Sylvain Dittiere Saumur – Champigny La Porte Saint Jean – The New Clos Rougeard??

It’s a dialogue I am hearing more and more frequently. Clos Rougeard? No thanks, the prices are ridiculous now. Indeed, other than a few premium restaurants, I don’t know many merchants that actually took their allocations of the 2013 new release wines last year. 

Nowadays, there are certainly a few contenders to the Cabernet Franc throne… like Antoine Sanzay, who shares a link to the Foucault family and cultivates a bigger part of the Poyeaux site. Domaine de Collier of course, Guiberteau as well. But for me, and also for Loire aficionado Jim Budd, the estate most in the spiritual mould of the old Clos Rougeard estate, is La Porte St Jean, run by Sylvain Dittiere, the son in law of Charlie and Francoise Foucault.

To quote Jim Budd… “I fancy that Charly Foucault would feel more at home here at La Porte Saint Jean than at Clos Rougeard now that it has been bought by Martin Bouygues. While I was with Sylvain, Pauline and Francoise Foucault, visiting Sylvain, I felt a strong sense that Charlie’s esprit lives on here”.

The Domaine covers 8.5ha around Montrueil-Bellay where Sylvain cultivates his plots with huge dedication. He makes two whites, Saut-Mignon (Sauvignon Blanc) and La Perlée (usually in Saumur but more frequently in Vin de France designation). These are made from 60 to 90 years old Chenin Blanc. 

His red Saumur cuvées, Les Cormiers and Porte St Jean are matured for 18-24 months in barrel in an ancient limestone cellar from the 16 century. Long elevage is a staple of the style here and the wines are built to last. Sylvain served an extensive apprenticeship before setting up La Porte Saint Jean with stints at Thierry Germain, Gerard Gauby, Marc Tempe, and (of course) the Foucault brothers at Clos Rougeard.

Sylvain Dittiere La Porte Saint Jean 2016 Rouge, Saumur-Champigny AOC, 12.5 Abv.

A vintage that only recently arrived in the UK, it shows a dense, dark, intense purple plum colour. Initially when opened, it was very tight, dark fruited, broody and quite reductive with cassis and struck match spice intermingling with notes of lead pencil, cedar, graphite and sweet leaf. But a few hours in a decanter, and this wine has started to shed its protective layers of armour to reveal a modest glimpse of where this wine will possibly be in 5 to 8 years time. The aromatics are elegant and floral with intriguingly complex notes of grilled herbs, smoked meats, carpaccio, cassis leaf and the most incredibly intense red cherry fruit concentration. The palate too is dense and broody, but incredibly precise and focused, slowly loosening its linear grip to show very elegant fine tannins, delicious vibrant tart red cherry acids, iodine, salty brine, tart cassis and a fantastically cool, smooth elegant persistence. Wow, there is a whole lot of wine in this bottle. Still fantastically youthful, this wine oozes tension, energy, passion and artisanal blood, sweat and tears. A truly remarkable wine that just keeps on opening up revealing more and more nuances the longer it spends in the glass. This is noble Loire Cabernet Franc at its very best.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting Domaine de la Romanee Conti 2016 New Releases – An Excellent Vintage Born of Tumult and Despair…

After the success of the 2015 vintage at Domaine de la Romanee Conti which Aubert de Villaine described as one of the three most successful vintages ever at the domaine, the wines from 2016 had a seemingly impossible act to follow. In the end, some incredibly beautiful wines were produced … “an unexpected success, which now places 2016 amongst the most perfect vintages of these past few years.” ~ Aubert de Villaine.

While the excellent 2015s were born out of a superb vintage and growing season, the 2016s were the prodigy of a tumultuous season, born out of tumult and even despair at great cost. The winter of 2015-2016 was very mild with none of the usual frosts or snow to cleanse the vineyards of latent pests and diseases. Budburst was early in April and the Spring was also the wettest on record with 516mm (20.31 inches) of rain between January and May making for a very busy time in the vineyard for the Chef de Culture Nicolas Jacob.

