An approachable Saint-Joseph

April 18, 2017 1 comment

The 2014 J.L. Chave, Offerus, Saint-Joseph is a fine example from the Northern Rhone.  It is pure in feeling and combines meat and fruit with floral and stone notes. It is already quite expressive yet has the personality to develop over the next several years.  I recommend you grab a few to drink both now and later.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2014 J.L. Chave, Offerus, Saint-Joseph – $30
Imported by Erin Cannon Imports.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose reveals aromas of meat coated with brighter red fruit.  This is a forward wine in the mouth with blue and black fruit mixed with floral hints.  It starts off with an open feeling partially due to minimal tannic structure and a hint of fat in the aftertaste.  With air this mineral infused wine is almost lip-smacking in flavor and reveals some tightness suggesting further development will take place.  ***(*) Now – 2025.

Ample, affordable flavor from Ventoux

With spring break winding down it is time to start posting again.  Of good value and ripe for drinking is the 2015 Chateau Juvenal, Jolie, Cotes du Ventoux.  This is a deep, black fruited wine with a mineral middle which keeps things in perspective.  At $15 per bottle, this joint effort between Philippe Cambie and Chateau Juvenal, will please many people.  We have already pulled the corks on two bottles!  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2015 Chateau Juvenal, Jolie, Cotes du Ventoux – $15
Misa Imports.  This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah sourced from 50+ year old vines.  Alcohol 15%.  This is a youthful wine with deep fruitiness that conveys richness from red then powdery black fruit.  Though rich with a smooth start, the wine becomes more focused with a mineral middle and dry finish.  *** Now – 2019.

Fun Grenache from Envinate

Envinate not only produces wines from the Canary Islands but from the mainland as well.  When I first opened the 2015 Viticultores Emilio Ramirez y Envinate, Albahra, Almansa I was immediately reminded of Des Tours.  This impression lasted for 15 minutes or so before the wine morphed from that ethereal ripeness to a dry, focused, mineral wine.  It is definitely worth checking out this unique wine. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2015 Viticultores Emilio Ramirez y Envinate, Albahra, Almansa – $18
A Jose Pastor Selections imported by Llaurador Wines.  This wine is 100% Grenache fermented and raised in cement.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This is a textured, lively wine which begins with ethereal ripe flavors.  With air it becomes a dry, focused, mineral wine to drink over the next few years.  *** Now – 2020.

Cahors and Bandol from Kermit Lynch

The half-bottle format of 2011 Domaine Tempier, Bandol has entered a great drinking period which should continue for some time.  The deep flavors are attractively ripe and a few years of bottle age mix nicely with leather and meat.  If you are looking for a wine to buy this weekend then grab a few halves and pop one open as soon as you get home.  Also for current drinking, albeit at the budget end of things, the 2014 Clos La Coutale, Cahors is a wine to drink mid-week.  It is a lithe wine, think black tea and herbs, delivered in a fresh manner.  Whereas the Tempier will drink well for years to come the Coutale should be consumed over a year or so.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.


2011 Domaine Tempier, Bandol – $22 (375mL)
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 75% Mourvedre, 14% Grenache, 9% Cinsault, and 2% Carignan sourced from 40+ year old vines, fermented in stainless steel then aged 18-20 months in oak foudres.  Alcohol 11%-14%.  There is a fine, engaging nose with hints of ripeness.  In the mouth is a lively start which soon builds depth, minerals, and grip before coating the gums with a lovely aftertaste.    The ripeness of the start dissipates in the middle only to return in the aftertaste.  It has already developed meat and leather flavors but the structure and acidity will see development for a few more years.  ***(*) Now – 2023.

2014 Clos La Coutale, Cahors – $14
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is a blend of 80% Malbec and 20% Merlot sourced from 20+ year old vines fermented in stainless steel then aged in oak foudres and barrels.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This is an interest wine combining black tea notes with fresh black fruit and acidity.  The wine is of lithe profile bringing on drier black fruit, herbs, and a little bit of grip in the finish.  There is minimal structure making this a wine for the short-term.  ** Now – 2018.

A forgotten 19th c. account of a hogshead of Chateau Haut-Brion purchased in 1669

Long View of London from Bankside by Wenceslaus Hollar, 1647. Wikimedia.

The earliest references to the wine of Chateau Haut-Brion in England are found in the cellar book of King Charles II for whom 169 bottles of “wine of Hobriono” were served in 1660 and 1661.[1]  Just a few years later Samuel Pepys famously drank “a sort of French wine, called Ho Bryan” at the Royal Oak Tavern.[2]  Unbeknownst at the time it would soon be difficult to procure French wine.

