Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Savoie & Adrien Berlioz Cellier des Cray Chignin Savoie France


Savoie is decidedly one of my favorite French wine areas with the Southwest of France, Loire Valley, Burgundy and Jura. I have always liked the wines from the northern and southern Rhone Valley, Provence, Languedoc and Roussillon, yet I have discovered that if the wines are too hot, too ripe or present too much alcohol, I’m not into them at all.

As a Bordeaux native, I like Bordeaux wines a lot but I’m relatively picky with the juice from my region of origin. I need to admit that the last 18 years spent tasting between 4,000 to 6,000(+) wines a year from all around the world as a Sommelier and Wine buyer, oriented my palate towards bright, balanced, juicy, harmonious, structured and textured yet vivid red, white and rosé wines with crisp acidity, good minerality and refreshing palate rather than overripe, opulent and oaky fruit bombs.

That is why, I must confess, it is somewhat difficult for me to fully appreciate New World style wines, especially when super oaky and over 14.5 degrees of alcohol. I understand and comprehend them and even realize why some people may like them, as I have to in order to diversify the wine selection on the shelves and offer a wide array of wines in the store to satisfy my customers’ tastes, but I rarely enjoy them: too heavy, too alcoholic, too woody, lacking of freshness and vibrancy.

In fact, I like some of the New Zealand and South-African wines, which can be pretty good and expressive; but also some Malbec from Argentina, Tannat from Uruguay, some Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile and California, some Pinot Noir from Oregon and Washington, and even quite a few Greek and Lebanese wines.

However, whatever I do or taste, it seems that I always come back to the old world, and more especially wines from vineyards located in cooler climate with higher elevation, presenting more minerals and acidity with less alcohol and crispier taste.

Despite my love for Spanish and Portuguese wines in general (the traditional style preferably), fresh and crispy wines from hillsides and steep slopes seems to please my palate more than anything else, and I usually greatly appreciate the wines from Piedmont, Veneto, Alto-Adige, Tuscany and Campania in Italy, and more especially Loire, Burgundy, Alsace, Jura and Savoie in France.

But why Savoie? Is it because I did my army in the “Chasseurs Alpins” in Grenoble and I’m very familiar with the area and enjoy the countless hours of trekking and climbing in the Alps? I don’t know, but one thing is sure Mountainous wines seems to be clean, pure, versatile, complex, vibrant and surely very easy to drink and enjoy. They almost feel like glacier spring water gently and slowly filtered by the rocky soils, taking all the best components the ground as to offer and restituting them in its pure and refreshing and thirst quenching mineral unique way.

For me, Savoie wines reflect their environment of origin: light on their feet and lightly perfumed like a mountain breeze, pure, crisp, vivid, super refreshing, from the most simple to the most complex, they always seem very pleasing and the unavoidable minerality add an extra dimension that is extremely satisfying.

Vin de Savoie is an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) for wines produced in the Savoie region, which is located in the foothills of the French Alps, central eastern part of France (south of Geneva). The region is divided roughly into three distinct parts: the glacially sculpted terrain along the South shore of Lake Geneva, the hilly country near the northern end of the "Lac du Bourget", and the area bordering the "Massif des Bauges" south of Chambéry.

Savoie's wines: The produced wines are mostly white (more than 70%), made from grape varieties planted mainly on the slopes of the various surrounding Mountain chains (and partly in the valley) around the villages of Chignin, Apremont, Abymes, Jongieux, St Badolph and Cruet for the whites, made with Altesse (also known as Roussette), Jacquère, Chasselas, Chardonnay and also Roussanne for the rare Chignin-Bergeron. There are also some reds (relatively light yet fresh, earthy and aromatic) made from Mondeuse, Gamay Noir and occasionally Pinot Noir, and also some rosés made from Gamay and some sparkling wines.

Chignin: Located about 10 miles southeast of Chambéry, the little village of Chignin resides at the foot of the high limestone escarpments in the southern part of the Bauges massif, central eastern France, in the Savoie region (eastern part of the Rhône-Alpes, bordering the neighboring Switzerland and Valle d'Aosta in Italy).

Chignin (Suite): Overhanging the valley at an altitude of roughly 370 meters on the southwestern slope of the Summit of Montgelas (1300 meters above sea level), this pretty Savoyard village of Chignin can be spotted from a distance due to its 14th century tower and its 19th century chapel dedicated to Saint-Anthelme. Also, due to its location, Chignin offers a fantastic panorama of the mountains of the Chartreuse National Park, especially the "Mont Grenier", located westward on the opposite side of the valley. Moreover, directly opposite of Chignin on the other side of the valley and “niched” on the eastern slope foothills of the summit of the "Pas de la Fosse", you can also see the village of Apremont, one of the other Cru villages from "Vin de Savoie". "Les Abymes" is nestled in the valley, separating the Massif des Bauges to the east and the Massif de la Chartreuse to the west, between Chignin and Apremont.

In a previous post, I was talking about the Quenard, which is a name particularly common in Savoie. Yet, Berlioz seems to take the same road, after Gilles Berlioz (read my previous post at www.ledomduvin.com/2009/08/2008-domaine-gilles-berlioz-chignin), today’s post is all about Adrien Berlioz.

Adrien Berlioz Cellier des Cray Chignin Savoie France

Adrien Berlioz took over the little family estate called “Cellier des Cray” at the beginning of 2006 and made it one of the most prestigious domaine of Chignin. The Domaine encompasses about 4.5 hectares of vineyards in organic conversion, located in a "lieu dit" called "Les Viviers" near Chignin, a small village between Albertville and Chambéry, at about 390 meters above sea level.

All the vines are planted in a warm Terroir composed of rock scree on the surface and calcareous-clay sub-soil. The very steep slopes’ vineyards, with 50% of inclination for some of them, are planted with grapes such as Jacquère and Roussanne for the white and Mondeuse for the red.

Adrien works with respect for the environment using, for now, the “Lutte Raisonnée” method with minimal use of chemicals, only when really necessary. He also uses Organic techniques tending towards Biodynamic, that he adapts to each parcels depending on the treatment needed to obtain the healthiest vines and grapes. Atop of not using any herbicides or inorganic fertilizers, working and plowing the ground are done with small tools to avoid tamping the soil and in the same time allow the upper ground layers and roots to breath. Everything is done mainly by hand and using a tractor will be too dangerous anyway due to the steepness of the slope in certain parcels. By working his vines and soils this way, he is hoping to be soon totally Organic or even Biodynamic.

This young “vigneron” is animated by great passion and rare humility. His wines transcribe the sincerity and detailed oriented attitude of the people from Savoie, but also the richness and complexity of their Terroir of origin. Adrien gives his vines a paternal attention translated into his wines with great attention to produce the best this mountainous land can offer.

Adrien Berlioz “Cellier des Cray” produces about 5 wines including 3 in the US market:

2009 Cellier des Cray Vin de Savoie Chignin Savoie France
Suggested retail price $11-$13
Distributed by Savio Soares Selection in NYC

This 100% Jacquère was vinified in stainless steel tanks and didn’t see any oak. The vines are about 40-45 years of age, planted on clay-calcareous soil, with a density of 8000 vines per hectares and yield averaging about 50 hectoliters per hectare. After manual harvest with transport of the grapes in plastic cases to arrive intact at the cellar, then immediate pressing with no air contact to prevent oxidation, vinification occurred in stainless still vats with regular bâtonnage of the lees for 4-6 months.

It is the pure expression of this indigenous grape producing light, clear, clean white wines marked by their vivid acidity, enhancing minerality and extreme versatility. Fresh, crisp, with a slight effervescence gently titillating your taste bud, what we call “perlant” in French, without being bubbly, this wine offers blossom and white citrus on the nose and on the palate. Quite delightful and refreshing I must say. Serve it cold as an aperitif by hot spring or summer afternoon, but also with crustaceans and light fish.

2009 Cellier des Cray Vin de Savoie Chignin-Bergeron Cuvée "Euphrasie" and Cuvée Tradition Savoie France
Suggested retail price ...(to be confirmed)
Distributed by Savio Soares Selection in NYC

This 100% Roussanne was also vinified in stainless steel tanks. The vines are about 20-25 years of age, planted on clay-calcareous soil topped by scree of rocks, with a density of 8000 vines per hectares and yield averaging about 50 hectoliters per hectare. After manual harvest with transport of the grapes in plastic cases to arrive intact at the cellar, then immediate pressing with no air contact to prevent oxidation, vinification occurred in stainless still vats and oak barrels with regular bâtonnage of the lees for 4-6 months. The ageing on the lees and slight touch of oak intermingled with the character of the Roussanne grape confer this wine great complexity and texture.

