Paris 2015

by Kermit Lynch

Again, this year I urge our readers who are going to Paris for several days or weeks to research finding an apartment rather than a hotel. For one thing, you can enjoy shopping for your own cooking.

Remarkable vegetables? Google Joël Thiébault and frequent his street market stand. His lettuces are the best ever, his carrots barely resemble the taste of the carrots we’re used to, and I never tired of them. Prepare his products simply as you desire—they speak for themselves.

For meat products, go to Hugo Desnoyer in the 14th, or the only butcher on the block-long rue du Nil (same street as Frenchie’s three petite restaurants), where I bought an early spring lamb shoulder that I salted and peppered and thymed—lots of dried thyme—then simply roasted in the oven. Wow! Also, their baked and smoked hams . . . I never, ever imagined ham could be so good.

Dining out, the best food I had was at Frenchie Wine Bar. I was having issues with a herniated disk, so I ate standing up at a high table with my pal from Gros ’Noré. They were playing some James Brown cuts I’d somehow never heard, good cuts, so, bad back and all, I found myself bopping in place because of the irresistible beat. Roll over Beethoven, dig these rhythm and blues. Frenchie has opened a hotel room–sized diner-style joint as well that serves excellent fish and chips. He also offers bacon/tomato sandwiches and hot dogs. Neither place takes reservations.

Other satisfying meals were at Septime, Clamato, and Abri. All can be googled. Reserve well in advance!

One problem at the new hip restos in Paris (and more and more are popping up): instead of being grateful for their success, some take on a snotty attitude. Also, the so-called natural wine lists—you grow tired of the same producers on wine lists time and again. I’ll take some credit for pioneering natural wines, starting way back with Jules Chauvet and Marcel Lapierre, for example, but how some winemakers have convinced anybody that they are more natural than thou—I, for one, know better. Ask winemakers today if they make natural wines and they all say yes.

If you are not on a tight budget, go to the Michelin-starred Carré des Feuillants. The wine list is beyond belief, filled with old vintages from great domaines at surprisingly low prices. Arrive early enough to spend time surveying page after page of temptation.

My advice: rent an apartment and enjoy the exploding gastronomic scene in Paris.

 Joël Thiébault’s vegetables  © Gail Skoff

The Fraternity of Pic Saint Loup

by Sarah Hernan

Our guest today is Pierre Ravaille, one of the three Ravaille brothers from the Languedoc domaine Ermitage du Pic Saint Loup. Kermit first met the Ravaille family about 15 years ago. He was struck by the almost pre-historic stone house, farm, and cellar, as well as their private wine collection (which includes some of the greatest wines of France). As Kermit says, “We also, it turned out, liked to grill outdoors with a good bottle and good conversation.” The relationship has continued solidly ever since.

Tell us more about your story; what is the history of the domaine?
“The domaine Ermitage du Pic Saint Loup has been in our family for ages. The first records of the family in the Languedoc date back to the revolution. Vine growing was always a part of the domaine but at the beginning it was mostly raising sheep.

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During the 1960s, while the Languedoc was well known for terrifically high yields, our father had a broad vision—he wanted to focus on quality instead of quantity and he started planting Grenache and Syrah.

In 1983 he decided to stop working with sheep to dedicate himself to the vines. He still kept taking the grapes to the cooperative cellar of Pic Saint Loup created in 1951 by his father.”

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Three brothers working together—how does this collaboration work?
“Unlike what people might think about families working together, we consider ourselves lucky.
In 1992 my brothers and I decided to vinify our own wine and stopped taking the grapes to the cooperative cellar of Pic Saint Loup. This is the beginning of a wonderful story.

Xavier works in the vineyards, Jean-Marc takes care of the administration, and I am in charge of the vinification, shipping, and sales.

1999 was a big turning point for the domaine; we decided to work the vineyards using only biodynamic practices. It took about 5 years to start seeing the first results. Today the domaine has both organic and biodynamic certification.”

3Frères350

What would be the best word to describe your philosophy on winemaking, and why?
“The best word to describe our philosophy would be “precision,” because it is a point of honor to be as refined as possible, whether it is in the vineyard or in the cellar.“

What are your projects for the future?
“Twenty-three years since our collaboration began, we are still here, stronger than ever and with amazing ambitions.
We have two main goals for the future. First, we would like to convert all our vineyards to ‘sélection massale.’

