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THIS ISSUE'S REVIEWS

August 20, 2019 Issue

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FRANCE

Bordeaux:

White:

Chateau Plessis, Entre-Deux Mers (Bordeaux, France) Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($20):  Lemon creme and melon aromas lead to a bright tart lemon palate with a creamy entry and a laser focused acidic finish that lasts.  Simple in profile, but perfectly delivered.  
90 Rich Cook Aug 20, 2019

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Burgundy:

Red:

Maison Louis Latour, Côteaux Bourguignons (Burgundy, France) Pinot Noir “Les Pierres Dorées” 2017 ($26, Louis Latour, USA):  Côteaux Bourguignons is a relatively new appellation, replacing Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire, an appellation I’ve never seen in the U.S., perhaps because a “grand ordinary” wine is hard to sell.  Grapes for this appellation can come from anywhere in Burgundy, from Beaujolais in the south to Irancy in the north.  Pinot Noir and Gamay are the two chief grapes allowed for red or rosé, though less-well known ones, such as César, are also allowed.  From a practical point of view, it allows Beaujolais producers to now label their wines as Côteaux Bourguignons to take advantage of the cachet of Bourgogne.  To what extent they will do it remains to be seen.  In any case, Maison Louis Latour, one of Burgundy’s star producers, is using the appellation for their new project, planting Pinot Noir in Beaujolais.  Latour has been making Valmoissine -- a stylish Pinot Noir-based wine outside of Burgundy in the south of France -- for decades.  Now, they show it can be done in southern Beaujolais, the part known as Pierres Dorées, named for the golden color of the limestone rocks.  The soil there is closer in composition to that found in the Côte d’Or as opposed to the granite that is common in the cru of Beaujolais.  Earthy nuances complement juicy flavors in this mid-weight wine. The barest hint of tannic bitterness in the finish is a welcome component.  It’s a perfect choice for a simple take-out or oven-roasted chicken. 
90 Michael Apstein Aug 20, 2019

White:

William Fevre, Saint-Bris (Burgundy, France) 2018 ($25, Maison Marques et Domaines): Saint-Bris, formerly known as Sauvignon de Saint Bris before it was elevated to appellation d’origine controllée (AOC) status, is curious and unique in Burgundy.  Located in the far north, near Chablis and covering a mere 200 acres, it requires the use of Sauvignon Blanc, not Chardonnay, for its wines.  A quick look at the map might explain why.  It is barely 80 miles from Sancerre, home to Sauvignon Blanc-based wines. Producers insist that the same Kimmeridgian limestone of the nearby Chablis area imparts a lovely mineral component to the wine.  That is certainly apparent is this one from William Fevre, one of Chablis’ top producers.   They have crafted a stunning example of Saint-Bris.  Tightly wound, it delivers its cutting stony character after sitting in the glass for 15 minutes.  A subtle bite of Sauvignon Blanc reminds you of the grape, but the overall impression is one of minerals, not grassiness.  
90 Michael Apstein Aug 20, 2019

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Rhône:

Red:

Domaine Georges Vernay, Côte-Rôtie (Rhône Valley, France) “Blonde du Seigneur” 2016 ($100):  A gorgeous, graceful wine, this doesn’t push too hard in any respect, but is so beautifully proportioned and complex that it comes off ultimately as effortlessly impressive.  Wonderfully perfumed, this is really only medium-bodied, but that’s hardly a knock on the wine, which offers a host of expressive flavors with floral notes, tastefully ripe fruit, alluring spices and light toast all working to leave a fully satisfying impression at the end of a long finish.  Complete and convincing in every respect.  
96 Michael Franz Aug 20, 2019

Yves Cuilleron, Côte-Rôtie (Rhône Valley, France) “Lieu-Dit Bonnivière” 2017 ($80):  A couple of Cuilleron’s releases from Côte-Rôtie were “just” good in their 2017 renditions (“Bassenon” and “Madinière,” both checking in at 92 points), but this was fantastic, showing extremely expressive aromatics and then backing them up with concentrated fruit and plenty of spicy wood.  A powerful wine that really lives up to the intense profile of the vintage, yet retains the magical charm of Côte-Rôtie on account of its lovely perfume and overall balance and proportionality.  Powerful but still amazingly pure, this is a great accomplishment. 
96 Michael Franz Aug 20, 2019

Domaine Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond, Côte-Rôtie (Rhône Valley, France) “Côte Rozier” 2017 ($70):  A terrific wine with impressive density and depth of flavor, this is a powerful wine with wood to match, yet it wears its oak effortlessly, and already seems to be absorbing it into the fruit.  The “Le Rochains” bottling in this vintage is nearly as good in 2017, so don’t hesitate to try that if you can, but Côte Rozier is the pick of the litter in this amazing vintage.  
95 Michael Franz Aug 20, 2019

Domaine Pierre Jean Villa, Côte-Rôtie (Rhône Valley, France) “Carmina” 2016 ($85, Vintage ’59 Imports):  This young domaine is only a decade old, but the wines are very fine and entirely worth a search.  This is the lighter of two excellent Côte-Rôtie bottlings, though “lighter” is certainly no knock on the wine, as Côte-Rôtie’s claim to worldwide greatness is all about complexity and grace (like Burgundy unlike Hermitage).  Made from two plots of vines averaging roughly 60 and 10 years of age, 60% of this was made from whole clusters, though the grape and stem tannins are exceptionally well managed and there’s virtually no sensory evidence of stem tannins at all.  The aromas are wonderfully expressive, with vivid floral notes giving way to very pure fruit scents.  Medium-bodied, with fresh acidity and very pure fruit flavors firmed by ultra-fine tannins, this is a beauty that shows why Villa loves the vintage.  When I first met him in April of 2017, long before this was bottled, he told me that 2016 would be extraordinary on account of a perfect end to the growing season.  Moderate daytime heat, cool nights and no threat of rain meant that he could pick all of his plots exactly when he thought the grapes were optimally mature.  His sense of optimal maturity has certainly borne out.  
93 Michael Franz Aug 20, 2019

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