A Primer On Chateauneuf du Pape

No discussion concerning the wines of the Rhone River Valley is complete without some sort of reference to Chateauneuf du Pape.  So what is this wine and what does it have to do with the Pope?  Way back in 1308, Pope Clement V relocated the papacy to Avignon, located in the southern/Provencal region of France.  For the next 70 years, the papal seat remained here and the Popes that occupied this seat were great lovers of wine.  The grapevine had been cultivated in this region for several years by the Bishops of Avignon, but with the new prestige brought increased interest and investment in the nearby vineyards.  The wines gradually increased in quality and under John XXII, they were labelled “Vin du Pape”, which later became Chateauneuf du Pape.  In 1378, the papal seat moved back to Rome, but the course of history for these vineyards was all ready set.

Enough with the history, what the heck is the wine right?  Well, simply put, it is a blended red wine – a white version is made as well, but for today, we’ll just focus on the red type.  Chateauneuf du Pape can be made with 13 different grapes, but typically the blend is primarily Grenache with smaller amounts of Syrah and Mourvedre.  This is the same blend typically found in many of the red wines of the Southern Rhone, including Cotes du Rhone, Gigondas and Vacqueyras, but the wines produced in Chateauneuf du Pape are typically the fullest, the most complex and the longest lived.  One of the unique characteristics of the vineyards here is the galets or softball-sized rounded stones that the vines protrude from – these act to hold heat during the day which is later released at night, thereby helping to ripen the grapes.

The galets of Chteauneuf du Pape

The galets of Chateauneuf du Pape.

So what does a Chateauneuf taste like?  There are a variety of  “house styles”, depending on producer, but in general the descriptors associated with good Chateauneuf would be seductive, gamy, spicy, rich and on and on.  In many instances, you’re dealing with vines that are at least 50 years old and the resulting low yields produce wines with ample color, body and structure.  Like the great wines of Bordeaux, these wines are capable of aging and improving for considerable amounts of time. Famed wine critic Robert Parker counts the wines among his favorites and was his favorable praise of the wines in the 1980’s that brought them to the attention of the world and more particularly the U.S.  Some of the finest wines of the region can fetch $100+ dollars (Chateau Beaucastel, Chateau Rayas, et al) but the silver lining is the fact that a really good bottle of Chateauneuf can be had for $45-$50 or less.  For a world class wine that “goes to the same school” as the wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy, this is a relative deal in the grand scheme of things.  If you’re not sure yet, start with a good Cotes du Rhone and inch your way up to a Vacqueyras or Gigondas before you take the plunge – you’ll gain a sense for what the Rhone Valley is all about without spending blowing your wine budget all in one go.

Roasted leg of lamb loves Chateauneuf du Pape!

A young Chateauneuf or any of the above mentioned Rhone reds love lamb, game and other grilled pieces of meat and don’t be shy with the olive oil, garlic and herbs and/or olives.  In fact, these wines really shine with this sort of rustic, Provencal cuisine and act to improve the flavors of the food while the food improves the flavor of the wine.  I highly recommend a 30 minute to 1 hour decant of the wine before consuming as well.  At the end of the day, a taste of Chateauneuf du Pape will provide you with a virtual Provencal getaway, if only for a night, and a bottle of wine is a lot cheaper than a plane ticket to France these days. Happy eating and drinking in Asheville my friends.

Eric Solomon Asheville Wine Tasting

Friday Winedown – Selections From Eric Solomon

Friday, September 30 at Table Wine – South Asheville’s Best Wine Shop
4 to 7 p.m.
$5 per person……..free for Grape Nuts

Table Wine will be the best place in Asheville to taste wine on Friday, September 30.  Mike Kolker of Freedom Beverage will join us to pour wines from importer Eric Solomon’s portfolio.  Eric is based in Charlotte, and his company European Cellars is one of the premiere importers of wines from Spain and France.  In fact, in 2007 Eric was named U.S. importer of the year by Food and Wine magazine.

