Burgundy Quality Levels: A Guided Tasting, at Home

Back in November, as a part of Flatiron Wines’ educational series, I hosted a class entitled ‘Burgundy:  On The Level’. In it we discussed the levels of complexity and detail to Burgundy and its Crus.

To help illustrate the how’s and why’s and the lay of the land, we first discussed a brief history of Burgundy’s Côte d’Or (Golden Slope), comprised by Côte de Nuits to the north and Côte de Beaune to the south, along one long hill.

This all boils down to Burgundy and its classifications. This is one of the most important considerations when understanding the region.

Many of the finest vineyards of Burgundy were mapped out hundreds of years ago, by the abbots and monks of the Catholic Church—in Gevrey-Chambertin, there is documentation from as early as 640 C.E. In the ensuing centuries, vineyards were further mapped and tended by the nobility of France, until the Revolution and the influence of Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleonic inheritance law fractured any prior organization, in effect splitting estates and vineyards into ever-tinier parcels owned by siblings and cousins. Burgundians often joke and disagree when discussing amendments to current classifications. To change a vineyard classification could mean a lifetime (or more) of patience.

With this in mind, we explored these classifications and what to look for on a wine label.

Now, you can taste–and explore–along with us (from the comfort of your couch)!

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Are we looking at Bourgogne, a villages, Premier Cru, or Grand Cru? How can we tell a where the wine is from by the label?

  • Bourgogne wines are either from designated areas that don’t have a village, Premier Cru or Grand Cru classification OR they are declassified grapes from a classified vineyard. Grapes can be from anywhere in Burgundy.
  • Village wines are from a designated list of vineyards that are meant to producer higher quality wines than their generic counterparts. The wines do not include the words 1er Cru or Premier Cru. They can occasionally contain the name of a named vineyard. All of the grapes come from that village (or name vineyard).
  • Premier Cru wines have the village listed ALONG with the words “Premier Cru” or 1er Cru”. The Premier Cru listed is the named vineyard and implies a higher quality wine. All of the grapes must come from the designated vineyard.
  • Grand Cru list ONLY the name of the vineyard. This can be confused with the Villages. Luckily the list of Grand Cru’s is short (32 vineyards), in short supply and high in price. These are considered the creme de la creme of Burgundy.

Are the wines made the same?

  • Winemakers make and age wine according to their own philosophy; There is not a one size fits all answer.
  • Bourgogne wines rarely see any aging time in new oak and are often aged for much shorter periods of time than their village-named counterparts.
  • Premier and Grand Cru wines often see more time in some new oak barrels, or even all new barrels. They also age for a longer time before being released.
  • Often times Grand Cru wines come from vineyards located in the prime sirloin of the slope–the middle–where we tend to find an ideal balance of limestone and clay–thus providing the prime components to provide a wine with structure and succulent fruit. These are usually, but not always, vin de garde, or wine for aging. Of course, this is dependent on the individual producer.

Why is one wine $25.00 and the other $130.00?

  • Each designation is a smaller amount of land on which less wine can be produced.
  • Centuries ago, the Benedictine monks who mapped out the vineyards designated where the very best wines could be made.
  • The production costs at “better” sites is often higher than for those from regional sites. (New oak barrels are EXPENSIVE.)

Burgundy Quality Levels (3)

As we tasted four different wines, of the same vintage, from Côte de Nuits producer, Jerome Chézeaux (Regional, Villages, 1er Cru, Grand Cru) we discussed the differences in each.

  • Where in the village is the vineyard located?
  • Where on the slope might we find these vines?
  • How do the wines differ from each other in character?
  • Are we noticing increased length on the palate when we taste Bourgogne Rouge next to Clos Vougeot Grand Cru?
  • What was the vinification and élévage (how long a wine is aged and in what sort of vessel, before bottling), and how these choices in the cellar impact the profile of the wine?

One of the main points of discussion and an often asked question:

How will this wine change as it ages?

