The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Inside IWM, November 9-12, 2015: Surprising Wine Edition!

A look back at the week that was

All roads lead to Chianti

All roads lead to Chianti

We kicked off the week with a history lesson in Italian wine, most specifically how we got Chianti Classico (and it wasn’t a simple journey). Then Stephane Menard poured out a terrific under $25 Chianti Classico with a delicious ragù Toscano, recipe included! Finally, John Camacho Vidal wrote about his melting pot Thanksgiving and suggested three palate-pleasing wines that are versatile enough to accompany a wide array of foods.

Our experts split along French and Italian lines this week. On the French side of the divide are Crystal, who picked a pair of Pousse d’Or Volnays, and Garrett, who opted for two Etienne Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet bottles. On the Italian side, both Francesco and Michael chose a red bottle and a rosato bottle. Francesco’s are from Il Conventino and Cupano, while Michael’s are from Biondi-Santi and Le Macchiole; all are surprising!

Here’s to being always surprised by wine, its history, its differences, its range, and our love for it!

Expert Picks: Pousse d’Or and…Pousse d’Or!

Two expert selections from Crystal Edgar

Crystal 2014Although I love Italian wines, France was my first love. It started in Bordeaux and spread to Burgundy, where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay rule the roost. I can easily get lost in any of the villages in the Côte d’Or, but of late, I find myself often reaching to the Côte de Beaune for both white and red wines. They are not only great partners for the plethora of produce available this season but they are also phenomenal to sip on without food.

One of Burgundy’s storied estates, Domanie Pousse d’Or has some weight of history behind it. This domaine has seen name changes, various combining of estates, a series of legendary winemakers at the helm, and a roster of Burgundy all-stars. Pousse d’Or always impresses me. Its masterful winemaking and choice parcels of land represent some of the very best in Volnay, Pommard and Santennay, and the estate’s wines clearly standout in tastings as a result. Pousse d’Or’s forward thinking viniculture has been instrumental in the region as the domaine pioneers new techniques to enhance the wines and elevate overall quality levels.

Pouse d’Or’s Volnay and Pommard are my soft spots, but if I had to choose one, I would have to go with Volnay. Today I am highlighting two very special monopoles, the Clos d’Audignac and the Clos de la Bousse d’Or, both 1er Cru sites from the 2013 vintage.

Pousse d’Or Volnay 2013 Clos D’Audignac 1er Cru $99.99

This bottling exudes elegance and class; it ages incredibly gracefully and offers a silky texture to the contrasting rustic dark fruit and earth that I love in Volnay wines. There are many dimensions in the glass, and with or without food, the wine sings. This ’13 bottling is strangely approachable in its youth, but it’ll continue to take on layers of grace and elegance as it ages.

Pousse d’Or Volnay 2013 Clos de la Bousse d’Or $99.99

Bold, rich and luxurious, this special bottling boasts impressive depth and complexity and a long, lively finish. This bottling benefits with additional time in the cellar or decanter if you wish to approach early. I cannot speak highly enough of these special monopoles; year in and out they always impress.

How to Learn to Love French Wines

How to add French wines into your wine rotation

599px-French_vineyards.svgOver the past four years I have been proud to work with many clients, many of whom I now call my friends. I have worked with people who are already very aware of theirs likes and goals with regards to wine, but I have also helped shepherd newbies as they explored the wonderful world of vino and become accomplished collectors. Part of this is of course deciding if you want a cellar or some storage, and if you do, how best to balance it. Because, really, wine is like life in that to enjoy is best there must be balance in countries, regions, styles and producer. It is no secret that I’m a Burghound (lovers of the wines of Burgundy, in eastern France), so I thought I might throw out a few pointers to the readers who might be considering jumping in to the world of French wine, feet first.

