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We're very happy to have new shipments from our favorite organic growers in Burgundy, including some fresh and delicious 2017s from our friend Jean-Claude Rateau in Beaune. Organic farming is difficult in Burgundy, or course, given the intense monoculture practiced there, the small size of each growers holdngs - sometimes only a few rows of vines in close proximity to others - and the financial risks of working without systemic chemicals in a region so prone to powdery mildew and other vine diseases. The good news is that more and more growers are abandonning the use of herbicides and returning to various types of plowing, or the use of specific cover crops between the vines, in order to bring the ecosystem of the soil back to life. The first in Burgundy to adopt Biodynamic farming in 1979, Jean Claude Rateau has always believed that the soils must be alive to ensure the healthy transfer of nutrients to the vines, especially important being the mycorrhizal funghi which assimilate phosphorous and live in symbiosis with the vines' roots. He has developed a plowing regimen that encourages the life of the soil, uses natural composts and biodynamic preparations and has a varied population of wild plants in the vineyards that harbor beneficial insects. Jean-Claude's techniques in the cellar also enable the production of real wines of terroir. Fermentations are solely with wild-yeasts and stems are included in proportion depending on the vintage. There are manual cap-punchings, but no attempt to over-extract. Aging is uniquely in used barrels, three to ten years old, and minimal SO2 is used. The 2017 whites from Rateau are simply delicious, fresh and bright with delightful fruit and the same can be said of his first bottlings of 2017 reds. For those with a cellar, the 2016 Rateau "Bressandes" will be a beautifully classic Burgundy when mature....
Jane et Sylvain Raphanau (their estate is simply called "Jane et Sylvain") produce tiny quantities of lovely terroir-expressive wines on their four hectares in and around Gevrey, certified organic since 2003. Their finest parcel is uniquely situated at the top southwest corner of 1er Cru Fontenys, separated only by a dirt track from Ruchottes - it's a great site producing a great Burgundy needing eight to ten years to reach maturity. Their 'village' Gevrey is particularly beautiful in 2014 and also a favorite is their lovely Côtes-de-Nuits Village from the "Queue de Hareng" parcel at the top of the slope between Fixin and Brochon. It's a superb Burgundy of terroir that will drink beautifully now with aeration. We were very happy to find Jane et Sylvain, who seem to belong more in Touraine than Gevrey-Chambertin – they're wonderful people, making honest Burgundies that deserve your attention!
Based in Beaune, Domaine Albert Morot produces wines from ten appellations from it's 8 hectares. The estate has made huge progress since agronomist Geoffroy Choppin, nephew of owner Francoise Choppin, took over direction of the vineyards in 2000, with organic conversion beginning in 2008 and full certification with the 2015 vintage. Hand harvesting, of course, and vinifications with wild yeasts followed by 13 months aging in their very cold cellar, with malos happening usually the following summer, with no racking. At our tasting with Geoffroy (and Boumba) we found the 2016s to be very elegant, classic Burgundies with a bit more weight than the Rateau wines, with saline stone and mineral flavors underlying the ripe fruit. The Beaune "Aigrots" Blanc, from a percel next to the "Clos des Mouches" was complex, beautifully balanced and long. We very much enjoyed the three reds offered today, each one with lovely fruit and terrific density and length, with the superb "Bressandes" (which won a gold medal at Millesime Bio) being a prime candidate for aging. And the "Bataillière-aux-Vergellesses" is quite interesting, being a monopole just above "Ile-des-Vergelesses." We urge you to try the well-priced Burgundies from this rapidly improving organic estate!
