Domaine Jean-Marc Millot Raises a Few Eyebrows With His New Release Single Amphora Aligote…

Jean-Marc Millot based in Nuits-Saint-Georges has been making elegant, understated, classical red Burgundy wines for several decades but is seldom mentioned in the critic’s lists of winemakers / wineries to watch out for… until recently. But the last couple of years has seen Jean-Marc joined by his daughter Alix Millot as the baton is slowly passed on to the next generation.

So no surprises then when visiting last year, Jean-Marc pointed out a lone Amphora in the winery containing of all things Aligote! The bottling and release of this tiny production curiosity wine was awaited with great anticipation. An En-primeur Amphora sample was reviewed here in January 2018…

As a firm Aligote convert, I have covered some super exciting versions on the Fine Wine Safari from producers like Thibault Ligier-Belair, Francois Mikulski and Michel Lafarge. Well, here is another cracker! 🦄

Domaine Jean-Marc Millot Amphora Aligote ‘Les Deux Terres’ 2017, Burgundy

One sniff and I felt a certain familiarity. But this wine also reveals a truly complex aromatic melange with a pronounced dusty minerality, sake rice wine notes, white citrus, white blossom and an earthy, savoury note of intrigue. The palate shows a beautiful crystalline purity, pear and apple fruits, bright acids and a koshu meets sake rice wine character. If this single Amphora Aligote is exported to Asia, well, European allocations are simply history such is the Asian allure on the palate. The finish is bright and pure with wonderful citric clarity and intensity, with the most mouth-watering edge and stony liquid mineral finish. This has cult written all over it. Drink now to 2022+

(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

When It Comes to Classic Premium Cuvee Champagne Few Can Match the Desirability, Personality and Consistency of Dom Perignon…

The past few months in the fine wine trade have seen a quite a few epic new premium Champagne releases including Salon 2007, Comtes des Champagne 2007, Heidsieck Cuvee Blanc des Millenaires 2004, Roederer Cristal 2008 and Dom Perignon 2008. But a wine that preceded them all was the mainstream and bigger production Dom Perignon 2009.

As with many houses including Louis Roederer, the decision was taken to release the more opulent, fruity, accessible 2009 vintage expression before the 2008 which although older, was a very serious vintage that showed much more tension, a tauter texture and closed up fruit characters.

The 2009 represents a deadly serious expression of Dom Perignon that is rich, complex and eminently age worthy… but is also slightly more accessible and overt. A delicious noteworthy wine that I’d still buy to cellar for at least 10+ years and drink over 20 or more.

Moet et Chandon Champagne Dom Perignon 2009, 12 Abv.

Plenty of sunshine throughout the month of August and into early September helped to shape an excellent harvest that commenced on the 12th September. Released before the tighter, more closed 2008, chef de cave at the time, Richard Geoffray described the 2009 vintage as a forward, fruit laden vintage. Still eminently youthful, the wine has an overtly floral nose of lemon blossom, white flowers, grated green apples, honeysuckle, dusty limestone minerals and a pronounced maritime briny sea breeze kiss. The palate is full, elegant and fleshy with a precise, focused lemon creamy vinous texture and complex notes of honey brioche, glazed red cherries, spicy yellow grapefruit and salted sour dough. Lovely density, impressive classy balance and a youthfully creamy fine beaded mousse that charms with premium Champagne style.

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

Jean-Luc Jamet Re-Establishing His Own Brand of Greatness in the Northern Rhône Valley…

Many Cotes du Rhône reds are produced from the blended cast off components of bigger appellation cuvees. For Jean Luc Jamet, now working exclusively under his own name since 2013, his L’Enclave 2016 is produced from 1 hectare of pure young Cote Rotie Syrah vines grown on clay and schist soils in the Le Champon and Bonnivières terroirs and delivers an impressive level of quality as you’d expect.

Jean-Luc Jamet Cotes du Rhône L’Enclave 2016, 13 Abv.

