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We're proud to introduce these outstanding natural wines to the US, originating from high altitude vineyards on soils of shiste in Faugères, and produced with zero or minimal added sulfur. Sybil Balassarre is a young Italian oenologist who worked with Anna Schneider at the University of Turin in a project of "study, recovery and the safeguard of Vitis genetic resourses'" and then worked at the important organic estate Chateau Tours des Gendres in Bergerac. Thanks to retailer Ludovic Aventin and to crowdfunding by his society "Terra Hominis," Sybil was able to obtain 2.5 hectares of old vines - all white varieties - for her dream project in Faugères. Here she is joined by her partner Alexandre Durand, from Bergerac, whose project is Pèira Levada, producing red wines, with zero added sulfur, from Cinsault, Grenache, Carignan and Mourvedre as well as ancient grapes such as Oeillades and Aramon.
We met Sybil and Alex in Caussiniojouls(?), and tried to follow their Jeep up to the vineyards in the hamlet of Cabrerolles, bathed in luminous winter light, at 1300ft in altitude. It's a unique and beautiful spot, cool enough to retain acidity in the white wines, even in the Languedoc, on a great terroir of shiste, with old vines primarily of Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Roussanne and Marsanne. Her farming is organic, of course, with minimal treatments for mildew and a great diversity of flora and fauna in and around the vines. She is planting Terret, Clairette, Maccabeo and other old varieties and hopes to develop a conservatory to preserve the ancient vines that are adapted to the region.
Ms Baldassarre is passionate, energetic and obviously a highly skilled and knowledgeable winemaker as was shown during our subsequent tasting in her cellar/garage. The wines are fantastically complex and ripe, but balanced by firm acidity, and while they possess the ''sauvage" character of natural wines, they remain "clean," saline and very long in the finish. They will be superb accompaniments to creative vegetarian cooking, fish or chicken in sauce and full flavored cheeses. We are thrilled to offer these unique wines in the US and we congratulate Ms. Badassarre on her work and her committment to the region and it's old varieties.
Alexandre Durand's parcels for Pèira Levada are nearby at a slightly lower altitude on terroirs of shiste and marble. Alexandre is making wines without added SO2, with a two month maceration, with no pigeage or remontage, just an infusion of fruit. His first two wines to reach us are "Dynamite," made with Cinsault on a terroir of marble and "Velvet Underschiste" on, you guessed it, schiste soils. While they are obviously full-flavored wines of the south, they retain cool acidity and are balanced and pretty - perfect for grilled foods this summer, served a bit cool.
All wines arrive by Tuesday June 18th.
Pascaline Lepeltier and staff will be introducing these unique wines at Racines this Tuesday, June 18th, beginning at 6pm. Six half-pours $30, for reservations call Racines at 212-227-3400 or email email@example.com
This is an extraordinay Vermentino, from old vines on high altitude schiste soils in Faugères, from organic farming and made with zero added sulfur by the enthusiastic and talented Sybil Baldassarre. The 2017 vintage began well with grapes in perfect condition, but then drought set in, lowering yields and forcing an early harvest. The resulting wine is quite full and rich but retaining good acidity, with elegant aromas of thyme and garrique with white fruits. The palate is clean, very mineral and saline with apricot, white fruit and almond flavors, well balanced and very long. The wine is a great achievement of good farming and talented winemaking, a white from the south of great elegance and complexity that will shine at the table. Like all of the Graine Sauvage wines, it is highly recommended. David Lillie
The "Lutz" 2017 is a fascinating natural wine, made with Marsanne and Roussanne grown at 1300 ft in Faugères, in Sybil Baldassarre's beautiful mountain-top vineyard. There is a two-day cold soak, then fermentaion with wild yeasts and no added SO2, aging in vat for 18 months. Tasted in Sybil's garage/winery, the wine showed herbal aromas, with citrus and exotic fruit with a lovely earthy palate of citrus, hay, almond and mineral flavors. Just off the boat in NY the wine is a little unsettled with very complex herbal, hay, lemon oil and almond aromas. The palate is a bit funky with strong earth and mineral notes under walnut, lemon, and herbal flavors followed by a firm lemon and mineral finish. Ideally give this a few months, or years, in a cool place to settle down. David Lillie
The 2016 Faugères Blanc "Rocalhas" from La Graine Sauvage was made from 70% Grenache Blanc with equal parts Roussanne and Marsanne. The vintage 2016 gave a brighter wine with a bit more acidity and less concentration than the 2015. The aromas are bright and pretty with ripe pear, apricot, lemon confit, fines herbes and wet stone. The palate is dense, supple and mineral but with bright acidity with flavors of dried pear, garrigue, lemon and saline minerals. Nice length of earth and citrus flavors lingers on the palate. Lovely wine and a great food pairing for any complex fish preparation, chicken in sauce, sushi....
Sybil Baldassarre's first vintage of Faugères Blanc "Rocalhas" is 60% Grenache Blanc, 30% Roussanne and 10% Marsanne. Just arrived in te US for the first time, this unique natural wine shows aromas of lemon oil, almond, lime flower and wet stone. The palate is dense and full wtih flavors of ripe pear and apple, candied citrus, almond, stone and caramel, with a long sappy finish of ripe citrus, anise, pear and saline minerals. Serve with bouillabaisse, grilled shrimp or lobster, grilled vegetables, full flavored cheeses. Congratulations to Sybil on this delicious natural wine - organic farming, mininal SO2. (And we enjoy the love-making ladybugs on the label) David Lillie
Alexandre Durand makes this elegant Languedoc red from Grenache, Carignan and Mourvedre orgnaically grown in high altitude parcels on schiste soils in Faugères. Wild yeast fermentation, with no extraction and no added SO2. The 2018 Velvet Underschiste is a complex and very pretty wine with intriguing aromas of black cherry and blackberry with a bit of mint and citrus. The palate is ripe and dense, but with cool acidity, showing spicy black cherry and red currant fruit with firm acidity and a lovely earth and mineral core. Bravo to Alex for this delightful wine.... David Lillie
We love Cinsault and this is a beautiful example from Alexandre Durand at Pèira Levada, made with a two month maceration without extraction and zero added SO2. The wine shows bright aromas of dark cherry, redcurrant and raspberry fruit, with a touch of rhubarb and a hint of an herbal quality. The palate, though light, has nice density and length with deep black raspberry and strawberry flavors and a refreshing finish. The plots where the vines are planted have a high concentration of marble in the soil (woah!) and there is a cool minerality to this wine that lingers on the long finish. Quite unique, and an absolute treat, serve chilled with grilled foods, chacuterie and mild cheeses.