From two small parcels in "Aux Eletois" (below Grand Cru Griottes) and "les Epointures" (below 1er Cru Clos Prieur) on the more fine and aromatic side of Gevrey. The midweight palate is lithe, racy, and offers up vibrant flavors of dark fruits, crushed herbs, game, and salty soil notes. Great lifted acidity and core of minerality overlain by an assortment of wild berry fruits. This is another great example of the combination of perfume, pure fruit, and detailed earthiness that is a hallmark of the 2016 vintage. Great tension and verve and a bargain at the price. Wonderful with veau aux champignons. John McIlwain
Dark forest and hedge fruits on nose, earthy and brooding with game aromas. Taut and mineral, with a core of pungent soil notes of black tea, cherry pit, spice and stone on a dense mid-weight palate. Tightly wound, energetic, on the attack; savory and dark-fruited on the finish. This is a bit reserved at the moment and benefits from a substantial decant or 5-10 years in the cellar. John McIlwain (June 4, 2019) - What a difference a few months make. This Bressandes has uncoiled to reveal pure wild raspberry and red currant flavors, the nose has become more expressive, exhibiting more floral plum and spice notes. There's a quite a bit more charm here while the underlying balance remains impeccable. Tasted recently alongside another dozen Beaune 1ers, this showed exceptionally well. John McIlwain
The vines are in the lieu-dit "Queue de Hareng" below an old quarry at the top of the slope in Brochon, next to Fixin 1er Cru "la Perrière," on shallow red/brown soils of mountain silt and limestone pebbles over the limestone bedrock. Organic farming, wild-yeast fermentations with minimal SO2. The 2015 Jane et Sylvain Côte de Nuits-Villages is a superb and unusual Burgundy showing intense aromas of ripe strawberry and cherry with rose leaf, brown spice and herbal notes as well as dusty stone and mineral smells which are typical of this vineyard. With aeration the aromas become more pure and fruit-driven and the palate shows lovely black cherry, strawberry and red currant fruit, quite dense and ripe, with a finish that's extraordinarily long and pure. Decant 4 to 6 hours in advance if drinking now, or cellar for 3 to 5 years and drink till 2027. Highly recommended for those who enjoy some minerals in their Burgundy!
Jean-Claude Rateau makes lovely Biodynamic wines in the Hautes Côtes de Beaune in his east-facing vineyard of clay/limestone and marne soils. Quite racy and bright even in 2017, the wine shows subtle aromas of lemon, almond, stone, spiced pear and apple. Intense, very mineral palate with pear, citrus and stone flavors and terrific length. The antithesis of fat, oaky Chardonnays, this food friendly wine will accompany everything from oysters and grilled seafoods to roast chicken and mild cheeses. Delicious now or cellar for 5 to 8 years. This is a real Chardonnay of terroir and a great value! David Lillie
Permitted in Burgundy, but rarely seen on it's own, Pinot Blanc grown by Jean-Claude Rateau in the Hautes-Côtes-de-Beaune makes this lovely and versatile wine. The aromas are subtle and pleasant, with apple and pear, lemon zest, almond and herbal notes. The palate is silky and pure with white fruits and hints of anise and verbena, light but round and pretty. This is a perfect aperitif wine, and will accompany any fish or chicken dish, Asian foods and mild cheeses.