A momentary cessation of the dreary weather at the end of April was a false dawn with three days of savage frosts descending upon the vineyards of Montrachet, Batard Montrachet, Echezeaux and Grands Echezeaux, burning off virtually all the young shoots. The remaining vineyards in the DRC holdings were miraculously almost untouched yielding an average crop load of exceptional quality. Readings of anthocyanins and tannins taken around the 18th September were superior to even those in 2015. Harvesting started on the hill of Corton on the 23rd September.

Corton Grand Cru 2016

With an average vine age of 46, the three 2016 Corton vineyards yielded a miserly 22 hl/ha to produce 5,040 bottles. With a deep ruby colour, the aromatics of this wine offer up classically mineral, stony, dusty notes of chalk, limestone, unripe red cherries, small black berries, graphite and a touch of sappy stem spice and pink musk. Unmistakably cool climate Pinot Noir. The palate has fine focus and density, fanning out from the front of the mouth to enliven and invigorate the palate with tart red berry fruits, logan berries, cranberry and tart strawberry, all with a characterful mineral laden under tone. There is plenty of concentration, poise and a generous intensity all finely framed by fresh crunchy acids and powder-fine tannins. A very classy expression of Corton. One of the best ever from DRC?

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Echezeaux and Grands Echezeaux were bottled only in Magnum format and not shown for tasting. 980 of the first and 710 of the latter, will be released at a later date. The yields were a spectacularly small 6hl/ha for the Echezeaux vines and 7hl/ha for the Grands Echezeaux vines. No decision has been made on the release date or who they will be offered to.

Romanee St Vivant Grand Cru 2016

The 2016 RSV vines of an average age of 38 years of age yielded a slightly higher 27 hl/ha or 15,648 bottles. Vintage similarities with the Corton continue here with extra powerful, lifted aromatics. Once again there is the ethereal perfume of sweet red and black berries, Parma violets, pink musk, pink rock candy and sappy strawberry cream all underpinned by classical stony mineral and crush limestone dust. The palate texture is supremely polished and harmonious with noticeably rich fruit concentration, a creamy intensity and pin point balance. This is a deliciously opulent headstrong RSV that shows off the vintage’s small yield concentration concisely. Wonderful length, profound sweet and sour cherry and strawberry promise and feminine, dreamy tannins. Very impressive and oh so mouth watering.

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Richebourg Grand Cru 2016

The vines in the DRC Richebourg parcel are now averaging 46 years of age and in 2016 yielded 24 hl/ha or 10,416 bottles. If ever there was a vintage that lends itself to the flamboyance of the DRC Richebourg style, you would imagine that the concentration and power of 2016 to be the perfect moment. Indeed, the nose is bold and opulent, rich and seductive showing a wonderfully lifted melange of red and black crunchy berries, exotic baking herbs, graphite spice and complexing dried tobacco leaf and cigar ash nuances. The palate shows fabulous fruit concentration and vibrant freshness but also clear and evident coiled spring tension and intensity, linear acids and an overall powerful, taught skeleton. The finish suggests great potential but is perhaps a little compressed at the moment. Another thoroughly beguiling, characterful, concentrated Richebourg.

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

La Tache Grand Cru Monopole 2016 

Produced from a monopole vineyard with vines averaging 51 years old, the site yielded 31 hl/ha or 21,768 bottles. This famous noble monopole Grand Cru produced a fabulously aristocratic expression in 2016 with floral, fragrant aromatics almost unmatched by any of the other wines. The lifted perfume of dried rose petals, cherry blossom, raspberry herbal tea and crushed violets mingles effortlessly with creamy, spicy red cherry, strawberry and small crunchy black berry fruit nuances. The palate too is powerful, regal and supremely polished with a seamless texture that boast authoritative dusty, powdery tannins harmoniously balanced by intense sappy, spicy red fruits and a leafy, red plum and loganberry confit concentration that lingers with such prowess. A impressively generous, rich and finely crafted La Tache that will turn many heads once again.

