I'm as guilty as every other wine geek in America, and get super excited about the latest thing. A new vintage of my favorite Haute Cote de Bourgogne from Digoia-Rohyer shows up, and I have to bring it home and drink it immediately. Because it's new. Even though I have a bottle from two vintages earlier that are readier to drink. But I don't make that mistake every night. Last night, my wife and I drank Cantalupo's 2007 Ghemme. At Flatiron, we have been happily buying and re-ordering this wine since 2015. It's now 10 years old, and it's astonishing to think that we still have it on our shelves at its original release price. Ghemme is one of those villages up above Barolo in the area called Alto Piemonte. Nebbiolo is the main grape there, though sometimes a little bit of Vespolino is blended in. This one is 100% Nebbiolo, so when you drink this wine it's natural to make comparisons to Barolo and Barbaresco. Essentially, Ghemme is softer and lighter than its cousins to the south, with a bit of spicy minerality thrown into the mix. It is a lot like Gattinara, but not quite as rich, and while Gattinara seems to emphasize rocks and minerals, Ghemme tends to have more of a smoky spice. The great thing about all these Nebbiolo-based wines from Alto Piemonte is that they offer an opportunity to drink mature Nebbiolo far earlier than their Langhe counterparts. If you read our newsletter regularly, you might have noticed our reference a while ago to the 1980 edition of Hugh Johnson's Wine Encyclopedia, where he reports that Alto Piemonte wines become wonderfully mature and truffly after just 5 years! And that's from an English man. Probably, the wines which are made now are better than back then. This Ghemme is certainly wonderfully mature and truffly now, but it took an entire decade to get there! The truffles, the fruit, the spice...it was a truly satisfying wine. And to think that I could just pluck the wine of our store shelves and didn't have to put it in my cellar for multiple years! As tempting as it is to taste only the latest, sometimes the best wines for the moment are just under your nose.
Is Pouilly Fuissé a great wine? We rave about Meursault and Puligny Montrachet. We spend too much money on culty Chardonnay from California. We obsess over the Chablis of Raveneau, Dauvissat, and (finally) a handful of other producers as well. But the Macon doesn't get any love. At best, it's considered a source of "good value" wines. It's true that for $20 or less the Macon is probably the best source of Chardonnay anywhere. But it's so much more than that! And Antoine Vincent, wine-maker at Chateau Fuissé proved beyond a shadow of a doubt just how great P-F is, at the in-store tasting he led last Tuesday at the shop. Everyone who attended agreed that his are world-class examples of Chardonnay that deserve as much appreciation and recognition as all but the top white wines from the Cote d'Or. What is the taste of Pouilly Fuissé? For a while, I've been thinking of the Macon as a combination of Chablis and Meursault. At its best it has the minerality of Chablis and the richness of Meursault. But Chablis’ minerality is very distinctive. Its Kimmeridgian soils give Chardonnay a salty kind of minerality that most of us call "iodine." The Macon doesn’t do that. I needed a new way to think about these wines, and it was with that in mind that I tasted through Antoine's wines. Chateau Fuissé “Tete de Cru,” 2014 Antoine started us with his Tete de Cru, a selection of grapes from sites in both Pouilly and Fuissé, the two villages that give the AOC its name. The idea is to make a true village wine: a reflection of the "taste" of Pouilly-Fuissé rather than any single parcel within, kind of like an AC Meursault or Chassagne—or a traditional Barolo, for that matter. Pouilly has more limestone soils, contributing finesse, while Fuissé has more clay, contributing size and structure. Together, in Antoine’s hands, they make a complete wine, with great fruit intensity and a clear mineral spine, but with enough of a casual vibe to keep it fun and easy to drink. It helped that this was 2014, one of the all time great Macon vintages. Chateau Fuissé “Le Clos,” 2013 Next we tasted the 2013 "Le Clos." Le Clos is the Chateau's best parcel, and their backyard. The soils are dense clay, and the vines are oriented perfectly towards the sun, facing southward. The 2013 Le Clos was fruity to the point of being exotic. No, there was no mistaking