About a kilometer or two northwest of the Beaune 1er Crus, La Grande Châtelaine is a cooler site with soils comprised of clay over limestone. The 2014 Clos de la Grande Châtelaine has fresh, cool-toned aromatics of white flowers, nectarine, rainwater, almond and pear skin. The medium-bodied palate is a little warmer toned offering flavors of nectarine, white peach, almond, wet stone and crushed herb with a fairly savory finish. The ripeness of the vintage makes this a little more giving than one would typically expect for the cooler high-altitude climat. This is generous and makes for a lovely quaffer, as well as a beautiful partner with shellfish, fish in sauce, white meats and milder cheeses. Lovely wine! John McIlwain
Beaune 1er Cru "Les Coucherias" is high on the slope on the site of an old quarry and much of the sub-soil is limestone tailings, permitting root penetration and drainage, with a topsoil of mixed clay and limestone "marnes blanches." In biodynamic agriculture since 1979, the vineyard is a south-facing semi-circle—a very warm spot. The 2017 has a pale green gold robe. The nose offers an array of stone fruit and citrus peel aromas with a hint of mineral spice. The mid-weight, punchy palate shows a melange of stone fruit and green apple flavors with a pungent sense of minerality driving the long, concentrated finish. There's plenty going on here with ripe fruit and floral overtones vying with an overt stoniness for attention. Just cracking with a wild mushroom risotto, and a natural match for chicken, roasted cod, or even blanquette de veau. Give a quick decant now or better still in 2-3 years and beyond. John McIlwain
Les Aigrots is a 1er cru located next to the famed Clos des Mouches on the center of the slope on the Pommard side of the village. The 2016 has a pale gold robe. Orange blossom, white apricot, short crust, a touch of tropical fruit on the nose. The mid-weight palate offers an assortment of stone fruit, green apple, and yellow fruit flavors with a good balance between ripe Chardonnay fruit and a broad, salty minerality. This skews more Corton than Puligny in character with a broadness on the palate, but has nice drive on the finely layered finish. The suppleness calls for richer dishes, standing up quite nicely to Anson Mills polenta (finished with plenty of butter and Parmigiano Reggiano) with porcini ragu and should work quite nicely with monkfish, lobster, or even blanquette de veau. John McIlwain
Jean-Claude says this wine, sourced from lieux-dits Beaux and Bons on the Pommard side of Beaune, always shows aromas of "cerises noires" (black cherries). There is indeed a beautiful nose of bright red cherry with some eucalyptus and floral notes as well. Fresh acidity and very pretty fruit. Truly an elegant and lean expression, without ripe extracted fruit or any oak notes. Fine tannin and a long finish.
Jean-Claude Rateau's domaine has been Biodynamic since 1979 and produces lovely, light-bodied, old fashioned Burgundies. The 2017 Beaune Les Prévoles (a lieu-dit below 1er Cru Chouacheux and les Tuvilains) shows beautiful aromas of tart cherry and red currant fruit with rose, orange peel and earth. The palate is chalky, ripe and sapid while remaining light and fresh with earthy cherry and raspberry liqueur, silky and fresh with a long finish of mineral flavors, citrusy acids and berry fruits. Serve this delicious wine a bit cool with any mild chicken or white meat dish and goat cheeses, morbier, tomme de savoie. It's lovely now and will develop nicely over the next five to eight years. David LIllie
From la Bataillère lieu-dit Monopole located within Les Vergelesses and above Ile des Vergelesses. Medium dark ruby robe. Dark berry fruit and black cherry, loamy earth, and hint of wood smoke on the nose. Heady spice aromas follow. Earthy, stony flavors vie with black fruits, iron, blackberry seed, for attention. Punchy minerality and brambly fruit close out the long, lingering sapid finish. This has great counterpoint between savory and pure fruit notes and would pair beautifully with squab, braised duck legs, or veal with morels. I'd give this a couple years for the elements to knit. This is very Savigny in character. I like the tension and frank minerality here and can’t wait for this to grace the table with rustic autumnal fare. John McIlwain
Cool-toned and spicy on the nose; aromas of violets, blackberry, brown spice, black tea, underbrush,and iron feature with hints of bramble on the edges. The palate offers flavors of ripe black cherry, iron, animale, and plum skin, with a distinct and frank earthiness framing the pure fruit. The structure offers a nice balance and while not as generous as the Bressandes, it is by no means stern or foreboding. There is plenty of concentration here and while there is a fair amount of charm, the underlying material should integrate with a couple of years of cellaring and shine for 5-10 years and beyond. There’s more energy and flair to these Morots than I recall and while I love the vintage 2016, I suspect that the switch to organic farming is really driving this. I’m eager to see where this goes. On Day 2, more hedge fruits and cassis notes emerge and the wine gains a suppleness underlain by a simple, long earthiness, still youthful, but this has a lot of character and dare I say it, soul. John McIlwain
From an organically farmed 1.27 hectare plot in the center of Bressandes. Dark ruby robe to meniscus. Deeply pitched, dark-fruited, brambly nose with notes of oolong tea and game with hints of dusty violets. The mid-weight palate shows a good concentration, with ripe plum and blackberry fruit flavors wrapped around a core of punchy minerality and spice leading to a sapid and mouthwatering finish. This has that savory/hedge fruit/and stony character of Bressandes and offers a lot of charm and terroir delineation without a crazy tariff. A knockout with poulet grand-mère and cheese afterwards, but I would enjoy this with pork and mustard, or soy sauce chicken. This is a fine value and a worth addition to the table and the cellar!
