Thursday, January 30, 2020

Burgundy January 2020

After Cote Rotie and on the way to Paris we had to stop in Burgundy.

For the record we stopped for lunch in Macon, in an amazing castle, very authentic. It felt really old and had a lot of charm. I recommend:

The restaurant "Un Passage au Ch√Ęteau" in Varennes-les-Macon

In Burgundy, unfortunately, most winemakers were on vacation (gone skiing?).
We were however extremely happy to taste wines at 3 different properties :

This trip again I convinced myself that there is a big difference (in price) and in quality between the white 1er Cru from Burgundy and the "village" ( aka no-cru version). The price is double but the quality is totally worth the price difference (usually 50-60eur a bottle though).
On the other side I am not certain the Grand Crus ( about 100 EUR and up) are worth the price difference vs a 1er Cru. Perhaps as I age (like a wine ?!) I will be able to tell the difference more between the 1er Cru and Grand Cru, who knows. 

The other thing we learned (reminded ourselves in fact) is that in Burgundy referencing to a domain by the last name is confusing. Often the entire family lives in the same village. Each cousin has the same last name. And therefore there are multiple Chavy domains. And in fact more often than not there are multiple domains with the same last name. You HAVE to remember the first names in order to properly reference a domain you want to visit or try.

Domaine Quentin Jeannot

Quentin has joined his family in 2015 and started working with his parents on the property.
Quentin welcomed us at his house on Saturday at 5pm. It turned out it was his birthday that day! So Happy Birthday to Quentin ( January 11th).
We loved his wines. His 1er Cru Reds are very well priced around 25eur ( particularly cheap for Burgundy !). We, however, preferred his 1er Cru Whites. We got a case. (My particular taste is that I prefer New World Pinot Noirs vs the old world Pinot Noirs. However the Burgundy whites I think are the most elegant and refined and I usually love them. )

(We were also lucky that for Quentin's birthday he had a friend over who works with the Domain Rayas owner and after chatting for an hour his friend opened and had us taste also a Rayas Chateau-Neuf-du-Pape from 2004 and WOW, what a wine !!

 He also opened a Domaine des Tours, Vaucluse village. It is a wine also made by Chateau Rayas winemaker but with no particular AOC and honestly for 60-70$ it's probably one of the best prices-to-quality I ever tried. You have to try it !
Rayas Domaine des Tours Reserve Rouge, IGP Vaucluse, France

We also tried a Bandol, after all of these wines. Unfortunately, after the Rayas it was hard to keep up with the Bandol)

Cave de Chassagne Montrachet
On Sunday not many places were opened so we tried some wine at the Chassagne-Montrachet village wine shop, called Cave de Chassagne Montrachet. Most of them were uninteresting, I think not worth the trip. Got some 1er Cru. 

Domain Philippe Chavy
Here we met with Philippe who was also very kind to welcome us on a Sunday morning at 10am. He is mostly focused on making wine and he honestly told us he is not great with people. However, he was extremely nice to us and we had a great tasting. I think he is great with people. 
We loved his 1er Cru wines again, some more than others. We will certainly go back to get more.
What stood out to me was his barrel in which he had changed the end wood piece for a piece of plexiglass:

I find it fascinating to see what is happening inside a wine barrel while it matures. You can see on the bottom of the yeast and deposits. And you can see the color. Phillippe Chavy changed the wood end for plexiglass at both ends and put a light behind it. He said the wine quality was not affected enough for him to notice (he keeps it mostly in the dark and oak amount is probably similar. 

And last but not least here are a few more useful charts I got from various walls, for general wine culture and reference:

Cote Rotie

We have liked Cote Rotie wines for long time. They have this amazing smokey, roasted taste to them. In general, we really like Cote du Rhones but Cote Rotie stands out as a particular terroire.

In the US they are very expensive. So we decided to go to the source. We have tried a few over the years, and we kept track via Vivino which ones were the best, and we went straight to the winery to taste and buy our favorites.

Cote Rotie is around the little town of Ampuis, about 30 min by car from Lyon. ( We recommend taking the TGV, high-speed train, from Paris to Lyon. Careful, make sure you chose gare Perrache if you want to arrive in the center of Lyon. And in Lyon, we loved the restaurant, Jeremy Galvan! A MUST try! It is very reasonably priced for what it is (50% cheaper than in Paris ?) and it is extremely creative and interesting. ) We rented a car from the train station to go to Ampuis.

 A map of the vineyards of Cote Rotie from Gerin, with the Gerin wine provenance.

 Cote Rotie is interesting because the vineyards are on the steep granitic slopes of the Rhone river. They are extremely steep and can only be cultivated by hand (hence the wine price). And because they are also in full sun in very rocky soil, in southern France, they get a lot of heat. It is a very particular terroir.

In Cote Rotie we visited:

Domaine Gerin
It is one of the best rated Cote Roties. It is a familial business. We tasted with one of the 2 sons (and the father, the wine maker who built the property was also around working.). They were very nice and easy to get an appointment.
They have 4 different Cote Roties.

