The exciting Gamay “Les Massardieres” from Guillaume Gilles

If you are enchanted by the traditional wines of the Northern Rhone then there is a strong chance you have tasted the efforts of Guillaume Gilles.  He is the protege of Robert Michel, a 9th generation winemaker, who upon retirement, leased a prime vineyard to Gilles and let him use his cave for producing wine.  Gilles also worked with Jean-Louis Chave.  It is Gilles’ traditionally made wines from Cornas and Cotes du Rhone that show his adept hand with Syrah.

Guillaume Gilles also excels with Gamay.  I know for just last week I tasted an exciting bottle of 2015 Guillaume Gilles, Les Massardieres.  There is very little information published and as far as I can tell this wine is only available at MacArthur Beverages.  Phil Bernstein decided to import the wine after visiting Gilles earlier this year.  With an introduction from Phil, Gilles related the story of this wine.

The Gamay for Les Massardieres is sourced from a vineyard 16km away from Cornas near Arlenosc on the Plateau Ardéchois.   Located at an altitude of 500 to 600 meters this area is higher than Cornas and the Rhone Valley.  It is here that Guillaume Gilles has vacationed with his family since he was a young boy of 3.  For Gilles the land is “more wild and typical” than the Rhone Valley.  It was natural then that Gilles accepted the offer to tend the vineyard when a friend recently presented the opportunity.

In turns out that Gilles spent time in Beaujolais as a youth where he developed his love of Gamay.  He became attracted to the idea of producing a good, simple wine different from Cornas.  With his first vintage of 2011 he found that the vineyard produced a deeper, more characterful wine than he expected.

The vineyard is tiny, just 3000 m² or three-quarters of an acre. It was planted some 40 years ago on soils of young granite.  The granite is less altered so there is only a thin layer of sand making it more acidic.  Though vines have been grown here for some three centuries there is no appellation or IGP.  Gilles is only aware of Gamay being grown since the Second World War.  He finds it an ideal region for Gamay.  The higher altitude and continental climate make for a season that is a bit too short for Syrah to ripen.

Les Massardieres is made using carbonic maceration but Guillaume Gilles could not resist pigeage, like he employs in his Cornas, before the end of fermentation.  I find the wine is a unique perspective on Gamay.  It is long in flavor, from the lively, almost prickly start to the chewy finish.  There is fine texture to the wine but it is the fat infused fruit that makes for an outstanding mouthfeel.  The 2015 vintage furnished very ripe berries which Gilles believes gives the wine this texture.  The ripeness is not overdone.  He feels, and I must agree, that the terroir still comes through.

I strongly encourage you to try a bottle or two of Les Massardieres.  It is one of the most exciting young wines I have recently tried.

2015 Guillaume Gilles, Les Massardieres – $25
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is 100% Gamay.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose bears floral aromas.  In the mouth the wine is perfumed from the start through the long aftertaste.  It is lively on the tongue tip, almost prickly, and soon delivers fat infused fruit which lends to a sense of luxury and body.  There is a texture throughout adding tactile sensation to the purple and black fruit.  A dry cut ends with a grapey and chewy finish. **** Now – 2022.

Two old favorites: Caladroy and Coupe-Roses

I have opened up previous vintages of both of these wines to a rather large extent so I am excited to try the latest offerings. The 2015 Chateau du Caladroy, Cuvee Les Schistes, Cotes du Roussillon Villages is a fine value.  It lives up to the name of the cuvee by offering clean black fruit flavors mixed with the notion of stones.  As it is about the fruit and not structure I would drink it within the next few years.  The 2016 Chateau Coupe-Roses, Bastide, Minervois  is a cleaner, not earthy version, of the 2015 vintage.  I admit to missing the deep tone and weight of the previous vintage but at $13 this pure and elegant wine is a good value. These two wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

2015 Chateau du Caladroy, Cuvee Les Schistes, Cotes du Roussillon Villages – $15
Imported by Vintage ’59 Imports.  This wine is a blend of  Syrah, Carignan, Grenache, and Mourvedre largely raised in tank.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The interesting color is a medium black-cherry with hints of purple.  In the mouth are stone notes followed by firm yet juicy flavors of perfumed black fruit.  There is a tart start with watering acidity.  The flavors have some weight which lends suppleness to the all mineral and black fruit.  The finish is a touch dry followed by a sense of ripeness in the ethereal aftertaste.  *** Now – 2020.