We frequently visit our vigneron friends in different regions, taste wines from various parcels, and choose cuttings from the vines that produce our favorite wines. In February of each year, we retrieve the vine cuttings and integrate them into our own vineyards, thus ensuring greater diversity in our vineyards.

For our Syrah, we chose vines from the northern Rhône; for Mourvèdre, we went to Bandol; for Grenache, we went to the southern Rhône, and we also used our own Grenache selection from the Gaucelm plot (which has 85 year-old vines rooted in a soil of white clay and round stones).

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Our second aim is to develop the terroir of Cazevieille, a hard, red clay soil at almost 1,400 feet above sea level. The terroir of Cazevieille is the highest in Pic Saint Loup; it produces concentrated wines with great freshness and balance.”

Available wines from Ermitage du Pic Saint Loup:

2014 Pic Saint Loup Rosé
$16.00 per bottle $172.80 per case

2013 Languedoc Blanc “Cuvée Sainte Agnès’’
$24.00 per bottle $259.20 per case

2013 Pic Saint Loup Rouge “Tour de Pierres’’
$18.00 per bottle $194.40 per case

2013 Pic Saint Loup Rouge “Cuvée Sainte Agnès”
$25.00 per bottle $270 per case

June Newsletter: Quintarelli, Rosé Time!, It’s Happening in Paris

The June Newsletter is now available.
Click here to download the pdf.

Highlights from this month’s newsletter…

ROSÉ TIME—FINALLY! >

by Dixon Brooke

Strikes at the port of Oakland—something we haven’t been accustomed to on this side of the pond—delayed our annual releases of freshly bottled rosé direct from mainland France and Corsica. We struggle to remember the last time we weren’t able to slake your thirst with a diverse selection like this in May. In this unusual year we hope not to repeat, we present them in time for the first days of summer.

2014 BEAUJOLAIS villages ROSÉ >
CHÂTEAU THIVIN

Any wine from Château Thivin always has a bit of a serious side. For Beaujolais, this makes the property stand out a bit. The joy and deliciousness are still there, but those impressions are accompanied by such class and character in their red wines that you feel obligated to sit up a little straighter in your chair. With this absolutely carefree Gamay rosé, the Geoffray family has decided to give in completely to the concept of pure, unadulterated pleasure.

$18.95 per bottle $204.66 per case

2014 ROSÉ DE SCIACCARELLU
DOMAINE DE MARQUILIANI >

Every year we have a tug-of-war with proprietor and vigneronne Anne Amalric for our supply of her delightfully pale, aromatic vin gris. How much must she absolutely keep on the island to satisfy her compatriots? Put it this way: you are much more likely to be able to enjoy this beauty here in the United States than as a tourist in Corsica—if you act quickly, that is.

$28.00 per bottle $302.40 per case

2014 LANGUEDOC ROSÉ
CHÂTEAU DE LASCAUX >

I love Lascaux’s rosé for its consistency. Every year their delicious southern blend of Cinsault, Syrah, and Grenache delivers on our high expectations for what southern French rosé should be, honed over time with Bandol as a reference point. With this charmer’s fresh aromas of stone fruit and garrigue, generously underlain by freshness and herbal complexity, Lascaux’s limestone terroir delivers yet again.

$17.00 per bottle $183.60 per case

VALUE OF THE MONTH

by Dixon Brooke

2013 VALTÈNESI “LA BOTTE PIENA” >
LA BASIA

When estate owner Giacomo Tincani visited our Berkeley store earlier this year, he had a wonderful analogy to share with the retail sales team. He likened his Valtènesi to a combination of a mountain wine and a Mediterranean wine. Indeed, the vineyards on the western slopes of Lake Garda are planted in glacial deposits that were carried down from the Dolomites farther north. The warm breezes sweeping from the south across the lake encourage the growth of olive and fruit trees, not to mention vines. La Basia’s Valtènesi rosso, made principally from the native Groppello grape, possesses simultaneously the stony, mineral-driven freshness of a mountain wine and the soft, herb-scented plushness of a Mediterranean wine, all presented in a seamless and delicious experience. This is definitely a wonderful friend to have at table.