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Romanee Conti Grand Cru Monopole 2016

This legendary vineyard now boasts vines with an average age of 57 years old. In 2016 the site yielded a modest 24 hl/ha or 5,280 bottles. Always producing a profound expression of Pinot Noir, the 2016 is no exception and boldly delivers a supremely complex array of aromatics that seem to have extra levels of depth and intrigue. Together with lifted, perfumed cherry blossom, rose petals and violets there is an extra broody, savoury, bruised red fruit and blood orange note that gracefully teases the senses. The palate as usual combines the most awesome fruit and acid intensity with creamy, supple mineral tannins and a sweet, sappy seductive old vine depth. What a beautiful wine with a splendidly tender, harmonious intensity and a confident, precise regal finish. Always a privilege to taste this wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

One of the Stars of the 2017 En-Primeur Campaign – Tasting Domaine Fourrier’s Clos St Jacques…

Clos Saint Jacques is one of Burgundies most famous Premier Cru vineyards situated in the village of Gevrey Chambertin. The vineyard was split up and sold in 1954 by the Comte de Moucheron to four producers. One of these producers was Henri Esmonin, who at the time of the sale was the metayage for the vineyard and bought 1.6 hectares. The other producers were Armand Rousseau, who purchased 2.20 hectares, the Fourrier family who purchased approximate 1 hectare, and Domaine Clair-Dau who purchased 2 hectares.

Today, this 6.7 hectare vineyard with five strips running from the top to the bottom of the vineyard, are currently owned by five different producers. Sylvie Esmonin, the granddaughter of Henri Esmonin, holds 1.60 hectares. Bruno Clair and Maison Louis Jadot own 1 hectare each, which was split between them from the land purchased by Domaine Clair-Dau. Domaine Fourrier holds 0.89 hectares.

Domaine Jean Marie Fourrier Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St Jacques 2017, 13.5 Abv.

A fine classical vintage that seems to play into the hands of Jean Marie. While there are plenty of easy drinking premier cru’s, the 2017 CSJ displays impressive lifted perfume of pithy black plums, macerated black cherries, black currant confit and a stony, strawberry pip minerality with no overt oak imprint evident. Just fine purity and plenty of focus. The palate too shows fine depth, spicy textured extract, concentrated sweet red and black forest berry fruits tightly underpinned by an impressive stony, graphite minerality. Jean Marie’s wines never lack plush opulence and fruit sweetness, but in a more classical, “pretty” vintage like 2017, his wines strike a superb balance between concentrated fleshy fruit opulence and focused, polished tannin minerality and structure. If you can get an allocation of this beauty, they are certainly worth buying.

(Fine Wine Safari: 94-95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Another Amazing Aligoté Discovery – Tasting the Superb Nicolas Faure Bourgogne Aligoté ‘La Corvee de Bully’ 2017…

Followers of my blog will know that there are a couple of more obscure wines I follow with close interest and try and feature regularly. One such wine is the poor cousin in Burgundy, Aligoté. With the stellar rise of prices across Burgundy over the past decade, every plot of land has had to pay its way and that includes gnarled old plots of once unfashionable Aligoté. But of course, the grape is experiencing a complete renaissance, one that I am following with great interest.

At a recent new release En-primeur 2017 tasting, I had the pleasure to meet Nicolas Faure, a passionate and driven winemaker running a small negociant business alongside an equally small domaine in Meuilley in the Hautes Cotes de Nuits. But he is also a member of a 50+ producer grouping called “Les Aligotéurs” who champion top premium quality Aligoté from Burgundy. Created by the French Chef Philippe Delacourcelle and winemakers Sylvain Pataille, Laurent Fournier, Pablo Chevrot, Anne Morey and Nicolas Faure, members are required to have some track record of Aligoté production and the wines need to be quality wines of note. April 2018 saw the first professional meeting of Les Aligotéurs in Burgundy in Flagey-Echezeaux. Nicolas’s 2017 is another worthy addition to the premium ranks of collectable Aligoté.

Nicolas Faure Bourgogne Aligoté ‘La Corvee de Bully’ 2017, 13 Abv.