2016 Chateau Coupe-Roses, Bastide, Minervois – $13
Imported by Vintage ’59 Imports. This wine is a blend of 48% Carignan, 46% Grenache, and 6% Syrah. Alcohol 13.5%.  The fresh acidity brings balanced flavors of black fruit and minerals.  What starts as a powdery texture becomes juicy by the middle with a slightly spicy, mineral finish and aftertaste.  The purity of the flavors come out with additional air.  **(*) 2018-2020.

Back to the golden-age: A tasting of Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Chateauneuf-du-Pape from 1990-1961

September 29, 2017 Leave a comment

Paul Jaboulet Aîné, founded in 1834, remains a major negociant to this day.  The Hermitage “La Chapelle” needs no introduction as it is still a benchmark for Northern Rhone wines. Today we would not include the Chateauneuf du Pape “Les Cèdres” as amongst the best of the region but it was in the 1960s and 1970s. Only a handful of vineyard owners bottled their own wine during this period which allowed Paul Jaboulet Aîné to purchase wine from top vineyards, the names of which are highly coveted today.

Paul Jaboulet Aîné has original vineyard holdings in Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage.  John Livingstone-Learmonth explained to me how Northern Rhone merchants felt they should have Southern Rhone wines in their portfolio. These were marketed towards French restaurants and the export trade. Thus the Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Les Cèdres” is a brand name marketed in the US and Great Britain and “La Grappe des Papes” elsewhere.

John Livingstone Learmonth writes that this was the “benchmark house” when he started in the wine business in 1973.  Robert Parker echoes this sentiment rating the Chateauneuf-du-Pape vintages prior to 1970 with the top mark of five stars.  This past weekend a group of us gathered in my house to explore these golden years by tasting 11 vintages from 1990 back to 1961.

The four oldest vintages tasted 1970, 1966, 1964, and 1961 were produced by Louis Jaboulet, grandson of founder Paul Jaboulet. It is Louis Jaboulet who selected the wines that went into these vintages.  With his passing away in 2012 the background history of these great wines was lost.[1]  What we do know is very little and often repeated.  Robert Parker writes that the 1967 was produced from old-vine wine from Chateau La Nerthe.  He also writes that the older vintages were predominantly or entirely made from Grenache.

My overall impression is that in moving back in time, decade by decade, the wines become more interesting and exciting.  The 1990 and 1989 vintages are young in evolution but in different ways.  The former is integrated yet tight whereas the later offers rounder fruit but with tangy grip from age-worthy structure.  The first mature vintage is 1983 which attracted me with its sweaty, old-school aromas.  The 1982 requires a day for the nose to clean up at which point it is a mature, quieter wine. Both of these vintages should be drunk soon.  Youthful form returned in the 1981 vintage which is finely scented and flavored.  Out of magnum I would wait several more years before revisiting.

The excellent vintages of 1979, 1978, and 1970 made for a very satisfying flight.  These wines are mature but will drink in good form for several more years.  They all bear fruit backed by weight and a sweaty/animale note that I like.

We had an off bottle of 1964 thus our oldest decade was represented by 1966 and 1961.  For me the level of interest stepped up one more notch over the 1970s for the 1966 is downright exciting. The balance between red fruit, sweet concentration, levity, bottle age complexity, and life pulls you into your glass.  It should drink at this level for several more years.  If the 1966 is generous the 1961 is structured, controlled, and dry in nature.  It is made complex by leather and perfumed notes.

It is clear that Louis Jaboulet was able to source some fine wine for his vintages of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  Not only do these wines highlight the quality level a top negociant could achieve but increase the notion of longevity of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

I must point out that this tasting would not have occurred without the willingness of Mannie Berk, founder of the Rare Wine Co., who generously opened up his inventory to me.  He imported all of these wines which included a combination of ex-domaine and private cellar acquisitions.

After the tasting we drank a few more wines.  One generous guest opened a bottle of 1990 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Hermitage, La Chapelle which required until the second night to show its glorious potential.  With dessert came the 1983 Graham’s, Vintage Port which I found to be completely mature.  It is all sweet fruit and spices.


Arrival Champagne

 

2000 Charles Heidsieck, Champagne Brut Millésimé
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.  A light golden color.  The mousse tickles the tongue before the wine seamlessly transitions to a fresh, grippy presence.  The mouth feel matches the chalk flavor from which notes of apple orchard, some supple weight, and spiced chalk come out.  A fine glass.  **** Now – 2020.


Flight #1

1990 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cèdres ex-domaine
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 13.5%. The nose is tight at first but slowly reveals interesting aromas of sweet, sweaty leather, and garrrigue. In the mouth are fresh red fruit flavors around a fine vein of herbs and wood. The flavors are moved along by watering acidity. With air, this slowly evolving wine, shows complicated garrigue and wood notes. *** Now – 2027.