The Roussanne being more aromatic, layered and fruitier than Jacquère, the resulting wine is more powerful and expressive, yet it remains elegant and refined with harmonious complexity. The nose and palate are models of refinement with floral aromas, citrus and white fruits complemented by earthy notes. The gently coating palate is expanding nicely towards the inviting lingering finish. It has more ageing potential and support more elaborated dishes like white meat, fish in sauce, cheeses and desserts.

2009 Cellier des Cray Vin de Savoie rouge Mondeuse France
Suggested retail price...(to be confirmed)
Distributed by Savio Soares Selection in NYC

Mondeuse Noire is a red wine grape that is indigenous and grown primarily in the Savoie region of France. The grape can also be found in Argentina, Australia, and California, but it is in the foothills of the Alps in the Savoie region that it is the most expressive.

This 100% Mondeuse was crafted from vines about 50-55 years of age, planted on scree of rocks topping clay-calcareous subsoil on steep soils, with a density of 8000 vines per hectares and yield averaging about 50 hectoliters per hectare. After manual harvest with transport of the grapes in plastic cases to arrive intact at the cellar, then after a cold maceration for 12 hours, fermentation occurred in stainless still vats and the “encuvage” lasted for about 2-3 weeks. The wine was then aged for 6 to 8 months in used demi-Muid(s) of 600 liters (large oak vats) of 2nd and 3rd use (meaning that the barrels were used to make one or two more wine before the current one).

Adrien Berlioz crafts “a mean” Mondeuse that is excellent. Slightly tannic, spicy, powerful yet fairly light and vivid, voluptuous and “charpentée” (meaning structured), this Mondeuse is the unaltered expression of the Terroir intermingled with red cherry fruits, floral and earthy notes. What a lovely wine! Here again, like the Roussanne, it has good ageing potential and food friendly attitude. Pair it with game, venison, hare and Savoie’s cheeses like Tomme de Savoie and Reblochon.

In conclusion, I will say that the passionate Adrien Berlioz, a young "Vigneron-Récoltant Indépendant", crafts some really interesting wines that reflect his personality and the character of their Terroir of origin. They deserve all your attention as they just arrived in the US market and are very promising.


LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken and edited from an email from Adrien Berlioz and different other sources to produce a winery technical data sheet for Savio Soares Selection.

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines (and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

2006 Chateau Cambon Beaujolais Villages Bourgogne France

Chateau Cambon Beaujolais Villages Bourgogne France

It all started in 1995, when Marie and Marcel Lapierre, in association with Jean Claude Chanudet (from “Domaine Chamonard”), purchased Château de Cambon, which was in bankruptcy. They brought a renaissance to the estate and restructured its vineyards.

Marie is managing it. Marcel Lapierre, her husband, who also owns a Domaine in Morgon (hence Domaine Marcel Lapierre), is the vineyard manager/winemaker and Jean Claude is in charge of all the technical and material part. Although Marcel adapts the same care and methods as with his own Domaine in Morgon, the three of them make the final decision regarding the wines.

Although the vineyard management is not technically Biodynamic or Organic, they use the “Lutte Raisonnée” method, which is quite close to both despite the use of chemicals when needed.

“Lutte Raisonnée” means that they adopt different attitudes and methods in the parcels depending on the vines, the nature of the soil, the environment and the necessary measures that need to be taken depending on the vintage, the weather and micro-climates. It also means that they only apply minimal or barely no use of chemicals treatment (pesticides, herbicides, etc) to fight diseases and fungus, only when really necessary. Also, when they do not use any chemical, they treat the vineyard with Biodynamic products and plow their vines.

The vineyards of this estate are located between the crus of Morgon and Fleurie. But due to bureaucratic indecisiveness between 1935 and 1936 when most Beaujolais and Cru Beaujolais AOC(s) were created, this vineyard was not included in either cru, but just given a Beaujolais-Villages designation. Since the owners at this time did not protest the decision, this land will forever be designated as Beaujolais-Villages or Beaujolais.

That said, Marie and Marcel believe that these wines show a marked resemblance to the Morgon cru. Marcel vinifies them in the same manner and enthusiasm as with his other wines at Domaine Lapierre in Morgon.

Harvests are done manually with serious sortings, made by each harvester when they pick the grapes in the vineyards, then re-verified when they empty their basket in the large bucket behind the tractor before going to the winery, and one last time at the winery.

Usually they only make 2 different wines, the rosé Beaujolais wine (wine of bleeding or “saignée”) to allow better concentration to their Beaujolais red and, thus, the red Beaujolais wine. Occasionally, when the vintages are very good, they also make the Cuvée “Le CAMBON”, a Beaujolais Villages that is made with the best grapes of the vintage from the older vines. When the vintage is not as good, they mix all the grapes and only produce the Beaujolais red. In any cases, they sell everything every year one way or another, which is another proof of the high quality of this estate and the people behind it.

All their wines are produce and vinified with all natural yeasts and without SO2 or “chaptalisation” in 40-75 hl foudres (large oak vats). Only tiny doses of sulphur are added to increase stability and avoid oxidation, but bottling occurs without filtration. The wines are as natural as can be and the result in the bottle is vibrant and alive.

2006 Chateau Cambon Beaujolais Villages Burgundy France
Suggested retail price $18-$21
Imported by Polaner Selection in NYC

The 2006 vintage is characterized by the ripeness but also the freshness of the fruit. Expressing the typical red fruits of Gamay combined with the minerality of the soil; this wine is quite delicious and somewhat elegant with a nice dose of earthiness.

Behind its deep red-purple color, which is by the way, slightly cloudy, this wine presents inviting and complex aromas of cherry-like fruit with earthy notes. A touch rustic, the palate is fresh and juicy, with red cherry fruit enhanced by a great acidity. The finish is a touch dry and needs a bit of food but has good structure overall.

Marcel Lapierre and his team once again managed to produce great Beaujolais that deserve some attention. Not to mention it again, but this is an unchaptalised, unfiltered, unfined, unsulphured wine from somewhat partly Biodynamic-Organic vines made by Beaujolais wizards that are very talented at what they do. Domaine Marcel Lapierre, Domaine Chamonard and Chateau Cambon are some of the best Beaujolais of the Morgon area and surely some of the most natural, really expressing the characteristics of their Terroir of origin.


LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken and edited from an email from Marie Lapierre to produce a technical sheet for Domaine Marcel Lapierre and Domaine Chamonard for Savio Soares (see also Savio Soares website at savinho.com) and from Chateau Cambon importer website at www.polanerselections.com

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines (and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Madiran & Domaine Le Serp Madiran Tannat Southwest of France

This post is bringing us back into a region dear to my heart, the southwest of France and more precisely Madiran. The southwest of France seems to have always been known because of the reputation of Bordeaux, it is partially true but this point of view isn’t accurate anymore.

As I already discussed it in many other posts, the southwest of France encompasses many small appellations and estates that existed and were highly regarded long before the actual Bordeaux flagship estates from the left bank appeared.

Remember that the Romans planted the first Bordeaux vines along the eastern part of the Dordogne River, on a limestone plateau perfectly suited to grow quality wines, which contributed to the lingering reputation of the area where the medieval village of Saint-Emilion now stands, since the 2 century AD.

That said, the right bank and especially the Médoc and more importantly Haut-Médoc were for most of their history, a vast region of salt marshes used for cattle and sheep grazing rather than viticulture.

In the 17th century, Dutch merchants began an ambitious drainage project to convert the marshland into usable vineyard area. The project was paid and requested by the Negociants merchants and aristocrats who had the financial means and saw a potential to grow their business by expanding the surface of production and thus selling more wines.

Their objective was to provide the British and Dutch market a wine alternative to the Graves, Saint-Emilion and Portuguese wines that were predominantly dominating the market at that time in the 17th century. Using technology that was advanced for that time, the Dutch were able to convert enough marshland to allow the implementation of larger estates than the original few ones already scattered all along the Gironde.

Soon the Bordeaux wine regions of Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe took shape, growing around the eponymous ports that were the only accessible way to carry the barrels up the Gironde to be shipped to England and other countries and down the Garronne Rivers towards Bordeaux to be aged in the Negociant’s Chartron warehouses. By the 19th century, the wine region of the Haut-Médoc was one of the most prosperous in France, with wines that had an international reputation that would be unparalleled till the late 20th century.

Meanwhile, some regions of the southwest which were once much more famous than Bordeaux, saw their reputation slowly diminished and somewhat disappeared from the export market, almost forgotten in the shadow of Bordeaux.