The aromatics of this sexy red are exotic and seductive, loaded with sweet caramelised black cherries, a kirsch liquor lift, sun dried cranberries, loganberries and subtle complexing notes of blood and graphite. The wonderful fragrant aromatics are complemented by vibrant, tart sour plum notes, hints of savoury cured meats, iron fillings and a smokey, crushed rock mineral finish. There is a suggestion of sappy resinous spice on the sleek finish which admittedly lacks the extra power and depth associated with some older vine cuvees. But this wine does show admirable terroir pedigree, intelligent winemaking and delicious varietal typicity from this more elegant, soft spoken vintage of 2016. Drink now and over the next 5 to 8+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Julien Schaal Releases His 2017 Flagship Grand Cru – Tasting the Schaal Riesling Rangen de Thann Volcanique…

I recently review Julien Schaal’s new Riesling Rosacker Grand Cru 2017 – a very impressive wine in its own right. There is no doubting the pedigree of the Rosacker vineyard which is home to one of Alsace’s greatest wines, Trimbach’s Clos st Hune. But when you want extra muscle power and frame, mineral austerity, age-ability and intensity in your Riesling, you can do no better than the Rangen de Thann Grand Cru vineyard.

Often regarded as the grandest of all the Grands Crus, this is the only Cru vineyard located on volcanic rocks. This volcanic soil, combined with a 60 degree slope results in tiny yields of hard-won fruit – but the results are worth the struggle and the concentration and depth of the Riesling wines produced can be extraordinary. This exceptional 2017 is a vintage not to miss!

Julien Schaal Riesling Rangen de Thann Grand Cru Volcanique 2017, Alsace, 13 Abv.

It may be auto-suggestion but when you first nose the Rangen Volcanique 2017 Riesling you can’t help but notice the incredible dusty, flinty basalt minerality that pervades the wine. Like it’s attractive sibling, the Rosacker, this wine is taut, restrained and initially very tightly wound with shy dusty stony aromatics and subtle hints of lime peel, grated Granny Smith apples and fresh fennel. The palate too is powerful, intense, compact and flinty but also shows off the grand pedigree of Rangen with incredible piercing lime cordial concentration, lemon bon bons and tart crunchy pineapple zest interspersed with pithy, phenolic tannin grip and a flinty, stony, saline, wet river pebble finish. Another fantastic vintage expression for Julien, this wine is built to impress and delivers on so many levels. Drink on release or cellar for 10 to 15+ years.

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

Julien Schaal Masters Grand Cru Rieslings – Tasting His New Release Rosacker 2017…

Not only does Julien & Sophie Schaal produce some fantastic Chardonnays from South Africa, but for the past few years, Julien has been making an array of Grand Cru Alsace dry Rieslings under his own name separate to his partnership with Olivier Biechler and the Biechler & Schaal wines. When it comes to Alsace vineyard pedigree, they don’t come more illustrious than the Rosacker Grand Cru vineyard in the village of Hunawihr that is also the source of Domaine Trimbach’s Clos Ste Hune Riesling, probably Alsace’s most famous white wine.

The official Rosacker Grand Cru classification covers over 26 hectares on predominantly limestone soils at between 260 and 330 metres above sea level, facing east and south east. Permitted varieties include Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and of course Riesling, which forms 65% of the Rosacker Cru.

Julien Schaal Rosacker Grand Cru Calcaire 2017, Alsace, 12.5 Abv.

Vibrant and youthful, this delicious dry Riesling made from 41 year old vines bristles with dusty limestone mineral lift, lemon rind, spicy citrus, crushed gravel, fresh fennel and dried baking herbs. Initially quite restrained and tight, the nose slowly starts to reveal notes of waxy green apples and wet slate petrichor notes with time in the glass. The medium bodied palate shows fine intensity and a wonderful harmonious balance between sweet lemon pastille fruits, dried herbs, boiled apple bon bons and bright linear acids. A mouth watering example that has ample glycerol palate weight and a lovely dry mineral finish. Drink this beauty now and over the next 5-8+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Exploring Bordeaux Second Wines – Part 6: Petit-Figeac de Château Figeac 2014, Saint Emilion Grand Cru…

The latest edition to the Wine Safari Bordeaux second wine series features a wine from one of my favourite Saint Emilion Grand Cru estates, Château Figeac owned by the Manoncourt family. Only the third vintage of this new second wine produced, Petit-Figeac de Château Figeac was created starting with the 2012 vintage.