$16.00 per bottle $172.80 per case

NEW ARRIVALS
2012 CHARLES JOGUET

by Anthony Lynch

The 2012 vintage in Chinon could be called a “vigneron’s vintage”: from a grower’s point of view, it proved quite challenging, requiring constant vigilance and hard work in the vines to overcome the hurdles thrown by Mother Nature. Such trying vintages are the ones that differentiate the best from the rest, and when tasting 2012s from Charles Joguet, there is no question as to which camp this historic domaine belongs.

Kevin Fontaine, who currently vinifies Joguet’s wines under the watchful eye of the retired Charles, has crafted a classic, timeless range of Chinons in 2012. The wines come in at a proper 12.5 percent alcohol, echoing a style of yesteryear, not driven by luscious fruit and ripeness but rather featuring freshness, definition, and balance as primary attributes. Flavors are not obvious: nuance reigns, with terroir-specific aromas emerging with time, expressed transparently through the lens of the Cabernet Franc grape. Today we offer the domaine’s top three cuvées—recommended to the amateur and the collector alike, these wines reflect the work of man in concert with the fortuity of Nature, with a wink to the past and plenty of promise for the future.

2012 Chinon “Les Varennes du Grand Clos” $36.00 >

Premier cru pedigree for this tightly knit, limestone-born Chinon. The word finesse comes to mind. Subtle perfume waiting to blossom; lean and delicate with fine, elegant tannins providing backbone and focus.

2012 Chinon “Clos de la Dioterie” $52.00 >

Dioterie spotlights the domaine’s oldest vines, seventy to eighty years of age on a chalky slope. It is correspondingly deeper, denser, thicker, with significant extract—séveux, the French would say, as if the vine’s sap had flowed to the grapes to give extra concentration. Certainly a very long ager.

2012 Chinon “Clos de Chêne Vert” $49.00 >

Another grand cru–worthy site, which gives a wine of serious cellaring potential. Black fruit, clove, and forest suggestions enveloped by rich, velvety tannins.

MIXED CASES OF THESE WINES
RECEIVE 20% OFF

The Intriguing Wines of Edi Kante

by Dixon Brooke

Contadino, vignaiolo, artista: all-around Renaissance man Edi Kante is as much of an enigma as the brilliant wines that he ekes from the rugged Carso hills in the extremes of northeastern Italy’s “Adriatic Baltic” zone. This little slice of the world—where the beautiful coastal town of Trieste hugs borders with Slovenia and Croatia, and impossibly rocky bluffs rise toward the forest—is fittingly as mysterious and diverse as the Kante winery itself.

Following in his father’s footsteps, in the 1980s Edi began working in the vineyards and quickly made his mark on the family property. The three-story cellar he carved out of Carso bedrock in which to age his wines is the stuff of legend. It’s all about the stone: the terreno of Carso, a rugged limestone plateau in the hills above Trieste, is the defining common denominator in Kante’s wines. They are distinguished by a shared thread of chalky, at times austere, minerality, maritime freshness, fleshiness, smooth textures that lack hard edges, and awesomely singular presentation of grape variety. In an increasingly homogenized universe, it is refreshing to encounter such a unique vision. From the vineyard to the unconventional techniques in the cellar to the hand-painted labels on the bottles, Kante meticulously controls every step of the production process and follows the beat of his own drum, producing (mostly) white wines that are patiently made, aged to perfection, and released when he deems them ready. We feel it is our duty to bring this Friulian master’s wines the attention and care they so richly deserve.

2012 Venezia Giulia Vitovska $35.00  >

Soft, ethereal, elegant interpretation of this indigenous Adriatic grape—serve with minimally prepared, wild and raw sea creatures.

2012 Venezia Giulia Malvasia $35.00  >

The Malvasia Istriana strain grown here, named after the Istrian peninsula of Croatia, is a far cry from the Malvasia of other parts of Italy. Like any Kante wine, it flourishes with some air, and the ripe fruit will tighten up into a wiry, briny, Muscadet-like seafood wine.

2012 Venezia Giulia Sauvignon $35.00  >

You have never tasted Sauvignon quite like this. Restrained and classy, it will be a distinct change from the explosive gooseberry creations you are probably used to. Different, not necessarily better (you be the judge).

2012 Venezia Giulia Chardonnay $35.00  >

You’ll recognize the grape, not the terroir. This cool, stony, poised glass of Chardonnay will blossom into something very special but is already delicious.