In the kingdom of Gascony and its surroundings, an area belonging to the Guyenne region, which now forms the southwestern triangle of France called Aquitaine, vineyards and orchards around the medieval villages of Sarlat-la-Canéda, Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, Cahors, Madiran, Carcassone or even the unmistakable and magnificent fortified city of Carcassonne (just to name a few), witnessed centuries of wine recognition way before Bordeaux, with reputation dating back from before the 10 and 11 century.

The wines from regions like Bergerac, Monbazillac, Pecharmant, Montravel, Duras, Marmandais, Buzet, Cahors, Madiran, Pacherenc du Vic Bhil, Gaillac, Marcillac, Cotes du Frontonnais, Jurancon, Irouleguy and Bearn, continued to trigger the interest of the local and regional market but were not as sought after as they used to be by the national and even by the international market, up until about 10-15 years ago.

Cahors pretty much always kept is notoriety, producing strong, earthy, tannic, dark Malbec based wines with long ageing potential. Bergerac and its surrounding Appellations also remained fairly renowned to certain connoisseurs and amateurs. One of the Appellations that really experience a renaissance on the international wine market, in a small scale, but don’t’ get me wrong it is a huge step for the appellation itself, is Madiran.


At the crossroads of the département of Gers, Hautes-Pyrénées and Pyrénées-Atlantiques, planted on the gentle slopes of the Béarn, Madiran was born approximately around the 1st century BC.

The locals were growing vines and producing wines for the land Lords and for their own consumption. In the eleventh century, the monks founded the Benedictine Abbey of Madiran and improved the quality of the vineyard. Pilgrims walking to St Jacques de Compostela crossing this region quickly carried the fame of Madiran’s wine.

Madiran became an appellation in 1948. Nowadays, around the villages Crouseilles, Lembeye, Mont-Disse, Corbère-Abères, Arricau-Bordes, about 1600 hectares are cultivated in the traditional style by multiple cooperatives and family run estates. A tasting is required!

Madiran, like most southwestern French appellations, is rather unknown or let's say undiscovered, but it started to reappear on the European and international scene about 10 years ago and continue to climb the steep ladder of recognition.

Madiran is a commune in the Hautes-Pyrénées department. Part of the Gascony area, Madiran wines are produced around the village of the same name located about 47 kilometers northeast of Pau and 27 kilometers southeast of Aire-sur-l'Adour, nestled in a little valley surrounded by gentle rolling hills preceding the foothills of the Pyrénées.

About 10 kms apart from each other yet sharing the same area, AOC Madiran is the red twin sister of another appellation called Pacherenc-du-Vic-Bihl producing only whites.

The production area for Madiran wine is spread over three departments: Gers, Hautes-Pyrénées and Pyrénées-Atlantiques. Madiran appellation produces slightly rustic, earthy, somewhat esoteric, fairly rich and tannic reds made with at least 40% Tannat, the predominant and indigenous grape variety which contributes to the fame, the uniqueness and the particular characteristic of Madiran wines.

The hallmark of Madiran, the black-skinned Tannat grape is often recognized for its deep color and astringency. It has great ageing potential and need time to settle down and tame its tannic structure. In order to be more enjoyable in its youth and soften the tannins, new techniques have been used like micro-oxygenation to maximize the fruit. Also due to its tannic structure, Tannat has often been blended to make it more approachable.

Tannat usually accounts for 40-60% of the final blend and is regularly blended with Cabernet Franc (locally known as "Bouchy" or "Bouchet" in the rest of "Southwest of France" region), Cabernet Sauvignon, Courbu Noir (also known as "Madiran"), "Fer Servadou" (also locally known as "Pinenc") and "Cot" (worldly known as Malbec or "Auxerrois" in Cahors). However, most of the best and most authentic Madiran wines are made with 100% Tannat, and usually express flavors of black fruits, earth, spices with toasted hints due to oak ageing and a fairly present tannic structure in the finish, which generally contributes to good ageing potential (between 4 to 8 years in general, and more for the best vintage).

FYI: Tannat, a typical and indigenous grape variety from the Pyrénées and more especially the Basque country, was imported to Uruguay in the 19th century by the basque settlers. It has now become the national grape variety of Uruguay, like: Malbec for Argentina, Carmenère for Chile, Shiraz for Australia, Pinotage for South Africa,etc... Tannat is also known in Uruguay as "Harriague", named after Pascual Harriague, one of the settlers who introduced it in the country. In France, in addition to Madiran, Tannat is also produced in the region of Irouléguy, Tursan and Béarn.

Also crafted in the Madiran region, Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Sec produces dry and sweet whites predominantly made with a blend of two local and indigenous grape varieties including "Petit Courbu" (another traditional Gascon's grape variety and a variation of the "Courbu Noir") and "Petit Manseng" (the sister grape of Gros Manseng, both indigenous from Gascony and more especially used in the Jurançon appellation to produce dry and sweet whites).

Pacherenc du Vic-Bihl Sec wines are usually dry and tangy yet ample, intriguing and quite rich with a deep yellow color with somewhat golden apple, yellow peach, pear, honeysuckle, honey and fresh hay aromas and flavors. They can also be sweet depending on the vintage and sold under Pacherenc du Vic-Bihl (without the "sec" meaning "dry" in the name). In any cases, the local Courbu and Petit Manseng must make up at least 60% but not exceed 80% of the blend, which also can include "Arrufiac" (or Ruffiac) and Sauvignon Blanc (10% max).

Let's go back to the wine of the day:

Vignoble Laplace -Domaine Le Serp Madiran Tannat Southwest of France

Domaine Le Serp is a bottling from the Vignoble Laplace – Chateau d’Aydie, an estimated and praised estate which produces traditional Madiran wines with a modern twist. Pierre Laplace and his 4 children is one of the most dynamic, innovator and influential families in Madiran. The last decade was important regarding the restructuring of the 70 hectares of vineyards, which were replanted with high density, as well as the optimization of extracting, maturing and aging methods.

You may not be familiar with Pierre Laplace or even the small village of Aydie near Madiran, however Château d’Aydie and the Laplace family are widely regarded as one of the foremost quality producers of Madiran. Frédéric Laplace was recognized as one of the pioneer winemakers of Madiran when he first bottled his Madiran wines and sold them under his own name when the appellation was first created in 1948 with just 50 hectares of vineyard under production, compared to the actual 1650 hectares that Madiran now encompasses.

The whole venture is very much a family affair – the three grandsons and granddaughter of Frédéric run the estate between them – Francois in charge of the business side; Jean-Luc is in charge of wine-making; Bernard manages the vines; and Marie presides over the office, whilst their father Pierre is in semi-retirement but still very much involved. Their Madiran wines are some of the flagships of the appellation made with at least 80% Tannat aged in small barrels and large used oak vats. Always involve in new little projects, the Laplace family produce a wide array of different regional wines from their unmistakable A.O.C. Madiran to their delightful Vins de Pays they launched in 1995.

2006 Domaine Le Serp Madiran Tannat Southwest of France
Suggested retail price $14-$17
Imported/Distributed by Wineberry in NYC

Le Serp is one of numerous labels made under the AOC Madiran, and like their grand vin Chateau d’Aydie, it was crafted with 100% Tannat from younger vines averaging 10 to 15 year-old. The wine was vinified with a cold soak so as to be enjoyable young by highlighting the fruitiness of the Tannat over its tannins. Madiran yields earthy, dark, full-bodied wines of great depth and complexity, with ripe fruit texture and solid tannic structure, and Le Serp is no exception to the rule. This delightful and approachable Tannat has great fruit and depth, although dry as it should be, it possesses enough fruit to make it really enjoyable.

Behind its dark ruby robe, the 2006 Le Serp Madiran Tannat offers aromas of dark fruit and ripe berries, floral scent, intermingled with earthy notes. The dark ripe fruit mixed with violet and other floral and earthy notes on the palate are nicely complemented by flavors of red fruit, dark cherry, plum, licorice, spice and cinnamon flavors. The finish is fairly full-bodied with present yet smooth and integrated tannins. Ready to drink now after a little decantation, it will age nicely for the next 2-3 years. Enjoy it with barbecued red meats, or more appropriately with southwestern France specialties like Cassoulet, Confit de Canard (duck), game and strong cheeses.


LeDom du Vin

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines (and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Domaine Philippe Gilbert Ménetou-Salon Loire Valley France

Amongst all the Wine & Spirits importers and distributors in New York that I worked with over the last 8 years, about 200-250 approximately, only a few in my opinion can claim to offer a solid portfolio of authentic and expressive, Terroir oriented natural wines (Biodynamic, Organic, “biologique”, sustainable culture, “Lutte Raisonnée”, etc..) from small, artisanal producers all around the world that are not necessarily branded and overly commercial.

