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)
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)
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)
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)
Henri Boillot is a fifth-generation vigneron, who began his wine education at his family’s winery before leaving to found his own négociant house where he honed his skills and developed his own personal style.
After returning home to take over the reins of the family estate Domaine Henri Boillot, he continued to develop his négociant business under the Henri Boillot label, where he overseas all vineyard work and harvesting himself.
His meticulous and uncompromising quality focused winemaking has earned him a place in the top echelons of producers in this premium French region. Today he is joined by his son, Guillaume, who makes the red wines while Henri makes all the whites.
As the dust settles on the 2016 En-primeur tastings, I decided to taste a bottle of Henri’s superb Puligny Montrachet 2014, from a vintage that has been likened by many to the quality of the forthcoming 2016 vintage.
Domaine Henri Boillot Puligny Montrachet 2014, Burgundy, 13 Abv.
A pale lemon gold colour, this 2014 white Burgundy displays an impressive dusty minerality, chalky limestone and wet river pebbles. This aromatics are youthful and tight and need plenty of coaxing out the glass before revealing notes of citrus blossom, crunchy green pears, Granny Smith apples and lime peel hints. The palate is tart, vibrant and intense showing gravelly liquid minerality, bergamot, pithy yellow grapefruit, pear fruit purée and a pronounced rasping, briney edge that finishes succinctly with salty liquorice stick nuances which combine with the wine’s precise thread of acidity. A Puligny Montrachet with stature above its Village status thanks to this superb 2014 vintage, and should improve for 3 to 5 years and drink well for 8 to 10+.
(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Chateau Montrose is synonymous for the finest age worthy reds from St Estephe on the left bank of Bordeaux. But their La Dame de Montrose second wine is also made to the same rigorous standards as their first wine, from grapes grown in the same vineyards. Consistently reliable and reaching maturity sooner, the wine was created in 1986 in tribute to Yvonne Charmolue, who ran Château Montrose single-handedly from 1944 to 1960. Production varies from one year to another but accounts on average for 30% of the total production of the Montrose vineyard. It is matured for 12 months in 30% new oak barrels.
The 2005 vintage was known as the year of drought. The water deficit was constant and alarming and by harvest time, the volume of rainfall was less than half the average quantity for the past 30 years. However, the clay rich sub-soils of Montrose played an important role in providing moisture to the vines.
On the other hand, the temperatures in the vineyards saw broad fluctuations alternating between hot days and cool nights, assisting good ripening of the fruit. 2005 impresses with its exceptional power and amazing fruit purity as well as the wine’s extraordinary engaging elegance. Stylistically, La Dame de Montrose remains very classical without any austerity.
Chateau Montrose La Dame de Montrose 2005, St Estephe, Bordeaux, 13 Abv.
Supple and silky the 2005 is a blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon and 46% Merlot. It shows very pronounced red fruit aromas with classic notes of red currants, bramble berries, earthy black currants together with hints of chocolate powder, graphite, wet tobacco, vanilla pod and black liquorice. The 2005 is generally regarded as one of the finest second wines Montrose has yet produced and indeed tastes more powerful and profound than many big name Cru Classe Chateau first wines. Full bodied, dense and powerful, there is plenty of meat on the bone here. But the tannins are mineral and supple, balancing the rich dark earthy black berry and black cherry fruits. This is a serious wine in anyone’s book and remains generous and plush with fine definition right to the very last drop in the glass. Drink this now with some decanting, but feel free to age this beauty another 8 to 10+ years.
(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)