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 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.

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.

Great, well-priced, go-to Beaujolais…we got that

As a store that has been heavy into the Beaujolais game for more than a quarter century, it is interesting to note how much more interest the genre gets now than it did a couple decades ago.  The thing it that most of that attention is devoted to the ‘cru’ level wines and folks like Liger Belair and Desjourneys who are trying to shake the traditional foundations of Beaujolais.

If you are looking for the classic, juicy, versatile example of Beaujolais, there are plenty of them out there, particularly from special vintages like 2015 and 2016.  Unfortunately they are usually the entry level wine of some producer’s hierarchy and, because they are usually overshadowed by those ‘upper cuvees’, are less likely to get the kind of reviews that will inspire buyers.

Market mechanics are a big part of the equation to be sure.  But one of the producers that has been a part of our lineup by virtue of a consistent juiciness and engaging personality to their wines is Domaine de Colette.  These guys make that fruit driven, in-your face style that will make friends and influence people…in other words classic Beaujolais.  The 2016 shows pure, ripe Gamay with very specific flavors that sit atop beautifully measured tension that gives this wine an uncommon energy along with a pleasing core of fruit.

The comments from Vinous’ Josh Raynolds on the Domaine de Colette Beaujolais Villages Coteaux de Colette 2016 are very positive, “Vivid red. Spicy, mineral-accented red berry and floral scents, along with a hint of white pepper. Juicy and focused on the palate, offering tangy red currant and strawberry flavors and a touch of allspice. Unfolds slowly, picking up a subtle floral pastille quality on the gently tannic, focused finish.’   But perhaps on a more mundane level, if you are looking for a well made, fruit driven, really pleasing Beaujolais, Colette has been a good source for us for a long time and this is a particularly good example.  Great price for the performance!

THE 2015 VINTAGE IN BURGUNDY REVISITED

This is partly a reminder.   We and others have gone on at length about 2015, particularly with respect to the flattering reds, one of the juiciest and most engaging vintages we can recall.  For Burgundy veterans, think back to the expressive, fleshy 2009s, but lighter on their feet like the 2002s, with a nice verve to the acidity that calls 2005 to mind.  It will surely be considered in the pantheon of great vintages.

We have also (and often) discussed the difficulty in finding value in Burgundy a number of times over the years.  High demand, small production, not to mention the ups and downs of marginal viticulture in general, have an upward effect on the price tag.  Even at the lower end, prices aren’t necessarily all that low.  It’s not impossible to find a deal.  It’s just really hard.  The best results usually come in concert with the blessing of Mother Nature because Pinot is a delicate grape that needs all the help it can get, a little extra sun raising the level of all vineyards great and small.

Untimely rain, thin skins, under-ripeness, too much heat, not enough heat, there are many things that can cause Pinot to underperform.  But the reason that some appellations consistently sell for much higher prices than others is history, plain and simple.  Chambertin has hefty price tags because it consistently performs at a high level.  The places that don’t carry big tickets do not by virtue of the fact that they don’t perform at the highest level consistently.  Maybe that lack of consistent success is due to exposure, or perhaps the fact that, year-in and year-out ripeness levels might not be as high as other locations.  But it is because they are on the more marginal side of ‘marginal viticulture’ that they sell for less.

However, when the sun shines, those areas perform at their very best.  But, because of history, the vignerons can’t charge substantially more money when they are successful because of the ‘hierarchy’.  When that happens, it is the consistent recipe for a deal, and that’s how to play Burgundy in 2015 unless you own oil wells or invented an app.  Places like Marsannay, Savigny-Les-Beaune, and Mercurey had sensational seasons in 2015 and we have spent a good amount of time going through the less famous locales to find the honest gems.  That we did, though we had to, as they say, ‘kiss a lot of frogs’ and work through some disappointments to get it done.  Hey, that’s Burgundy.