Another exciting Aligoté discovery, this time made from old vines planted in 1914. Nicolas Faure farms 0.13 hectares of the total lieu dits block of around 4 hectares of La Corvee de Bully. The grapes were picked on the 17th September which is more than a week later than most other Domaines. The grapes were vinified using wild yeast natural fermentation in old 4th and 5 fill 228 litre Burgundy barrels and the results are truly profound. There is an incredible aromatic complexity with serious layers and nuances. The nose is packed full of white citrus, cut straw, dusty minerality, bruised pears and a leesy savoury earthy yellow orchard fruit depth. The palate is no less tantalising, showing impressive artisanal winemaking that has captured the fantastic old vine fruit concentration perfectly with incredible stony minerality and a delicious depth of flavour. Everything you could possibly expect and hope for from a top Aligoté… serious vigour, balance, finesse and an almost Chardonnay-like premium Burgundian complexity. Very classy expression indeed and a wonderful new discovery. Drink now to 2024+

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Exploring Bordeaux Second Wines – Part 7: La Chapelle de La Mission Haut Brion 2014, Pessac-Leognan…

In 1682, the Lazarist Fathers, a community founded by Saint Vincent de Paul, received the La Mission Haut Brion estate as a legacy from Madame Olive de Lestonnac and over the centuries has been owned by a number of illustrious families, the last being the current owners Domaine Clarence Dillon who purchased the property in 1983. For most of this time, La Mission Haut Brion  has been producing exceptional red and white wines from their highly prized Pessac-Leognan terroir.

 

Graves is the large red and white wine region located to the southeast of the city of Bordeaux along the Garonne River. Cabernet Sauvignon dominates the red wines from the area, while the whites are mixtures of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The most important area within the Graves is the village of Pessac-Leognan. Most of the great chateaux, including Haut Brion, a premier cru and the only wine outside of the Medoc to be included in the 1855 Classification, are located in this small appellation. Graves derives its name from the rocky, stony terrain of the region and many people believe that the stony soil radiates the day’s heat at night and thus makes the grapes ripen earlier than some of the other regions in Bordeaux.

This is the first time I have revisited this wine since I tasted it En-primeur at the chateau in 2015. More importantly for me, it was one of the few wines from the 2014 vintage that I purchased a case of for myself at the time. So there was of course an added interest to crack a bottle and assess the contents. With critical scores ranging from 88/100 to 94/100 for this specific wine, I really had no idea what to expect.

La Chapelle de La Mission-Haut-Brion 2014, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, 14 Abv.

This opulent second wine of Chateau La Mission Haut Brion is a blend of 45% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon and incorporates 8% of press wine. Impressively deep and dark in colour suggesting this wine has concentration and adequate extraction to add a bit of extra second wine muscle. With now 5 years of age from vintage, the aromatics are still seductively scent laden with lifted notes of fresh violets, cherry blossom, crushed blackberries, blueberries, Christmas cinnamon stick and freshly sawn cedar suggesting a fine degree of fruit ripeness without being outlandish, with all hints of crushed leaves and sappy spice notes dissipating as the black forest fruits envelope the nose with a complex brambly fragrance. The palate is also wonderfully generous and sweet fruited with a medium bodied weighting, fine sleek polished tannins and a most comforting melange of black currant, bramble berries, black cherry and salty black licorice. There is a satisfying hint of sweet tobacco, subtle layers of freshly tilled earth in true Graves style but also a pronounced mineral classism enhanced by vibrant fresh acids. A very pretty, distinguished second wine expression that is showing fine drinkability already but no doubt will be even more complex and exponentially more enjoyable with another 5 to 8+ years of additional bottle ageing. I really liked this wine in barrel and I love it more so now.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW

A Wine That Announces Jean-Luc Jamet’s Resurgence Among the Great Producers of the Northern Rhone – Tasting His Epic 2015 Côte-Rôtie Les Terrasses…

I have been following the resurgence of Jean-Luc Jamet with great interest over the past 2 or 3 vintages. Afterall, the Côte-Rôties of the greater Jamet family have long been regarded as the benchmark wines of the region within the Northern Rhone. In 2013, brothers Jean-Luc and Jean-Paul announced that they would be splitting up the family’s domaine. For many years, Jean-Paul was the face of the domaine and Jean-Luc was the steady hand in the vineyards. 

Thankfully, Jean-Luc has now stepped out of the proverbial shadows and returned to the fine wine arena with a resounding bang, using his prestigious holdings of some of the greatest sites of La Landonne, Chavaroche and Lancement to create his impressive new Côte-Rôtie called Les Terrasses. This is surely the type of Grand Vin that is going to propel Jean-Luc’s wines to become some of the most sought after Syrahs in the whole of the Northern Rhone and unfortunately with prices to match.

