Back in the early 1980s I ran a wine bar in DC called Suzanne's. There was the first time I had Sancerre Rosé, and I was immediately struck by how grassy, crisp, and mineral it tasted. So refreshing! Still pretty new to wine, I wondered what grape it was made of.... and was very surprised when I learned that it was 100% Pinot Noir! We had a Valentine's Day dinner and served Sancerre Rosé with Coulibiac of salmon. It was a big hit! Sancerre is now virtually synonymous with Sauvignon Blanc, but it used to be mostly a red-wine town? It’s true: the Pinot Noir from this special spot of Kimmeridgian soils used to be famous. However, after the American soil louse, phylloxera, hitched a ride over the ocean and ravaged Europe's vineyards in the 19th century, the Sancerrois favored Sauvignon over Pinot when replanting. Sauvignon took to the grafting onto American rootstock more successfully and is a more prolific producer, so farmers reeling from the phylloxera crisis concentrated their efforts on growing Sauvignon rather than Pinot. But many growers in Sancerre still have small plots of Pinot vines, and they make some distinctively mineral reds and rosés from them. The rosés in particular show off the mix of limestone, flint, and chalk in the ground. There’s an explosive, fireworks quality to the sharp-edged stoniness and high-toned red fruit qualities of these complex wines that is profoundly delicious. And in a vintage like 2015, with fruit front and center, these are wines that are sure to please everyone, whether you're at a picnic or a wine night. Today we feature a list of our favorites all of which can generally be found on the regular in the refrigerators of our own homes. Cheers, Beaver & Susannah Dauny Sancerre Rosé Pynoz 2015 $20.99 When you go to Vignobles Dauny there is a big sign on the front of the building proudly proclaiming: "Vignobles Dauny - Culture Biologique." They have been organic growers since 1964—over 50 years and since long before it was a trend. But it stretches back much further than that: the family has been growing in Sancerre since 1683, always working in traditional methods that nourish their sites and terroir. It light, bright, and crisp with bracing acidity. It is really a perfect summer wine and it is a bargain Sancerre rosé with real breeding. Domaine Vacheron, Sancerre Rosé 2015 $29.99 The Vacheron cousins also work biodynamically in the village of Sancerre itself. The threads of chalk and flint in the ground here give a special complexity to their rosé. In France, these guys are considered absolute Pinot-masters. We think once you've tried this wine you'll agree. Gérard Boulay, Sancerre Rosé "Chavignol" 2015 $27.99 From 35- to 40-year-old vines on the steep slopes of Chavignol, Boulay's vivid rosé is fermented with indigenous yeasts in tank. Considering that only 200 cases are made each year, we are thrilled to have snagged a substantial portion of the production. Lucien Crochet Sancerre Rosé 2015 $28.99 If you’re new to Crochet, this is a great place to start tasting why we're all fans. This is a wine that exists in a very important dimension, somewhere below the seriousness of a Rosé from Cotat or Vacheron (although, like those wines, it will be even more mineral and savory in a year, if you can save any) but decidedly more elegant and complex than virtually any other Sancerre Rosé on the market.