Amongst them, Rosenthal (Madrose), Louis/Dressner, Kermit Lynch, Peter Weygandt (Weygandt-Metzler), Jenny and François (World Wide Wines), Terry Theise, Liz Willette, Savio Soares, Becky Wasserman, Martine’s wine, Alain Juguenet, Jan D’Amore, Moonlight Selection, Wineberry, Little Wine Company, Baron François, the Wine list, Bayfield and few more, lead the pack as fine examples of consistency and set the standard with their high quality hand-and-palate selected wine lists.

Therefore, to share my love for brighter and crispier wines, like those from the Loire Valley for example, and also to continue my eternal quest to introduce you to fairly unknown, under the radar and rather undiscovered wines, grape varieties and regions, I would like to come back to a Domaine imported by one of my favorite importers, Rosenthal (MadRose), that I first tasted a few years ago and that has since always been very consistent in quality and delivered excellent juice vintage after vintage: Domaine Philippe Gilbert Ménetou Salon.

Domaine Philippe Gilbert Ménetou-Salon Loire Valley France

The Domaine is located in Ménetou-Salon, a small village about 21 kilometers northeast of Bourges and 32 kilometers southwest of Sancerre, in the eastern Loire Valley, also called the Central vineyards region (due to their central position in the center of France).

An AOC since 1959, neighboring Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé to the southwest, Ménetou-Salon may not have the same prestige or the notoriety as its neighbors, yet the appellation constantly produces great Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir based wines that can easily rival and offer as much complexity as the ones from the more reputed cited above Appellations.

Both Ménetou Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir wines may not be as complex due to the difference of soil’s composition and components compared to Sancerre or Pouilly, but still offer a great deal of layers and taste for usually equal or less money. Sauvignon Blanc wines represent 60% of the production and are often a great substitute to Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. And the Pinot Noir wines are of superior quality that rival and sometime surpass the ones from Sancerre. Both are grown on vines planted on chalky-clay-limestone hillsides, which confers essential minerality to Ménetou-Salon wines.

(FYI: two other great Loire Valley Appellations to consider for enjoyable Sauvignon Blanc wines that won’t hurt your wallet, are Quincy and Reuilly, further southwest from Ménetou Salon).

Domaine Philippe Gilbert encompasses 27 hectares of vines, which are the fruit of a long familial history since 1768. While succeeding his father in 1998, Philippe Gilbert decided to follow the family traditions with the complicity of Jean-Philippe Louis, a very competent oenologist. Both young and talented, they decided to increase the quality and move toward environment oriented vineyard and cellar management and healthier wines by introducing Biodynamic culture to the entire Domaine in 2006.

Together they defined objectives about the vinification and the soil to obtain the best expression of the appellation. After years of experience with the vineyard’s environment and the terroir (the vines and especially the soil), the vineyard has been converted to the principles of biological farming, with an individualized Biodynamic management for each of the seven parcels.

A systematic mechanic “Binage” is ensured periodically in each of the seven parcels. This action of breaking the hearth (or ploughing) to aerate it and to avoid the bad weeds, facilitates natural drainage of precipitation, restitutes the macrobiotic complexity of the soils and helps the roots of the vines to expand deeper. In addition, a careful control of the budding assures a good distribution of the grapes. A methodic green harvest of the Pinot Noir and Sauvignon optimizes the phenolic maturity of the fruit. The attention to details allows today the Domaine to offer unique wines of a rare quality.

The wines of the Domaine are characterized by their elegance and their consistency. The wines tell the story of the men and the women involved with the high quality work achieved in the vineyards and the cellar. Vinification usually and mainly occurs in stainless steel, except for "Les Renardières".

Domaine Gilbert produces the Domaine traditional cuvée in white, red and rosé, and a premium cuvée made out of older vines called “Les Renardières” in white and red.

The cuvée Domaine, in white and red (sometimes Rosé), more traditional, affords wines distinguished by their freshness and balance. The cuvée Les Renardières, in white and red, made in casks from the oldest vines of the Domaine, offers complex and powerful wines.

The whites come from series of parcels encompassing about 11 hectares of vineyards spread throughout the appellation, around the towns of Menetou-Salon, Vignoux, and Parassy. The vineyards are planted on part of the Kimmeridgian band that stretches from this eastern section of the Loire south of Sancerre up to Champagne.

The reds are from multiple parcels totaling about 12 hectares, situated in the above-cited 3 communes plus parcels in Morogues. Total production of each wine is about 100,000 bottles per year (8,000 or so cases of 12).

2007 Domaine Philippe Gilbert Ménetou Salon Rouge Loire Valley France
Suggested retail price $22-25

Imported/distributed by Rosenthal in NYC

The 2005 and 2006 vintages were already benchmarks of the appellation, and the 2007, although not as ripe is far from being a disappointment or a lesser wine. It is simply different with less ripeness of the fruit, yet it possesses great balance, beautiful acidity and gentle tannic structure. The nose is discreet, fresh and floral, with nuances of freshly crushed cherry and red fruit with mineral notes. Behind its beautiful, bright pale ruby hue, it offers a palate of great complexity and ample elegance. Bright red cherry and red fruit flavors awaken your taste buds in the mid-palate complemented with slight earthy hints. The finish is refreshing and well structured combining a lovely acidity with minerals notes and integrated tannic structure.

Overall, it is a very well crafted example of Pinot Noir from an up-and-coming appellation, which strangely enough lack of reputation, yet should attract more attention from both connoisseurs and amateurs. Ideal with white meat and poultry, it will also finely complement any fish and Loire goat cheeses.


LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken from the winery website at www.domainephilippegilbert.fr and from previous articles that I wrote about this particular winery and its wines.

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines (and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Winery Profile: Domaine de Montcy Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny Laura Semeria "La Porte Dorée"Loire Valley France

Domaine de Montcy Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny
Laura Semeria "La Porte Dorée"Loire Valley France
(A Savio Soares Selection in NYC)

Location: The Domaine de Montcy is located in a "Lieu dit" ("a place known as" in English) called "Voie de la Porte Dorée" (or "Porte Dorée"), about 4 kms to the southwest on the out skirt of Cheverny. A small village of the eastern Loire Valley, about 16 kilometers southeast of Blois and 80 kilometers east of Tours.

History: Born in Italy about 40 years ago, Laura Semeria, who followed the steps of her French husband Léonard across France to finally stop near the Loire River, now owns Domaine de Montcy. Her family has been making olive oil and Mediterranean products for three generations and she has always been acquainted with agriculture. She made her entire career in multinational food companies such as Unilever and Nestle. Dreaming to buy a wine estate and after months of searching in vain in Italy, it is, after all, the small appellation of Cheverny that opened its arms to her. She found an estate for sale with a very welcoming owner and a promising vineyard, and decided to buy it. This new acquisition allowed her to settle down in Cheverny, near the Château de Troussay of which the Domaine de Montcy now manages the old vines and the ancient vineyards of the Château.

Domaine: Domaine de Montcy perfectly corresponded to Laura’s criteria:
  • A small AOC (label guaranteeing the quality of wine), rather unknown but with a lot of potential
  • State of the art installations
  • Best and recognized quality
  • Professional team to support me
  • Sales focus in restaurants and wine shops rather than in big groceries
The team: Laura supervises the estate and production while her husband, when is not helping her, is making cheese, which makes a lot of sense with wines! And they have two young daughters Ines and Elsa. The winemaker is a young brilliant and passionate agro-engineer who is able to take (reasonable!) risks to make the best out of our terroir. Additionally, they still have the support of their predecessor (that was also part of the deal).

Vineyard Management: Since 2005, Domaine de Montcy's vineyards management is under "agriculture raisonnée" (or sustainable culture, with an organic approach), a system of durable agriculture concerned and respectful of its environment (soils, vines, plants, herbs, insects, etc..), to produce better and more natural wines from carefully attended vines resulting in higher quality grapes. The cellar is also equipped with state of the art vinification tools allowing minimal intervention to craft more authentic wines.

Size and Production: The only objective of the Domaine is that the 120.000 bottles sold each year, out of the 20 hectares in production, offer the best characteristics of their Terroir, grape variety and climate of origin. Producing wines from both Appellations, Domaine de Montcy crafts some excellent Cheverny wines in red, white and rosé, as well as a great "Sauvignon Blanc VdP du Jardin de la France" and interesting sparkling "Crémant de Loire - Méthode Traditionnelle", and their benchmark Cour-Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny Cuvée Claude de France.

