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Flatiron Wines & Spirits

Flatiron Wines & Spirits
929 Broadway
New York, NY, 10010
212-477-1315

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Latest Blog Entries

Litaud's Chardonnay

by flatiron wines

Jean-Jacques Litaud's vineyards are nestled beneath the colossal cliff of Vergisson in the tiny hamlet of Les Membrets. The soils are limestone mixed with a rich red soil. Why red? Well, they're said to be stained red by the blood of countless animals which were driven off the cliffs by stone age hunters. And archeological digs have found lots of wooly mammoth skeletons at the base of those giant rocks. Some of the vines are almost 100 years old – old, but much younger than the Woolly Mammoth blood.  These magnificent cliffs in the Macon region are stunning. If you're a reader of Asterix and Obelix, you'd be interested to know that they were holy sites for the Druids. Readers of Libération may be more interested in the Socialist Party's history of rallying there, everyone with a red rose – the French symbol of socialism. For them, at least, socialism worked: Francois Mitterand's wife was from this area and he lavished money on the region. The roads are beautifully paved and graded, a joy to drive on. Of course, socialism and woolly mammoths have little to do with the sheer tastiness of Litaud's Chardonnay, the only grape that he works with. Jean-Jacques Litaud works his Chardonnay vines meticulously and entirely by hand. His holdings are small enough that he can focus his attention on every vine. In the winery, he doesn't do much other than let the wine rest for at least 10 months – uncommonly long for Maconnais Chardonnay at this price point. He doesn't use any new oak. His wines are delicious and crystal clear expressions of terroir and vintage.  This region makes by far the most complex white wine you'll find anywhere for under $20. Of course, many of the best wines have become much more than $20, especially the known "names" like St. Veran. But Litaud remains a stand-out value, especially with today's newsletter-only discount, including a special 4-pack price as we believe this is really a wine to go deep on: Domaine des Vieilles Pierres (Jean-Jacques Litaud), St. Veran "Les Pommards", 2015 - $19.99  – the 2015 of this wine is a showstopper: intense, full of delicious fruit. Where the '14 was a study in minerality and subtlety, '15 is decadently delicious, with exotic sweet fruit notes verging on the tropical.

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What about that cheap wine in Europe?

by jeff

In New York we have a lot of European visitors. Some of them complain about our prices. Not: "Oh, I can get this same wine back home for 30% less," which would sometimes be true (though often not). Rather, it’s more of a blanket statement like: "At home wines cost just 5 or 6 euros.” I happen to be in Europe for a few weeks so I decided to investigate. You may remember Turin, a very sophisticated city in Northern Italy, from the Winter Olympics a few years back. But it’s more important to us a center for the wine trade just a few miles from the Langhe, one of the world's greatest wine regions and home, not only of (expensive, age-worthy) Barolo and Barbaresco, but also of more humble wines like Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa, Grignolino, etc. If Europeans really have access to superior 5 or 6 euro wines, surely I’ll find them here. I'm in a super-trendy neighborhood called San Salvario, with incredible restaurants and a great bar scene, an amazing outdoor market that opens daily, and gorgeous old cafés that serve some of the best espresso I’ve ever found. Admittedly, there are also drug dealers on the corner by my apartment—there may be better parts of town—but San Salvario is pretty good and it's where I am, so it will have to do for this investigation. So I set out to do some wine shopping. Naturally, I started by looking for wine stores. I checked on google and walked just about every block of the neighborhood. I quickly established that there are no wine stores in San Salvario. There are a few great butchers (a veal specialist, a pork specialist, a generalist), a fish store proudly displaying its "Slow Food" credentials, outrageously fine bakeries­—really, it's a pretty great neighborhood—but not a single wine store. The locals buy all their wine in grocery stores. So I went to the neighborhood grocery stores and looked for the best selection. It turns out the best selection is in a French store called Carrefour, which you've probably heard of, as it's the second largest non-American retailer in the world (and bigger than Amazon!). The Carrefours I've been to have been suburban "hypermarkets" – massive grocery stores with endless aisles – but San Salvario’s is a Carrefour "Express," a highly edited version. Here are photos of the wine selections: Look at these photos and you can make your own observations. Here are mine. First of all, there is some very cheap wine here. Like just a couple Euros cheap. These really cheap wines come in boxes and have legal designations like "Vino Bianco di Italia" or just "Vino Italiano"; they can come from (a factory) anywhere in Italy. I didn’t taste any—sorry, life is too short, even for the sake of science. Second, as you know, the most famous wine of the Langhe is Barolo. Yet here we are, in a fine neighborhood just a 45 minute drive from the Langhe, and the neighborhood's best wine selection includes only one Barolo! At under 20 euros, it's a good price. Unfortunately, the producer is Fontanafredda, which despite a glorious past is basically an industrial concern these days. Very few of our Barolo customers would find this wine satisfactory. If you want Barolo made by artisans, you cannot buy it here. And by the way, if you want Barbaresco at all, you're out of luck. Third, there are indeed many wines in the 5 to 8 euro range. I’m guessing the Europeans who explain that this is how wine should be priced are thinking of wines like these. And you can kind of see where they’re coming from, to a point: there are some Dolcettos and Barberas, and perhaps a Freisa or a Grignolino, that will work in a pinch. But the best of them are, again, from Fontanafredda, and everything else is frankly schlocky. Artisanal local wine, this is not! Now, I understand you don’t need to drink fine, artisanal wine every night. But there’s a stunning disconnect between the excellent bread, coffee and produce that you easily find in the neighborhood, and these wines. Fourth, there is the obvious problem of range. There isn’t much selection at from anything beyond Piedmont at all. Part of Europe's charm – and especially Italy’s charm -- is its intense locality, and I would never fault a local shop for offering only local wines. But the tradeoff is you don’t get to explore the rest of the world's great and varied wine regions. Fifth, things are particularly brutal here if you want white wine. Piedmont actually has some pretty good white stuff, Roero Arneis for example. But none of it is at this shop. Ok, maybe that Cortese in the top right corner is passable, but I didn't take a chance on it. In any case, my landlord gifted me a bottle of Cortese, and I drank it in the 85 degree heat. It had been yeasted (or otherwise manipulated) to taste something like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but I guess it did the job. Who needs more than that? And that, of course, is the big question: Who needs more than that? None of us really needs to drink artisanal wine. If we lived in a universe consisting only of this Carrefour's wine selection, how many of us would complain? Indeed, many of those European customers mentioned above probably do live in such a universe. Should they care? I'm guilty of not caring in similar circumstances. In Brooklyn I live around the corner from a shop that pulls fresh mozzarella five times a day. It’s still warm when I eat it at home, melting over my height-of-season tomatoes from the Green Market. Surely this is as good as it gets. It turns out no, not even close. At that open air market in San Salverio there’s a vendor with cheeses direct from Campania. I purchased a ball of Buffala from Salerno. Back at my apartment I sliced into it, expecting it to require a little seasoning and maybe a splash of olive oil. But no, all it needed was to be eaten. Another slice and then another. (Then my wife complaining that I forgot to leave some for her green bean recipe.) All my life I had been satisfied with my Brooklyn mozzarella, only to discover in Turin that it was a pale imitation of the real thing. How many of these 5-6 euro Europeans are actually living in the Matrix, fooling themselves into contentedness, as I did for so many years with my Brooklyn Mozz? We believe that in America you can drink delicious, real wines without spending a fortune. In New York and San Francisco we are big advocates of inexpensive European table wines and carry a wide range. They cost a little more than Carrefour’s 5-8 euros—more like 10-15 (dollars). But unlike those Carrefour wines, these are true artisanal expressions of their origin. They are like that ball of Buffala from Salerno. Here are some examples: De Forville, Dolcetto d'Alba, 2015 Pollerhof, Gruner Veltliner, 2016  Grand Bateau, Bordeaux, 2015 Domaine Labbe, Abymes Savoie, 2016

