pleaded, badgered and cajoled, and two years ago we finally got enough to offer to a sub-list of our newsletter readers. And last year we got enough to offer to our whole Newsletter.

And this year we finally have enough to be able to put it a few cases online.

Why all the fuss? Here’s a quick overview of Gramenon and their culty top wine.

Who is Gramenon?

Gramenon is a tiny, family domaine run by Michèle Aubèry-Laurent and her son, Maxime Laurent. Michèle and her late husband, Phillippe founded the Gramenon in the late 1980s, and when Phillippe died in 1999, Michèle took sole control, and built it into a true cult favorite.

Michèle and Maxime work a tiny corner at the extreme northeast of the Southern Rhone, far from the legendary lands of Chateauneuf. They’re organic, biodynamic and very natural (minimal sulfur, even).

Where Gramenon farm, Grenache’s elegant side is in the driver’s seat. It’s a little cooler; actually, you’re practically in the Northern Rhône, so it’s no accident that Gramenon also grows plenty of Syrah and Viognier (we still have a very few bottles of their excellent Viognier “La Vie on y est”).

Gramenon is also blessed with lots of limestone in their soils. So while Grenache from the Rhone usually tastes like it’s from the south of France, Gramenon’s (like Rayas’ and a few others’), tastes more like it’s from the north.

The icing on the cake is that Gramenon has some very old vines. As you may know, Grenache likes old vines, and old vines seem to transmit terroir better. So Gramenon’s wines are not just delicious and dense and lithe, all at the same time, they also have a real gout du terroir.

The Laurent’s make a range of great wines, including some stunning Grenaches from those vines of various ages:

L’Elementaire ($27.99), from 45-year-old Grenache planted in stony, clay and limestone soils, isn’t quite a baby wine (that would be the Poignée de Raisins), but it’s close, given how old some of their vines are. The Elementaire is made with partially destemmed fruit that ferments for about 15 days in cement and then ages briefly in a mix of cuve and wood, giving it a fresh and crunchy Southern Rhone feel.

La Papesse ($47.99) is from 60-year-old vines grown in similar soils. Again, the fruit is partly destemmed, but here the fermentation is in wood cuve and the wine ages 12 full months in barriques. The wine has a more substantial feel and definitely improves with age.

 

What’s up with this Ceps Centenaire La Mémé

No matter how for real the Papesse is, it’s nothing compared to the Mémé.

This is Gramenon’s top wine, and it comes from 100-year-old vines (that’s what “Ceps Centenaire” means). ” Mémé” is a French term of endearment for grandmother—a logical-enough name for a wine made from 100-year-old vines.

Those ancient vines barely yield any fruit, but the little juice they get is something special. Even in Gramenon’s stellar lineup, the Mémé towers. Like Rayas, it’s a super-tiny production, more talked about than seen. But more interestingly, like Rayas, its extreme elegance is married to a quiet sort of power. It finishes long and kaleidoscopic. Gramenon’s light touch in the winery and all-natural (biodynamic) farming sure help. They make Grenache the way we really like it.

We have just a little bit of the 2016, a bright vintage, radiant and with a subtle power. It may be the best we’ve seen yet. But there is, unfortunately, very little around. So if you’re interested, please snap it up now. And if it’s all gone by the time you click through, please be sure to sign up for our newsletter below (or here, if our handy form isn’t displaying as described ;))so that you get the first word (and special, newsletter-only discounting), next time.

Gramenon, “Ceps Centenaires – La Mémé”, 2016 – $65.99  *

* This wine is available through our New York location only.