Caveau

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Caveau Selections -  from winemaker-importer Scott Paul Wright. We're specialists in the best of Burgundy and Grower Champagne, delivered to your door. Join our mailing list, sign-up for our Burgundy and Champagne Clubs, and take advantage of our exclusive pre-arrival offers. Start drinking hand-selected wines from the top artisanal producers at direct-import prices!

Tasting, tasting, tasting...

Amidst all of the Paulée and auction festivities, I of course haven’t stopped my tasting schedule. I just haven’t had time to write up my notes. Here’s a re-cap of the last several stops…

It is almost criminal that there is so little wine in the Huber-Verdereau cellar fromthe 2014 vintage, because these are clearly the best wines Thiébault has made in the 10 years we’ve been working together. The devastating hailstorm that I witnessed in June ’14 wiped out some 70-80% of the potential crop in most of Beaune, Pommard and Volnay, but what remained made outstanding wines. Thee are only 100 cases of the Volnay, 37 cases of the Volnay Fremiets 1er, 100 cases of the Pommard Clos du Colombier – you get the picture. Before I head back to Portland I’ll negotiate the best allocations I can, and I’ll get an offer out before the end of the year.

St, Cyr, the patron saint of Volnay. May he keep the hail away!

St, Cyr, the patron saint of Volnay. May he keep the hail away!

The always elegant Caroline Parent met me for an early morning cruise through the family cellars of A-F Gros in Beaune. While again there is very little wine to be had, there are a couple of new things in the line-up for her own Caroline Parent label, and the quality across the board for her mom’s wines was stellar. The three single-vineyard Vosne-Romanées, the Echezeaux and the Richebourg were of course all outstanding. The exciting new additions to Caroline’s production are a very nice Gevrey-Chambertin Village and a Morey-St. Denis Village. Alas, there are only two barrels of each for the world – I’ll get ahold of as much as I can!

There are so few barrels in Thierry Violot-Guillemard’s cellar in Pommard, one might think they had moved out. Thierry had a 100% loss in some vineyards in both ’13 and ’14, and overall lost over 80%. What remains is of course achingly beautiful. Making matters even worse was the story that Thierry related – his intern in 2014 forgot to close the door on the bottling tank one morning, and they lost two and a half barrels' worth (about 62 cases) of the Pommard Platières. Merde! There is not a better line-up of Pommard 1er Crus anywhere, period. I’ll offer what scant few bottles we’re allocated shortly, so hang on…

In the cellar with Vincent Couche

In the cellar with Vincent Couche

I headed up the Autoroute to Champagne yesterday, for a few intense days of tasting here in the land of the magic bubbles. I stopped first in the Aube, for a marathon tasting with Vincent Couche in the miniscule village of Gyé-sur-Seine. His range of wines remains consistently excellent throughout, and the whole lot of them are now officially certified Biodynamic. He’s in the process of updating his labels and streamlining the offerings a bit. The wines you’ve come to know and love will continue forward, but under different names and label designs. The Extra-Brut will now be called “Reserve Intemporelle”, the Perle de Nacre Blanc de Blancs will now be called “Chardonnay de Montgeux”, and a few other changes are in the works. He also has a new line of lower priced Champagnes under the Eclipsia label – more on these in an upcoming offer over the coming weeks...

 

Next stop was in Ville-sur-Arce in the miniscule cellar of Jérôme Coessens. From his 5-acre vineyard “l’Argillier” (a Monopole, he is proud to point out), he produces five of the most minerally-intense and powerful Champagnes you’ll ever come across. Think Chevalier-Montrachet with bubbles, and you’d be on the right track. Every one of his wines is from a single vineyard, a single grape, and a single harvest – essentially the antithesis of what the big Champagne houses have told us for centuries what Champagne is supposed to be! And lord, they are good. Jérôme admits to being more Burgundian than Champenois (as are most of my producers here, to be honest), in that he focuses on wines of terroir, rather than wines of construction. Following his Burgundian heart, he decided in 2014 to make some red wine from his Pinot Noir, and experimented with two different methods of fermentation and élévage. He’s made two barrels following the protocol of the legendary Henri Jayer (100% destemmed, 100% new oak), and four barrels following “old-school” Burgundian protocol (100% whole cluster, 25% new oak.) They were both delicious, and blind I would have guessed that they were a nice Volnay 1er Cru, probably. He hasn’t decided when to release them, but watch for them when he does, these are killer wines, and they blow away what most people think is possible for Coteaux Champenois (the appellation for still wine here.)

 

Then I headed 90 minutes north toward Épernay, and climbed the hill up to Chavot for a great afternoon tasting at Laherte Frères. There were only 14 different Champagnes to taste at Laherte – I’m still tired just from looking at my notes! What always impresses me here is Thierry and Aurélien’s relentless pursuit of excellence. They are not stuck in any mode of operation, not married to anything – they are constantly experimenting, improving, learning. What is constant is the quality of what they put in the bottle – I don't know that there’s a better and more interesting range from top to bottom anywhere else. A special shout-out for the amazing Rosé les Beaudiers (100% old-vine Pinot Meunier), which remains my favorite Rosé Champagne ever – definitely one of my desert island wines. The big news here is the release of an Extra-Brut version of their excellent NV Brut Ultradition. They’ve taken the same base wine and made it even better, in my opinion, by taking the dosage down to 3-4 grams from 7-8 for the Brut. Watch for an offer on this killer Extra-Brut shortly, and act quickly when you see it, because I’m likely to buy up every bottle for myself!

Sunset over Chavot...

Sunset over Chavot...

I’ve got an ambitious schedule today, tasting at Georges Laval, Marc Chauvet, and then with two potential new producers in Épernay and Mesnil-sur-Oger, and then back to Laherte Frères to taste the vins clairs from the 2015 harvest, which promise to be outstanding by all accounts. And then we’ve got dinner reservations at Les Avisés – the restaurant at Anselme Selosse’s hotel just down the road in the Côte des Blancs. We do what we must…