MEURSAULT’S NEXT BIG THING?

The relatively new importer that brings in this exciting Meursault domaine states that he believes this is the first time the wine has been in the country.  We cannot speak to that but can tell you this is our first go-round with this house and what a find it appears to be!  The domaine is centered in the village of Meursault and current winemaker/grower Francois Buisson represents the fifth generation at the helm of this estate comprised of a mere 8 acres of vines spread across 14 different appellations.

The style of winemaking here is based on what the vintage delivers.  There is no specific ‘stamp’ the winemaker feels must be present stylistically but rather they guide the wine to achieve what Nature has given it through minimal intervention.  Francois is sensitive to the vineyard and the ecosystem.  They plow rather than use herbicides and, while they might use a synthetic product in the case of some specific vineyard issue, are generally organic in treatments and harvest everything by hand. 

These wines have classic Meursault character of high-toned minerality, hazelnut, dried honey and crème brulee in the nose to varying degrees.  To us that is the signature of the appellation.   Stylistically these all come in towards the racier end of the spectrum with plenty of sleek fruit sitting atop refined acidity, plenty of energy and deceptive extract.

The Buisson-Battault Bourgogne Blanc 2016 shows its colors out of the gate.  The fruit is sourced from the Les Clous Perrons and les Magnys lieu-dits. The vine age ranges from 15-65 years of age and the wine is aged 1 year in barrel, 10% of which is new oak.  As Bourgognes actually sourced from Meursault terroir go, you can pay a lot for something from a Coche Dury or Roulot.  This one delivers that identifiably classic profile and, at $29.98, is a relative bargain for the juice inside the bottle.

The Buisson-Battault Meursault Vieilles Vignes 2016 comes from two lieu dits, Les Malpoiriers and Les Pellans, that are on opposite sides of the village of Meursault.  They weren’t kidding about the ‘old vines’ (vieilles vgines) as these were planted in 1930 and 1935.  The nose is a classic tapestry of brioche, honey, buttered toast and toffee, and all of that presents itself on the palate in a rich-but-lifted fruit component of apple and quince, with an elegant cut of salinity to the finish.  We have tasted a lot of Meusaults that, while they have the correct terroir notes and mouthfeel up front, don’t finish with sufficient flourish.  This one absolutely seals the deal in an expressive but harmonious way.

This Premier Cru vineyard has been the source of a number of favorites of ours over the years.  For some reason the Goutte d’Or wines come across as particularly and gloriously ‘Meursault-y’.  The Buisson-Battault Meursault 1er Cru Goutte d’Or 2016 came from a variety of plots within the vineyards, some owned by the domaine and others controlled through metayage for a total of five hectares, a sizeable piece in a vineyard this size.  The plantings range over a period (1955 – 1968 – 1974 – 2005) and everything is, of course, harvested by hand and put in French oak for 12 months, 25% new.  This one has it all and, again, the price is justified given the performance.  We have identified more than a few houses that went on to be a really big deal and, given this impressive first encounter, these guys may well be one of those.

DOMINE de la FOLIE RULLY 1ER CRU CLOS DU CHAIGNE BLANC

Most folks are familiar with the concept of supply and demand, where an increase in demand for a category that cannot substantially change its production will predictably cause a rise in acquisition costs.  White Burgundy is something of a poster child for this.  What used to buy a good Premier Cru will now get you only a village bottling and even those are quite a bit more than they used to be.  The solution has been to find the lesser known sections of the Cote d’Or, like Saint Romain and Saint Aubin where a top producer can make some pretty compelling wines, and the area didn’t necessarily command super-premium prices.  Sadly the ‘good stuff’ from such appellations has escalated over the last few years. 

What to do if you want great white Burgundy?  Look south to the top sources in the Cotes Chalonnaise.  One can still find the occasional domaine that is making exciting Chardonnay for considerably more palatable prices.  Rully, at the northern end of the Cote Chalonnaise, certainly offers some fine options.  According to the Wine Advocate’s William Kelley, Domaine de la Folie is one of those.  His notes, “Once renowned as the source of some of the appellation’s finest white wines, this 14-hectare domaine in Rully flies somewhat under the radar, but its pure and elegant offerings are still well worth seeking out. Classy but flavorful, they’re dependably delicious.”