  • A fascinating question, as we often find that in Burgundy the answers to these questions remain fairly uniform. Bourgogne level wines are usually meant to be enjoyed young with plenty of fresh fruit and vibrancy. A perfect addition to a mid-week meal.
  • A climb up the classification ladder offers the opportunity for longer aging, greater development and incredible complexity. The wines made from better grapes and are often more concentrated to start. The vibrant fruit starts to age into beautiful mushroom, truffle, spice, tilled earth, smoke, herbal and a slew of other interesting tertiary aromas and flavors. The structure (acid and tannin) is more prevalent in higher quality wines and sometimes even unenjoyable in their youth. As the wines age the structure and flavors integrate while the tannins settle out, leaving a silk or velvet texture.

How do I know when my wine is ready to drink?

  • Ask your friendly neighborhood retailer! We can’t emphasize this enough! We are a resource at your disposal. Each vineyard, vintage and producer creates a myriad of answers to this question. Everyone enjoys wines at different ages and different styles. The best thing you can do it start drinking and exploring to find out what suits you best. There are plenty of books and online sources with lots of opinions out there. We are happy to help answer any questions you have regarding specific wines! We are happy to help you no matter where you are in your wine journey. Want to know what those 32 Grand Cru sites are? Or, what our favorite wine resource (online or in print) of the moment is? Stop by, and ask away!

Our classroom was full of guests with insightful thoughts and questions. Conversations flowed and many familiar faces returned to the store the very next day to continue the discussion. Our most coveted wines were the Bourgogne and 1er Cru Boudots. For such a young wine (2015), the 1er Cru Boudots was open and fleshy, yet displayed an early glimpse into what one might expect in a gloriously aged Burgundy.

The beauty of the wines of Chézeaux was clearly displayed on this chilly pre-holiday November evening. With a vast and comprehensive selection of Burgundy, we invite you to come into the shop and explore all that this fine region has to offer. Whether a satisfying Bourgogne to pair with your favorite roast chicken recipe or a special bottle of Grand Cru to enjoy alongside truffles – Flatiron has you covered.

If you want to learn more about wine, or about our education series, be sure to sign up for our newsletter and check “Education” as an interest when prompted.

Rieslingfeier Roundup

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Hello again Friends,

It’s Riesling Week in NYC. And this week culminates with Rieslingfeier, the celebration of all things Riesling. Thank goodness it is finally here! The Grand Tasting and Gala Dinner are officially sold out, but we hear there’s a waiting list and if you’d like to be added you can call the shop at (212) 477-1315.

And even if you can’t make the festivities, we have a sure-fire way to help you through the weekend: Almost every featured producer’s wine, for sale with deep discounts.

If you’re new to Riesling and don’t know what all the fuss is about, look no further: Josh wrote a nifty blog to get you acclimated and answer your questions. And if you’re ready to dive into the deep end of the pool with the rest of the Riesling fanatics, I encourage to you choose a couple of the bottles below. Taste for yourself what all the fuss is about.

This is also an opportunity to get a sneak peak at some of what will be tasted on Saturday or re-live your tasting experience from the comfort of your own home.

If there is a wine you taste this weekend that is not on the list please reach out with your requests. I’ll do my best to hunt them down for you.


Cheers!
Clara

Alzinger
Alzinger is located in the Wachau region of Austria, and the family owns parcels in the two greatest vineyards of the region (Steinertal and Loibenberg), where they grow mostly Riesling with exemplary skill.


Alzinger, Riesling Durnsteiner Federspiel, 2017
Refreshing and brisk, this has plenty of waxy yellow and green apple and stony minerals to create a very balanced and polished wine. (Dry)


Alzinger, Riesling Ried Loibenberg Smaragd, 2017
This is concentrated and richly textured, but with fresh acidity and enough fruit to remain very balanced. This is a good candidate for the cellar, but its exotic profile is delicious even when young. (Dry)

Breuer
Georg was at the forefront to produce a drier style of wine in his hometown of the Rheingau, Germany.


Georg Breuer, Rheingau Riesling GB Charm, 2017
This fragrant wine reflects over a century of winemaking tradition. Peach and lemon mingle with stony minerality for a juicy and refreshing quaffer. (Slightly Off-Dry)

Dönnhoff
Arguably the best winemaker in the Nahe, Germany.


Dönnhoff, Riesling Estate, 2017
This entry level Estate Riesling is pure elegance. It is graceful and lithe in texture, with racy acidity and ample stone fruit and citrus. (Slightly Off Dry)


Dönnhoff, Riesling Trocken Kreuznacher Kahlenberg, 2017
Full of the smoky, stony quality we love in great German Rieslings. It has great finesse and great fruit — a mélange of ripe apple and tropical guava. (Very Dry)

Eva Fricke
The darling of the Rheingau in Germany. Eva didn’t grow up in a vineyard, but has quickly risen through the ranks of amazing producers.