2005 Venezia Giulia Vitovska Selezione $54.00  >

Every time I taste this chameleon, it changes: most recently it expressed Riesling-like petrol notes. Aged to perfection in bottle in Kante’s icy cellars, this white is ready to sing with a lobster, a whole baked sole, or whatever your pleasure.

2006 Venezia Giulia Chardonnay “La Bora di Kante” $54.00 >

You will have fun opening this alongside much more expensive white Burgundies. Kante isolates his best barrels in great years and ages them for an extended period in tank and bottle before releasing them separately. Showy and still very young.

Spumante Rosato “Dosaggio Zero $35.00  >

This pure Pinot Noir made in the Champagne method and aged in the Kante cellars is a delicate flower—very pretty, aromatic, and racy. There are very few sparkling rosatos of this quality in Italia.

Spumante Metodo Classico “Dosaggio Zero” $35.00  >

A blend of Chardonnay and Malvasia Istriana, bottled with zero dosage. It is dry, chalky, and just the right combination of fleshy and lean. Serious sparkling wine.

May Newsletter: 2013 Lucien Boillot & Fils P-A, The Latest Finds from Friuli and Chianti, New Beginnings Sampler

The May Newsletter is now available.
Click here to download the pdf.

Highlights from this month’s newsletter…

PRE-ARRIVAL OFFER

2013 DOMAINE LUCIEN

BOILLOT & FILS

by Dixon Brooke

In Burgundy, 2013 was another year in which Mother Nature reduced the size of the crop without consulting the growers. Hail was a big factor in the Côte de Beaune, much like it was in 2012, albeit slightly less dramatic (except at Savigny-lès-Beaune). In the Côte de Nuits, 2013 was a bit less kind than 2012. A difficult flowering diminished crop size, then adverse summer weather pushed maturity into one of the latest harvests on record over the past several decades. Those who waited long enough to allow the fruit to properly ripen and beat the late-season storms were handsomely rewarded. Growers like Pierre Boillot, with a plethora of ancient vines that naturally produce small, thick-skinned berry clusters, were favored.

Tasting through the epic terroir lineup in barrel at the Boillot cellars in Gevrey-Chambertin in December 2014, I was struck by the usual feeling of being in the presence of an incredible range of traditional, aristocratic, balanced, refined, delicious Pinot Noirs—each a kaleidoscope into its specific terroir, each exhibiting great potential for the ages, each leaving one to imagine the pleasure to be had at table. Pierre Boillot’s wife, Sophie, was on hand to show us the way with an expertly roasted chicken and a bottle of 2008 Cherbaudes post-tasting. You’ll never regret laying down a few cases of Burgundian gold.

per case

2013 Gevrey-Chambertin

$636.00

2013 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Les Evocelles”

768.00

2013 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Les Corbeaux”

936.00

2013 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “La Perrière”

936.00

2013 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Les Cherbaudes”

1,104.00

2013 Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Pruliers”

1,104.00

2013 Volnay 1er Cru “Les Brouillards”

792.00

2013 Volnay 1er Cru “Les Angles”

828.00

2013 Volnay 1er Cru “Les Caillerets”

960.00

2013 Pommard 1er Cru “Les Fremiers”

936.00

2013 Pommard 1er Cru “Les Croix Noires”

936.00

Pre-arrival terms: Half-payment due with order; balance due upon arrival.

NEW BEGINNINGS SAMPLER >

by Jennifer Oakes

Most years I would be headed out of town for a spring getaway, admiring bright flowers or exploring farmers’ markets. This year, however, I’m focused on my recent purchase of a new (i.e., used) house and I’m worrying about sewer cleanouts, paint rollers, and missing shingles.

But once all the patching, painting, and pruning are done, I’ll finally have room to garden, and to have friends and colleagues over for a leisurely Sunday brunch, perhaps bribing them with a magnum or two to help with the weeding. I’m probably not alone in needing a bit of spring-cleaning help, either. But absent an easily enticed group of friends, you might have to buckle down and do it yourself. Ah, but consider a lively glass of sparkling Petit Royal while you transplant those tender lettuces; a bright, peppy rosé before reorganizing the garage; or a lush, juicy red while painting the fence. I encourage you to mine this sampler to enhance your spring bounty, and know that when the trowel and rake need to come out, you have my sympathies. But hard work has its rewards—at least one of them should be good wine.