The hardest part isn’t the work, though.  The hardest part is bucking the system.  When we first referred to the ‘hierarchy’ in that last paragraph.  That is a very specific phenomenon in our view.  While there is an ‘official’ classification to Burgundy that determines Grand Crus and Premier Crus from ‘village level’ vineyards, there is also an unspoken but immutable pecking order to the vineyards as reported by the press.  It’s hard to explain even to Burgundy ‘hardcores’, many of whom accept the hierarchy as law.  But if you read enough stuff, you realize that a most of the ‘conclusions’ are forgone and/or political.

By ‘foregone’, we mean that there is a certain ‘weight’ assigned to certain climats and producers.  The most brilliant Maranges ever made has an upper limit to its scoring potential because it’s Maranges.  Most of the time it will dwell in the upper 80s score-wise, perhaps creep into the low 90s on occasion, almost always in cases where that domaine doesn’t have significant upper cuvees in their lineup.  But that’s it.  If it is tasted in the same cellar next to a wine from a better appellation, the odds of it besting that wine isn’t ‘zero’.  It’s just nearly zero.

Sure there are always exceptions, just not many of them.  When a reviewer tastes at a Burgundy domaine, he is presented the wines in the ‘order of importance’ of the bottlings…Bourgognes et. al, villages wines, Premier Crus and Grand Crus. Reviewers will taste them relative to their pecking order, and the reviews stick to that script a preponderance of the time.  Is that the most logical result?  Probably, but our point is that it almost never varies to the contrary.

On top of that, the 100-point scale that everybody uses these days has an upper limit…100.   A wine cannot score greater than 100, so everything is scaled back from whatever the top effort is.  If the best wine in the cellar, using the numbers analogy, scores a 94, the next best has to be less.  By the time you get 2-3 wines down the ladder, you are in a place where most consumers are lukewarm about most things, particularly something that has a $50-60 price tag.  Those potentially delicious ‘little wines,’ in these hierarchy lineups, have a remote chance of getting a review that will motivate buyers even though the quality warrants it.

We refer to this as the ‘theory of relativity’, as in reviewers tend not to always be able to figure out where one group of wines fits in to the broader array of all wines.  The best and most extreme illustration is Romaine Conti.  Always presented ‘in order’ (and remember nothing can be scored above 100), by the time you get ‘down’ to the Echezeaux, you are at 91-92 point scores, the same as a modestly-priced Rioja or Argentine Malbec.  Silly.  Take that Echezeaux and put it in a different lineup, and it crushes.  So what is the takeaway from this small and very slanted sampling?  Nothing clear.

Also, from one year to the next, reviewers are either clueless or afraid.  Let’s take the 2013 vintage in Burgundy versus the 2015.  While the vintages were substantially different qualitatively, the majority of the scores on the individual wines were within a couple of points between the vintages, hardly a reasonable representation of the difference between those two vintages.  Also, we don’t recall anyone coming out on the 2013s and saying that these wines weren’t worth the prices and don’t buy them.  With 2012 still on shelves, and the very good 2014s and flashy 2015s coming down the road, did anyone say not to spend your hard-earned dollars on the 2013s.

That would have been honest advice from these reviewers who represent themselves as working for you, the consumer.  But we don’t remember seeing anything of the sort in print.  We can point to Robert Parker’s brutal honesty with respect to the 1983 red Burgundies a long time ago.  He said the reds were overly tannic and had issues with rot.   Was he right?  Doesn’t matter, he was simply giving his honest opinion to the folks that pay him to give them his opinion.  The Burgundians didn’t like it very much and, if memory serves, there weren’t many subsequent reviews on Burgundy from Parker.

Are we saying reviewers go easy on the Burgundy producers so they get to come back (and you can infer the same for a lot of top addresses in other areas as well)?  Are we suggesting that Burgundy gets treated with ‘kid gloves’ by the press for fear of reprisal?    You can read the pages and pages of predictable reviews and judge for yourself.  The same wines finish at the top, the general rankings of the individual wines relative to each other within a portfolio are virtually unvaried year-to-year.  Sure there will be the occasional ‘up and comer’, but the inter-relationship between producers and vineyards is virtually unchanged from house to house and year to year.