Domaine de la Folie is unique in the Rully appellation in that it is the northernmost in the AC and its 32 acres of vines are the highest in elevation. Moreover, all but one of its vineyards are monopoles (which means the estate owns the entire vineyard).   Lastly, unlike the main body of vineyards in the central part of Rully to the south, this northern end of the Montagne de la Folie sits on the same vein of limestone as the commune of Puligny-Montrachet, just over three miles away. 

The estate has been in the care of the Noël-Bouton family for three centuries now.  The domaine’s two flagship holdings are facing east on the hill with the Rully 1er Cru Clos du Chaigne sitting next to but higher on the hill than the Rully 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques.  We sold the Clos St. Jacques last year but this time around, tasting the two side by side, the racier, more insistent Clos du Chaigne won the day, though both were impressive.  The Clos du Chaigne’s eight acres of vines were planted in 1971.  So you’ve got vines nearly a half-century old sitting in limestone soils facing east in an elevated exposure.  That’s a pretty impressive recipe for success.

The grapes are farmed lute resonee (which means they won’t do anything like spray unless it’s absolutely unavoidable) and the wine is raised roughly 60% in tank and 40% in oak, part of which is new.  The minerality and florality show in the nose with a little bit of a honeyed tone to broaden the spectrum.  In the mouth, you get apples, pears, a touch of honey, and well infused, delicate minerality, with plenty of flesh but a nice lift to the mid-palate and great drive through the finish.  The wines of Domaine de La Folie are decidedly classical in profile and the whites always put fresh fruit and clear minerality front and center.  The Domaine de La Folie Rully 1er Cru Clos du Chaigne 2017 is serious, character-filled white Burgundy and, in today’s heated market, rather a deal as well. 

GREAT BURGUNDY VALUE ‘IN DISGUISE’

There are two parts to this story, the most important being a delicious, well-priced bottle of Pinot Noir from older vines.  The house of  Maison Bertrand Amboise is a well-respected source for red and white Burgundy with a particularly important association with the villages of Nuits-St.-George and an elevated reputation for that appellation since the early 90s.

The domaine itself dates back to the late 18th century. Bertrand took control of the estate in 1988 after the death of Martin’s (Bertrand’s wife) father and has never looked back. Today Bertrand’s son, Francois, manages the vineyards (w/Bertrand) & daughter, Ludivine, manages the commercial aspects of the domaine; allowing Bertrand to concentrate on the winemaking.

Low yields and ripe skins allow for long, slow fermentations on the skins, sometimes 3+ weeks, which is why these wines have more color than most and a sweeter impression of the tannins.  All cuvees are 100% destemmed.  The Victor Fagon Bourgogne Rouge 2016 exhibits a lovely blue fruit note in the peripheral flavors as a result of that ‘ripe skin’ process.  It is particularly evident in the case of a 2016, a good vintage but one that didn’t always show that ‘next level’ ripeness.  This wine actually shares textural and flavor elements that are a bit more pandering like a 2015 red Burgundy, but a brightness more associated with the vintage of record.

The juice comes from vines that average 50 years old located in Premeaux-Prissey, the southern part of Nuits-St-Goerges.  Raised in 2-5 year old barrels, it is rather dark in color for a Burgundy with upfront, powerful blackberry fruit in the nose, refined tannins, and loads of darker fruits across the palate with aspects of soil and oak spice.   It’s a surprisingly good effort for the fare, and, like we said, shares as much with a 2015 as 2016 stylistically.  This would have been an email but people have already been nibbling on it to the point where our ‘par’ quantities were below necessary levels.  We wrote this so a few more folks got the ‘411’ before it disappears.