per bottle

2014 Corbières Rosé “Gris de Gris” • Fontsainte

$14.95

2014 Languedoc Blanc • Château de Lascaux

17.00

2012 Pinot Blanc • Kuentz-Bas

17.95

2012 Jurançon Sec • Domaine Bru-Baché

18.00

2013 Quincy • Domaine Trotereau

19.95

Petit Royal Brut • Lambert de Seyssel

19.00

2013 Moscato d’Asti • Elvio Tintero

12.00

2013 Pays d’Oc Rouge • Château Fontanès

14.00

2013 Beaujolais • Domaine Dupeuble

14.95

2013 Dolcetto d’Alba “Vigna L’Pari” • G. Porro

19.95

2011 Eloro Nero d’Avola “Spaccaforno” • Riofavara

22.00

2011 Côtes du Vivarais Rouge • A. Gallety

29.00

Special Sampler Price

$164 (a 25% discount)

Jennifer Oakes’s favorite toy as a baby was an eggbeater, and after a formal culinary school education and running a Southern California restaurant for almost a decade, she’s found her happy place here at Kermit Lynch.

Antoine Arena, New Arrivals

by Anthony Lynch

Corsican winemaking has come a long way in recent years, and it would be foolish to deny Antoine Arena’s role in its transformation. Having taken over the family domaine as much out of national pride as out of passion for the land, Antoine pioneered a new school of viticulture on the island—one that focused on terroir and rejected the industrial, chemical approach that had become the norm by the 1980s. His pioneering attitude led him to create a number of striking single-vineyard wines from indigenous grape varieties, setting the bar for quality and kicking off a resurgence of artisanal production by contemporary Corsican vignerons, now in full swing.

The offerings below are 100% Niellucciu from Patrimonio’s clay and limestone, grown organically and bottled unfined, unfiltered, and with minimal added sulfur. The wines are young and greatly benefit from aeration—we suggest decanting them for at least a couple of hours to better appreciate these most natural, transparent expressions of Patrimonio’s terroir.

Arena

Antoine Arena           © Gail Skoff

2012 PATRIMONIO ROUGE “MORTA MAIO” >

“The eldest myrtle,” a young-vine bottling from a plot of land the Arena family has worked for more than four hundred years, refers to the wild bush that makes up a large part of Patrimonio’s wild scrubland, or maquis. A somber, earthy aroma opens up to rustic red berry fruit and suggestions of the very same maquis. Medium-bodied with hints of spice and game, it demands thick slices of country charcuterie.

$45.00 per bottle $486.00 per case

2012 PATRIMONIO ROUGE “CARCO” >

Carco is Arena’s flagship parcel, a well-exposed slope two miles from the sea that Antoine had to manually clear of massive white limestone boulders. These stones have left their mark: it tastes as though a dusting of pulverized rock coats the chewy black fruit. Slightly austere and deeply mineral, it has a freshness and tannic backbone that will allow for a thrilling evolution over the years.

$45.00 per bottle $486.00 per case

Tribute to Madame Lacaussade

by Dustin Soiseth

It was our colleague Mark Congero’s last day at the retail shop—he decamped to Maui, so don’t feel bad—and after work we toasted with a gift from one of his clients, a bottle of 1983 Chateau de l’Hospital. This wonderful red, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon, offered a glimpse of an older style of Graves. Not many Bordelais are growing Malbec anymore.

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In Adventures on the Wine Route Kermit writes of L’Hospital proprietor Madame de Lacaussade’s indomitable spirit in the face of misogynist negociants and ambivalent children; her unwavering adherence to traditional vinification and varietals; her splendid relic of a chateau and its antique toilet. “I believe that wine can reflect the personality of the man or in this case the woman who makes it,” he writes. “Madame de Lacaussade has a flamboyant personality and her wine is far from bland. Then I realize that as true as my theory might be it is absurd-sounding. Can fermented grape juice express the personality of a man or woman?”

I never met Madame so I will never know for sure, but in reading about her and tasting this wine I feel that I do, a bit. Perhaps that’s foolish. As for the wine itself, it was marvelous. Fully mature but still vibrant, a lion in winter expressing all the leafy, leathery, earthy aromas characteristic of a fine aged claret.