Maybe we are jealous.  Would we like to get paid to hang out in Burgundy and tell people to buy Dujac and Roumier? Heck yeah! But we have a hard time wondering why anyone would do that.  That leaves us, the poor schmuck merchants who are trying give consumers some viable, reasonably priced and enjoyable options thanks to the quirk of fate of an exceptional vintage in a prestige (and typically expensive, sometimes laughably so) region, in a tough place.

There are a lot of delicious wines in Burgundy that won’t break the bank.  But the ‘system’ does not lend itself to promoting them in a meaningful way.   Human nature being what it is, we certainly can’t expect people to easily shell out say $50-60 for something ( say a village Vosne Romanee) that the ‘system’ allowed no more than 90-91 points within the ‘hierarchy’.   Better to spend it on an Oregon Pinot that got a ‘94’, though that score came in a completely different category and mix.

We’re going to continue to do our best because it’s the right thing to do.  We love finding that delicious Bourgogne or Marsannay for a song.    They are out there, particularly in vintages like 2015.  Just don’t expect there to be lofty reviews because of the way Burgundy is handled by the media. The hierarchy of vineyard and producer, the top-heavy score bias, and the ‘old boy’ review network, make us feel like salmon swimming against the very predictable current in the sense of creating sales.  You  will get sweeping (though calculated) comments regarding a vintage overall.  But when you actually dig into the individual reviews, the information is predictable and not particularly enlightening.

Still, we have found things that we are truly exciting from this vintage because they are compelling, engaging bottles of Pinot Noir to drink (or hold) from the place where Pinot was born.  That is ultimately the point.  Given all of the things we have mentioned, you can clearly understand that there are a lot easier things for us to sell than Burgundy.   But finding a $20-30 Monthelie that you can pull out in a few years that puts a smile on your face is a labor of love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOT JUST ANY OLD BEAUNE

Ah, Burgundy.  No appellation is more frustrating or confusing, yet the joy of finding the ‘good one’ always seems to provide the impetus to continue the hunt.  Finding a deal is a bonus. The 2015 vintage has been a fun exercise because the vintage’s engaging ripeness definitely allows for a higher success rate.  Of course the trick, from our point of view, is to find the juicy little numbers that don’t have triple (or quadruple) digit prices.

Sometimes the quest is easy; sometimes there are riddles to be solved as there was with this sleeper from Joseph Drouhin.  We have been pleased with Drouhin’s 2015 red Burgundy efforts at a number of levels.  But when we first came across this one, it was a bit of a curiosity.  Labeled Joseph Drouhin Cote de Beaune 2015 but bearing a fancier label (with a resemblance to Drouhin’s Clos des Mouches label…sans mouches of course), it was priced $10 higher than their more plainly labeled Cote de Beaune Villages.

It brought about questions on our part since the labeling didn’t necessarily sync with our impressions of the workings of the Burgundy hierarchy.  As one might have expected there was a perfectly Burgundian explanation.  Drouhin is a big house and produces a lot of negocient wine as well as bottlings from their own estate properties.  The ‘Villages’ with the regular label can come from any one of 16 different individual villages (Aloxe Corton, Volnay, etc) and isn’t necessarily all estate fruit.

The Cote de Beaune, according to the folks at Drouhin, “comes from the vines of the Joseph Drouhin estate (total vineyard area around 3 hectares – 7.5 acres) as well as from the younger vines of Clos des Mouches and other Premier Crus of Beaune that have been declassified (a Beaune wine can be declassified into Côte de Beaune).”  The story here is that there is much better (and more specific) stuff used in this one than the ‘villages’.  However you wouldn’t necessarily know that from looking at the label.

Fun folks, those Burgundians.  But once you get the ‘lay of the land’ and consider the possibilities is in a top vintage, things like this can become your own precious little secret.  Pour it out and you’ll really get a feel for where this one can go, and behold its deep ruby color.  The wine is a little reticent at first, with a touch cooler edge that most of the ultra tender 2015s, but Burgundy fans would consider the touch more lift and freshness a good thing.

