2007 Cantalupo Ghemme: The Thrill of Something That’s Been Around

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.

The True Taste of Pouilly Fuissé – A Tasting with Antoine Vincent of Chateau Fuissé

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 at that price point anywhere. But it’s so much more than that!

And Antoine Vincent, wine-maker at Chateau Fuissé proved beyond 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

 

Brovia’s Barolo — Not so Normale?

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!

Brovia Barolo 2012

Beautiful Wine now, or in 10 years.

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.

 

Free Shipping promo… this week only!

This week only (ending Sunday, February 19th at 11:59 pm) enjoy FREE SHIPPING on all orders of at least $150. 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 (listed below).

From our 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., Florida, Vermont, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio and West Virginia.

From our SAN FRANCISCO shop: All of California, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona.

And more good news: You can combine this offer with our standing 10% MIXED CASE DISCOUNT for additional savings. 

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 (just click the “Chat with us” button is at the bottom-right corner of your screen). Once you complete your order, our team will get to work confirming the details and arrange shipment when everything is ready to go. Simple.

Happy Shopping!

This offer is subject to the following rules and restrictions:
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  • 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.
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Flatiron on TV: Beau’s Valentine’s Day wines

Beau was on TV this morning sharing some Valentine’s Day picks: Champagne, Muscadet (for oysters), Bedrock (for Steak) and port for dessert. The wines looked great and so did Beau!

In case Beau’s piece made you thirsty for some of these wines, here they are, all in the San Francisco store. Looking for something similar in NY? Call us (212-477-1315) or chat now using the button at the bottom of the page!

Lallement Champagne Rosé, $64.99

Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Classique, 2015 $14.99

Bedrock Red Blend Heritage, Bedrock Vineyard, 2015 $49.99

Quinta do Tedo, Porto Rose, NV $27.99

Produttori del Barbaresco 2013–Better than 2010 Barbaresco?

Bottles of Produttori 2013: great to drink now and great for the cellar!

Three years ago we offered the Produttori del Barbaresco 2010 to our newsletter friends and suggested buying it by the case: an under-$35 wine that is delicious to drink on release but that just gets better and better for year or even decades.

And we took our own advice–but even at that, we didn’t buy enough. Don’t you wish you still had cases of the 2010 lying around now? We do!

But with the release of the 2013s, nature has given us another chance. Vintages this great usually come only once in every generation or so. But this time, they’re only three years apart. As Jancis Robinson puts it (in her clinical British prose), “The prognosis is for a vintage similar in quality to the already legendary 2010s.” Antonio Galloni gushes: “Two thousand thirteen… is shaping up to be an epic vintage of classic proportions and superb pedigree.”

If anything, the 2013s—from Barbaresco at least—are a little better than the 2010s. In 2010 it rained just before the harvest, diluting the grapes slightly (in Barolo the later harvest allowed the grapes to dry out). So where some of the 2010s displayed a bit of flatness, a slight dullness, the 2013s all seem to pop with life and energy.

When we first offered the 2010, we said that there was no better value in cellar-worthy wines. Three years later, virtually everything else has gone up in price, but the Produttori del Barbaresco has remained the same. It’s a better value now than ever, and a very budget-friendly addition to your cellar in 2017.

Buy now and buy deep! Use the code PROD2013 at checkout to get 10% off any order of 3 or more bottles!

You can buy it from the NY store, here, and from the San Francisco store, here.

VIDEO: JR Breaks Down the Last 10 Bordeaux Vintages

For some time now, we’ve had a goal of shooting videos to educate and entertain wine enthusiasts near and far. Though we are now out of January, the month when all resolutions typically begin and end, we found a way to persevere and are proud to share our inaugural effort with you today!

As it turns out, even amongst our multi-talented staff there was no one who happened to moonlight as a professional cinematographer…so apologies if our first release is less than Oscar worthy. It can only get better from here, right?

So, without further ado, please press play (if the video hasn’t started already)!

-Your Friends at Flatiron Wines

P.S. We’d love your feedback so feel free to leave a comment below or at our Flatiron Wines YouTube Channel.