If you like 90+ point rated Robert Parker wines, you won’t want to miss this one!  I can think of no other importer whose Spanish and French wines receive as many high marks as Eric’s across all price points.  You’ll get to sample 8 wines from both Spain and France along with light palate cleansers.  Here is the lineup:

Eric Solomon Asheville Wine Tasting

1. 2009 Domaine Lafage “Cote Est” Roussillon, France – This blend of stainless steel fermented Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc and Marsanne is always one of the top white wine values in the world.  It is crisp and refreshing and the 80 year old Grenache Blanc really stands out – delightful honeysuckle, peach, apple and citrus notes abound in this easy-to-drink white from the south of France.

2. 2009 Rafael Palacios “Louro do Bolo” Valdeorras, Spain –  Rafael Palacios is the brother of Alvaro Palacios, one of Spain’s top producers………let’s just say good wine runs in their blood.  He started this project a few years back to expose the world to the virtues of old, low yielding Godello from Spain’s northeastern region.  If you like good white Burgundy, but don’t like to pay the price, you will very much like this wine – white peach, spring flowers, liquid minerality and baking spices all come together in this medium to full bodied white wine.  Delicious!  91 points – The Wine Advocate

3. 2009 Altovinum Evodia Garnacha Calatayud, Spain – Eric Solomon knows how to pick good Grenache/Garnacha, whether it be from Spain or France, and Evodia is his personal project.  Grapes are sourced from vineyards averaging 80 to 100 years of age and the wine is plump, juicy and loaded with ripe black cherry and raspberry fruit.  90 points – Josh Raynolds

4. 2009 Casa Castillo Monastrell Jumilla, Spain – Monastrell is the grape variety and Jumilla is the dry, hot and rugged region in southeastern Spain.  Known as Mourvedre in France and used primarily as a blending grape (the great wines of Bandol being the exception), the grape takes center stage here yielding a wine with tons of ripe and rounded blueberry and black raspberry fruit and subtle spice and chocolate notes.  90 points – The Wine Advocate

5. 2009 Chateau Pesquie Cotes du Ventoux “Cuvée des Terrasses”, France – This might be one of Solomon’s top red wine values in his entire portfolio.  Composed of 70% Grenache (from 60-year-old vines) and 30% Syrah (from 30-year-old vines), aged in neutral oak, and bottled unfined and unfiltered, it tastes “more like a Chateauneuf du Pape than an inexpensive Cotes du Ventoux” according to Robert Parker.  Full bodied and meaty, it is lush and textured with flavors of black cherry, pepper, meat juices and lavender.  90 points – Robert Parker

6. 2007 Creta Ribera del Duero “Roble”, Spain – Creta wines are made by the young and talented Isaac Fernández Montaña, nephew of Mariano Garcia who is one of Spain’s most legendary winemakers.  The wine is 100% Tempranillo from a 40 year old vineyard in the dry and barren region of Ribera del Duero.  It is full bodied and tastes like a wine that costs a lot more money – black fruits, violet, spice box and mineral bring to mind a $30 bottle of Ribera, not a $17 one!
90 points – The Wine Advocate

7. 2008 La Peira en Damaisela Orbriers de la Peira, France – This is the kind of freakish wine I sometimes buy more with my heart than my head, but I don’t regret it one bit.  The wine is made up of old, low yielding, organically farmed Carignan and Cinsault – let’s just say these aren’t two of the “hippest” varietals at the moment.  It is aged for 24 months in French oak, and the resulting wine is  stunning but a bit funky, offering up a wild bouquet of perfectly ripe cherry and berry fruit, cocoa powder, walnut and pungent herbs. Only 500 cases made.  91 points – The Wine Advocate

8. Mystery Wine – What will Mr. Kolker bring us?  You’ll have to stop by to find out.

10% off on mixed 6 packs and 15% off on mixed cases 

Best Wine Tasting Asheville

A Farmer’s Wine Dinner

Thursday, September 29 at Table Wine
7 to 9 p.m.
$25 per person………$20 for Grape Nuts
RSVP and Pre-Payment Required

This guarantees to be a fun and tasty evening of organic foods and wines.  George Lowe and myself will be preparing all of the food using organic ingredients, with a focus on vegetables from Farmer Tom Kousky of Hominy Valley Organic Farms.