Eva Fricke, Riesling Rheingau, 2017
Her entry level wine lacks for nothing. It is full of verve, with a lithe texture and bursting with yellow apples, nectarines and a dry finish. (Slightly Off-Dry, finishes Dry)


Eva Fricke, Riesling Dry Kiedricher 2017

Stony, flinty smoke, kumquats and lemon peel. This wine is so ethereal a sip is like drinking air. (Dry)


Eva Fricke, Riesling Off Dry Lorch Wisperwind
Aromatic ripe tropical fruit on the nose. Silky texture, broad mid palate filled with pineapples and ripe peaches, the lifts-off with searing acid to produce and incredibly balanced, yet full bodied wine. (Off-Dry)

Gunderloch
6 generations of winemaking and 300 years on the land give a leg up to this classic producer from the Rheinhessen, Germany.


Gunderloch, Riesling Dry Estate 2015
Classic Riesling tertiary notes of petrol, damp earth and candied lemon peel pop out of the glass. A dense palate with plenty of acid and a smoky finish. (Dry)


Gunderloch, Riesling Niersteiner, 2014
From the coolest part of the hillside, allowing delicate notes of unripe peach, orange zest and lemon juice to dance around like a Prima Ballerina. The 2014’s have sold out everywhere else, get a bottle while you still can. (Dry)


Gunderloch, Riesling Kabinett Jean-Baptiste, 2017
A crazy deal for such an amazingly juicy, vibrant wine. Pickle brine, just picked peaches explode with mouth-filling texture. This is happy wine. (Slightly Sweet)


Gunderloch, Riesling GG Nackenheimer Rothenberg, 2016
Vineyards so rocky and steep the land is nearly impossible to work, which hasn’t stopped the Gunderloch’s from excelling at it for 130 years. Layers upon layers of peachy, chalky, lemony, flinty, waxy wine portray what makes this site and this family the best of the best. Drink now or cellar. (Dry)

Jurtschitsch
Vanguards of the natural wine scene in the Kamptal, an Austrian region known for elegant and aromatic wines.


Jurtschitsch, Riesling Zobinger Heiligenstein Erste Lage, 2016
Showcasing the prettiness of the Kamptal from the get go: Barely ripe nectarines, heady orange blossom and minerality lingers on the finish for as long as you can wait to have the next sip. (Dry)

Hirtzberger
Franz Hirtzberger hails from the Wachau in Austria and is as meticulous in the vineyards as the cellar. He doesn’t control the environment around him as much as coax its potential into being.


Weingut Franz Hirtzberger, Riesling Federspiel “Steinerterrassen”, 2016
Floral aromas abound on the nose, a bright lemon zing and a mid palate peachiness with a slightly lighter bodied than the rest of the line up. The best dry riesling I have found for the money. (Dry)


Weingut Franz Hirtzberger, Riesling Smaragd “Setzberg”, 2016
The highest altitude vineyard holding giving it the brightest acidity with true potential for very long aging. The nose is floral with hints of lemon and unripe peaches. The minerality and spice abound with slight petrol and the finish is long. This will go great with food now, but really sing with a couple years of bottle age. (Dry)


Weingut Franz Hirtzberger, Riesling Smaragd “Hochrain”, 2016
I was lucky enough to drink a 2006 recently. All I can say is BUY THIS BOTTLE and WAIT. The 2006 nose was spicy, earthy, truffle-y, orangey with honey and butter scotch exploding like pop rocks on my tongue. The 2016 is already so delicious and zippy, but poised to show the same evolution as its 2006 counterpart. A dry magical riesling worth waiting for. (Dry)


Weingut Franz Hirtzberger, Riesling “Singerriedel” Smaragd, 2016
Singerriedel vineyard, one of the best in the Wachau, rises steeply right behind Weingut Hirtzberger. Very special attention is given to the site, and the family has been rebuilding the stone terraces for 20 years. The reason for their great efforts is the extreme minerality of the soil, comprising gneiss, mica, schist and other primary rocks. This unique terroir provides us with the foundation for our greatest Riesling Smaragd. The Austrian equivalent to Trimbachs’s Alsace masterpiece Clos Ste. Hune. (Dry)

Egon Müller
Considered by many to be the greatest producer of Riesling from anywhere. Although his home base is in the Mosel, Germany, he making wine to express terroir around the world.