Why are we talking about Bertrand Amboise and Victor Fagon in such a casual, back and forth manner? We know it’s a little confusing, with the wine’s moniker different from the estate notes.  This happens occasionally in the world of wine.  Sometimes a producer is linked with an importer who may not be doing everything the producer would like.  But the producers have legal/contractual restraints as to what they can market under their own brand.  This is one of those cases, and this is a great ‘workaround’ for such cases.

The name on the label represents Francois’s son “Victor” and “Guy-Crescent Fagon”, doctor to Louis XIV and important benefactor to the wines of Nuits Saint Georges.  Victor Fagon is an amalgam of the two names for marketing purposes.  In the end, it’s the wine that matters, and this one delivers.

THE OTHER DAUVISSAT

In ancient growing areas, there are families whose names become inexorably connected to the region through long time association and success.  Reverdy in Sancerre is such a name where the reputation is associated with one house in particular, but the name through extended familial connections appears on many labels.  On Chablis, the name Dauvissat is a revered one for those who appreciate the best in traditional styling.  Vincent and Rene Dauvissat are the icon source and among the most respected in all of Chablis alongside Raveneau, names notwithstanding.  But a family that has been in an area for a long time should be expected to have some sort of family tree.

We have sold a number of V&R Dauvussat’s Chabis over the years, as well as a few things from extended family members Jean & Sebastien Dauvissat.  Agnes et Didier Dauvissat are new to us and, themselves, are distant cousins who worked in vineyards but, prior to 1987, owned no vines.  Their estate is in the town of Beine about ten minutes west of Chablis.

Thanks  to the familial connection, Didier did do his apprenticeship with Vincent.  There are three different estates with this Dauvissat moniker, this being the youngest.  But whatever the gene is for making good Chablis, these folks seem to have inherited it. We tasted three wines from the estate, a Petit Chablis, Chablis ‘villages’, and a Beauroy 1er Cru from the 2017 vintage.

While we would happily consume any one of them, the Agnes et Didier Dauvissat Chablis 1er Cru Beauroy 2017 was simply too good to say no to.  This is a powerful, classic Chablis with intense minerality and salinity exploding out of the pear/citrus fruit.  Stop and smell the rocks?  This Chablis grabbed our attention even among an impressive lineup of other and the authoritative palate and overt ‘Chablisness’ made it most memorable.

Since this plot, called the Cote de Savant, is located on the slope that sits above the pond, the presence of the water has the micro-climatic effect of mediating temperatures when the weather gets warm.  The vines are hitting 20 years old with this vintage.  This particular presentation added a lot of information to the database.  This Dauvissat definitely has chops and is another to pay attention to.  The 2017 vintage in Chablis is at least very good to excellent based on what we have tasted thus far, but there is precious little of this delicious, well-priced ($24.98) Premier Cru to go around (only about 500 bottles are produced).

THE NEXT CHABLIS SUPERSTAR: SEBASTIEN CHRISTOPHE

Chablis is an interesting place.  The yellow soils are unlike anything we have seen anywhere else in the wine world.  Yet for as uniform as the surface area appears, there is a great variation to the various elements of terroir and how it manifests in the hands of a broad array of producers.  While people speak of the flinty aspects imparted by the Kimmeridgian and Portlandian soils, great Chablis is more than ‘how do you like your rocks’.

Some examples lean more chalky, some more like seashell in this ancient marine area, and a lot of producers can be successful by simply playing that aspect of the terroir.  But the real differentiating factor is how the fruit plays.  It is remarkable how specific the profiles of the various Crus play out, with Les Clos having a more floral and peachy undercurrent to Grenouille with its extremely flinty, more savory profile.  We love quality Chablis in  virtually any form, but there is a particular profile that is perhaps our favorite.

We picked up on a certain aspect of fruit, for lack of a better description, sour apple, back when we were exploring a new label we were quite excited with back in the early 90s called Raveneau.  We saw a certain expression of that same apple and flint combination woven through the wines of Tomas Pico’s Pattes Loup.   We see that again as a backdrop to the wines of the still relatively unknown Sebastien Christophe.

