Etienne Oudart Champagne--Brut Référence ($50.99)
"Jacques Oudart belongs without any doubt to the upcoming stars of the Champagne area. The Oudart Family has been involved in Champagne making since the late 1950’s. They own 22 acres spread mainly over 2 regions: Vallee de la Marne and the Epernay area. This is definitively a major asset as it gives Jacques the possibility to blend all 3 grape varietals and still have the influence of all the various terroirs.
Jacques Oudart is very meticulous about winemaking and insists on extending his Champagne aging in order to hit the perfect ripeness when the bottle reaches the consumer.
Champagne Oudart’s trademark is to create elegant and fine wines. Most of the cuvee blend uses Chardonnay for its strength, Pinot Meunier for the fruit and Pinot Noir to add personality.
Bright gold color with some note of copper. On the tasting aromas of toast, brioche and hazelnuts appear. Long aromatic persistence in the mouth."
This Champagne is produced sustainably with minimal chemical intervention. The production is relatively small at 25,000 bottles per year. I sometimes find Champagne to be too "yeasty" tasting, but this one strikes a nice balance with the fruit and acidity. I find that it is great value for money, and it's nice to be able to support a smaller winemaker. I would much rather drink Oudart than Moët or Veuve.
Nadine Ferrand Macon Solutre Pouilly ($22.99)
"Nadine is an amazing person and winemaker. She has an energy and determination that is rarely seen. Since 1984, Nadine has continued the family tradition of winemaking established three generations ago. Nadine took over the estate in 2000 when her husband passed away. In a very competitive environment, she managed to increase the size of the estate and bring the quality of her wines to the top, moving her to the spotlights of national television.
Domaine Nadine Ferrand is 22 acres large and produces about 60,000 bottles per year on average. Growing grapes in a sustainable way, she is particularly meticulous in caring for the vines to ensure the highest quality of grapes. The estate produces a great portfolio of wines, ranging from a Macon blanc to a well renowned Pouilly Fuisse. Her feminine and elegant touch is perceivable across all her wines. The wines are usually aged 6 to 12 months in steel tanks or barrels. The influence of wood is very limited, as she wants to keep the full expression of the fruit and the terroir.
Nadine is now assisted by her oldest daughter Marine, who shares the same passion for the family estate and the Maconnais wines.
This wine is clear, bright with a beautiful pale gold dress and green color. The nose is fresh, mineral with candied lemon and honey aromas. This is well balanced thanks to its vivacity and its minerality."
Sustainably produced with limited chemical intervention, Ferrand only releases about 8,000 bottles of this Chardonnay. It is fermented and aged in stainless steel before spending an additional 6 months in the bottle before it's released. The flavor is top-notch, with an elegant mouth-feel. This wine drinks like a bottle twice its price.
Chateau Haut-Blanville Grande Réserve Pinot Noir ($14.99)
From the producer:
"Educated by the Burgundy model of “Climats”, we dreamed of crafting single parcel wines. Captivated by the beauty and variety of terroirs around Pézenas, a 16th Century village near to Montpellier, this is where we decided to settle. To make our dream come true, we decided in 1995 not to buy an existing Domaine but rather to create our own Wine Estate, parcel by parcel, to create single parcel wines, from vine to bottle.
Today, Château Haut-Blanville is the outcome of 20 years of investment and work of a beautiful team to give our vision of origin a tangible reality by proposing a selection of cuvées revealing the personality and diversity of the terroirs of vineyards of Château Haut-Blanville.
Grande Réserve is from a north facing mid-altitude vineyard in the Gres de Montpellier appellation. The limestone soil brings finesse to the wine. Grapes are destemmed and aged for 9 months in stainless steel tanks. The low yield and the appropriate harvest date give this Pinot Noir freshness and a moderate alcohol level. The nose expresses notes of spices, berries and tobacco. On the palate, the wine features soft tannins, delicate fruit and an elegant structure."
This is a perfect example of how you can find excellent value for money (especially in French wines) if you look at regions that are less popular. Burgundies generally fetch a pretty penny, but here you have a winemaker who is using the philosophy of Burgundian production in an appellation that has less cache, so the wine is less expensive. Languedoc is home to some great values, and recently Gres de Montpellier in particular has become a more highly regarded sub-appellation. This wine is a must-try for Pinot drinkers, and a good first Pinot for those who are new to the varietal.
Clos de Cazaux Gigondas 2014 ($31.99)
"The Clos des Cazaux domaine was founded in 1905 by Gabriel Archimbaud. The Archimbaud and Vache families are among the oldest ones in Vacqueyras, dating back to 1635. The 98 acre estate is currently run by Jean Michel and Frederic Vache. The vines are cultivated with utmost respect to the environment. Only Bordeaux mixture (antifungal agent consisting of a solution of copper sulfate and quicklime) and sulfur are used in the phytosanitary (pertaining to the health of plant) and vineyard treatment. At all times, the vineyards are manually tended, including manual harvest. To ensure optimal quality, only the best grapes are selected during a green harvest in Summer which eliminates at least 20% of the production. Each grape variety is picked at its optimum maturity and vinified separately. The whole clusters are placed into specially equipped bins with a screw in the bottom that allow the grapes to fall into the tanks without any crushing. This near-carbonic fermentation period depends on the grape varieties and the conditions. The maturation takes place first in stainless steel tanks for the juice to settle, then in concrete or enamel tanks. The wines mature in the cellars for at least 2 years before bottling in order to offer the optimum ripeness to the consumer.
This strong, warm wine comes from a selection of grapes on exceptional land. In fact our vineyards in Gigondas are situated on the arid hills of the Dentelles de Montmirail.
The Mistral blows regularly on these slopes which limits the amount of treatment needed to the vines. The vines grow in stony fields, which is rare, and produce wine that can be kept easily for 10 yrs. Aromas of pepper, red fruits, are intense and persistent; very interesting to discover young. Its robe is steady, stable, the tannins silky, some say feminine compared to the more rustic Vacqueyras. Strong dishes such as deer and wild boar can subdue this prestigious wine. If perchance this wine is not finished with game, it remains incomparable with Reblochon, St Nectaire, and other strong cheeses."
If you are not familiar with wines from the Southern Rhône, you will feel lucky for this to be your introduction. If you enjoy Châteauneuf, but don't want to spend so much, Gigondas is the answer. This blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre is elegant, well-balanced, and an excellent example of the style. I am very pleased to present this wine.