Madame_Lacaussade

Madame Lacaussade    © Gail Skoff

It was a singular experience, and one of the more memorable of my career. And while I am unlikely to taste Madame de Lacaussade’s L’Hospital again, I am thankful for the dedicated cadre of producers – Gombaude-Guillot, Moulin Pey-Labrie, Belles-Graves, among others – that Kermit continues to import. They continue the tradition she embodied, and when I taste their wines I am reminded why I fell in love with Bordeaux in the first place. Cheers to them, to Mark, and to you, Madame.

April Newsletter: KL Shocker: “Sterile Filtration a Blessing,” 101-Point Wines, Raveneau Switches to Beer, Big Selection of Unnatural Wines

The April Newsletter is now available.
Click here to download the pdf.

Highlights from this month’s newsletter…

101-POINT SAMPLER >

by Anthony Lynch

This month’s sampler contains six wines that received a perfect score—or better. Our panel of experts sampled each wine on separate occasions, at his or her desired pace, with appropriately selected food, and in good company. The wines were rated with total respect to the context in which they were tasted. The judges came to the conclusion that these six wines, when imbibed with consideration for the style of wine and region of origin, represent the best of their respective class. All wines therefore received a rating of at least one hundred points.

Perhaps you too will award these wines outstanding scores when you consider their originality, individuality, and integrity to the style each represents. They are maybe not the six best wines ever, but they are honest translations of their terroir, grape, and grower. They excel within their respective class rather than trying to overwhelm all with power or flashiness. Ostertag’s old-vine Sylvaner, for example, does not have the complexity and grandeur of a mature grand cru Burgundy, but it truly shines when matched with a variety of diverse cuisines, and you will be hard-pressed to find a better Sylvaner. Tempier’s Bandol lacks the polish of many of today’s highest-rated reds, yet we appreciate it precisely for its rusticity and untamed soulfulness. Any of these six can be one-hundred-point wines—find the cuisine, mood, and company that bring out the best of each and you are assured a genuinely fulfilling experience.

per bottle

2013 Müller Thurgau “Sass Rigais” • Manni Nössing

$30.00

2013 Les Vieilles Vignes de Sylvaner

Domaine Ostertag

25.00

2013 Patrimonio Blanc • Yves Leccia

38.00

2012 Vacqueyras “Cuvée Azalaïs”

Domaine le Sang des Cailloux

34.00

2012 Bandol Rouge • Domaine Tempier

46.00

2011 Chinon “Les Varennes du Grand Clos”

Charles Joguet

37.00

Normally $210.00

Special Sampler Price

$168

(a 20% discount)

FRANCE AND ITALY

by Dixon Brooke

2011 SAINT JOSEPH BLANC

DOMAINE FAURY >

When you think of the great Saint Joseph appellation, don’t forget to think of white as well as red. Though much less of the former is produced, it is one of France’s most unique, versatile, and delicious white wines. Made predominantly from Roussanne and Marsanne grown on granite hillsides above the Rhône, the best examples are dry yet ample, with an unctuous texture and hints of honeysuckle and pit fruits like apricot and peach. Lionel Faury’s interpretation is distinguished by its elegance, class, balance, and stylishness, a lot of adjectives you might not think to employ for this humble country wine. With a few years of bottle age on it, it is polished and ready to give maximum satisfaction, as an apéritif, with assorted appetizers, or with fish or fowl.

$32.00 per bottle $345.60 per case

2001 BAROLO BUSSIA “VIGNE VECCHIE”

ALESSANDRO E GIAN NATALE FANTINO >

How often can you find a Barolo with almost fifteen years of age for a price like this? That is a rhetorical question. From the Fantinos’ oldest vines in Monforte d’Alba’s storied Bussia cru, the raw material here is second to none. All of the secondary flavors you’d expect from a Barolo with this kind of maturity are starting to emerge: earth, wood smoke, tar, leather, tobacco, truffles, dried flowers, citrus peel . . . It’s time to get creative in the kitchen and let this bottle breathe while it awaits a rustic slow-cooked main course.

