Dec. 8, 2017
Notes from the importer: The cellars of Champagne Guy Larmandier are located in the village of Vertus at the southern base of the Cote des Blancs. This estate owns 9 hectares of vineyards, all located within the Cote des Blancs and distributed amongst the Grand Cru rated villages of Chouilly and Cramant and the 1er Cru rated vineyards of Vertus and Cuis.
Guy Larmandier established this domaine which, following his death, is now supervised by his wife, Colette, and their two children, Francois and Marie-Helene. Harvest is conducted manually, the Champagnes are aged a minimum of 36 months on the lees and the Champagnes destined for the US market are disgorged on order and receive a minimal dosage so as to emphasize the purity and finesse of this special terroir.
Sporting a more markedly floral, chalky nose than the classic disgorgement, this new “Brut Zero” version of the Vertus 1er Cru has a similarly chiseled frame to the Cramant. However, it is less obviously bone-dry on the palate—the ample character the village manifesting itself in a rounder overall texture. The wine is firm without being hard, with a great interplay of supple fruit and intense stoniness.
Arnaud Lambert Brézé ‘Clos du Midi’ Saumur Blanc 2016
Château de Brézé has been around since at least the 15th century, when it was served to royalty and held in the same regard as Château d’Yquem. In the 1600s, the white wines of Château de Brézé were known throughout Europe as Chenin de Brézé. Recently, the ‘Chateau’ bit has been dropped from the name and it’s now simply Bréze. How very Cher.
In 2009, the new owner of the estate asked Yves Lambert and his son, Arnaud, from Domaine de Saint-Just, to manage the estate. They got a 25 year lease and began converting the estate to organic farming. In a little less than a decade, they’ve restored the wines to the heights they achieved centuries ago.
‘Clos du Midi’ is 100% Chenin Blanc from the colder sites on on the Brézé Hill. The upper section of the hill is sandy, while the bottom is richer in clay. Both are atop tuffeau, the chalky limestone rock made up of compressed marine organisms that lived in floating colonies in the prehistoric Turonian era. The differing soil types, coupled with the limestone, create a wine of great tension and depth, with a rounded palate punctuated by lively acidity, and balanced with notes of honey, dried fruit, and touch of lemon…it’s a gorgeous wine. Pair it with lobster, scallops, salmon – all kinds of seafood really – or roasted poultry, pork chops, terrines…goat cheese…it’s quite versatile!
Domaine Gerard Metz Pinot Noir Cuvée Pierric 2015
Domaine Gérard Metz is a 12 hectare estate in the Vosges mountains of Alsace. The domaine grows Alsatian varieties, such as Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner, Riesling, Muscat & Pinot Noir. Farming is as organic as possible, but they are not certified; harvest is by hand.
Eric Casimir married into the Metz family and is now the winemaker. He’s a 3rd generation winemaker from Champagne, so his crémants are things of wonder.
Cuvée Pierric is made with grapes from 30-year-old south-west facing vines located
in Itterswiller. The grapes are hand-picked, sorted, and fully destemmed. The wine then spends about 12 months in oak casks.
This is a wine that can be aged up to 10 years, so if we’re going to drink it now, it should be decanted. It’s silky, elegant, earthy, mineral-laden…it’s Alsatian Pinot Noir.
Frank Cornelissen Rosso del Contadino 13th edition (2015)
For this vintage, Frank Cornelissen decided not to make his popular Susucaru Rosato and to instead put the fruit into Contadino, which is a blend of mostly Nerello Mascalese (85%) with other local varieties from old-vine vineyards: Nerello Capuccio, Allicante Boushet, Minella nera, Uva Francesa and Minella bianco. We might like this latest edition best of all. It’s still got that wild, volcano-infused personality, but this 2015 isn’t so funky as previous vintages; as Cornelissen hones his craft, his wines become more structured, more elegant, more expressive. This one is a beauty.
Here’s some background: Frank Cornelissen was a Belgian wine novice in the year 2000 when he landed on the side of a volcano in Sicily, and made a big splash in the natural wine world. Until then, Etna wines were mostly sold in bulk, and certainly weren’t being taken seriously. Cornelissen, along with Andrea Franchetti of Passopisciaro and Marc de Grazia of Tenuta delle Terre Nere, were newcomers bringing attention to the potential of Etna wines. Since then he’s evolved and learned from his sometimes combustible environment. He mixes the modern with an unrivaled minimalist ethos; from the producers website:
Our farming philosophy is based on our acceptance of the fact that man will never be able to understand nature’s full complexity and interactions. We therefore choose to concentrate on observing and learning the movements of Mother Earth in her various energetic and cosmic passages and prefer to follow her indications as to what to do, instead of deciding and imposing ourselves. Consequently this has taken us to avoiding all possible interventions on the land we cultivate, including any treatments, whether chemical, organic, or biodynamic, as these are all a mere reflection of the inability of man to accept nature as she is and will be.
Cornelissen has 15 high-elevation hectares on the side of the mountain, 12 are planted to vine, 1 to olives. Biodiversity is key, and local fruit trees are interplanted with the vines, which probably keep the kept bees happy. New plantings are via selection massale, from pre-phylloxera vines. Yields are low.