Between 1665 and 1666, the Great Plague of London killed almost one quarter of the London population only to be followed by the Great Fire of 1666 which destroyed the central part of London.

Outside of London, the Second Anglo Dutch War raged on the seas during the same period.  It was a war fought to control the sea and trade routes.  The Calendar of State Papers of the reign of Charles II are full of references to wine.  During the war the accounts detail the capture of prize ships sometimes “richly laden” with wine.  So much wine was brought into some ports that prices even lowered.

After the war merchants resumed purchasing wine from France.  The calendered accounts follow this normal trade in wine but now add comments on size, price, and sometimes quality of the vintage.  For example during October 1668, many English ships were loading up on wine at Bordeaux even though “the French hold the wines at great price.”[3]  There was less of the 1669 Bordeaux vintage to go around with one report from October 1669 claiming “that there will not be so much wine made there as formerly”.[4]

It is possible that the smaller 1669 vintage is what Lord Montague purchased from Richard Blatchford when he was billed £24 for two hogsheads of “Aubryan wine” on November 19, 1669.[5]  This is, of course, the wine of Chateau Haut-Brion. The 19th century account of this bill was only brought back to contemporary attention by Asa Briggs in Haut-Brion (1994).

It turns out there is another 19th century account of the purchase of “Aubryan” which has been forgotten.  In 1669, Eton College purchased one hogshead also at £12.[6] This account was perhaps forgotten because the author confesses, “I am entirely in the dark as to Aubryan, Cawos, and Palm wine.  The first is low priced”.


[1] Robinson, Jancis. The Oxford Companion to Wine. 2015.

[2] Friday 10 April 1663. The Diary of Samuel Pepys. URL:

[3] John Pocock to James Hickes. October 19, 1668. Calendar of State Papers, domestic series, of the reign of Charles II, October 1668 to December 1669. 1894. URL:

[4] Thomas Holden to James Hickes. October 25, 1669. Calendar of State Papers, domestic series, of the reign of Charles II, October 1668 to December 1669. 1894. URL:

[5] Sussex Archaeological Collections Relating to the History and Antiquities of the County, Volume 15. 1863. URL:

[6] Rogers, James E. Thorold.  A History of Agriculture and Prices in England: 1583-1702.

“mellow Madeira Wine…from Calcutta”

James Madison loved Madeira above all other wines.  During February 1816, near the end of his second term as President, at a time when the end of the War of 1812 between Great Britain and America meant regular trade with the island of Madeira had resumed, James Madison corresponded within one week about two seperate orders of Madeira.

From Murdoch, Yuille, Wardrop, and Co. came two pipes of “finest, old wine” and from J. Howard March & Co. came one pipe of “the very best old Madeira Wine”.[1]  The timing of these orders meant they were both sent on the schooner Mary & Francis under command of Captain Nathaniel Cushing.

Invoice to James Madison for “Mellow Madeira”. LOC. [2]

The invoice from J. Howard March & Co. provides further description of the Madeira as “the best old Mellow Madeira Wine”.[2]  There are very few descriptions of the color, smell, and taste of Madeira wine from this period. This is a unique appearance of “mellow Madeira” in early American Madeira correspondence so it is important to investigate the meaning. [3]

In the late 18th century there are but a handful of examples of mellow wine in literature.  John Croft writes of “sound, old mellow Madeira” in 1783 when describing the American habit of storing wine in the attic.[4]  Duncan McBride notes that Spanish Sitges wine develops a “mellow taste” as it “advances in age”.[5]  A mellowing effect was known to take place on Madeira during the long, warm trip in the hold of an East India ship.[6]  It took decades before this term appears in use in America.

Advertisement for two half pipes of old Mellow Madeira Wine. [6]

James Madison’s particular order from J. Howard March & Co marks the first instance of mellow used to describe Madeira in America.  The schooner Mary & Francis carried other pipes of Madeira which were sold to the general public by at least two different merchants.  N & R Blacklock had two half-pipes of the mellow Madeira which are additionally described as “high flavor and full body”.[7]

Beginning in 1816, the term “mellow Madeira” appears in advertisements at various frequencies for the next three decades until oidium struck the island and devastated the vineyards.  “Mellow Wine” is also used in reference to Madeira.  Beginning in 1818, all of these advertisements bear a common thread, mellow Madeira first went to India or China before arriving in America.