As with the foods, all of the wines are organic and from small French wineries with a family farm mentality.  For $25 a head, this is one of the best deals in town.  It is guaranteed to sell out quick, so call us at 828.505.8588 to reserve your spot. We’ll take 32 lucky folks for this one.


The store transformed into a bistro.


Juicy Pork Roast
Slow braised in  Mexican spices and herbs – fall apart tender!

Vegetable Lasagna
With Puttanesca Sauce and Pesto Oil

Vegetable Medley
Steamed Butternut Squash, Potatoes and Green Beans Drizzled With Lemon/Herb Vinaigrette

Summer Crisp Salad
Drizzled With Balsamic Vinaigrette

Crusty Bread

The Wines

1. Domaine de Martinolles Blanquette de Limoux
Welcome Wine

2. Domaine du Pas St. Martin Saumur Blanc
100% old vine, dry Chenin Blanc.

3. Domaine du Prieuré Savigny les Beaune Blanc
Rich, layered and complex Chardonnay.

4. Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais “Pierre Chermette”
Earthy, rich, cherry fruited Gamay at its finest.

5. Clos La Coutale Cahors
Big, dark fruited Malbec blend from southwestern France.

6. Chateau Puech-Haut Coteaux du Languedoc
93 point Robert Parker rated Grenach/Syrah blend.

South Asheville’s Best Free Wine Tasting

This Saturday at Table Wine – South Asheville’s Best Wine Shop
2 to 5 p.m. and free to the public!

The best way to learn about wine is to taste it, and we give you many opportunities to do so.

We’ll follow up our tasting of Portuguese wines on Friday with a great free tasting featuring some great values from France. Join us from 2 to 5 and try before you buy some great wines from France.  Here are 4 reasons to head to Table Wine this Saturday – remember, we are dedicated to stocking, promoting and selling the best wines from small family producers and farms.

Now, we’re also dedicated to selling the best vegetables from small family farms!  Tom Kousky of Hominy Valley Organic Farm sets up shop every Saturday from 2 to 3:30 at the store with the best deals in town on locally grown veggies.  You really can’t lose here folks.

Free Wine Tasting

1. Domaine de la Salette Gascogne Blanc
Colombard, Ugni Blanc and Gros Manseng make up this refreshing, tangy white wine from southwestern France.  Similar to Sauvignon Blanc with zesty citrus and apple notes. 

2. Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet Sevre et Maine
Marc Ollivier makes some of the best Muscadet in the world.  No, this is not Muscadine or Moscato – it’s one of the great dry white wine values in the world. 

3. Domaine du Vissoux Beaujolais “Pierre Chermette”
If you know Josh, you know he loves Gamay for its fun-natured personality.  This is pure drinking pleasure – no hard edges or bite – just pured juicy red fruits.  An ideal summertime red! 

4. Mystery Wine
This will be brownbagged and delicious………I promise!  It’s always fun to put your palate to the true test by trying wines “blind”, and that is exactly what we’ll do this week.

We offer aggressive volume discounts on wine of 10% off of 6 bottles and 15% off of 12.

2009 Michel Gahier Trousseau Arbois “Grands Vergiers”

Red Fruits and Perfumed Dirt
Available at Table Wine – South Asheville’s Premiere Wine Shop

Gahier Troussea
At Table Wine, we strive to carry the best wines from all of the major growing regions of the world, even if we know we’re going to have to hand sell every bottle. When the quality is there, we buy, and this recent discovery still has me buzzing…….no pun intended.  Michel Gahier is a farmer with holdings in some of the top spots in Arbois, east of Burgundy on the French/Swiss border.  If you’re not familiar with any wines from here, that’s completely understandable, as there aren’t many of these wines floating around in these North Carolina mountains.  Go to New York or San Francisco though, and the wines are widely and openly consumed with reckless abandon.