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Ameztoi "Kirkilla"

by flatiron wines

When you travel to Basque country and enjoy a glass of Txakoli at the bar, it feels like a truly authentic experience: you're drinking the "real" wine of the locals. And it's true! Txakoli's a delicious and local treat you're unlikely to find just one or two towns over in, say, Santander or Biarritz. But that Txakoli is actually a modern invention made possible by mechanical farming and steel tanks. It's different from what the locals drank even a generation or two ago. What were the wines like back then? Well, now you can find out, thanks to our friends at Ameztoi (the growers behind perennial Rosé fave, "Rubentis"). For the first time, Ameztoi has exported a super-old-fashioned Txakoli, a true labor of love. They used their best material, Hondarribi Zuri and Hondarribi Beltza from their their highest-elevation and oldest vineyards. And they made the wine using old, pre-Franco methods: natural fermentations in 600L barrels followed by several months resting there on the lees. No manipulation. No technology. Of course, part of Txakoli's charm is its steely freshness. But don't worry for a moment they gave that up. Think instead of the great Chablis that also undergo aging in neutral barrels, like Raveneau's or Dauvissat's, which have extra levels of richness and complexity without sacrificing any chablisien tension or fresh minerality. Likewise, the Kirkilla is a rich but incredibly acid-driven, savory, herbal wine. One point: while the other wines from Ameztoi all have some level of spritz, this is a still wine. Again, this is the first time in the U.S. and hardly any wine came in. Indeed, we don't see anyone else offering this wine in the United States. This is definitely one to try, and especially appropriate for warm weather during a holiday week: Ameztoi, Getariako Txakolina "Kirkilla", 2016 - $39.99

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Ridge For the 4th

by flatiron wines

It took the monks centuries to figure out how to make great wine in Burgundy and the Mosel. Somehow, at California's Ridge Vineyards, they figured it out in just a few years. While fashions have come and gone, Ridge has stood fast for over 50 years, working their incredible vineyards with care and making true American masterpieces. July 4 is as good excuse as any to open a good bottle of Zinfandel, but no excuse is really required. Zinfandel has been maligned in some crowds, but only because too many producers have made overripe, high-alcohol versions that taste more like a coca cola–based cocktail than fine wine. Ridge never succumbed to that unfortunate trend, and they continue to make true representations of the grape: rich but balanced wines with both black and red fruits, and a healthy element of spice. The best wines, like the single vineyards offered below, belong in the same class as Châteauneuf-du-Pape: big wines that nevertheless clearly express their terroir. As famous as they are for their Zins, Ridge's most collectible wine is the Monte Bello Cabernet, from the cool, limestone-rich vineyard of the same name high in the Santa Cruz mountains. It's one of the world's great wines, complex and super-ageworthy—extraordinary, though not necessarily the wine for a July 4th cookout. But Ridge makes other wines from Monte Bello that would be perfect. The Monte Bello Chardonnay and the Estate Merlot—both from Monte Bello fruit—are more accessible when young, but still clear wines of terroir. What more could you ask for on July 4th? Ridge, Zinfandel "Three Valleys", 2014 Ridge, Zinfandel "Paso Robles", 2015 Ridge, Zinfandel "Geyserville - 50th Anniversary Edition", 2015 Ridge, Merlot Estate, 2014 Ridge, Chardonnay "Monte Bello", 2013 One of California's great wines, it's an absolute steal. California fruit with an old-world feel. It's delicious now, but if you lay it down you're in for a real treat: it matures into something truly spectacular.

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