One thing you must understand (and probably already do) is that France is riddled with unique climates and growing regions. In each, producers work with different weather, soil and grapes to produce profound wines. It is therefore important to explore many of these regions to make sure you identify favorites and make room for all of them on your shelves. I picked out the five areas where you should focus. If you are unsure of selection, ask your own portfolio manager or me what bottles are most “typical” or “representative” of the region.

Burgundy

This is the home of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and I would argue that no region in the world better uses these grapes as a blank canvas to their terror. There are some selections that are lithe and nimble, others big and bold, but most are assuredly seductive delicious.

Bordeaux

This is the home of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, two of the most planted grapes around the entire world. Not to mention the supporting cast of Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Not only are the grapes deftly blended and unique by property, the style has been copied the world over (ever hear of Meritage or Super Tuscans?). Bordeaux is where it all started.

Rhone

There might be no other region where the differences in terroir are so visible. Often just looking at a hillside it is difficult to look at drainage, consider soils, and assess the lay of the land. Rhone is not like that. In the North the vines clearly struggle; they are gnarly and there is very little greenery, while in the South the foliage is much more lush. You taste these differences in the wine. Home to the brave grapes Syrah and Grenache, this growing area in Southeastern France is another must.

Champagne

If you hold the idea that Champagne is solely for celebrations, you would be wrong. Unless you treat every night like a celebration, then I would agree with you. Too long this style has been reserved for special events in America. Bubbles should be brought out to be enjoyed at all times and nowhere in the world will you find sparklers as good or as special as in Champagne.

Alsace/Loire Valley/Languedoc/Provence/and more…

I owe a sincere apology to the producers for lumping them in together here, but to be truthful, I am running short on space. Alsace is home to incredible whites and possibly the best Rieslings. Loire and Languedoc offer up interesting and approachable reds and whites, while Provence is where lovers of the best Rosés focus their attention. There’s so much to love from these regions that they really deserve some of your attention.

If you have hit at least 10-20 wines from solid producers from each of these regions, you should be able to start making informed decisions based on your preferences (take notes during this period!). I am 28 years old (29 in three weeks) and I have been enjoying wine since my family purchased a wine store when I was nine years old. Of my collection I would say about 300-350 bottles are French and the breakdown would be something like 70% Burgundy, 10% Bordeaux, 10% Rhone and 10% Champagne. But that is just my tastes and preferences. You can include all regions or omit most. You can become an avid fan of Riesling and Gewürztraminer from Alsace or you can swear of white selections and only put massive Chateauneuf-du-Papes from Rhone in your collection.

Like any interest or hobby, the key is to educate yourself and find your passion. If you take the time to review all of the regions above I think you are taking a massive step forward to understanding what you like and why you like it. From there the growth of your wine stash will come naturally.

Expert Picks: La Gibryotte and George Noellat

Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal

CamachoPinot Noir is France’s legendary grape and, along with Chardonnay, it’s what gives Burgundy its reputation and vice versa. Although Pinot Noir now grows in many parts of the world, the grape thrives in Burgundy, offering an exceptional ability to translate terrior, or a sense of place. Blue to violet color with a thin skin, Pinot Noir has been cultivated in France since the first century. The grape is so fickle and difficult to cultivate that leading wine critic Jancis Robinson has called it “the devil’s grape.” Pinot Noir gets its name from its appearance; when it’s on the vine, the grape clusters look like black pinecones. Pinot Noir tends to make elegant wines that are full of red fruit aromas and flavors that with time reveal a plethora of secondary characteristics such as earth, smoke, violet and truffles. They can be light body and inky in color and are among the most desirable wines in the world. This weekend I had the opportunity to pour two wines that showed how spectacular this grape varietal can be.

La Gibryotte 2012 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru (C. Dugat) $99.99

Gevrey-Chambertin lies in the Côte de Nuits sub-region of Burgundy, and this bottling from famed producer La Gibryotte comes from seventy-year-old vines. The nose is elegant—full of red fruit, spice, iron and earth. The palate is powerful with silky, fine tannins and cherry fruit on the finish, which gets some nice oak and spice lingering on the end. Drink 2018 -2035.