As the nose opens, the breeding of the grapes here start to unfold.  There are dark cherries and currants, of course, but also a penetrating florality and high notes of mineral and clove in the nose.  As it sits in the glass few minutes, the Cote de Beaune unwinds to reveal spicy layers of fruit and plenty of flesh, nicely juxtaposed with clean acidity.  The highlights, or maybe it’s the power of suggestion, suggest this one flashes a bit of its ‘Mouches-y’ pedigree, but in any case there is no doubt that this one merits serious attention in this expensive vintage.

James Suckling had some nice words for this one as well, offering, “Very floral and fresh with crushed raspberries and flowers. Medium-to full-bodied, dense and silky. Beautiful and layered. Lovely texture. Drink now. ..92 Points!”  Still young and very lively, it is certainly a fine choice for current applications.  By all means, ‘drink now’ after giving this one a few minutes to stretch.   But we also think shows the definition and class to allow one to ponder putting away a few bottles for 5-10 years.  Either way, you win.

Also, and perhaps as important, there’s the value.  Clos des Mouches itself sells for over $100, this one costs about 66% less.  Good well priced Burgundy isn’t easy to find.  But it’s out there if you are willing to dig.

 

 

VALUE BURGUNDY? MAURICE CHARLEUX SANTENAY 1ER CRU CLOS ROUSSEAU 2015

First a little basic wisdom.  We’ve explained in painful detail about how, in warm vintages, the best place to find good honest value in Burgundy is in the ‘second tier’ appellations.  The term second tier isn’t meant to be derogatory.  It is a simple fact that the hierarchy of Burgundy has been established over centuries based on performance.  Typically places like Marsannay, Santenay, Maranges and Givrey don’t perform at the same level as the heart of the Cotes d’Or.  But when things get a little warmer, as they did in 2015, the wines perform exponentially better and prices stay consistent with their normal place in the hierarchy.  That offers an opportunity for Burgundy buyers, and that has been a key element of our play on the juicy, but very much in-demand, and often expensive 2015 reds.

In vintages past, we have looked to purist sources like Maurice Charleux who work extensively with these ‘fringe’ areas.  A good bit of sunshine and things move to another level of quality.  That being said, we’ll get to the meat of it.  Santenay is one of those places that ‘outperformed’ in 2015 and we have had some positive experience with this house when the opportunity has presented itself.  This is definitely one of those times.

Domaine Maurice Charleux is located in Dezize-les-Maranges, about 4 kilometers southwest of Santenay. It was founded in 1894 by Ferdinand Charleux, who owned just a little over half a hectare (about 1.3 acres) of vines. By the time he died in 1924, he had expanded the property to 2 hectares A few years later, Ferdinand’s son, Joseph, began a 30-year span of growing the size of the property to 8 hectares. Maurice took over the domaine upon his father’s retirement in 1970 and began branding the wines under his name. Nearly 20 years later, his son Vincent began working with his father and, little by little, acquired more plots of vines.

When those warmer vintages come along, Maurice Charleux has been a particularly ‘fruitful’ source for pure, honest Burgundy at very attractive fares.  Today’s property encompasses about 10 acres, 85% of which is Pinot Noir in the appellations Santenay, Maranges and Bourgogne.  The soils typically have a lot of limestone and this .51 hectare plot consists of primarily 30-year-old vines.  The vineyard sits at the southern end of the appellation, and the wines see 15% new oak with the rest 2nd and 3rd use vessels. The Maurice Charleaux Santenay 1er Cru Clos Rousseau 2015 is the best example we can recall since the 2009.

This is ripe, pure, ‘old-school’ Burgundy in the sense that there is a rather deep core of black cherry fruit with a touch of earth, a little minerality, and a pleasing little bit of rustic chewiness to the finishing tannins.  This is Burgundy that excels here as being a fine, engaging, unpretentious example of this hidden away village at the southern end of the Cote du Beaune.  It is a well-priced, expressive example of ‘real Burgundy’, something we don’t get to say all that often any more.

 

 

 

 

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