We loved Champin le Seigneur, their entry-level Cote Rotie.
La Vialliere was sold out.
Les Grandes Places was also amazing but more expensive.
We also liked their Saint Joseph.
I strongly recommend a visit.

The view from Gerin's winery door in Ampuis, towards some Cote Rotie vineyards behind Ampuis.

Domaine du Monteillet

After Gerin we went to visit the Domaine du Monteillet, about 30 min south following the Rhone in Chavanay. Their Cote Roties were also excellent ( but I preferred Champin le Seigneur at a similar price level). They are also known for the Cuvee du Papi wine. Many people in Burgundy and Cote Rotie have mentioned to us this wine later when we mentioned this domaine. However, not sure if we tasted wrong, but it didn't stand out to us at all.
To me the domain stands out though for the view, a must visit and see!

We have lunch at the Bistro de Serine in Ampuis. Decent meal but maybe avoid the deer.

After lunch, we had a meeting with Guigal. Guigal is probably the largest and the most famous winery and wine merchant in the region. We had tried a few famous wines from them before but most people don't appreciate large operations and prefer family wineries.

We, however, went in with an open mind.  We had set up the meeting some time prior. Guigal only welcomes professionals but we are all in luck: Guigal is opening an American-style wine tasting room in a few months. We had the privilege to visit it while it is still under construction:

I believe this is a particularly good move for the winery. People will be able to make their own opinions on their wines, first hand. And of course, you will be able to buy it directly from them.

Overall we were extremely impressed with the Guigal winery in a few different ways.

  1. Most important: the wine quality. Yes, they make a lot of wine (4 million bottles alone of their 7eur Cote du Rhone. They buy the juice from different wineries and assemble it through a long process where the Guigal patriarch himself works daily from 5am until the end of the day). But it is by far the best 7eur wine we tried in a long time. ( We love Cote du Rhone, so maybe we are a little biased.). We were lucky to try about 30 wines from Guigal, with one of their winemakers. And honestly, they had amazing wines at all price ranges.
  2. Their operation: they do everything with 25 full-time employees! The winery is as automated as can be. And when the grapes arrive from the trucks during harvest, Mr. Marcel Guigal, the patriarch personally checks every grape bundle, while his son operates the sorting machine.
  3. For the longest story, the present owner's father, Etienne Guigal, had started working in Cote Rotie for another family (Vidal-Fleury) at pure entry-level. And he raised through the ranks, started his own winery, and bought out his first employer later on (when Vidal-Fleury's own family didn't want to continue the business). Guigal has therefore bought slowly, when it made sense, a lot of other wineries in the region.
  4. And recently they acquired Chateau de Nalys, a Chateau Neuf du Pape. This winery was owned by a French insurance group, and we had the privilege to also taste their 1st wine, I believe 2017, under the Guigal control. And we loved it.
  5. Some insider knowledge: they keep their wines in 85% humidity at 13 degrees C.
  6. They keep all their wines at least 3 years in barrels, in their wine cave, without opening the barrels. Their opinion is that properly capped with a wood cork and a cotton rag, once the barrels lose a little bit of volume via evaporation, the vacuum created will create an equilibrium and no more will evaporate and no oxygen will get in.
Long story short, we loved their wines. 
Wine tasting in the Guigal wine cellar.

We really found great ratio of price to quality in:
  • Lieu-Dit Saint Joseph 30eur ( it's Saint Joseph from the Saint Joseph town).
  • Chateau de Nalys 50eur ( like the Janasse) white
  • Chateau de Nalys 50eur, red also. A lot of olives and black fruits. An old vineyard!/
  • La Dorian 62eur, 5 nicest vineyards in Condrieu blend.
  • Cote du Rhone 7eur (the 7eur one, yes ! we got a case). 50% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre, 45% Grenache
  • Chateau d'Ampuis 75eur ( we tried a 2009 and we loved it, it has to age!) assemblage of 7 vineyards.
Other wines we loved but were out of our price range:
  • Hermitage Ex Voto 2017, 180eur, very long in the mouth
  • Chateau D'Ampuis 2009 - probably one of the best wines I EVER HAD!
  • La Turque 2015, I think it needs to age longer but it's already amazing. It's one of their famous 4 vineyards.

Guigal keeps most of its wines in barrels for 3 years.

Guigal uses bigger and bigger vats to assemble the Cote du Rhone.

We also visited Bonserine but their wines are not much my style.

We also discovered Condrieu, which I didn't' know about. It is a little south of Ampuis, same type of terroire as Cote Rotie, but it is a white wine. All Viognier grapes. Apparently, Viognier would make it very soft and round , and this is why most wine makers chose to make Condrieu more acidic, mineral. We haven't tried a Condrieu were the strengh of the Viognier was used and I wish we had. Somebody should try this.

By the way, Condrieu nearly dissapeared after the Second World War. The terroire being steep it can only be cultivated with difficulty by hand, which makes the bottles very expensive (50eur + ). And after the Second World War people didn't know about Condrieu and the wine wasn't selling. Luckily it was saved :)

The best Condrieu we had was at Guigal though :) Note taken!