Jacques Puffeney

The enigmatic Jacques Puffeney

The undisputed king of Jura is a guy named Jacques Puffeney, and Michel is not only his neighbor, but he was Jacque’s pupil for a number of years.  His training has paid off, as this is one of the more singular wines I’ve tried this year.  Trousseau is an old grape variety that is also known as Bastardo………it is also used in the production of Port, but in the Jura, the wines produced from it tend to be lively, fresh, nervy and gorgeously complex when made by a good producer.  This is definitely one of those!  One of the keys to the success of this wine is Mahier’s vineyards, which are located in the village of Montigny-les-Arsures, a wine village just outside of Arbois where the graviers gras (fat gravel) soils are perfectly suited to Trousseau.  Unsurprisingly, Puffeney’s Trousseau grows here as well.

There is one term that best describes this wine – WILD!  Organic farming and non-interventionist winemaking are very common in Jura, especially if you were a pupil of Puffeney.  The nose is a bit backwards at first, but with some aggressive swirling, the fruit begins to pop.  I get notes of pomegranate, cherry, autumn leaf and complex spices………almost Burgundy-like, but a bit more angular and masculine.  The palate is where the magic happens, as this is one of those wines that just snaps, crackles and pops on the palate.  Red fruit galore, floral notes, liquid rock and so much more………I could drink this all day, but I won’t because I only have 6 bottles to sell.  This one would be great now with some grilled pork chops and some sort of root veggies or you could lay it down for 7 to 10 years.  The wine is brought to North Carolina by the Haw River Wine Man and imported from France by Neil Rosenthal.  Kudos to both of these forward thinking, progressive companies!

Baumard Savennieres

A Haunting and Cerebral White

2007 Domaine des Baumard Savennieres
Loire Valley, France

Domaine des Baumard

I just tasted this wine yesterday and ordered a case immediately upon smelling it.  I then tasted it, and my palate agreed with my nose thank God.  Of all of the white wines that we stock at Table Wine, South Asheville’s top wine store, this might just be the most complex and the best in my opinion for the money. 

The Baumard family have been major players in the Loire villages of Savennieres and Anjou for many years, but they’ve especially risen to prominence in the past century.  These days, Florent and Isabelle Baumard run the estate with great care and attention to their vineyards.  Their wines are consistently judged as some of the best in the appellation by the wine lovers and writers all over the world.  Savennieres, along with Vouvray, is regarded by most in the know as the top spot(s) in the world for Chenin Blanc.  The key difference is that, while Savennieres began as a sweet wine, and has since confidently developed into one of the Loire’s finest dry whites, Vouvray has retained its multiple personalities, sometimes to its detriment unfortunately.

Florent has modernized the estate in a number of ways since taking over the reigns from his father Jean in 1990.  In particular, in 2006 Florent surprised almost everybody with a whole-scale move to Stelvin screwcap for even his top wines.  This is an interesting development from my point of view as Savennieres is a wine noted for its capacity to age for many years, and there is still little proof that wines bottled with this enclosure age the same way as those bottled under natural cork.  Fortunately, the current release of this wine is so amazingly good that I really could care less.

As I said, the aroma of this wine was absolutely intoxicating, seductive and memorable, and I’ll have no problem drinking several bottles over the course of the next couple of years.  To understand Loire Valley Chenin Blanc and its aromatics, one has to understand the soil.  The dirt here is marked by gravelly, free-draining topsoils with a deep bed of tuffeau – the highly porous limestone-rich sedimentary rock deposited all over the Loire region during the Turonian geological age.  The resulting wines are highly limestone-influenced with an aroma reminiscent of water running over stone in a young river.  Vintage 2007 was a warm one in the Loire, so Florent was able to pair this minerlity with a beautiful purity and intensity of fruit, namely musky pear, apple, peach and quince.  There is something haunting and cerebral about this wine that can’t really be put into words………..the best I can come up with is “World Class White Wine” – I know that sounds pretty generic, but for $22.99/bottle, it’s definitely worth taking the “risk”.  Enjoy it now or over the next several years with fresh seafood or river fish cooked seared or baked very simply in olive oil and herbs.  You won’t be disappointed.