Vines and vineyards: The 20 hectares are divided as follow: 3ha of Romorantin, 9ha of white grapes varieties (7 Sauvignon and 2 Chardonnay) and 8ha of red grapes varieties (4 Pinot Noir, 3 Gamay, 0.5 Malbec - also called Cot in Loire Valley and 0.5 Cabernet Sauvignon- for Rosé). The vines are from 3 to 100 years old. Each year, they replant new vineyards to increase vineyard’s superficy and to replace some old parcels. The oldest parcel is a small (0,5ha) piece of land of Romorantin, which was planted in 1905. They also have an old parcel of Sauvignon (about 60 years old) and old Chardonnay (40 years old). Red vines are younger because they had to replant higher quality varieties. During harvest, old and young vines’ grape varieties are respectively vinified and aged separately. The final blends usually occur just before bottling the different wines.

Vinification: Issued from their best vineyards in Cheverny, and Cour-Cheverny, Domaine de Montcy also applies rigorous parcel selections of their vineyards and hand harvest with successive sortings to pick the grapes at ideal fruit ripeness and phenolic maturity. Under "culture raisonnée" (or sustainable culture), the vinification and ageing processes are natural and particularly adapted to each batch of grapes, with indigenous yeast and no use of any industrial yeasts or enzymes. Hygiene conditions are maximal in the cellar, which allow for minimum use of SO2 (Sulfur Dioxide) and fuller flavor expressions. Domaine de Montcy uses all the grape varieties allowed by the Appellations rules: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Arbois for the whites and Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Pinot Noir and cot for the Reds.

Main products:

2008 Domaine de Montcy Cheverny Blanc Tradition Loire Valley

Made from 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Chardonnay from vines planted on Clay-Siliceous soils (blend may change depending on the vintage and quality of the grapes, i.e. 2007 was 85% Sauvignon Blanc and 15% Chardonnay. This goes for all the wines.).

After careful selection during the harvest and gentle pressing for 4 hours at very low pressure to extract only the best aromas, the musts deposited sediment for 48hours in underground tanks at 8°C and were protected against oxygen by carbon dioxide. The fermentation occurred naturally without any addition of yeasts or enzymes to allow maximum expression of the Terroir of origin, and with minimal use of SO2. The musts were pumped with finest lees in tanks and alcoholic fermentation started with natural yeast when temperature reached 16°C. Then, fermentation temperature was kept between 16 and 18°C to preserve aromas. Because of natural yeasts this fermentation can last from 1 week to 3 months. Once the alcoholic fermentation is finish, the wines are pumped into different tanks, with no addition of sulphites at this stage. Depending on the vintage and the desired final style, the malolactic fermentations are usually made on the Chardonnay and on 50% of Sauvignon with natural bacteria. The wines rest for 6 months on fine lees in their tanks. Sauvignon and Chardonnay are usually blended in April and bottled with low quantity of sulphites (30mg/L).

Produced in stainless steel tanks where it spends about 6 months on its lees before bottling, this white Cheverny wine combines the elegance and complexity of Cheverny’s Terroir. Behind its pale yellow-gold color, the nose is floral with white fruit aromas. The palate is clean, dry and generous, well rounded and complex with refreshing acidity. The lingering finish is balanced and inviting. Great as an aperitif, it will pair well with white fish and goat cheese. Serve it cool but not too cold. Drink it now or keep it for the next 2-3 years.

2008 Domaine de Montcy Cheverny Rouge Tradition Loire Valley

Made from 65% Gamay, 30% Pinot noir and 5% Côt from vines planted on Clay-Siliceous soils (blend may change depending on the vintage and quality of the grapes, i.e. 2007 was 62% Gamay, 31% Pinot Noir and 7% Côt. This goes for all the wines.).

After careful selection during the harvest and gentle pressing, the fermentation occurs naturally without any addition of yeasts or enzymes to allow maximum expression of the Terroir of origin, and with minimal use of SO2. Produced in stainless steel tanks where it spends a few months on its lees before bottling, this red Cheverny wine combines the character and complexity of Cheverny’s Terroir.

Pinot Noir can be vinified in two ways: half with Cold pre-fermenting fermentation and half with hot temperature fermentation. For the first way, grapes are kept at 8°C for 8 days with many pumping over to extract a lot of cherry tastes and a nice red color. Then alcoholic fermentation occurred very quickly (about 5 days) at 25°C. For the second way, temperatures were increased up to 30°C at the beginning and pumped-over were made during the alcoholic fermentation in order to extract tannins. A third of the grapes were put entirely into the tank to extract tannins from the grapes. Gamay is usually vinified at medium temperature between 25 and 27°C and maceration can last about 8 days. The amount of pump-over, which was important at the beginning of the fermentation slowly, decreases to avoid the extraction of too many types of tannin. Côt is fermented for only 5 days to keep tannins soft and color on a dark pink. After alcoholic fermentation, each grape variety underwent malolactic fermentation in separated tank and was aged separately for 12 months. The final wine is usually bottled in September with low sulphites (28 mg/L).

Red garnet color, the nose is intense with red fruits and berries and slight spicy notes. The palate is expressive with great red fruit intensity. The finish is quite generous, vivid and balanced with silky integrated tannins that characterize well the Terroir of Cheverny. Perfect with grilled chicken and appetizers, like the white and served slightly chilled, it is also delightful with fish (especially if prepared with diced tomatoes and capers). Drink it now or keep it for the next 3-4 years.

2008 Domaine de Montcy Cheverny Rosé Loire Valley

Made from 60% Gamay, 23% Pinot noir and 17% Cabernet Franc from vines planted on Clay-Siliceous soils. After careful selection during the harvest and gentle pressing, the fermentation occurs naturally without any addition of yeasts or enzymes to allow maximum expression of the Terroir of origin, and with minimal use of SO2. Produced in stainless steel tanks, this Cheverny Rosé was crafted not by Saignée but from direct pressing which confered to this wine all the character of the vintage.

Bright Pink rosé hue with slightly orange reflects, the nose is vivid and very expressive, marked with raspberry notes. The palate is crisp and refreshing with mixed berry fruit flavors lifted by an enhancing acidity. The finish is supple and friendly. Thirst quencher as an aperitif, it is ideal with steamed fish, salad and barbecue. Drink it within 2 years maximum after bottling.

2008 Domaine de Montcy Cuvée “Clos des Cendres” Cheverny Blanc Loire Valley

Made from 50-50% old vines Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay planted on siliceous soils with yellow clay and flint stones. After careful selection during the harvest and gentle pressing, the fermentation occurs naturally without any addition of yeasts or enzymes to allow maximum expression of the Terroir of origin, and with minimal use of SO2. Produced in stainless steel tanks where it spends a few months on its lees before bottling, this white Cheverny wine combines the elegance and complexity of Cheverny’s Terroir with the structure and characteristics of the old vines.

Yellow color with golden reflects, the nose is gentle and discreet with acacia and mineral notes. The palate is rich yet elegant, balanced and beautifully structured with enhancing minerality. The lingering finish is ample and round marked by the Chardonnay. Pair it with crabs, lobster, oysters, fish in sauce and white meat but also with various cheeses. Better decanted, it will need a bit of air to fully express its complexity. Drink it now or keep it for another 4-5 years.

2006 Domaine de Montcy Cuvée “Louis de la Saussaye” Cherverny Red Loire Valley

Made from 65% Pinot Noir, 20% Gamay and 15% Côt planted on Calcareous-Clay soils. After careful selection during the harvest and gentle pressing, the fermentation occurs naturally without any addition of yeasts or enzymes to allow maximum expression of the Terroir of origin, and with minimal use of SO2. Produced in stainless steel tanks where it spends a few months on its lees before bottling, this red Cheverny wine combines the elegance and complexity of the calcareous Terroir with the structure and characteristics of the old vines.

Bright ruby red color, the nose is quite intense with spicy red cherry aromas typical of Pinot noir, expanding gently with more red fruits and pepper. The palate is balanced, elegant and racy, with ripe red fruits flavors structured by silky tannins and enhancing acidity. The lingering finish is underlined by the presence of the tannins from the Côt grape. It is an elegant and silky red wine of great profile to pair with earthy dishes like game and venison. Drink it now, decant it for better result or keep it for another 5-7 years.

2007 Domaine de Montcy Cour-Cheverny La Porte Dorée Loire Valley

Coming from the village next door, literally a stone’s throw north of Cheverny, this Cour-Cheverny was crafted with 100% Romorantin, a characteristic white grape indigenous to this particular area of the Loire Valley and named after the eponymous village of Romorantin, located about 30 kilometers south of Cheverny and Cour-Cheverny.