This guy isn’t in town but on the outskirts.  His first property was a tiny parcel in Petit Chablis.  But it has been clear from the first taste that this vigneron has special skills.  His domain has expanded via rental and purchase, but if you make your bones with Petit Chablis and Chablis Villages, it may be a while before fame hits you.  This guy is destined to be a force, but we are more than happy to quietly enjoy his appley, stony, bright, precise and reasonably fleshy Chablis at normal prices while the rest of the world figures it out.

The Christophe et Fils Chablis Village 2017 is not only beautifully made but reflects the specifics of a singular spot.  The wine exhibits serious endowment of talented vineyards as most face the Grand Cru Blanchots and sit just behind the great 1er Cru Montee de Tonnerre.  The soils are almost purely Kimmeridgian stones that are unusually brittle and sharp.  It is a deeply savory and fully ripe wine that shows the greatest degree of what a Chablis “village” wine can accomplish.

In other words this does not show like an entry level Chablis, with a surprising density to the fruit that sits on top of perfectly proportioned acidity.  It is of an unexpected quality and purity for ‘villages’ level and can play with Premier Cru efforts from other producers.  We have been early to the table with a number of exceptional Chablis producers over the years, and we think this is one of those times.  For under $30, it’s a find and one that has found its way into our own drinking rotation.

WHITE BURGUNDY’S ‘NEXT BIG THING’

As most of you who have been with us for a while know, we have been standard bearers for Beaujolais.  We have brought you amazing values like some of the single-vineyard bottlings from Dubouef, promoted the classics like Thevanet, Lapierre, and Burgaud and chronicled the Cote d’Or invasion from the likes Girardin and Liger-Belair.  For us, Beaujolais has always been important.  In doing our research for the wines we were going to promote, we kept running across the name Jules Desjourneys.  Often when we would be reading extensive critical notes on the genre, Desjourneys wines were on another level review-wise.

It is simply in our DNA to have a look at everything thing we could, but at the time there was no West Coast distribution for Desjourneys.  Some years later, we were finally presented with the wines from this esteemed producer.  They were, as advertised, spectacular and unique examples of the genre.  But the prices really put a clamp on what we could do with the wines, with some of the bottlings hitting $60-70 for Beaujolais.  There was clearly enough sizzle for us to keep on top of it to look for opportunities. But for something selling for nearly double names like Lapierre and Thevenin, we had to pick our battles carefully.

It long ago we were given the opportunity to review the newest lineup from Desjourneys, this time including a couple of white wines.  Before we go on, around here after years of tasting, we often use the terminology ‘white wine from a red wine guy’, or vice versa.  In our experience, there is a high probability that a producer that is best known for red wines, for example, simply doesn’t have quite the same touch with whites.  They are usually solid but lack that certain, special something that puts them on that top level.   It has been generally true from little producers all the way up to legends like Coche-Dury and Ramonet.  This was going through our minds as we looked down the lineup of Desjourneys, and we figured we would politely taste the whites and move on.

No one was more surprised than we were at how impressive these whites were!  As we worked through the reds, we kept thinking about how much we loved the whites.  Yes they were from southern Burgundy, and it’s hard to convince people that Pouilly Fuisse could perform at the level of something from the Cote d’Or given how many ordinary examples they had run across in their experience.  However there are notable exceptions that come along every once in a while.  You might recall several fabulous releases wee sold a while back from Robert-Denogent.  Well, ‘red wine guy’ or not, these Chardonnays from Dejourneys amazed.

First a little background.  Fabien Duperray was an agent for some of the Cote d’Or biggest stars and, presumably by association, had the mindset to create an estate that would be on the level of what he was accustomed to.  Starting in 2007, he found some small plots in Beaujolais and accumulated 7+ hectares of choice, steep hillside plots in Fleurie and Moulin-a-Vent, Morgan and Chénas with vines ranging from 65 to 140 years old.  He improved his own winemaking in leaps, and now farms in a way one writer called ‘beyond biodynamic’.  He runs the place like a Cote d’Or estate, right down to the best corks, and it shows in the wines.