Chateau Bela (Egon Müller), Riesling, 2016
From Slovakia, this is another one of Müller’s farflung Riesling endeavors, and easily his best value wines. It is bone-dry, and has soaring acidity. We love it! (Dry)
Kanta (Egon Müller), Riesling Adelaide Hills, 2014
Concentrated and intense in texture, this has a bit of the oiliness commonly found in Australian Rieslings, but well-integrated acidity and bright, tropical fruit to round things out. (Dry)


Egon Müller, Riesling Spätlese Scharzhofberger, 2016 (super limited)
“Scents of white peach, white currant, lime and grapefruit lead to a lusciously fruited palate strongly citric in its bright juiciness but with less naked sense of electric acidity than his other wines. There is even a hint of creaminess to the texture. A mingling of ripe honeydew melon with alluring, honeysuckle-like inner-mouth perfume further enhances the sense of advanced phenolic evolution…. To cite deftly integrated acids and residual sugar doesnt begin to do justice to what is displayed here. And yet the finish, as long-lasting as it is, comes off as restrained and tucked in at the edges, no doubt pointing to a wine very much in need of bottle age to show its true potential.” David Schildknecht, Vinous (Medium Sweet)

Nikolaihof
Thought to be the oldest winery in Austria, with the first documents of wine production dating back to 470 A.D. This Wachau estate was also one of the first Biodynamic farms in Austria.


Nikolaihof, Riesling Vom Stein Federspiel, 2017
“This is just excellent wine, Nikolaihof as we love them to be; lively, sorrel-y, ped-pod and chervil; just on the right side of funky, full of soul and energy. But it’s a reflective sort of energy, suggestive of reverie even as it chugs and puffs.” Terry Theise, Importer & Author (Dry)

Selbach-Oster
Possibly my favorite Mosel estate. Johannes Selbach is renowned for his ability to take a snap shot of a vineyard at one place in time with every bottling he makes.


Selbach-Oster, Riesling Kabinett Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, 2017
“More middle, more umami, the same sense of deep-shade, a weird cool heat. Sure that’s crazy but this wine is massive yet inferential, not so much deep as subterranean.” Terry Theise (Off-Dry)


Selbach-Oster, Riesling Spätlese Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, 2017
Slate, lime, apple, butter-vanilla, rich, almost chewy earthiness, great depth and very full-bodied. (Off-Dry to Medium Sweet)


Selbach-Oster, Riesling Auslese Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, 2017
Auslese or “Special Harvest”, are grapes from even riper, select bunches of berries, sometimes infected with Botrytis (Noble Rot). Tropical notes of pineapple and mango with hints of marmalade are layered in with the rest of the slate, cream and earth, very full-bodied. (Sweet)


Selbach-Oster, Riesling Beerenauslese Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, 2017 (375ml)
Beerenauslese or “special harvested berries”, individual berries picked at optimum ripeness, usually infected by Botrytis. Rich full-bodied, all of the tasting notes above with a magnifying glass on each aspect. This is a flavor generator and can age forever. (Very Sweet)


Selbach-Oster, Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, 2017 (375ml)

Trockenbeerenauslese or “dried special harvest berries” are only picked when infected with botrytis. This is one of the most decadent, intense, complex, longest lived, wines in the world. A whirlpool of marmalade, saffron, lemon, honey, butterscotch, cream, slate, salt, earth, mushroom, and a never ending finish. (Lusciously Sweet)

Want to understand that idea of “terroir-transparence”? Try your own comparative tasting with friends. Taste through all 5 prädikat levels from a single producer and a single vineyard in a single vintage.

Spreitzer
A beautiful and ancient, family-run, sustainably-farmed estate in the Rheingau, Germany.


Weingut Spreitzer, Rheingau Riesling 101, 2017
Aromatic white flowers with a titillating blend of tropical fruit and citrus. A perfect pairing to spicy asian food. (Medium Sweet)

Von Winning
This family estate in the Pfalz in Germany produces wines of great clarity and polish. High-density planting and organic and biodynamic farming combine with historical traditions beautifully.