this one for Chablis! Thanks to its south-facing orientation, the wine is always ripe, but this one was off the register. The wine is a bit of a star: both Stephen Tanzer and Burghound reviewed it quite favorably and it was a hit with many Chardonnay lovers at the tasting, especially people who drink a little more new-world Chard than Chablis. But Antoine Vincent didn't seem to love the way it was showing, and neither did I. He said that the grapes just got too ripe in 2013. That’s in sharp contrast to the Cote d’Or’s 2013s, which ripened healthily but also preserved great acidities and made terrific, balanced wines. In the Macon, not so much. It's just another example of how general regional vintage rules don't necessarily apply to specific sub-regions. Chateau Fuissé “Vieilles Vignes,” 2012 Then, we tasted the 2012 "Vieilles Vignes". “Vieilles Vignes” appears on many French labels, as it's French for old vines. The importer's web site says that this VV bottling is from several of the Chateau's best parcels, but when I visited the domaine several years ago I was told that really all the grapes come from the oldest vines exclusively in Le Clos. Antoine confirmed that on the night of the tasting, and he told us that he no longer makes the cuvée, using all the grapes for his Le Clos bottling. The Le Clos 2012 was deep, serious Chardonnay. 2012 is another lower acid vintage, but here it works: the fruit is more finely toned, and the extra year of bottle development allows the minerality to shine. Yes, this was a very mineral-driven wine, but like I said above, it was not iodine, and this was not a wine that anyone would confuse with Chablis. So, what makes Pouilly Fuissé, Pouilly Fuissé? I thought of the time many years ago when I wandered around the vineyards of Pouilly Fuisse, walking all the way to the top of the rock of Solutré. The presence of limestone in the landscape is profound. The rock of Solutre is itself a giant monument of limestone. Loose stones are everywhere. And as Vincent will tell you, you can pull over to the side of any road in the area and find a fossil in about two minutes. This limestone is the same outcrop that you find in the Cote d'Or, dating from the Jurassic Era. But here, for whatever reason, the forces of nature have eroded less of it away. In the Macon, the Jurassic limestone is more resistant. Thinking about this, and tasting Vincent's wines, it all made sense and I had my new paradigm. The minerality of Pouilly Fuissé has a lot more in common with the Cote d'Or than with Chablis. They are both Jurassic, after all, whereas Chablis is Kimmeridgian. But in Pouilly Fuissé, this minerality is enhanced, as obvious to the taster as limestone outcroppings are to any hiker. If Chablis' minerality is iodine, this, like Meursault, is more granular, mealy, more stony, more textural. And here it is more full on. Chateau Fuissé “Vieilles Vignes,” 2005 My PF epiphany out of the way, it was time to finish the tasting with a real treat: a magnum of the Vieilles Vignes from the 2005 vintage. The ripe fruit from the warm vintage had calmed down and this wine was showing off its terroir in all its Jurassic glory. It was a beautiful wine at its apogee and a true testament to how great the Macon can really be. And it may be that there is no clearer expression of Jurassic limestone anywhere in Burgundy! Here's what we have from Chateau Fuissé at the time of writing: Chateau Fuisse, Pouilly-Fuisse Tete de Cru, 2014 Chateau Fuisse, Pouilly-Fuisse “Le Clos”, 2013 Chateau Fuisse, Pouilly-Fuisse Vieilles Vignes, 2012
Single vineyard vs Blended wines in Barolo Most of Barolo's top wines these days are made from single vineyards. We love this micro-terroir focus, but it is actually a fairly modern trend. Traditional Barolo is a blend from a number of different vineyard sites—each contributing different elements—to make sure that the final wine has a "completeness" to it. Of today's top Barolos, only Bartolo Mascarello is still made in this way. The result is that many wine drinkers, even some Barolo lovers, think of the term “normale,” often used to refer to a winery’s non-vineyard-designate Barolo, as almost a pejorative. But in the case of many of our favorite producers, like Brovia, the normale is anything but ordinary! [caption id="attachment_10969" align="alignleft" width="525"] Beautiful Wine now, or in 10 years.