There are stories about how miniscule his yields are, and how he employed as many as 50 people to harvest and hand sort this tiny estate so that everything was optimally ripe.  The result has been wines that David Schildknecht, then of Wine Advocate, called, “…some of the most remarkable Beaujolais wines of my experience, and perhaps ever rendered.”  He has become something of a rock star in Beaujolais.  Clearly the guy is destined to be a white wine superstar once people find out about it.  But there isn’t much wine out there and even less information (even on Desjournays own web site).

What we can say is that, from the first taste, that whole ‘red wine guy making white wine’ went out
la fenêtre.  There is clear viticulture/winemaking mastery going on here and these whites are profound beverages and unique in their expression.  For less than the price of an ordinary Chassagne you can have some of the most intriguing Chardonnays we’ve ever had out of the southern part of Burgundy…ever.  These are very special and more than fairly priced for what they are.

Jules Desjourneys Saint Veran 2014- Not only were we bowled over by these wines but were thrilled to find some from such a sensational vintage.  From 60 year-old vines in clay and limestone soils, it all starts in the nose with this floral apple and yellow fruit impression but soon complexing notes of spice, limestone minerality, hints of wild herbs and toast began to evolve.  On the palate it is at once mouth-filling and crisp with streaks of earth, spice, mineral and toast subtly interwoven with no single element sticking out of the core of yellow stone fruit and ripe apple.  You are left with a lingering impression of spice and just the right cut of saliva-tickling acidity.  Can’t say we have ever had a Saint Veran this serious or quite like this.

Jules Desjourneys Pouilly Vinzelles 2014-A notch up with perhaps a bit more incisive aromatics and a touch more of a toasty element evident, there’s a touch of citrus (oranges?) as well to the white and yellow peach fruit center.  Again we have richness without thickness and the palate is fully engaged with the spice, mineral, and a little grilled almond nuance.  It is seriously engaging again, maybe with a couple more ‘notes’ to the ‘music’ but that same presence on the palate and that almost lightly ‘pulpy’ texture.  The few notes we have say that this one is done in 100% stainless steel, and that Fabien is a minimalist almost to the extreme, yet all aspects are orchestrated precisely.  Delicious.

We also have bits of the Jules Desjourneys Pouilly Loche 2015 and Jules Desjourneys Pouilly Fuisse 2015.  While we have been less excited about the 2015 vintage for whites overall, our objection is usually that they are a little flaccid.  Not so here as these have a brightness that is definitely more identifiable structurally with 2014s, though they are slightly weightier.  We could go on but there really isn’t that much wine and we could find no reviews of the whites anywhere.  So for now they are our little secret.  Suffice it to say these need to be tasted and they provided us with the kind of Burgundy ‘aha’ moment we rarely have.

Like we said, there wasn’t anything written about this vintage.  But a look ahead suggests that this exciting new source is about to get some serious attention.

FRANCOIS LECLERC GEVREY: ANOTHER DELICIOUS, WELL-PRICED 2015

Everybody enjoys a good tale about a wine, and, frankly, we like telling them.  But ultimately it is about the juice and sometimes there isn’t always riveting discourse to accompanying the offer.  We accept that sometimes, particularly with Burgundy houses which are often the toughest  to find info.  These are people tied to the land that make small bits of multiple wines, not the easiest fodder for their stories or ours.

But Burgundy in particular isn’t about glossy brochures and state-of-the-art websites.  Those things don’t actually fit in with the general vibe of the place.  There isn’t a lot of ‘technical’ discussion at most places either as most of the successful domaines these days are reaching back into the less-manipulative past as the game plan for the future.  Plowing by horses, harvesting by hand, using the minimal treatment in the vineyards and dialing back the oak are the current trends.

The story on Rene Leclerc is pretty straight-forward.  The current generation is the third to run the domain since its inception in 1976.  The reins have been quietly passed from father Rene to son Francois who still respects his father’s approach but has instituted a number of changes including lower yields, no new oak in the cellar, and an adherence to the current trend toward non-interventionist protocols.  Francois did some time in Oregon and has a clear vision of how he wants to play it here in the home estate.