A Light, Complex Red Burgundy

2008 Nadine et Remi Marcillet Hautes-Cotes de Beaune Rouge
Burgundy – Cotes de Beaune, France

Pinot Noir from Burgundy

I often sit and stare at the Burgundy section in my store, praying for more customers who appreciate these wines to come in.  Selling Burgundy in the mountains of North Carolina requires a lot of patience and discipline, and I shall not give up!  Similarly, understanding and enjoying these wines requires the patience of a saint and an adventurous palate.  These are wines that are subtle, feminine, understated and complex, and in today’s wine world where bigger is often perceived as better, they often go unsold and unconsumed.  Thus, I feel the need to write about them in an attempt to change this unfortunate situation.

 To understand Burgundy, one first has to develop a general understanding of terroir, the compilation of the vineyard’s soil, slope, orientation, nuance of climate, etc……in layman’s terms, it is a wine’s sense of place.  This concept really comes into play in Burgundy, as the region’s soils and weather patterns are in no way homogeneous.  In fact, wines produced in the same village from the same grape can taste remarkably different, but for today let’s just settle on the notion that good Burgundy is not about the grape, but about the place.  The next thing to understand is that Burgundy is the coolest and most northern region famous for growing red grapes, and Pinot Noir achieves its greatest elegance when grown here. 

Husband and wife Nadine and Remi Marcillet set up their domaine over 20 years ago in the village of Fussey in central Burgundy, and their wines are imported by Savio Soares.  They own small parcels of vineyards in the both the Hautes-Cotes de Beaune and Hautes-Cotes de Nuits, as well as some prime vineyard space in Savigny-les Beaune. Their methods are very traditional including strict adherence to organic farming, hand harvesting, use of native yeasts and long, slow and cool fermentations.  This particular wine comes from the Hautes-Cotes de Beaune, and the vineyards are in the hills just west of the village of Savigny-les Beaune.  Vines average 25 to 30 years of age, and the soil here is a mix of clay and limestone.  I recently enjoyed a bottle of this with a simple herb roasted chicken and roasted root vegetables, and I found the pairing to be just about perfect.

The wine was a pale, ruby color and the nose was pretty simple at first.  There was lots of cherry, a bit of earth and some leafy aromas coming out of the glass, and the palate was dominated by tangy cherry and cranberry notes.  If that’s all she had to offer, I would have been disappointed, but remember I said that these wines require patience so I poured another glass and let it sit while the chicken finished cooking.  After about 30 minutes and as my chicken was resting, I went back in for another sniff and taste, and the wine had magically transformed into something much more engaging and complex.  The red fruits were now more intense and perfumed, and now there was an almost black tea-like note to the nose with complex spices in the background.  I sipped the wine, and although light in texture, this was intense in flavor with tangy Bing cherry, redcurrant, Earl Grey tea and brown spice notes.  I was happy and madeeven happier once I served the meal and enjoyed another taste of the wine with the roasted chicken and root vegetables.  The brightness of the wine didn’t overwhelm the mellow flavors of the chicken, and the earthy, spicy notes worked wonderfully well with the sweet potatoes and squash.  It was a simple, yet delicious meal made magnificent by a humble, yet great bottle of wine. 

Bigger isn’t always better folks!  I love a thick, cowboy cut ribeye, but I also love a piece of fresh fish simply seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper, and I would guess that many of you are the same.  Yet, when it comes to wine, why do so many associate lightness with weakness?  Like music, wine doesn’t have to be loud to be good.  I love Led Zeppelin, much like I sometimes enjoy a big, in-your-face bottle of Zinfandel, Shiraz or Malbec; however, as I get older, I find myself listening to more jazz and classical music…….accompanied by a glass of Red Burgundy.  Turn down the music, pour a glass of Burgundy, be patient and enjoy. 

