January 20th, 2017
Marc Pesnot “La Boheme” Melon de Bourgogne, 2015
Marc Pesnot organically farms 13 hectares of fifty year old Melon de Bourgogne vines near the city of Nantes, on the western edge of the Loire. His old vines thrive in schist rich soils, adding depth and character to his wines.
Harvest is by hand at maximum ripeness. The fruit undergoes a slow manual pressing and rests on its lees for at least 9 months. There’s lots of refreshing acidity in this wine, tempered by pears, green apple, crushed stones and a touch of creaminess. Pairs nicely with shellfish, salads, chicken, and light appetizers.
Château de Brézé Saumur Blanc ‘Clos du Midi’ 2015
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.
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. This being Chenin, also expect honey, dried fruit, a touch of lemon…it’s a gorgeous wine. Pair it with lobster, shrimp, crab, scallops – all kinds of seafood really, salads with simple viniagrette; it’s versatile and a crowd pleaser.
Fun facts about tuffeau: In addition to being used for the châteaux of royalty and nobility that line the banks of the Loire River, tuffeau also made up the homes of the general population. Carved out of cliff sides and tunneled underground, the snaking network of troglodyte caves was turned into homes for artists, monks, craftspeople, soldiers, farmers, etc. The greatest concentration of troglodyte caves is in Saumur. During the Norman invasions of the 9th and 10th centuries, the caves provided the region with defense and escape routes. The cool, damp, consistent temperature of the caves also makes them great for storing wine (of course) and for mushroom beds.
Piaugier Sablet Cotes-du-Rhone Villages, 2014
Notes from the importer: Alphonse Vautour made his wine in a cellar at the top of a little hill to the south of Sablet – called ‘Les Briguières’ – where he owned 6 hectares of vines. The winery was named ‘Ténébi’, after the old owner of the house.
Alphonse had to go down the hill, his mules loaded with barrels, to wait for the wine merchant to come by. If the merchant didn’t come, or didn’t buy his wine, he had to climb back up with his reluctant mules. So in 1947 he decided to build a new winery on the road below, where the Piaugier cellars are to this day.
Jean-Marc Autran, Alphonse’s great-grandson, took over the winery from his father Marc in 1985. He acquired more vineyards and, with the assistance of his wife Sophie, developed the sale of his wines in bottle. The winery soon became too small and they extended it in 1995 to enable them to mature and store the wines in the best possible conditions. Today, Sophie and Jean-Marc Autran cultivate 3.5 hectares within the Gigondas Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée area, 12.5 hectares in the Sablet AOC and 14 hectares of Côtes du Rhône vineyards. Farming is organic.
Sablet is a blend of Grenache and Syrah from 12.5 hectares of vines that are approximately 25 years old, grown on clay, with limestone and sand. Grapes are hand harvested, destemmed, and fermented in tank with natural yeast. It’s matured for 2 years in used barrique as well as concrete tank, and is the only wine here that is filtered.
It’s bold, spicy, perfumed, with warm-stone minerality and a long, elegant finish.
Claude Courtois Racines 2013, Soings-en-Sologne, Loire valley
Notes from the importer: Claude Courtois has created a small farm which exempliﬁes what biodynamics is all about in terms of biodiversity and self-sufficiency, although he does not consider himself to be a biodynamic grower. He farms a balanced & completely chemical free 13 hectares of vines in the heart of the VDP Sologne. Courtois also grows organic wheat, which he feeds to his cows. “Nothing comes into my vineyard,” he says, meaning no chemicals ever. He has created a well-balanced, bio-diversity with trees, fruit trees, vines, woods, ﬁelds. No pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers, or synthetic chemicals of any kind are allowed on the vines or in the soil of the vineyards. He has his own methods for promoting the diverse life of the soil. The grapes—Gamay, Cabernet Franc, Côt (Malbec), Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc & Pineau d’ Aunis—are harvested by hand & only indigenous yeast are used during fermentation. Claude regards the soil on his farm as a living organism. He lives in harmony with nature & the wines he crafts are a pure & vibrantly alive testament to outstanding Biodynamic winemaking.
Racine is a blend of Cabernet franc, Malbec (Côt), Cabernet Sauvignon from 5-15 year old vines grown on clay and limestone. The grapes are hand-harvested, destemmed and gently pressed. Only natural yeasts are used and the juice undergoes an extended maceration. Vinified in barrel and then aged for 18 months in oak.
Tasting Note: Deep purple in the glass with a dark amber rim. The nose is redolent with pounded stones, plum, cherry pit, warm iron and damp chalk. The palate has great depth of dried currant, fig and plum hewn to a deep mineral bed. The wine has lovely acidity, a terrific structure and finishes with red berry fruit and mineral zest.
Pairing: Pan seared duck breast, grilled streak, rabbit stew over polenta and cassoulet.
All the complexity that biodiversity can provide a wine. Racines is Claude’s attempt at creating a wine the way Burgundy was made a hundred years ago, from many different varieties… Racines is a rediscovery, a realization of what great wine once was!