We tell this rather typical story because we absolutely love this village Gevrey from the juicy 2015 vintage.  The Francois Leclerc Gevrey Chambertin 2015 is everything good about both this ripe, round harvest and the classic dark cherry fruit with some earth and mineral elements as dictated by this particular, special terroir.  The Rene Leclerc Gevrey Chambertin 2015 comes from 11 different parcels over 5.33 hectares including Pressonier, Croix des Champs, and Clos Prieur.  This is why people get hooked on Burgundy…tender edges, subtle, layered dark cherry fruit infused with notes of earth and darker mineral that support but don’t interfere with the fruit.  Complete, satisfying, and clearly sure about its origins.

We have had the good fortune to taste this wine on three different occasions, and it has been a consistent crowd-pleaser.  The price is at the lesser end of the quality ‘village’ Burgundy choices and the well expressed terroir and tender palate makes it our preference over similarly priced domestic versions.  The engaging 2015 vintage is in full array here.

BURGUNDY BARGAIN HUNTER: EPISODE 2

The Haute Cotes refers to some of Burgundy’s highest vineyards along the crest of the generally east facing hills, typically above the more famous vineyards on the upper slopes.  Usually fairly rugged land with the vines planted in more rock than dirt, these are typically firm and sturdy and require a bit of time to come around.  The difference a little bit more sunshine makes is that there is more ripe fruit over the typically edgy acidity and sometimes stern minerality.  That changes the whole personality of these wines for the good and gives them a more fruit driven persona.

The Clairs have owned parcels in the region for generations but sold mainly to negociants.  Denis founded the domaine in 1986 with the intention of bottling his own wine.  Here the dark red leaning to blue fruits has a tension with the more typical fresh acidity to create a rather compelling mouthful, and the extra weight from the vintage makes the whole proposition work in a way that it rarely does giving the wine a tenderness and weight that will appeal to a larger audience, though there is still plenty of tension from these elevated sites.

The Francois & Denis Clair Haut Cotes de Beaune 2015 comes from 35 year-old vines situated with a south-east exposure looking out over Maranges.  All hand harvested, the wine sees 15 months in vat.  What a difference a little bit more flesh can make and, once again, the area’s more typical lack of fame helped keep the price down.  It’s a rather screaming bargain for a red Burgundy in the in-demand 2015 vintage at under $20.

BURGUNDY BARGAIN HUNTER: EPISODE 1

Named for the 300-year-old Southern Burgundy village in which it is located, Monthelie-Douhairet was run by the Douhairet family for many years.  In 1989, Madame Douhairet asked renowned winemaker André Porcheret to take charge and added his name to the domaine.  One of the great figures in Burgundy during the past half-century, André was the cellar manager at the Hospices de Beaune from 1976–1988, before he was hired by Lalou Bize Leroy to make wines at the newly created Domaine Leroy from 1988–1993. He returned to the Hospices de Beaune from 1994–1999, and since 1989, he has also been overseeing Monthelie Douhairet Porcheret’s 15 acres, mainly in the Côte de Beaune appellations of Pommard, Volnay, Meursault and Monthelie.

Located between Volnay and Auxey Duresses set back a bit from the main route through Burgundy, this is one of those spots that has a solid history but only hits the high notes in top vintages.  For a winemaker like Porchoret in a warm year like 2015, the sweet red fruits pulled all of the minerality and earth notes together within one elegant presentation.  The Monthelie Douhairet Porcheret Monthelie 1er Cru Les Duresses 2015 presents dusty cherries, a bit of mulberry, and some subtle stony minerality underneath.

What a vintage like 2015 does is provide the additional flesh and weight that this area usually is a little short on, which changes the whole dynamic of the wine.  And, with the less exalted reputation of the region overall, there is an upper limit to what vintners can charge,  making the price something of a bargain.  In truth this producer has been a go-to in warmer vintages here for several years now.   A fine effort.