For the 2007 Cour-Cheverny, the Romorantin grapes were pressed entirely and musts deposited its sediments for 72 hours in underground tanks at 8°C, where they were protected against oxygen by carbon dioxide. Alcoholic fermentation started with natural yeasts between 18°C and 20°C. Malolactic fermentations were made on 50% of the wine, which then rested for 12 months on its fine lees in tanks. To mingle the lees, pump over were made with oxygen to stabilize the wine against oxidation. Cour Cheverny 2007 was bottled in September 2008 with low sulphites (34mg/L) and was kept for 6 months before release because this wine needed time to settle down to be ready to drink.

Clear, pale, medium intensity, yellow color with golden reflects. Quite characteristic of the Romorantin grape, the nose is fresh, floral, mineral and nutty, with notes of quince, litchi, eucalyptus, bee wax, honeysuckle, fresh almond and freshly cut yellow hay. The palate is clean, medium to full intensity, fresh, gentle and very well rounded immediately from the attack. The expanding and extensive mid-palate follows with the same round, focus, balanced, and nicely coating attitude, complemented by a great citrus, vivid acidity (yet, it remains soft and silky in a waxy way). Nutty flavors, with a predominance of fresh almond and apricot's skin and seed. The zesty acidity keep this wine in line from being flabby and transport the fruit gently through the lingering finish. At the same time pleasing and intriguing, this excellent Romorantin based wine should interest the adventurous amateurs and connoisseurs, in quest of something different.

In conclusion, a small family run Domaine producing natural wines characteristic of their Terroir of origin, vinified the organic way with minimal intervention, no fining, no filtration and barely any use of any preservative like Oxygen or SO2, and no addition of yeasts or enzymes. In short great wines from really healthy vines, produced by nature and environment oriented people who just want to craft the best of their Domaine has to offer.

For more info and latest news, go to Laura's blog at terralaura.viabloga.com


Most info taken from my previous post on Domaine de Montcy (www.ledomduvin.com/2009/07/2007-domaine-de-montcy-cour-cheverny.html) and also from various documents sent to me by Laura herself to produce the Domaine's technical data sheet for Savio Soares portfolio.

LeDom du Vin

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines (and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability.

Tasting Event: 40 wines (1 white and 1 red) from 20 Italian provinces with a few Italian food specialties..

Before writing about more fairly unknown, delightful and juicy natural wines (and spirits) from around the world in soon-to-come posts, I just wanted to say that from now on I will also, from time to time, advertise and promote some of the events and tastings from www.HeightsChateau.com.

For those of you who didn't realize it yet, Heights Chateau is the boutique Wine & Spirits store where I have been working for the past 2 and a half years, located at 123 Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn Heights, New York.

As the co-Wine buyer and Wine manager of the store, I never really linked most of my descriptions and posts to the store. Probably because sometimes I'm too opinionated and enthusiastic or too personal and detailed on certain subjects. Hence, I may not be neutral enough to voice out the professionalism and fairness of the store profile.

However, advertising and promoting Heights Chateau's events and tastings on my blog is good way for me to demonstrate the selectivity of the store and invite you to have a look at what we do and discover our Wine and Spirits selection mirroring the quality of our discriminating palates.

For more info, you can always go to the store website at www.HeightsChateau.com to check our events and tastings calendar.

The next event, occurring on Friday, May 21st from 7pm to 9pm, will be held at Christ Church Cobble Hill, 326 Clinton street, Brooklyn, NY 11231 (www.christchurchcobblehill.org/welcome/).

40 wines (1 white and 1 red) from the 20 Italian provinces will be presented, complemented with a few Italian food specialties... Therefore, I'm asking you: I'm sure that you tried plenty of Italian wines from various regions, but did you ever get the chance to taste 40 Italian wines from 20 different provinces in the same place before? Never, so just come and discover them with us. It is only $35 person, or $40 at door, and moreover, it is for a good cause, the money will benefit a program for young children in Brooklyn.

See you soon at the event or at the store, here is the brochure:



LeDom du Vin

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines (and spirits and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe! Also follow projects and products from the Fair Trade, an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries obtain better trading conditions and promote sustainability.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Domaine du Poujol Coteaux du Languedoc France

Domaine du Poujol

Yesterday, I had the pleasure to receive Robert Cripps, owner of Domaine du Poujol, an English man living with his American wife, Kim, in the Languedoc for the past 18 years, which, as he likes to joke about it, makes them one of the first expatriate small owners of a Languedoc winery.

Robert is a self-taught winemaker, who trained and learned how to make wine in the cellar of a winery in California, where he met his wife Kim. Curious and creative with an artist attitude and adroit with his hands, he rapidly discovered his love for winemaking and the need for crafting wine. He also created his own wine labels. They both very handy and like to be in control of their Domaine.

It all began after a year of rain and part-time work in Burgundy, when Robert and Kim started looking for a place under the sun and found “Domaine du Poujol” in the Languedoc region, about 20 km/12 miles northwest of Montpellier, and situated between Pic St Loup, Montpeyroux and St Georges d'Orques.

Family owned, Domaine du Poujol is producing Appellation Contrôlée Coteaux du Languedoc and Vin de Pays wines from grapes grown, bottled and vinified at the domaine. The wines are well structured, elegant, and ideal for immediate drinking yet with good ageing potential.

The Domaine possesses 18 hectares of vines planted with various mostly indigenous and a few international grape varieties: Syrah, Grenache, Carignan Noir, Cinsault, Mourvèdre, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon for the red and rosé wines, Vermentino (Rolle), Roussanne and Carignan Blanc for the white wines.

Robert and Kim do pretty much everything themselves from the vineyards to the cellar. Helped by Kim, Robert has multiple hats: owner, oenologist and winemaker. Their philosophy is to produce elegant, well-balanced wines that express the uniqueness and the character of the terroir: a unique combination of soils, topography, microclimate, exposure and environment.

They are not organic or biodynamic, but apply the technique of “Lutte Raisonnée” (comparable to Sustainable culture), which is somehow a compromise between the two previous methods with more flexibility and the possibility to moderately use some chemicals and pesticides but less often and less aggressively than conventional producers and only if really needed. Conscientiously practiced, this method resembles quite a lot to organic culture in many ways, except for the use, even if minimal, of chemicals. And compared to Organic culture or Biodynamic culture, the producers using the Lutte Raisonnée method (or concept) are not subject to any system of checks from certified organizations or any previously agreed limits to what is permissible to do in his vineyards.

Robert is quite old school and traditional, instead of trusting multiple analyses and other statistic numbers, he prefers to walk in his vineyards, listen his guts feeling and be guided by his taste buds especially during harvest time. As he told me today:” I pick randomly some grapes in different parcels to taste them and assess the level of ripeness of the fruit and tannins: if the tannins are too ripe, it is already too late because the grape should have been harvested a few days earlier; if the tannins remain a bit crisp and the fruit is ripe with good acidity, then it is time to harvest.”

Yet, harvest are also operated differently, he never harvests an entire parcel at the same time, he picks and chooses rows or portions of rows here and there to only pick gradually the grapes with the most ideal ripeness. He makes his vines selection depending on the soil, the exposure and the microclimate.

After being hand-harvested, the grapes are usually fermented in concrete vat lined with epoxy (much less expensive than the stainless steel tanks, less variation of temperature and more air interaction) or in 10 years old “demi-muid”, a large oak barrel of 600 liters. Some of its demi-Muid comes from Francois Chidaine, a great producer of Montlouis in the Loire Valley. The wines are naturally crafted with minimal intervention, minimal use of sulfur and bottled with no fining or filtering.

Usually labeled under “Appellation Contrôlée Côteaux du Languedoc” and “Vin de Pays” wines from grapes grown, bottled and vinified at the domaine; the Cripps produce excellent, earthy, terroir driven wines that are fresh, textured and structured, a touch rustic yet somewhat quite elegant, with good acidity, crispy tannins and integrated alcohol, which is rather unusual for Languedoc wines. They are usually ideal for immediate drinking about 6-8 months after bottling yet possess very good ageing potential.

We tasted:

2008 Domaine du Poujol "Pico" white Vin de Pays de l'Hérault Languedoc France
Suggested retail price $14-$17
Imported by Kermit Lynch

A blend of predominantly Vermentino, also known as Rolle (45-50%) and Carignan Blanc (35%) with a twist of Roussane (5-10%) crafted in concrete vats, this pale straw color wine offers aromas of white fruit, fresh nuts, earth and minerals. The medium bodied palate is fairly well rounded, clean, rich yet crisp, balanced and food friendly, with a long mineral finish where linger white fruit and nutty notes. Quite lovely overall!