[/caption] About Barolo’s Brovia Brovia, in the village of Castiglione Falletto, is on a roll. They have been improving for many vintages now, and the winery is near the top of just about everyone's list of favorite Barolo producers. Stylistically, they occupy a very important place in the spectrum. Working with clean, organic fruit and shorter macerations, the wines are hardly the brooding beasts that were common in the big vintages of old. But they are still firmly structured wines that lack the softness or oakiness of many modern examples. Simply put, the winery takes a middle approach, one that emphasizes class and purity: purity of fruit, purity of terroir. The wines do not require excessive cellaring before becoming delicious, but also give us every reason to expect that they will last for a very long time. Brovia’s 2012 Barolos: anything but normale, top to bottom Brovia's top wines are all single crus, in the new tradition. But we have a soft spot for their "normale," which blends wines from the different crus, Mascarello-style. It’s almost like they’re taking a middle approach on the question of blending vs microterroirs: the best of both worlds. Now, it's true that most of the grapes in Brovia’s “normale” come from the crus' younger vines, but a substantial amount of old-vines juice also typically makes it into the blend for a simple logistical reason. To make each single-vineyard wine they fill a giant cask from the cru. But those giant casks aren't quite giant enough, and whatever doesn't fit into the single-vineyard cask goes into the normale! So it's not so "normale" at all. In fact, it's consistently a delicious Barolo, year after year. It's pretty tasty on the young side, especially in a fresh and charming vintage like 2012, a vintage that's shaping up to be our favorite non-famous vintage since 2008! It also ages well. A bottle of that '08 normale was just great when we opened it recently. Pricing is very reasonable for the quality, at $46.99, and you can take 10% off in a mixed case discount. You can buy it here.
This week only (ending Sunday, February 19th at 11:59 pm) enjoy FREE SHIPPING on all orders of at least $150 to the following states: From the NEW YORK shop: All states bordering the Atlantic Ocean where we are able to ship, including all of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia, D.C. and Florida. From the CALIFORNIA shop: All of California, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona. If you don't see your state listed above, please reply to this email and we'll let you know if you are covered by this promotion. You don't need any special code to take advantage: You will see the free-shipping option at check-out, assuming you're order is above $150 and you're in one of the free-shipping states. And more good news: You can combine this offer with our 10% MIXED CASE DISCOUNTS for additional savings. This is also applied automatically at check-out. So start shopping our New York store here, or our San Francisco store here. We have almost 3,000 artisanal wines and spirits in New York and almost 4,000 in California, including delicious gems at all prices from $10 party wines to rare collectibles. There's something for everyone! If you need help with your selection or any help processing the order, there should be someone available for on-line chat most of today (the "Chat with us" button is at the bottom-right corner of your screen when you're on our web site). Also feel free to reply to this email with any questions. This offer is subject to the following rules and restrictions: It applies only to online orders. No phone calls, emails, newsletter orders, or in-store purchases. Orders must be for $150 or more, net of sales tax and after any case discounts are applied. This offer is not retroactive and does not apply to any previous purchases that have not yet been shipped by us. All orders will be sent by Fedex Ground, in all likelihood by no later than Monday, February 20, weather permitting. If weather does not permit safe shipping, orders will be held up to two months until a suitable shipping window becomes available. If you need faster processing, please let us know in the notes field at check-out, and we will do our best. This offer does not apply to any requests for overnight or expedited shipping. This offer is subject to all of our web site's other terms and conditions, as well as any legal restrictions on shipping to your state. By accepting this offer you agree to these terms and conditions. Happy Shopping!