Funny, but folks in the wine business – at least on the East Coast – used to assume that the wine industry sort of shut down between June and August. While everyone was on vacation, we all just sat around excited for September to roll back around. Then the rosé phenomenon set in. If they can do it on the Cote d'Azur, why not on the Cote d'Est of the United States? Actually, it's not just here in New York, but in Paris and well beyond that rosé has become the thing to drink all summer long. Now we stay busy up until September selecting and featuring the many delicious and refreshing rosé there is to enjoy throughout the season. With these thoughts in mind, I have made a top-five summer list. A quick reference to the ideal wines to drink during the hottest stretch of summer. For those of you who want to just keep drinking rosé – we’ve included a rosé on this list (and recently offered a mix six-pack), but for those of you who want to keep exploring all facets of the vast and amazing world of wine here is a list of other ideal directions you can go while enjoying the high temperatures: Savary Chablis 2014 – I'm happy to drink Chablis all year long, but when I really need something thirst-quenching in this heat, Chablis is a natural go-to wine. Rosemary recently blogged about this wine so I don't need to add much. Everyone at Flatiron drinks this Chablis all the time – at least during the 2-3 months each year that we can keep the wine in stock! Montenidoli Rosato 2015 – Montenidoli is one of the few producers who makes truly great wine in three different colors. An all-organic producer in San Gimignano, she makes her Rosato entirely from Canaiuolo, the "other" grape that makes Chianti. The color is beautiful, the taste is great, and the freshness content is super high. Bisson Glera NV – Bisson is a producer that works in Liguria but also works with some Prosecco grapes from a friend in Veneto to make a frizzante. The bottling used to be called Prosecco but then he decided to put a bottle cap on the wine and the Prosecco police didn't like that. The wine has been known as "Glera" ever since. In this hot weather, I usually add a flavor enhancer and a couple of ice cubes to make a refreshing summer cocktail. The other day it was a splash of limoncello and a twist of lemon peel. & 5. Joe Dressner Hot Summer Wines - I loved reading Joe Dressner's blog posts back in the day. He was one of the early masters of the Internet. He did social media (through blogs and discussion boards) before I had even heard the terms. One of his later-year posts was about drinking wine during the summer. His answer was predictable, if you know anything about Joe: "5-year old Beaujolais and 5-year old Muscadet."So in his honor – and because these are wines that I too like to drink all summer long – here is a great 5 year-old Beaujolais and a great 5 year-old Muscadet:Piron-Lameloise, Chenas "Quartz", 2010 - Just past the 5-year point, this Beaujolais has hits its stride. Highly recommended!Chateau de la Gravelle, Muscadet, 2011 - At just $13.99 this is one of the best values in aged white wine in the shop! Stock up for a case discount and enjoy all summer long. Cheers, Jeff
Chantereves is an absolutely brilliant tiny negociant in Savigny-les-Beaune. The Chantereves team is the very outgoing and charming – Tomoko Kuriyama and her shyer and more reticent husband, Guillaume Bott. Tomoko went to wine school in Geisenhem and became the estate manager at Freiderich Altenkirch in the Rheingau. In addition to her winemaking and vineyard work at Chantereves she does vineyard management at Chandon de Briailles. Her husband Guillaume Bott worked at Etienne Sauzet and became the winemaker at Domaine Simon Bize, where he still works. Their partnership at Chantereves started in 2010. They make wines of stunning purity and focus in both red and white. Their approach has resulted in remarkably expressive organic wines that are very clean and free of flaws unlike so many "natural" wines. They adapt and adopt the best of modern winemaking techniques in an ever-evolving style that emphasizes the true nature of the vineyards where the grapes were grown. These are indeed wines of great transparency. A friend commented, "This is like a Riesling winemaker making Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. You really can see and taste what is behind it all." We are delighted to be one of the only two retailers to sell Chantereves wines in the USA. Cheers, John Beaver 2014 Chantereves, Bourgogne Blanc is from Marange. Pale straw color, a nose of citrus and stone fruits and white flowers, great cut and mineral notes. Good mouthweignt for a Bourgogne Blanc - a very pure and clean and full of energy. This is for drinking over the next five years. This wine was 100% barrel fermented and aged, all in used barrels. No new oak. $29.99 2014 Chantevreves Saint Romain is stunning! Saint Romain is a cool climate and the grapes did not always fully ripen - these days