Foillard’s New Wine

In my book, Foillard is the absolute king of Morgon, akin to Rousseau in Chambertin, or Roumier in Chambolle. Foillard hits all the right notes, and more so than any other producers in his village, he achieves, what in my book, are four very crucial factors: deliciousness, consistency, age-worthiness, and terroir accuracy.

So I consider it a very big deal when Foillard adds a brand new wine to his line-up. Foillard already has two wines in his “classic” line-up of Morgons, his Cote du Py, and his Corcelette. (I’m excluding his Fleurie here, which is from outside Morgon, and his Cuvee 3.14, which seems stylistically different to me than classic Foillard.)

The Cote du Py is Foillard’s signature wine. It is grown on the most well known slope in Morgon, the Cote du Py (no kidding!). The soils have Morgon’s classic granite, but also schist and some manganese that gives the wine that extra oomph that you also find in Moulin-a-Vent (please see my post on Moulin-a-Vent for a bit of an explanation). The Corcelette is grown in sandier soils. It is decidedly lighter — or more “feminine” as the French would put it — than the Cote du Py, with less tannins.

And now we have the new kid on the block, “Les Charmes Eponyms”. Morgon is divided into seven climats, and Foillard’s Cote du Py and Corcellete represent two of them. Les Charmes is over on the western side of the AOC. Its soils are similar to Cote du Py’s. What makes it distinctive is altitude: it is the highest site in Morgon. The result is a happy mix between the Cote du Py and the Corcelette, with the soil contributing to a Cote du Py-like structure and the altitude giving Corcelette’s finesse.

Only ten cases came to New York and we took what we could. It certainly wasn’t enough to put in our newsletter. Hopefully when you read this we still have a few bottles available and you can give it a try.

Domaine Foillard, Morgon “Charmes Eponyms”, 2014

Goyo Garcia: True Mountain Wines from Ribera

Goyo Garcia

The latest release from Goyo Garcia.

In Spain’s Ribera del Duero, a region dominated by dense, powerful, and oftentimes anonymous wines, Goyo García’s singular style is a breath of fresh mountain air. His are unabashed “mountain” wines: lucidly fresh and deeply mineral, but structured for food and/or aging.

García is taking the path less traveled, making red wines from a blend of red and white grapes. He didn’t choose this method to break out of the box, but instead because his three tiny parcels of old vines reach back to a previous era where the interplanting across color boundaries was more common. These beautiful 21st-century renditions make one wonder how this went out of fashion in the first place. What can we say, it was the ‘80s and Points were everything.

These old parcels have something even more important going for them: terroir. In the old days, only select plots of land in the Duero were planted to vines. These majuelos or vine islands were set in a sea of cereal crops. When Ribera del Duero started to get more popular, that sea receded as vine-land overtook it. But what was lost was the old wisdom about the site selection for the vines, based on subtle differences in elevation, aspect, and soil. When Garcia came back to his native Ribera del Duero, it was clear to him that the old parcels were the future.

The wines also tick a lot of the “natural wine” boxes: organic viticulture, hand harvesting, wild-yeast fermentation, little to no SO2—but the wines come across as traditional and classical. Inspired by the wines of Pierre Overnoy in the Jura (his mother’s hometown boasts a wine bar run by a Jura nut), Goyo set out a little over a decade ago to show the beauty and potential of his native Duero through a similarly pure lens. He has now truly hit his stride—taste and you will believe.

Here’s what we have in stock (at the time of writing). Click through for details on each wine.

Goyo Garcia, Ribera del Duero “Finca el Peruco”, 2012

Goyo Garcia, Ribera del Duero “Finca Vinas de Arcilla”, 2011 

Goyo Garcia, Liebana Tinto “Cobero”, 2013

Goyo Garcia, Graciano “Finca Cascorrales”, 2014

This blog post was adapted from an email sent to customers on our Spanish wine list and was offered with special discounts. To subscribe to the list, please email jr.thomason@flatiron-wines.com.