$55.00 per bottle $594.00 per case

Sylvain’s Carignan

AT DOMAINE D’AUPILHAC

by Chris Santini

I’ll never forget a dinner in Corsica one night a few years ago with the venerated vigneron Antoine Arena in attendance, plus a pompous (yet also venerated, albeit by a different crowd) French wine critic. The critic, who had seemingly never much muddied his boots in vines or cellars, wanted to make it clear nonetheless that he was the all-knowing authority and spouted all kinds of sweepingly broad generalizations on all the subjects of interest and debate these days in the wine world. As he spoke, most of us just rolled our eyes and let him carry on. The breaking point, however, was when he proclaimed, “There is no good wine to be made with pure Carignan, period! C’est impossible!” I saw Antoine Arena wince, give pause, look the critic straight in the eye like a fed-up Clint Eastwood, and tell him, “You wouldn’t have said that had you ever bothered to taste Sylvain Fadat’s Carignan.” I wanted to jump up and yell, “BOOOOM!” while high-fiving Antoine, but I figured it might be inappropriate. The critic huffed a bit under his breath, but the case was closed, and he thought twice before yapping again. He knew that Antoine spends a lot of time with wine-growing buddies throughout France, and that there’s plenty of mud under his boots, so when Antoine stands up for a vigneron, you take heed.

Sylvain Fadat has had to face constant denigration and discouragement from critics who claim that Carignan has no place in the Languedoc. Since the beginning, Sylvain has tirelessly defended Carignan as the “origin, history, and essence of the region.” Regardless, the local authorities refuse to grant the wine appellation status because he doesn’t blend it with so-called “superior” grapes. But for those who’ve tasted it—whether young with its dark, brambly fruit and licorice, or aged with more smoke and complexity—there isn’t even a debate. It’s as true and authentic as it comes, filled with the taste of the land, a small slice of Languedoc called “Aupilhac” put in a bottle. His first vintage, 1989, is still drinking beautifully right now, so we don’t know just how far it can go. Thankfully, many young growers have begun to follow his lead and are planting and bottling pure Carignan. Critics, take note!

2012 MONT BAUDILE ROUGE “LE CARIGNAN”

DOMAINE D’AUPILHAC >

$36.00 per bottle $388.80 per case

Where Beaujolais Meets Carignan

by Sarah Hernan

If I said “whole cluster fermentation,” what would be your first thought?
Fruit? Freshness? Beaujolais? Bravo! But this post is not about Beaujolais. Let me give you another clue. Old vine Carignan, Grenache, Macabou, and Terret.

Southern Rhône? Closer—Languedoc-Roussillon!

Featured at one of our recent weekly staff tastings were the new arrivals from Corbières producer Maxime Magnon. His three wines were without any hesitation, the staff’s picks of the night.

Maxime is a young producer, established in the Languedoc, between Perpignan and Narbonne. He belongs to a new generation of Languedoc vignerons who are trying to protect their terroirs and older vineyards from being overlooked.

Maxime sells his handcrafted wines from the Corbières and the Vin de Pays de la Vallée du Paradis appellations.

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The almost completely unknown vineyards from the Vin de Pays de la Vallée du Paradis are situated on the border between Languedoc and Roussillon. It is a stunning valley close to the sea, comprised of schist, basalt, and sandstone. After one sip of his cuvée “La Démarrante,” a blend of Carignan and Cinsault, the tone is set for something gourmand, fresh, deliciously fruity, with a hint of wildness.

If you are used to the common Corbières style, over-ripe and over-rugged, you are going to be stunned by Maxime’s Corbières. The Corbières “Rozeta,” a blend of Carignan, Grenache Gris, Macabou, and Terret, all harvested and fermented together, is a wave of delicate minerality, bright acidity, and beautiful tannins.

His third red, the Corbières “Campagnès,” comes from a single vineyard of hundred-year-old Carignan. The most cellar-worthy of his bottlings, it has exquisite notes of cherry and blackberry fruit with incredible finesse for the south.

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Now you might be thinking, what was that story about the whole cluster fermentation?

Maxime’s mentor is Jean Foillard, one of the classiest vignerons anywhere. Maxime was inspired to import Foillard’s methods to the south of France with spectacular results.

Old vines, great terroir, an inspiring mentor, and an intense focus on perfection have been Maxime’s secret to success so far. The results are dazzling—deep, fruit-driven wines with the perfect balance of tannins and a natural acidity. One single sip of Maxime’s wines will wake up your taste buds, please your palate, and bring a smile on our grumpiest day.

The only cloud on the horizon is the tiny amount of quantity available. This is your chance to taste Maxime’s little paradise before it vanishes in someone else glass.

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Please email sales@kermitlynch.com or call 510-524-1524 to inquire for availability of wines.