1990 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Grappe des Papes
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 14%. Slightly maderized on the nose but with aromas of darker fruit and plums. In the mouth the flavors have good weight, eventually revealing cherries and sweet fruit. There is a bit of a tang and polished wood note. ** Now.

1989 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Grappe des Papes
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 13.5%. This is every so slightly darker than the first trio. A tight nose at first but the palate has lovely grip from the structure which adds pleasing texture to the blue/red fruits and garrigue. Unlike the 1990, there is a very fine tannic structure and it is also more forward in flavor. It is easy to appreciate the rounder flavors, tangy grip, and sweet raspberry aftertaste. **** Now – 2027.


Flight #2

1983 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Grappe des Papes
Imported by Vieux Vins. The nose is sweet and sweaty, certainly old-school. With air a freshness and tobacco aroma come out. Watering acidity brings forth a start of sweet and rounded flavors made more complex by incense. The wine is clearly mature. Though there is red fruit with some weight, though lighter than the 1989, the wine dries by the finish. There is also a touch of structure lurking about. ***(*) Now – 2022.

1982 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cèdres ex-domaine, en magnum
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.   Alcohol 13.5%.  Quite aromatic with a hint of cheese and metal which eventually improves to be funky. In the mouth the wine oscillates in appeal. At best, the grippy structure and sweet red aftertaste appeal but there is more structure than fruit. ** Now.

1981 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cèdres ex-domaine, en magnum
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.   Alcohol 13%.  This is a finely scented wine of dark aromas. In the mouth it is clearly in fine condition with red then blacker fruit, fresh acidity, and a finely textured and well-integrated tannic structure. With air raspberry flavors and firm red fruit come out. There is an ethereal quality to the fruit. **** Now – 2027.


Flight #3

1979 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Grappe des Papes
Imported by Vieux Vins.  The lightest of the trio but with good brilliance. The berries and cherries on the nose are a touch firm with a hint of roast. In the mouth is also a slightly roasted note but the sweet, small berried fruit has weight and longevity in profile. It is a bit animale. ***(*) Now – 2020.

1978 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cèdres ex-domaine
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.   Alcohol 13.5%.  Aromas of cherries, cranberries, and bright herbs eventually take on sweat, incense, and a green note. The flavors are rounder than the 1979 yet are light in weight, carried through by watering acidity. The entire wine is underpinned by structure and spiced tannins that are perfectly integrated. This wine eventually reveals itself to be long lived, lovely, and complete. **** Now – 2025.

1970 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Grappe des Papes
Imported by Vieux Vins.  The darkest of the trio, slightly cloudy. Also the most robust of the trio with a closely played berry core with tangy flavors lefts on the sides of the mouth. With air the wine becomes brighter with red, rounded berry flavors, tartness, and a hint of cola. Good watering acidity. **** Now – 2022.


Flight #4

1966 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, La Grappe des Papes
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.   Alcohol 13.5%. I just wanted to smell and taste this wine. There is a fine interplay between the red fruit, sweet concentration, and ethereal flavor. It is light in body yet flavorful with complexity from leather and animale flavors. Simply a point. ****(*) Now but will last.

1964 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cèdres ex-domaine
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.   Alcohol 13.5%.   This bottle is toast! Not Rated.

1961 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Les Cèdres ex-domaine
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.   Alcohol 13.5%. The nose offers up sweet fruits and leather then with air banana foster. In this mouth this is a dry wine, a characteristic which naturally matches the perfumed flavor. There is controlled ripeness and watering acidity. **** Now but will last.


Dinner Wines

1990 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, Hermitage, La Chapelle
Imported by Frederick Wildman.  The dark cherry and garnet color is still youthful. There are fine scented berries on the nose. In the mouth there is great purity with black and purple fruit, hints of leather all delivered with great focus. On the second night the wine is markedly improved with a savory profile to the dark fruit. Is is still youthful but the flavors takes on weight and a mineral dimension. It is also still structured but there is plenty of flavor for development as the long, mouth filling finish attests too. ***(**) Now – 2037.

1983 Graham’s, Vintage Port
Imported by Premium Port Wines.  Alcohol 20%.  This is finely scented with sweet fruit, spices, and wood box. The rounded, red fruited start is dusted with ripe, baking spices. The structure is largely resolved so there is a sense of balance because the wine is in a sweet spot.  *** Now – 2022.

[1]According to correspondence with Jean Luc Chapel, Prestige Account Manager, Paul Jaboulet Aîné on 27 September 2017.