HILLTOP STAR: Pavillon de Chavannes Cote de Brouilly Cuvee des Ambassades 2016

There is more than just a passing resemblance between the label on Paul Jambon’s lengthily titled Domaine du Pavillon de Chavannes Côte de Brouilly and one of our benchmark sources from the Cote de Brouilly, Domaine Thivin.  There is a whole lot of history as well as one of the more intriguing new (to us) discoveries in the world of Beaujolais.  Now none of the folks here are newcomers, nor are they another of the wave of vintners from the Cote d’Or that have taken a recent interest in these southern Burgundy vineyards.  This estate was acquired by the Jambon Chanrion family around the time of the American Civil War (1861).

The Thivin estate had already been around for quite a while, tracing its roots back to the 14th Century, and possibly the 12th.   Fast forward a little to shortly after the First World War when Pavillon de Chavannes’ history became intertwined with that of Château Thivin.  When Yvonne Chanrion married Claude Geoffray, he controlled Thivin, then a small estate, via inheritance. Yvonne brought with her one-third of her family’s highly regarded vineyards as an inheritance, and later she acquired her sister’s one-third as well.

Over the years, Yvonne and Claude added to Thivin’s holdings with other land purchases, but the couple never bore children. Yvonne outlived her husband.  Upon her death in 1987, the sisters’ original two-thirds inheritance reverted to Paul Jambon of the Jambon-Chanrion family, along with fifty percent of the land Yvonne and Claude had purchased subsequently over the course of their marriage.  Chavannes de Pavillon was now a new expanded entity.  The Art Deco wine label, created in the 1930s, was a product of Yvonne and Claude’s marriage. After Yvonne’s death and the restoration of the Chavannes’ vineyards, this label became joint property of both Thivin and Chavannes, and now it is used by both domains under their respective names.

Cool stuff, great story, but as you know we wouldn’t be telling it if there wasn’t some pretty serious wine as a part of the latest chapter.  Mont Brouilly is a unique spot, rising to a height of 1,587 feet all by its lonesome like  an old volcanic thumb sticking out of a plain.  The Romans cultivated vines on its flanks, and almost certainly vines to one degree or another have been raised on its steep sides ever since.  Paul Jambon grew up here and is now making some impressive wine in the ‘old way’.

Today Pavillon de Chavannes consists of 37 prime acres on Mont Brouilly and Paul and Betty Jambon make two cuvées from separate vineyards. The top wine is this one, Cuvee des Ambassades, which comes from 12 acres of Paul’s best parcels.  The name ‘cuvee Ambassades’ (ambassadors cuvee) is rather a literal one as this Cote de Brouilly is purchased by the Quai d’Orsay for use in French embassies around the world. It is the last wine to be bottled by the estate in a given vintage and it is the most age-worthy.

The Cote de Brouilly is all about the blue granite that is laced with volcanic porphyry, or crystallized mineral deposits.  The Cote de Brouilly appellation refers only to the higher, better-ripening parcels (the rest is simply labeled Brouilly) on the upper part of the hill.  Within those parameters, Paul’s holding are the highest and the steepest in this elevated appellation.  As we touched on earlier, this is a very old school Beaujolais stylistically in the best sense.

Traditional winemaking allows this concentrated wine to showcase pure, intense red-leaning-to-black fruits with hints of spice and plenty of the granite minerality for which this particular ‘rock’ is known.  There is plenty of gushing fruit here, almost like a 2015, but the fruit has a cooler profile, more lift to the fruit and brighter flavors.   A recent change in the cellar (circa the 2015 vintage) has been to rack this wine in stainless steel instead of old foudres which keeps the fruit all that much fresher.  The Pavillon de Chavannes Cote de Brouilly Cuvee des Ambassades 2016 is classic Beaujolais that wants to be Burgundy, and it delivers on that promise.  Mouth-filling and delicious, you can drink it now or, like most of the top wines from the ‘Cote’, it will age as well.  Yet at $19.98 it definitely won’t break the bank.  It’s an exceptional find and a lot of wine for the d’argent.