Made from 100% Syrah from 5 hectares notably 0.7 ha on Lancement (1980-1995), 0.6 ha Bonnivières, Chavaroche (0.5 ha early 1980s & 0.3 ha early 2010s), 0.7 ha on Mornachon (1985), also Côte Baudin, La Landonne, Moutonnes (0.11 ha 1945, 0.4 ha early 1980s), Les Rochains, Fongeant, 65% destemmed, with a 21 day vinification using wild yeasts, employing twice daily pump overs and 1 cap punching. Wines were aged in 20-30% new, 70-80% 1-6 year 60% 300-litre, 20% 228-litre, 20% 500-litre oak casks for 10 months, before being fined and bottled unfiltered to produce 26,650 bottles.

Jean-Luc Jamet Côte-Rôtie 2015 Les Terrasses, 12.5 Abv.

The 2015 vintage across the Rhone delivered some of the most intense and profound wines seen in many years. What separates this great vintage from the merely good ones is the way Jean-Luc has crafted a classically styled Côte-Rôtie Syrah that is both bold and powerful yet sleek and incredibly intense and seamlessly elegant at the same time. From the first drawing of the cork, aromatic waves of sumptuous dark berry fruits, exotic Asian spices, violets, crushed black pepper corns, dried herbs, garrigue and savoury new season game meat notes rise imperiously out of the glass. The palate at this youthful juncture remains taut and linear, utterly focused but texturally supremely polished and elegant with serious precision and depth in abundance. The concentration and clarity of fresh saline cassis, tart blue berries and broody black bramble berry fruits is something to behold reaffirming that this will be a vintage to cellar and enjoy over 20+ years. This is a wine that feels self-assured, confident and aware of its own talents within the serious pecking order of the Côte-Rôtie appellation. 

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Jean-Luc & Evelyne Jamet, 4624 Route du Recru Le Vallin 69420 Ampuis, France

Tel: +33(0)474 56 13 82

jamet.jeanluc@yahoo.fr

Exploring the Iconic Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie La Landonne 1991 Over Dinner at The Noble Rot Restaurant and Wine Bar…

Cote Rote remains one of the hottest collectable and age worthy wines in the Northern Rhone along with select Hermitage and Cornas and no one crafts more precise fine wines in Cote Rotie than Rene Rostaing. Rene owns some of the most prestigious parcels of Cote Rotie namely in the Cote Blonde and in La Landonne. But it was his exceptionally good fortune to inherit 4 prime hectares from his father-in-law Albert Dervieux and then subsequently another 1.4 hectares of old vine Cote Rotie from is uncle Marius Gentaz bringing his total holdings up to 7.4 hectares that has made for a thoroughly captivating vignerons tale.

Of all the wines Rene Rostaing has produced in the past few decades, there are few more famous and sought after than his 1991 La Landonne Cote Rotie. This wine holds legendary status and is regarded with the highest esteem by Northern Rhone collectors. I recently got to drink a well cellared bottle at the Noble Rot Wine Bar with winemaker Romaric Chavy of Domaine Chavey-Choue in Burgundy and writer / restauranteur Dan Keeling. A rare treat indeed!

“In 1991 he produced four cuvees. Perhaps the best of these 1991s is the 1991 Cote Rotie La Landonne. As you might anticipate, there is considerable rivalry between Rene Rostaing and his neighbour, Guigal. Rostaing is quick to assert that his La Landonne vines are considerably older than those of Guigal” … wrote Robert Parker Jr. in December 1992.

Rene Rostaing Cote Rotie La Landonne 1991

Brilliantly bright ruby red, a superb bottle drunk at Noble Rot wine bar, liberated from a private client’s cellar after being bought on release. Tantalisingly complex and exotic, there are wonderful aromatic layers of black berry, black cherry, pepper corns, savoury cured meats and smokey graphite. So seamless, integrated, it’s hard to deconstruct the wine. Just a really profound melange of savoury, spicy, black fruited perfection. Beautifully dense, full bodied, suave and concentrated, the flavours and fruits are so vital and mineral laced yet also so amazingly youthful with tannins that are sweet, powdery but nicely resolved from bottle age. A really sensational, profound bottle of Northern Rhone. They don’t come much better than this. Drink now and over the next 10+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)