2007 Domaine du Poujol “Proteus” red Vin de Pays de l'Hérault Languedoc France
Suggested retail price $14-$17
Imported by Kermit Lynch

“Proteus” is predominately a blend of Merlot (50%) and Cinsault (30%) completed with a blend of all the other grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, etc..) that they do not use for their other wines (that doesn’t mean that the grapes are bad or that the quality of this wine is low, it just mean that after careful harvest and sorting for the other wines, the remaining grapes go into this wine).

Here again, produced in concrete vats, the resulting wine is quite well crafted with dark ruby color and good intensity. The nose is fresh, earthy and mineral with ripe red wild berry fruit, earth, hints of garrigues and rustic leather, spicy notes. The palate is also crisp with vivid acidity, bright red fruit, earth, mineral and a lingering finish with slight tannic touches. A food friendly wine for everyday drinking, touch rustic but balanced and pleasing!

2005 Domaine du Poujol “Podio Alto” red Côteaux du Languedoc France
Suggested retail price $23-$26
Imported by Kermit Lynch

Grapes for the “Podio Alto” are grown in six, predominantly south facing, rocky limestone based hillside vineyards, situated at 100-200m above sea level. The Grenache vines are 25 years old, the Mourvèdre was planted in 2001 and the Syrah in 1985 and 1997.

The flagship of this winery, “Podio Alto” is a blend of 35-40% Syrah, 25% Mourvèdre, 20-25% Grenache and 10-15% Cinsault that was aged in old demi-Muid oak barrel of 600 liters for 12 months and was bottled, like all their wines, with no fining and no filtering.

Behind its deep garnet color, the expressive 2005 Podio Alto shows intense aromas of dark red fruit, plums, leather, garrigues, earth and liquorice. The palate has had time to settle down and open up. It offers a soft, integrated, rich and generous profile with great structure and enhancing acidity despite the ripeness of the fruit. Supple tannins support the ripe dark fruit character that lingers through to the finish. The touch of oak, which is barely noticeable, adds complexity to this wine. Here again, the rustic touch is enjoyable, makes this wine even more food friendly and represents the undeniable proof of the nature oriented way of producing wine from the Cripps. Enjoy over grilled meat like Beef and Lamb, but also country dishes like rabbit, venison or wild boar.


LeDom du Vin

Info mainly taken from my discussion with Robert Cripps while tasting his wines at the store

Step into the Green! Drink more Biodynamic, Biologique and Organic wines (and food) from sustainable culture and respect the environment! Support the right causes for the Planet and all the people suffering all around the globe!

Monday, May 3, 2010

2008 Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina & 2009 Feudi di San Gregorio Ros'Aura Rosato Campania Italy

Feudi di San Gregorio Campania Italy

Established by Ercolino and wife Mirella Capaldo in 1986, Feudi di San Gregorio is located in the tiny village of Sorbo Serpico in Campania’s Irpinia region.

Along with the expert guidance of consulting enologist Riccardo Cotarella, one of Italy’s most esteemed winemaking talents who has been helping them since 1999, in little less than 20 years, Feudi di San Gregorio has emerged into the international limelight as a great success story in a region that, for many years, was cloistered in its traditions and consequently locked in a virtual winemaking holding pattern. They started planting in the mid 80’s and were marketing their wines by the early 90’s, with a philosophy to produce high quality wines from the historic indigenous grapes of Southern Italy.

Feudi di San Gregorio has aggressively tapped into the enormous potential of Campania's unique terroir and ancient varietals by placing a thoroughly modern spin on indigenous grapes such as Fiano di Avellino, Greco di Tufo and Aglianico. Named "Wine Producer of the Year" at the 2002 Italian Wine Oscars (organized each year by the Association of Italian Sommeliers), Ercolino certainly shows no sign of slowing any time soon.

Facing the Tyrrhenian Sea and representing one of the finest coastlines of Italy anciently favored by the Romans, Campania is a fascinating region, essentially mountainous, with irregular “massifs” and gentle hills divided here and there by plains and fertile valleys. On the horizon line of the Gulfs of Naples and Salerno, one can admire marvelous and enchanting islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida.

Naples is the region’s capital, which homes to the world-renowned Amalfi Coast, the ancient tragic city of Pompeii, and the romantic Isle of Capri. The region was deeply affected by the Phylloxera, and it wasn’t until the 90’s, later than the rest of Italy, that Campania experienced a wine renaissance and took in consideration modern technology and equipment.

Feudi di San Gregorio sources its grapes from the finest vineyards set in the rolling hills of the Irpinia region, located in close proximity to Mount Vesuvius. The volcano's legendary eruptions have laden the sandstone and marl soil with mineral-rich deposits of volcanic ash, forming a unique composition of soils rich in elements that nourish the vines. Feudi di San Gregorio produces a wide array of great wines from most appellations in Campania, mostly made with Falanghina, Greco di Tufo and Aglianico.

Being originally brought there by the Greeks, together with Aglianico and Greco, Falanghina is one of Italy’s oldest white grape varieties. It has consequently had time to adapt to southern Italy viticultural conditions. Complemented with the volcanic-rich soil of Campania, it is no wonder that this variety is an elegant and distinctive reflection of its terroir. For the past 10 years, Falanghina has become the region’s fastest spreading white variety.

Always very consistent and pleasing Feudi di San gregorio is a very reliable brand that has received many acolades and recognitions from the critics and the press.

2008 Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina Campania Italy
Suggested retail price $14-$17
Imported by Palm Bay in NYC

Feudi’s Falanghina comes from 20 years old vines, grown with southwestern and southeastern exposure on a bed of clay and sandstone with gravel, planted on a cluster of hillside vineyards at altitudes between 1,000 to 1,300 feet.

Harvested two to three weeks later than most surrounding producers, the Falanghina grapes are transported in refrigerated trucks to the cellar to prevent untimely spontaneous fermentation. The hand-harvested bunches are individually selected and sorted to discard the bad ones, then soft pressed and cold-fermented entirely in stainless steel. Only the first-press juice is put in the bottle.

Vintage after vintage, Feudi’s Falanghina always captures the pure, complex, unadulterated expression of the fruit, resulting in really enjoyable, expressive wines. The 2008 vintage is no exception to the rule.

Behind its pale lemon yellow color with a golden reflects on the rim, it offers a complex nose of honey, pineapple, banana, quince and pear, loaded with minerals. Medium bodied, yet nicely coating the palate giving an impression of richness and fullness, this wine is, supple, lush and lifted by beautiful acidity complemented by the minerality. Overall, it a nice, refreshing white with zesty acidity keeping the wine balanced. A spicy, honeyed minerality lingers on the finish.

Serve as an aperitif or as a complement to any seafood, fish in sauce, risotto, and grilled vegetables.

A few days ago I also tried 2009 Feudi di San Ros’Aura, a rosé wine made from Aglianico grapes which was quite stunning and that I highly recommend.

2009 Feudi di San Gregorio Ros’Aura Rosato Campania Italy
Suggested retail price $11-$14
Imported by Palm Bay in NYC

This wine was made from 100% hand-harvested Aglianico grapes coming from10-20 year old vines grown between at 1,000 - 1,650 ft above sea level around the communes of Taurasi, Pietradefusi, Castelvetere and Paternopoli in Campania. Planted in deep soil with moderately large grains originally from ash and fallen pumice. After de-stemming, free-run juice underwent a 12-hour maceration on the skins followed by a temperature controlled fermentation stainless steel tanks.

The 2009 Feudi di San Gregorio Ros'Aura Rosato was a revelation and a very enjoyable surprise, surely one of the most inspiring Rosé(s) I tried this year so far. It has an attractive, intense and fairly deep colorful rose color. The nose is inviting with ripe, candied wild red berries and cherry fruits intermingled with earthy and mineral notes. The palate is medium bodied with great minerality enhanced by fresh and lively acidity with notes of freshly crushed wild berries on the lingering finish. Great on its own, it will be perfect as an aperitif and delicious with chicken and turkey entrées, fish and grilled vegetables.


LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken and edited from the importer website at www.palmbay.com

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2007 Domaine Faiveley Mercurey village rouge Côte Chalonnaise Burgundy France

Temperatures rise, days are longer, and it is time for lighter reds. Grapes like Pinot Noir, Gamay and Cabernet Franc along with Lagrein, Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch, come to mind. These varietals produce great red wines enhanced by vivid acidity and bright red fruit flavors, which can be enjoyed room temperature or even slight chilled. Perfect for Summer.

Over the next few months I will write different posts about wines made from these various grape varieties, but let’s begin with a juicy Pinot Noir from a traditional producer: Domaine Faiveley.