Von Winning, Deidesheimer Paradiesgarten Riesling 1er Lage Trocken, 2017
An incredibly chewy Riesling, thanks to extended lees aging. This is a minerality bomb, with just a hint of lime leaf and salt. A long, lingering dry finish. (Dry)


Von Winning, Ruppertsberger Reiterpfad Riesling 1er Lage Trocken, 2017
More silky in texture than the Paradiesgarten, this has ample and limpid clarity, with a bright acidity and more of that incredible minerality. (Dry)


Von Winning, Kalkofen, GG, 2016
Grown on chalky soils, there is a sensation on the palate almost like a still Champagne. Pure mineral elegance with just a slight nuance of citrus and green apple skin. (Dry)

Herri Mina

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Pétrus is at the absolute apogee of the wine world. And it isn’t just a trophy wine for people with far too much money, although it is that, in part. Just like some other untouchables (DRC comes to mind) the château actually makes utterly sublime wines that show the utmost respect for local tradition and terroir.

That the wine is so honest and true to itself is in no small part thanks to Jean-Claude Berrouet, who oversaw 40 vintages there, including many of the great wines that put Pétrus into the wine world’s pole position.

But Berrouet wasn’t satisfied playing only at those rarefied heights: he also craved that quintessentially French experience of working on more modest, humbler wines—country wines. So, like DRC’s Aubert de Villaine (who founded his incredible Côte Chalonnaise Domaine de Villaine for similar reasons) he had side projects where he (and now his son, who also succeeded him as Pétrus’ winemaker) could connect his hands with soil in terroirs that he knew were both truly great and wildly undervalued, and make wine ordinary people can actually afford to drink.

One of the side projects, Herri Mina, which we talked about in this space a while back, is out in France’s Basque country—Berrouet’s land of origin. You see, feeling homesick, Berrouet moved back to work the local terroir, growing Cabernet Franc (Pétrus’ other grape) and Irouléguy’s excellent native white varieties.

Now, these wines are not like Pétrus… and that’s OK! Pétrus just isn’t the bottle to open for steak off the backyard grill on a hot summer night. But these wines are perfect! The Herri Mina’s pretty fruit and subtle tobacco and earth notes put it somewhere between Bordeaux and Saumur-Champigny stylistically—but with its own special character. 2014 is a very good vintage in Irouléguy (not as hot as ’15) and the wine has perfect balance.

And don’t forget the white! It is dense, complex, full of fruit and mineral. If Txakoli is an expression of the Basque seaside, think of this Irouléguy Blanc as an expression of its mountains. Both are serious wines, despite the great price, and would benefit from a little cellaring or decanting.

Herri Mina, Irouléguy Blanc, 2013 – $28.99

Herri Mina, Irouléguy Rouge, 2014 – $29.99

Fenouillet Rosé

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If you subscribe to our newsletter, you may recall a story we ran last year in our newsletter about “The Once a Year Marvel that is Rosenthal’s Very Best Value.” It was Fenouillet’s red wine, an oddball blend of Merlot and Marcellan that’s priced like a mass-market grocery store wine but made with love by a small family domaine.

Right now we have a slightly different version of this marvel: Fenouillet’s rosé.

We tend to think of rosé as falling into one of two categories. There are the vins de soif (wines for thirst), light-colored rosés you drink as an aperitif on your rooftop, and vins gastronomiques, slightly darker rosés that pair well with food.

The Fenouillet is somewhere in between, which gives it chameleon-like powers. It’s so delightfully inexpensive that it would be a shame if you couldn’t guzzle it whenever you’re in the mood, on a rooftop or elsewhere. And you can! It’s fresh and has an easy charm and it will make your afternoon better.

But let’s say you’re drinking a bottle while preparing a seasonal Green Market meal, it would be a shame if you couldn’t keep drinking the rosé right through dinner. Here you can! It’s perfect with summer dishes from ratatouille to chicken salad to grilled swordfish.

Fenouillet, VdP Rosé, 2016 – Fenouillet uses a more traditionally Provençal blend for this wine than their red: 50% Cinsault, 40% Grenache, and 10% Syrah.

Litaud’s Chardonnay

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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.

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.