The Radicalness of Chardonnay

We talk a lot about the importance of terroir, and its impact on the flavors of wine. This, of course, is true no matter what grape variety is used to make the wine. But the more I taste, the more I become convinced that Chardonnay provides a truly extreme example of this.

I first started tossing this idea around back in 2012, when I visited Pierre de Benoist, who manages his uncle’s domaine in the Côte Chalonnaise. His uncle, by the way, is Aubert de Villaine, director and part-owner of the Domaine de la Romanee Conti. Yes, we love Aubert’s Grand Crus Vosne Romanees, but we drink far more of his delicious Aligoté, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from further south!

Although related to the great Burgundian, Pierre actually grew up in Sancerre, drinking the local Sauvignon Blanc. When we visited, he compared Sauvignon with the Aligoté that he was now working with: “They are both aromatic varieties. It takes a few years for the aromatics to calm down. Only then do you begin to see the terroir. Chardonnay is not aromatic. So you see the terroir right away.”

Fast forward to the present time, and a blind tasting that I attended recently. Two wines were before me, both white. One had the depth, minerality and structure that could only be Chardonnay from the Côte d’Or. It reminded me of a recent Chassagne Montrachet I had tasted so I guessed it was from that village (correctly it turns out).

The other wine was a puzzle to me and the other tasters. It was quite a fruity wine, with some peach, and a rather distinctive spice note. It felt like French wine, but none of us could quite place it. Savoie? Alsace? Northern Rhone?  None of our guesses seemed quite right.

We were then told the wine was Chardonnay, and to keep guessing.  The puzzle only intensified.  It took a while before someone finally guessed the right answer: Chablis.

Chardonnay’s radicalness, of course, is more evident in Chablis than anywhere else. Chablis is incredibly distinctive, with a flavor that really can’t be captured with words, though the wine world seems to have settled on “iodine”. It really tastes very different from Chardonnay grown anywhere else. Even Chardonnay grown in equally cold sites (some of the cooler sites on the West Coast or Ontario’s Prince Edward County, for example) seem to have more in common with the Chardonnays of the Côte d’Or or Mâcon than they do Chablis. The only explanation is that Chardonnay reacts quite sensitively to its soils, which in the case of Chablis are kimmeridgian. It is a really remarkable thing.

But that peach and spice? The blind tasting showed me that Chardonnay is even more sensitive than I realized. It’s not just the village of Chablis as a whole that is distinct, but different parcels within Chablis seem able to express completely different fruit profiles.  When the wine was revealed as a premier cru from Montmains, I looked up Burghound’s handy guide to the terroirs of Chablis (if you’re a subscriber and you don’t have it yet, you should definitely ask the Burghounds for a copy). Sure enough, he reports that Montmains often has a “fine, subtle spiciness”. And peach? I went through a bunch of other people’s tasting notes on various Chablis, and noticed that a lot of people identify peach notes in Chablis. For whatever reason, it’s something I never associated with Chablis before, so I just chalk this up to one of the valuable lessons you can learn from blind tasting.

But what really hit home for me was how incredibly different those two glasses of Chardonnay were. They just did not taste like they should be the same grape.

Thinking more about this, just last night I asked Antoine Vincent, wine-maker at Chateau Fuissé in the Mâcon, to explain why Chardonnay responds so readily to soil. He said “It’s because it’s neutral. It does not assert itself.” It’s a bit like Pierre de Benoist’s comments on the aromatics. The irony is rich: Chardonnay is one of the most loved grapes on the planet, and the reason may be that it has no personality.

Here’s a little tasting you can conduct to see what I’m talking about. Try these side by side or one at a time over the course of a couple of weeks. They are all French wines made within 100 miles of each other, and they are completely different expressions of Chardonnay.

Domaine Savary, Chablis, 2014 – $24.99

Michel Gahier, Arbois Chardonnay “Les Follasses”, 2015 – $22.99

JJ Vincent, Pouilly Fuisse “Marie Antoinette”, 2014 – $24.99