Why Can’t All Burgundy Be Like This

2004 Catherine et Dominique Derain Mercurey
“La Plante Chassey”
 I should begin this piece by stating that I am a wine retailer in Asheville, North Carolina and yes, I do stock this wine.  I am also a wine lover, and this blog is about sharing my love of wine and food.  Part of the piece is objective with information on the producer, where their vineyards are, age of vines, etc. and part is subjective with notes on what I smell and taste in the wine and why I think it is so good.  Take it for what it’s worth, but at the end of the day, I love writing and I especially love writing about good wine and food.
Dominique Derain
Dominique Derain is a former barrel maker who caught the winemaking bug back in the early 1980’s.  He began studying winemaking in Beaune in the mid 1980’s and there he met his wife Catherine.  After graduating, the couple purchased 5.5 hectares of vines in St. Aubin and began making wine, releasing their first wine in 1989.  Slowly, the two have added additional holdings including a small plot of vines in the village of Mercurey, in the Cote Chalonnaise just south of Rully.  The La Plante Chassey parcel is about 2 acres of 45 to 80 year old Pinot Noir, with a tiny amount of the ancient Burgundian varietal Pinot Beurrot, and the Derains currently make about 300 cases a year from it.
Pinot Noir just before harvest in Mercurey
Mercurey is often regarded as one of the top spots to find value in Red Burgundy, but quality is all over the map.  The Derains meet all of my standards – certified biodynamic, very low yields, hand harvesting and sorting, native/indigenous yeast fermentations, no filtering and very low levels of sulfur.  It is a true vin naturel, but there is nothing unhygienic or funky about this wine in the least.  I first enjoyed it with my wine drinking buddy John over a meal at The Admiral pretty soon after Table Wine opened.  The wine was absolutely stunning right out of the bottle and we actually shared some with the folks at the table next to us, who promptly asked what the hell it was and where they could get it.  At the time, I didn’t have room for the wine, and I pretty much forgot about until John re-presented it to me recently in the store.  Let’s just say it’s gotten even better.
Hail and oidium were a major problem for producers in 2004, but meticulous sorting and quality control amongst better producers resulted in some stunning, concentrated and structured wines, and this is one of them.  The wine is great right out of the bottle, but trust me, it changes and develops into something even better with about an hour of air.  It is one of those Red Burgundies that beguiles the senses and is somewhat beyond description.  There is a silky nature to this wine giving it a supple mouth feel and a detailed range of raspberry and cherry fruit with a touch of pomegranate. It has lovely spice notes and touch of lavender on the nose.
The importer for the wine is Jenny and Francois Selections, one of the foremost, progressive importers of natural wines from around the world.  Their wines are mainstays on restaurant wine lists throughout New York, where the company is based, and I think that their approach to selecting wines and producers is one that many Ashevilleans will find attractive.  I have a small amount of the wine available for purchase (remember, only 300 cases were made), and I think it would make a great accompaniment to a simple roasted pork loin or a seared duck breast.

Geeking Out On Marcillac

The Wines of Philippe Teulier – Domaine du Cros Marcillacs

bottle of Marcillac Fer Servadou

Wine adventurers, please take note, as these wines are unlike anything you’ve ever tried.  Marcillac is located in the western part of Auvergne, nestled in the mountain range known as the Massif Central.  Like many of France’s vineyards, those of Marcillac were planted by monks beginning in the 10th century.  Centuries later, it was the bourgeoisie from the nearby city of Rodez who took interest in and expanded the vineyards.  Unfortunately, the region experienced the devastation of phylloxera at the end of the 19th century and the economic problems of the early 20th century led to the great abandonment of the vineyards and an overall depopulation of the region.  Many moved to Paris to find work in restaurants and over time they opened their own bistros and began to bring the wines of Marcillac to the big city. 

Enter into the equation Domaine du Cros, owned and operated by Philippe Teulier, and now considered one of the top estates in the region.  Du Cros was part of the rebuilding and resurgence of Marcillac, and they own some of the oldest vines in the region.  Oh yeah, the vines, the grape…….what the hell is Marcillac?  Well, Marcillac is obviously the region and Fer Servadou is the grape.  Confused?  I understand, but stay with me here guys.  Fer Servadou is a relatively prolific grape throughout Southwestern France that wine expert Jancis Robinson describes as “full-bodied with dark ruby colors and concentrated fruit flavors of rhubarb, cassis and smoky herbs.”  The name Fer is French for iron and refers to the very hard and “iron like” wood of the vine’s above ground canopy.  It also just so happens that there is a lot of iron in the soil in Marcillac.  On to the wines, as Domaine du Cros makes two.