Ameztoi “Kirkilla”

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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

Ridge For The 4th

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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.

Chanterêves

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We knew it was only a matter of time before Chanterêves would be “discovered,” as in talked about and chased by U.S wine drinkers beyond us and our customers. But now they appear headed for the big leagues.

For a while, the wines from this micro-négociant husband-wife team of Tomoko Kuriyama and Guillaume Bott were available only with us. But they now have distribution here in New York thanks to the team at Grand Cru, a boutique importer/wholesaler with a legendary Burgundy portfolio in the making that includes producers like the Marquis d’Angerville, Roumier, and Comte Liger-Belair. And now Chanterêves has the honor to be sold alongside those famous names. We are very excited for them!

They’re also getting attention in the press, including in Antonio Galloni’s recent piece on “The Undiscovered Burgundy,” where he refers to what we love about Chanterêves: their “airy, minimalist style that favors freshness and aromatic nuance.”

All of this good news for Chanterêves lines up with the best of news of all: their release from the great 2015 vintage. These beautiful Bourgognes are wines that you can already start drinking to enjoy that “airy” style.

Chanterêves, Bourgogne Rouge, 2015 – $29.99
Chanterêves, Bourgogne Blanc, 2015 – $29.99

Terre Nere Rosato 2016

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“Best Rosato from Terre Nere in years” — Ian d’Agata, Vinous Media

The volcanic mountain of Etna—still active, still changing the terroir every day—has proven to be a remarkable place to make wine. Etna now lays claim to true Italian wine-region greatness, alongside Piedmont and Tuscany. It’s just that nobody figured it out until quite recently (and that includes most of the locals!)

The reds are becoming famous, as are, to a lesser extent, the whites. It turns out they can also make some magnificent rosato.

Some of Etna’s wines seem to nod towards Barolo, emphasizing structure, crushed herbs, and savory flavors. Others nod towards Burgundy, with greater focus on fruit purity, minerality, and terroir expression. Tenuta delle Terre Nere is very much in the latter camp.

The Rosato is a striking example of this elegant, terroir expression. It is made entirely from Etna’s noble grape, Nerello Mascalese, grown in the black (nere) volcanic soils that made Terre Nere famous. It’s a gorgeous salmon-colored pink and has a laser-like Burgundian focus on fruit (red berries) with the exotically mineral expressions of Mount Etna lying just beneath the surface.

Terre Nere, Etna Rosato, 2016 – $21.99

Ferrando’s Erbaluce

If you’ve traveled around Italy, you know things change fast. The ragù in one town is nothing like the ragù two towns over. The cheese in one valley is completely unknown on the other side of the hills. Perhaps only Japan can rival Italy in its incredible tapestry of hyper-local specialties. It’s what makes Italy such a fascinating place for eating, drinking, and exploring.

Today’s exploring brings us north of the Langhe, past Turin and into the mountains. We’re still in Piedmont, but only just. If we went any farther we’d be in the truly Alpine country of the Vallée d’Aoste. This is Caluso and Carema, where our friend Luigi Ferrando makes some of the most beautiful Nebbiolos of Alto Piemonte—or anywhere.

But Luigi also makes incredible mountain whites—exactly as you’d expect in the hills below Mont Blanc. He grows Erbaluce one of Italy’s hyper-local treasures. It’s virtually unknown as close as 50 miles away, but in this valley it’s the white grape—and a special one at that.

erbaluce

It has a magical combination of weight and naturally high acidity, kind of like Chenin Blanc. So, like Chenin, it’s used to produce sweet and sparkling wines as well as dry.

But today we have the dry wine for you. Its rich side is almost honeyed, but the high-altitude acidity and mineral tension give it a vibrant life-force. There is stone fruit and fresh-cut flowers. It is remarkably good for such an obscure variety.

Why do such great things not spread? How did Erbaluce remain so hyper-local? For a practical reason: it’s very hard to grow. It’s susceptible to disease and it buds early, making it susceptible to frost. And even when it grows, it’s low-yielding. In short, Erbaluce is not a natural choice for anyone who needs to make a living producing wine.

But it’s a natural choice for us! Delicious and refreshing and very complex for the price, it’s also something more: a rare window into a tiny corner of Italy’s amazing wine-scape.

Ferrando, Erbaluce di Caluso “La Torrazza”, 2014