Barbera d’Alba from Burlotto

September 27, 2017 Leave a comment

I admit I am relatively new to the wines of G. B. Burlotto despite the winery having been founded in the mid 19th century.  My experience is limited to a few vintages of the ancient variety Pelaverga and one Barolo from 1961.  Today the wines are made by Fabio Alessandria, great-great-grandson of the founder G. B. Burlotto.  Alessandria is said to have reinvigorated the winery through the use of traditional techniques.

He typically produces two Barbera but in 2014 the fruit for his top cuvee Aves was combined to make a single bottling of the 2014 G. B. Burlotto, Barbera d’Alba.  It is a tangy, bright wine with a mouth feel that is even better than the flavor for the suppleness seemingly comes from fat.  The 2015 G. B. Burlotto, Barbera d’Alba Aves  is deeper in flavor with more obvious structure and a stronger mineral presence.  A floral component adds to the complexity.  It will improve with age but is hard to resist right now and yes, the fat impression helps.  Both of these wines are still available at MacArthur Beverages.

2014 G. B. Burlotto, Barbera d’Alba – $20
Imported by Elite Wines.  Alcohol 13.5%.  A light to medium ruby with a hint of garnet.  A fine nose.  The tangy and bright start becomes tangier with air. With air the wine mores from a red start to a black finish with pencil lead.  There is moderate suppleness coupled with some surprising fat.  The fat is attractive.  **(*) Now – 2020.

2015 G. B. Burlotto, Barbera d’Alba Aves – $26
Imported by Elite Wines.  Alcohol 15%.  Dark purple-tinged ruby.  A scented nose.  The tangy red fruit is of fine quality and in perfect balance with acidity and structure.  With air the wine becomes mineral, amost black towards the finish where it picks up floral flavors.  It shows a polished wood note, a mineral structure, and fat in the aftertaste.  *** Now – 2023.

The grapey 2015 J.L. Chave Selections, Silene, Crozes-Hermitage

September 26, 2017 Leave a comment

The 2015 J.L. Chave Selections, Silene, Crozes-Hermitage features young fruit from the estate as well as purchased.  It is full of grapey aromas and flavors to good effect.  It will even remind you of the granite soils.  You can pick it up at MacArthur Beverages.

2015 J.L. Chave Selections, Silene, Crozes-Hermitage – $26
Imported by Erin Cannon Imports.  This wine is 100% Syrah from hillside parcels on granite with 50% sourced from a young parcel planted in 2003.  Alcohol 14%. Good, grapey aromas are on the nose. In the mouth are grapey flavors, as if from young vines, and citric pithe texture. Almost juicy acidity and a modest dry structure. Dry mineral streak. Grapey depth.  *** Now – 2020.

A South African Sauvignon Blanc from 2017

September 25, 2017 Leave a comment

Given the unusually hot weather in Washington, DC, it is only fair to recommend the crisp 2017 Springfield Estate, Life From Stone Sauvignon Blanc, Robertson.  I drank this wine courtesy of my neighbor Taz whose wife kindly carried it back from South Africa.  I cannot think of a wine tasted in recent memory that is so aromatic.  This is a crisp, stone accented wine with a savory edge.  Good stuff!

2017 Springfield Estate, Life From Stone Sauvignon Blanc, Robertson
This wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc sourced from 14-20 year old vines grown on soils of 70% slate. Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose is highly aromatic with pungent notes of fresh grass and fruit.  This is a crisp, fruity with with green tinged fruit and a persistent mineral/stone note.  With a bit of warmth it takes on an attractive savory edge.  *** Now – 2018.

Mature Akronte from the Marche

September 22, 2017 Leave a comment

The 2000 Boccadigabbia, Akronte, Marche represents the top bottling of this estate.  With the grape and oak representing the previous French ownership of the estate this is a modern style of wine.  The long oak aging has ensured this wine is still very robust to this day.  What is within this robust structure are mouth filling flavors, the right amount of weight, and spot on acidity. Tim is clearing out the last few bottles at MacArthur Beverages so why not try something different?

2000 Boccadigabbia, Akronte, Marche – $20
Imported by Bacchus Importers.  This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 18-20 months in new French oak barriques.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The maturing color is a dark brick and garnet.  Some hints of roast are on the nose but none in the mouth.  Instead, there is a cool entry of flavors which quickly builds with mouth filling power yet maintains a controlled core of weight and even a fresh finish.  The structure of dry and textured tannins is still noticeable in the finish and aftertaste.  With air this wine has perfect acidity that matches the firm black cherry flavors and wood notes.  This modern-styled wine is too robust for higher marks but is  nonetheless a treat at this price.  ***(*) Now – 2025.