Fer Servadou
Domaine du Cros Marcillac
The estate’s “regular” wine………trust me, there’s nothing regular about this wine at all………….is simply labelled Marcillac.  The wine does possess one of the most beautiful, old school labels I’ve ever seen, but trust me folks, this is wild, unconventional wine at its finest.  Teulier farms organically, ferments with indigenous yeasts and bottles without filtering.  The nose is dominated by roasted herbs, iron minerality, pepper, meat juices and subtle red fruits.  It reminds me a bit of a Loire Valley Cab Franc or even a Mencia with its lively character.  I think it would be good with grilled meats, stews or braises, but I actually love drinking it just by itself.
old vine fer servadou
Du Cros Marcillac Vieilles Vignes consumed my McDuff
Philippe also makes a small amount of wine from his oldest parcel of vines that were planted back in the early 1930’s.  The wine is fermented in a combination of old oak barrels and chestnut, and it has a track record for aging very gracefully.  As great blogger David McDuff said, a 2002 vintage bottle of this exact wine that he consumed last August “reminded me, in beautiful terms, of why I go to the trouble of cellaring wine.”  In its youth, this wine is a bit raw and edgy to put it politely, with lots of peppery, minerally, bloody (from the iron soils) and herbal notes, but at about year 5, more of the fruit comes to the surface.  I personally haven’t had the opportunity to taste this wine with any age on it, but I’ll take Mr. McDuff’s word for it.  “Still vibrant in color, its aromas have developed, since its more prickly, peppery youth, to something that is more closely evocative of an old school Médoc wine with some bottle age under its belt.  There’s something about this old Marcillac, though, that’s much more enjoyable – and joyous – to drink than equally old Bordeaux. Maybe it’s that component of blood and iron, expressions of both terroir and the aptly named Fer Servadou so inimitable to good Marcillac. While there’s great bottle development here, there’s also plenty of fruit – blackberry and cassis, in particular – and a vitality of structure that suggests the wine could easily go another couple of years without losing stride.”  Thanks David for providing the excellent commentary.
When all is said and done, there are so many great wines available on the market today.  Some are definitley more fruit driven than those of Monsieur Teulier, but few possess the soul and character of these two.  I would be remiss to not thank Mr. Ed Addiss of Wine Traditions, a Virginia based importer who loves to “fly his freak flag” when it comes to selecting the wines for his portfolio.  Thank God there are brave souls like him supporting small family estates like this one who, much like Slow Foods proponents, strive to preserve the regional identity of their artisan agricultural products. 

Natural Chardonnay Insanity

2008 Domaine D’Octavin Chardonnay “Pamina”
Jura, France

I must admit that I’m not a huge Chardonnay fan, with a few exceptions including good White Burgundy and higher end California Chardonnay from the likes of Kistler and a few others.  This wine, however, nearly dropped me to my knees when I tasted it with the boys from Sour Grapes, an Asheville based distributor of wines from small family estates.  I had to do some more research and here’s what I found.

Winemakers Alice Bouvot and Charles Dagand create their biodynamic wines in the Arbois vineyards, a tiny plot in the super interesting French region of Jura. The region is famous for the vin jaune, a sherry-like concoction made with Savagnin grapes matured in barrels for several years under a naturally occurring film of yeast, during which time it develops rich, nutty flavors and the deep yellow color.  The Pamina is not a vin jaune, but instead is made and fermented traditionally.

The first thing to understand about the wine is that it is completely natural, meaning that all farming is done without the use of any chemical pesticides, fungicides or other poisons.  Equally important though, the wine is made without the addition of any flavor, color, aromatic or textural enhancers……….it’s basically good grapes and natural yeast bottled with minute amounts of sulfites.  It should definitely be consumed close to room temperature, because that’s where things get super interesting.  The nose of this wine reminds me so much of Corton-Charlemagne with a melange of liquid mineral, butterscotch, hazelnut and leesy richness.  It almost smells like it could be sweet or late harvest, but when it hits the palate, it’s amazingly fresh and precise with a 45+ second finish.  In a nutshell, if you love White Burgundy, but don’t love spending oodles of money, this is the wine for you.