George Noellat ​1979 Vosne-Romanée Les Beaux Monts 1.5L $299.00

This wine has some age on it and is ready to drink. The color is leaning toward brownish brick hues and the nose is full with hints of prune, game, leather and minerality, followed by some warm cigar and spice. The tannins are silky and well integrated with the acidity lingering nicely on the finish. Drink now!

Expert Picks: Anne & Sebastien Bidault and Domaine Ponsot

Two expert selections from Michael Adler

Michael Adler 5.29.15Today I want to focus on one of my favorite villages for Burgundy Pinot Noir, Morey-St-Denis. Located in the far north of the Côte de Nuits, Morey-St-Denis doesn’t receive as much attention from the American wine press as villages like Pommard, Gevrey-Chambertin or Nuits-St-Georges; however, it contains four highly prestigious grand crus and produces some of the most unique and terroir-driven Pinot Noirs on the planet.

While one of the two wines I’ve selected comes from one of Burgundy’s most elite and rarefied estates, Domaine Ponsot, the other comes from a tiny and relatively unknown estate that has been quietly impressing us with its lineup of insanely delicious wines. Now when I say tiny, I really do mean tiny: Domaine Anne & Sebastien Bidault produces only about 5,800 bottles per year, which is fewer than 500 cases total! All wines are sourced from vines that are 50 years old or older, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have not tasted village-level wines with such an amazing sense of terroir and place in years.

The iconic Domaine Ponsot was founded in 1872, and the wine I’m recommending, Ponsot’s legendary Clos de la Roche grand cru, is so highly sought-after that an unscrupulous “collector” sold a parcel of forged vintage bottles at auction for over $600,000 before being caught and convicted of fraud in 2012 (rest assured that IWM’s bottles are quite legitimate). Ponsot is the largest landholder of Clos de la Roche, and it employs sustainable and biodynamic techniques, though the estate is not certified. If you are lucky enough to be in the same room as an opened bottle of Ponsot’s Clos de la Roche, you will not forget the experience.

Anne & Sebastien Bidault 2012 Morey-St-Denis Porroux $54.99

It’s always exciting when I find a Pinot Noir that I love for less than $60. One of four outstanding 2012s that IWM has in stock from Domaine Anne & Sebastien Bidault, the Morey-St-Denis Les Porroux is impressive from the first whiff. Loaded with mouth-coating, rich, and precise, spicy black cherry fruit, lovely minerality and Morey-St-Denis’ signature notes of sauvage, this is a complex and ripe effort that is delicious now but has the potential to age. A prime site in Morey that consistently out performs its village-level classification, the Les Porroux vineyard directly abuts Domaine Roumier’s famous premier cru Clos de la Bussiere to the east. This delightful Pinot Noir is an outstanding food wine and rises far above its appellation. Tasted a day later, this beauty was as fresh as it was the first, and perhaps even more delicious! Bidault made fewer than 600 bottles of this outstanding 2012 Morey-St-Denis; drink it now through 2024.

Domaine Ponsot 2010 Morey-St-Denis Clos de la Roche Grand Cru $749.00

Words aren’t quite capable of describing the magic that is Domaine Ponsot’s legendary Clos de la Roche grand cru. Clos de la Roche is a truly epic wine that is capable of incredible long aging, and it’s one of the most complex, unique and spellbinding wines you will ever have the pleasure of enjoying. While tightly wound in its youth, this wine will take you on a hedonistic carnival ride with time in the cellar. Sleek and finessed yet also firm and structured, this wine epitomizes the old “iron hand in a velvet glove” cliché that often describes Burgundy’s most prestigious wines. This is without a doubt one of the world’s very best wines, and in a vintage such as 2010 it has a very long life ahead of it. For serious Burgundy enthusiasts, this is the “holy grail.”

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