Figeac is the largest estate in Saint-Émilion with 40 hectares (99 acres) of vineyards. Due to its soil, which is dominated by gravel, the estate is planted with grape varieties more reminiscent of the left bank, including 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc and only 30% Merlot. Most other Saint-Émilion wines are dominated by Merlot, and Figeac therefore bears a certain resemblance to the wines of the Medoc and Graves despite being situated on Bordeaux’s right bank.

From 1945 to 2011, the estate produced a second wine called La Grange Neuve de Figeac and since 2006 a ‘special wine’ named Petit-Figeac. From the 2012 vintage, Petit-Figeac became the single official second wine of Chateau Figeac.

Petit-Figeac de Château Figeac 2014, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, 13 Abv.

A blend of 50% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, the aromatics reveal a real melange of plush ripe black fruits tinged with graphite spice. There are layers of cassis, blueberry, black bramble berries and black plum. As the wine unfurls in the glass, distinct notes of black cherry, mocha, espresso, sweet tobacco and milk chocolate become more pronounced. The palate texture is ultra soft and seductive, super supple with beautifully plush powdery tannins, vibrant cherry pith, hints of cola and liquorice and a subtle saline finish. A thoroughly charming high quality effort that Claret lovers can drink now or cellar for another 5 to 8+ years.

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

The First “First Growth” of the Languedoc – Tasting the New Release Wines from Mas de Daumas Gassac…

Within half a century, the pioneering winery of Mas de Daumas Gassac has reached the rare status of a “cult wine,” one of the few in the Languedoc region. After being identified in 1971 as a unique terroir by Professor Henri Enjalbert, 50 hectares of vineyards in the Gassac valley were planted on virgin soils using 40 different uncloned grape varieties, laying the foundations for the iconic whites and reds of Daumas Gassac.

It was Professor Emile Peynaud, the genius behind classic French wine making techniques who defined the vinification and maturation procedures at the Domaine, allowing for some truly unique terroir specific wines to be produced. The Noble red wine is made from vines planted on red glacial deposits and incorporates up to 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, blended with Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Tannat, Malbec, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and others.

The domaine’s white is a blend of mainly four noble varieties including Viognier, Petit Manseng, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, but can include up to 20 varieties in the final wine, many picked and co-fermented.

I recently tasted the domaine’s new releases in London with their importer , Les Caves de Pyrennes.

Mas de Daumas Gassac 2016 IGP Saint Guilhem le Desert Blanc, 14 Abv.

The 2016 IGP Saint Guilhem le Desert Blanc is a ripe, opulently fruited white made from a mix of Viognier, Petit Manseng, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. The nose initially offers up notes of white peach, tangerine peel, stem ginger and waxy green apples. Underneath the fruity fragrance lies a more complex melange of limestone, crushed gravel and dried baking herbs. The palate is full, opulent and quite glycerol, rolling around the tongue with real concentration and intensity. The fleshy weight of white citrus and white peach stone fruit is nicely counter balanced with fresh bright acids and a pithy, spicy minerality. A really delicious glassful of white.

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

Mas de Daumas Gassac 2015 IGP Saint Guilhem le Desert Rouge, 13.5 Abv.

The 2015 was a seriously good vintage in France and this is a seriously good red from Daumas Gassac. The 2015 IGP Saint Guilhem le Désert Rouge is a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with a smattering of multiple other varieties including Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo and Dolcetto. The nose is taut and tight, initially quite broody, offering complex notes of graphite, peppercorn spice, tobacco leaf, liquorice, incense and black currant spice before relaxing a little in the glass to show more fragrant, perfumed nuances of lavender, violets and dried garrique. The palate is quite classically proportioned, ripe and opulent yet fairly broody and restrained. Medium bodied, there is a real polish to the ripe mineral tannins that show a piquant grip and gravelly minerality before melting away into a melange of black berry confit, earthy black bramble berry fruits and spicy blueberry that has just the most subtle kiss of vanilla pod oak spice. Wonderfully compact and focused, this is an impressively regal wine from the vineyards of Aniane. Cellar this beauty for a few more years before cracking and then drink comfortably over a decade or two.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)