From 45 to 60 year-old vines, certified organic, mostly in En Pallud (below 1er Cru les Corbeaux). The 2014 Gevrey shows a light red/black color, aromas of morello cherry, red currant and raspberry with hints of earth, stone, violets, black pepper and licorice. The palate is dense but light with cherry, red-currant, earth, citrus and mineral flavors with berry fruits and saline minerals lingering in the finish. Ripe but not a fruit-bomb - a red Burgundy of terroir that is delicious now, but should become a beautiful, old-fashioned wine when mature, best perhaps 2021 - 2030. On day two the wine has deepened with very sappy black and red fruits, quite dense and earthy. Lovely wine from living soils and quite a different style than modern Burgundies. David Lillie
Jane et Sylvain have a superb, tiny parcel of Gevrey 1er Cru "Fonteny," high up in the southwest corner, separated from Grand Cru Ruchottes by a dirt track, certified organic. Beautifully balanced for a 2015 and built to age, the wine shows subtle, complex black fruits with hints of spice, citrus and earth. The palate is supple and well-structured with red and black fruits backed by firm acidity and mineral flavors that continue in the long finish. Certainly enjoyable now with a long decant, best held for five to eight years then enjoy until 2035. Lovely wine. David Lillie
The Hasard's have 1/2 hectare in Rully with 35 year-old organic vines planted on clay and limestone soils. The grapes are hand-harvested, fermented with native yeasts, and aged in barrel. The 2016 is racier than past vintages, with tightly knit, beam-like acidity springing forward upon opening. Aromas of earthy Bosc pear, lime flower, salty river stone, and soft toasty notes from new wood use. The palate is austere and lighter than the 2015, with flavors of white peach, lime zest, mint, and stone on the finish. The flavors and texture become more supple on the second day, showing hints of smoked pineapple, white flower, seashell, and fleshy pear. A lovely wine in its youth that becomes more expressive and elegant with air, this should be beautiful in 5-10years. Amanda Bowman
Certified organic, from a limestone terroir rich in seashells, with iron-rich soil, just below the 1er Cru Clos des Miglands. Very low yields, 80% de-stemmed, wild-yeast fermentation, one-year aging in 40% new fine-grained barrels, bottled by gravity, no fining or filtration. The 2016 Marcoeurs shows subtle aromas of black cherry with plum skin, earth, graphite and hints of violet and citrus. The palate is very mineral and saline with flavors of earth and tart black cherry that are intense and long, finishing with firm acidity. This shows the intensity of the 2016 Burgundies and is delicious now with a long decant, or cellar for five years and enjoy until 2030. David Lillie
From the biodynamically farmed high altitude Les Sous Roches lieu-dit on the northwest slope in Monthélie composed of thin stony clay soils over limestone. 2016 is a great vintage for the Monthélie "Les Sous Roches" from Alain and Isabelle Hasard showing the classic structure and density of this excellent vintage. The wine shows vibrant aromas of fraises des bois and cherry liqueur with earth, mint and citrus. The palate is dense and sapid with bright blackberry and black cherry fruit, spice, earth and firm acidity. Impressive length with sappy black fruits, mineral flavors and refreshing acidity. Delicious now if a bit intense?perhaps open the night before and re-cork?best to cellar 5 years and drink until 2030+. Serve with mushroom pappardelle, roast veal, grilled meats. David Lillie