Domaine Faiveley

Faiveley is located in famous Nuits-Saint-Georges, a small and “tranquille” commune about 16 kilometers north of Beaune, capital of the Côte de Nuits region, where one can find some of the most exquisite (and expensive) red Burgundy wines (Vosne-Romanée, Vougeot, Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, Morey-St-Denis, etc…).

Founded in 1825 by Pierre Faiveley, Domaine Faiveley (also known recently as Bourgognes Faiveley) has been handed down for many generations from father to son for over 175 years.

Francois Faiveley, the sixth generation, now runs with the same passion, competence and enthusiasm, the largest family owned Domaine in Burgundy. Dedicating the major part of their resources to buying vineyards on the best slopes (Côte), they gradually and methodically restructured vineyards fractured by French inheritance laws (which dates from Napoleon III and still apply to this day, Burgundian are attached to their traditions).

As of today, Bourgognes Faiveley owns more vineyards and appellations in their entirety (known as “monopoles”, meaning full vineyard under one name or one appellation with no fragmented parcels or multiple ownerships) than any other domaine in Burgundy. The Domaine owns approximately 120 hectares of vines under production.

Son of founder Pierre Faiveley. Joseph developed the wine business his father had founded by expanding his wine markets. An enthusiastic traveler, he journeyed extensively throughout Europe to promote the quality of his wines. Joseph initiated a policy that his descendants continued and refined to an art: purchasing vineyards situated in the best appellations and terroirs.

Vine selection is mainly based on quality, not on quantity. Vineyards management includes depending on the needs of the vintage, vigorous pruning, green harvesting, de-leafing and appropriate reduction of the yield to increase quality and maximize concentration.

All grapes are hand-harvested and carefully sorted in the vineyards and on the sorting tables on arrival at the winery. The wines are matured in partly new oak barrels. Depending on the wine and the desired final profile of the wine, the amount of new barrels varies and is adapted to the need of the wine to avoid excess of wood flavors and preserve its natural aromatic complexity. Filtration is kept to a minimum, and many Premiers Crus and Grands Crus are bottled from the barrel without filtration to emphasize the uniqueness and the character of their terroir of origin.

As a Sommelier and Wine Buyer, I had (and still have) the chance to taste, select and sell many Faiveley’s wines in numerous high-end restaurants and boutique retails in Paris, London and New York.

However, Faiveley’s portfolio encompasses an astonishing number of Cuvées and wines for a Burgundian Domaine. Out of the approximately 120 hectares of vineyards, more than 57 different wines from the most prominent appellations in Burgundy are crafted under the name of Domaine Faiveley: 27 in the Côte de Nuits, 15 in the Côte de Beaune and 15 in the Côte Chalonnaise, and few more. It is a huge portfolio full of standards and classics Burgundy wines.

Yet, it seems that one of my favorites and surely one of the most consistent wines from Faiveley’s portfolio that I had to taste (many times), except of course for most of its prestigious Grands Crus and Premiers Crus from the Côte de Nuits, is its: Mercurey Rouge 1er Cru Monopole “Clos des Myglands”. I don’t know why but I’ve always loved this wine, and the last few vintages that I have tasted are now exception to the rule. Its Mercurey village is a nicely crafted wine too, especially for the price.

2007 Domaine Faiveley Mercurey village rouge Côte Chalonnaise Burgundy France
Suggested retail price $23-$26
Imported by Wilson Daniels and Distributed by Martin Scott in NYC

This light and vivid Pinot Noir was aged 12-14 months in partially new oak barrels. It has a bright, red ruby color of medium to light intensity, quite see through. The nose is delicate, elegant, somewhat a bit restraint yet fresh and earthy with red berries and cherry aromas. The palate offers freshly crushed spicy, ripe red cherry and raspberry flavors. Medium-bodied, its soft yet crispy red fruits expand on the mid-palate, enhanced by refreshing acidity and supported by silky tannins into a lengthy finish that ends with good, tart red fruit. Enjoyable now and ideal for hot weather, especially if served cool, it will be delicious with charcuterie or lean grilled meats.


LeDom du Vin

Info partly taken and edited from the winery's website at www.bourgognes-faiveley.com

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LeDomduVin: Picpoul de Pinet & 2008 Les Vignobles Montagnac Picpoul de Pinet Montagnac Languedoc Hérault France

Picpoul de Pinet

With Summer knocking at the door, "literally" with the temperatures of this past weekend, it is time again to focus a bit more on crisp Whites, thirst quencher Rosé(s) and fresh light Reds. Among my favourite whites for Spring and Summer, Picpoul de Pinet wines are surely great contenders: fresh, vivid, light, uncomplicated and versatile, and more importantly, totally inoffensive.

Why inoffensive? Because I think that, in comparison, a white stinking of non-integrated new oak (e.g. some Californian chardonnay) and full of alcohol (i.e. above 13.5-14 degrees) is really offensive to me, especially when it is humid and “suffocatingly” hot in the streets of New York.

“Les Vignobles Montagnac” makes a tremendous Picpoul de Pinet for a tremendous price, another reason to choose a Picpoul de Pinet. It will also be inoffensive for your wallet. Two good reasons to discover this little wine!

Picpoul de Pinet is a small appellation of the western part of Languedoc. Along the Mediterranean Sea, on the Gulf of Lion, the Terroir of Picpoul de Pinet extends around the "Bassin de Thau", in the middle of a triangle between the towns: Agde Pezenas and Sete.

This is one of the greatest white wine regions of Languedoc: a limestone plateau exposed to the rising sun, covered with vineyards and fragrant bushes, dotted with high pine forests.

Picpoul de Pinet AOC only produces white wines from "Picpoul Blanc", an indigenous white grape variety also used in the Rhone Valley. Its name means "lip-stinger", which refers to the high acidity content of the grapes. Picpoul Blanc has two lesser-known siblings that generate less attention: Picpoul Noir and Picpoul Gris, also used in the Languedoc and Rhone Valley.

Les Vignobles Montagnac

Montagnac is a little village located in the northern part of the Picpoul de Pinet appellation, about 15 kilometres (driving) north of the village of Pinet and about 6 kilometres northeast of Pézenas.

"Les Vignobles Montagnac" is a wine cooperative built in Montagnac in 1937. It rapidly became the cooperative for the neighbouring municipalities, covering Montagnac and a few more of the surrounding villages. The cooperative produces wines from about 2,250 hectares of vines, mostly planted within two sites: Montagnac and Loupian.

When it was built, Montagnac was the largest vinification facility in the "Hérault" department. Its vineyards stretch from the banks of the "Bassin de Thau" to the foothills of the mountains on the right bank of the Hérault River.

On these diverse "terroirs" (combination of soils and microclimates), "Les Vignobles Montagnac" produces equally diverse wines. The wine range comprises the AC Picpoul de Pinet, AC Coteaux du Languedoc (red and rosé), AC Coteaux du Languedoc Grès de Montpellier and AC Coteaux du Languedoc Terroir Pézenas, as well as red, rosé and white Vins de Pays des Coteaux de Bessilles and the varietals Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

Les Vignobles Montagnac represents 750 winegrowers, including numerous wine estates. Let’s face it: Les Vignobles Montagnac produces about 10% of the entire AOC Picpoul de Pinet, which confers them a leading position in terms of production but also quality.

2008 Les Vignobles Montagnac Picpoul de Pinet Montagnac Languedoc Hérault France

Suggested retail price $8-$11
Distributed by Bayfield Imports in NYC

This wine has a cute label with a drawing that describes quite well the literal French translation of Picpoul de Pinet: une dotted hen (une Poule) on a stingy sewing needle (une aiguille a coudre qui pique ou piqué dans les points de broderie du dessin), understand: "Pique" 'Poule". 

Made with 100% Picpoul Blanc grapes from mechanically harvested 8-year-old vines planted on calcareous red clay slopes known as "Terres Rouges”. The grapes were pressed immediately, and the best juices were selected and then allowed to settle before ongoing the temperature-controlled fermentation in stainless steel tanks. The wine was left on its fine lees to accentuate flavours, texture and complexity without imparting its freshness.

Known as the Muscadet of the South, Picpoul de Pinet produces a clean, fresh and balanced white wine that works well with a variety of seafood, and this one from Montagnac is a great example of the friendliness of the wines from this region.

Floral and white fruit notes hold up nicely against vibrant acidity that lasts into a crisp, round finish. Uncomplicated, versatile and deliciously easy-going, this little wine will be perfect for casual dinner parties or meals at home or for picnics.


Dom (aka LeDomduVin)

Info partly taken and edited from the winery website at www.cave-picpoul-de-pinet.com

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