they do. The result is that the wine has filled out and is richer than it used to be. This has lovely crunchy fruit like white peaches, rich mouthfeel and a crisp finish. It has loads of dynamic tension and verve. An energetic and vibrant wine that could improve with age over the next few years but will certainly get drunk way before (at least at my house); buy this wine – it will disappear! $39.99 2014 Chantereves Bourgogne Rouge is an underclassified Haute Côte de Beaune from the village of Paris L'Hopital. There is an unusual granite soil there which gives wine the structure, acidity and tannins. This wine was fermented with 100% whole clusters (1st time this vintage) and aged 100% in barrels but saw no new oak. There is minimal sulfur and intervention. Pale alizarin crimson color, very lively spicy and piquant nose, great cut and acidity on the palate. This is the kind of wine that makes you salivate and will be delicious with a wide variety of foods. A lovely simple Red Burgundy that I enjoyed last night with a beautiful sautéed Tautog with clams. $29.99 2013 Chantereves Volnay is beautiful pomegranate red, aromatically spicy and lively fruit on the nose. This was also fermented in used barrels with 100% whole clusters and very low sulfur. This wine is very forward and expressive and is really designed to be drunk young although it has all of the requisite components (tannin, fruit and acidity) to age for 10 years or so. $49.99
I’ve recently been drinking a fair bit of Barbaresco and thinking about vintages. I’ve noticed how much this region of Piedmont can teach us about vintages and what they mean. Here are five lessons: It used to be about heat. Now it’s about cold. In the not so old days, the bad vintages were the ones where it was too cold to ripen grapes. Now, with global warming and better farming, the problem is the opposite, and the “bad” vintages are the ones where the grapes get too ripe. In the 1990s, the warmest vintages were hailed as the greatest ones. In the 2000s, warm vintages like 2003 and 2009 were considered bad. Funnily, it took U.S. commentators a few years to figure out that this transition took place. So we have a vintage like 2000, that was hailed by Wine Spectator as a 100 point vintage in Piedmont. But that turned out to be an out-of-date method of assessing vintages. 2000 was a hot year and the wines were too ripe. That is not a good thing. This is something that seems obvious to all of us today, but it is easy to see how a mistake like this was made 15 years ago. Site can matter more than vintage. Barbaresco is known for having both cool sites (like Paje or Ovello) and warmer sites (like Pora or Rabaja). It depends on which way the vines face, and whether or not they are close enough to be influenced by the river. In years like 2009 or 2011 – both on the warm side – this inter-site difference really is important. When I tasted the line-up of 2011 Produttori Crus, I couldn’t help but feel that the warmer sites produced wines that were marred by the heat of the vintage. The cooler sites, on the other hand, produced utterly brilliant wines. Sub-regions matter more than regions. According to any vintage chart for Piedmont, 2010 was an exquisite vintage, and 2011 was a weak one. This is generally true. But for Barbaresco, exactly the opposite is true. In the Fall of 2010 it rained both in Barolo and Barbaresco. In Barolo, they pick a little bit later, and the grapes had plenty of time to dry out from the rain. But in Barbaresco they had to pick soon after the rain. The grapes were still slightly diluted. For Barbaresco – as long as you avoid the warmer sites – 2011 really was better. There is more to a vintage than “good” or “bad”. Glossy magazines like to award vintages “scores”, but this puts too much emphasis on how a vintage “rates” compared to other vintages. Sometimes a vintage truly is great (2001 in Barbaresco) or truly is a flop (2002). But otherwise, vintages are mostly just different, and you can appreciate them for their different qualities. The better 2011s have great ripeness and tannic structure. 20 years from now, wine-lovers will be praising the great Asilis and Montestefanos, for example. But these days I find myself drinking more 2012s. No, they mostly won’t be famous wines in 20 years, but right now they have great freshness and acidity, and I love drinking them! Take vintage reports with a big grain of salt. This puts the first four rules all together: A vintage report is just a very general snapshot. It’s useful for perusing a wine list at a restaurant when you don’t know many of the wines and the sommelier can’t help you. But otherwise you’ve got to dig deeper. Does the vintage report address the sub-region in question? What about the specific site? Or the producer? The vintage was only scored 82…does that really mean I should avoid the wines, or does it mean the the wines are good on the young side? In wine, you can never rely on generalities! Cheers, Jeff