Advertisement for mellow Madeira wine that first went to Calcutta. [7]

The earliest connection  appears in November 1818 in a sale of 20 pipes of “fine mellow Wine” at least 10 years of age.  This parcel was sent from America to Calcutta, upon the end of the War of 1812.  The pipes lay in Calcutta for several years until they were imported in the ship Eliza Ann.[87] Another example include two mellow pipes that were sold in 1834. For 20 years they lay in Calcutta before being imported into Boston. [9]  Four years later a pipe of “very rich flavored Old Mellow Madeira Wine” came by way of Canton. [10]

This raises the question of whether James Madison’s Madeira was mellowed by a trip to India or China.  His 1816 “mellow Madeira” pipe cost £75 not including freight.  This is a significant price increase over the £65 per pipe for “finest old Wine” ordered from Murdoch Yuille Wardrop & Co just one year earlier.[11]  This £10 per pipe increase can simply be attributed to Great Britain adopting the gold standard in 1816 and not for any additional premium on the wine itself.[12]  The freight charges are in the £3 range which is also nominal for a pipe which only traveled from Madeira to America.

While “mellow Madeira” first appears in James Madison’s correspondence of 1816 it is not until 1818 in America that it came to mean Madeira which first went to India or China.

[1] “To James Madison from Murdoch Yuille Wardrop and Company, 18 February 1816,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified March 30, 2017, [This is anEarly Access documentfrom The Papers of James Madison. It is not an authoritative final version.]  and “To James Madison from J. Howard, & Co March, 22 February 1816,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified March 30, 2017, [This is anEarly Access documentfrom The Papers of James Madison. It is not an authoritative final version.]

[2] J. H. March & Co to James Madison, February 22, 1816. Invoice-Order to Pay. Series: Series 1, General Correspondence, 1723-1859, Microfilm Reel: 17.
The James Madison Papers at the Library of Congress. URL:

[3] “[I]t will not be exceeded by an[y] Wine in the Universe”: Descriptions of James Madison’s Madeira. URL:

[4] Croft, John. A Treatise on the Wines of Portugal. 1788. URL:

[5] McBride, Duncan. General Instructions for the Choice of Wines and Spirituous Liquors (1793). Fascimile edition reissued by The Rare Wine Co. 1993.

[6] A Vindication of Gen. Richard Smith. 1783. URL:

[7] Date: Monday, June 17, 1816 Paper: Alexandria Herald (Alexandria, Virginia) Volume: VI Issue: 725 Page: 1

[8] Date: Monday, November 2, 1818 Paper: Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, Massachusetts) Volume: XXIII Issue: 28 Page: 3

[9] Date: Friday, June 27, 1834 Paper: Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, Massachusetts) Page: 3

[10] Date: Saturday, January 6, 1838 Paper: Newark Daily Advertiser (Newark, New Jersey) Page: 3

[11] “To James Madison from Anthony-Charles Cazenove, 4 July 1815,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified March 30, 2017, [This is anEarly Access documentfrom The Papers of James Madison. It is not an authoritative final version.]

[12] See mention of 19% premium on the exchange rate. “To James Madison from Anthony-Charles Cazenove, 27 April 1816,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified March 30, 2017, [This is anEarly Access documentfrom The Papers of James Madison. It is not an authoritative final version.]

Two blends from Bulgaria and Armenia

Both of the wines featured in this post are blends featuring an unusual variety.  You will find a small proportion of Regent, a cool-weather grape created in the 1960s, in the 2014 Saedinenie Winery, F2F, Bulgaria.  I could not tell you what Regent smells or tastes like.  The wine, though, is a gentle, blue-fruited, low-acidity wine that should please many.  The 2014 Tierras de Armenia, Karas, Armenia features a splash of the native grape Khndoghni.  I wish there was more, so I could taste it, but this is a crazy international blend which also includes Syrah, Tannat, and Montepulciano amongst other varieties.  It is made by Gabriel Rogel, who comes from Argentina, with consulting help from Michel Rolland.  This is a wine worth checking out.  It is flavorful, lively, and has texture.  It might even develop over the short-term to better integrate the cocoa notes.   These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

2014 Saedinenie Winery, F2F, Bulgaria – $15
Imported by VP Brands International.  This wine is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, and 10% Regent.  Alcohol 13%.  There are rounded blue fruit flavors, gentle supporting structure, and just enough acidity to move things along.  There are no edges to the blue fruit.  There is a bit of interest in the finish where black fruit and minerals come out.  *(*) Now – 2018.

2014 Tierras de Armenia, Karas, Armenia – $13
Imported by G+B Imports.  This wine is a blend of 40% Syrah, 18% Tannat, 15% Cabernet Franc, 14% Petit Verdot, 10% Montepulciano, and 3% Khndoghni.  Alcohol 14%.  Chocolates and blue fruit precede the ripe textured middle.  This is a good, flavorful wine with lively acidity, some weight, and cocoa.  **(*) Now – 2019.