Private Collection: French Wine, and more...

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Laval, Georges NV Champagne Cumières Premier Cru Brut Meuniers de la Butte

It deserves to be asked why this wine is so expensive. The answer is probably "because it will never be made again." The Meunier vines here were planted in 1930 and 1965; Vincent Laval had to uproot them and replant the vineyard, which means the 800 bottles he made of 2006 Meunier de la Butte are all there are... ever. As usual for Laval's wines, this bottle is absolutely incredible. The base wine is fermented in barrel with native yeast; no dosage is added, and none is needed because the grapes were harvested very ripe. Creamy textured and seamless, this bottle offers a level of finesse, delicacy, and elegance that is almost never found in Pinot Meunier. Rich, tightly coiled, energetic, this wine has notes of apple and fresh, green leaves on the nose as well as smoky, dusty minerals. The contrast between tangy fruits and creamy texture makes the wine feel layered and very complex. An extraordinarily special wine. -msb

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Millot, Jean-Marc 2008 Grands Echezeaux Grand Cru

Don't be put off here by the reputation of 2008 for producing hard, unyielding wines -  Jean-Marc Millot's Grand Echezeaux is in a lovely place. From sixty-year old vines, this is showing dark red and blue fruit, hoisin, sous-bois and that classic spiciness that makes Vosne so compelling. The wood is extremely well-integrated here and if the acid was ever at all out of joint (a concern with some '08s) it is not now - the fruit has sweetened around it and the wine feels beautifully balanced. This has real class and Grand Cru elegance. Sam Ehrlich

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Balthazar, Franck 2010 Cornas Chaillot

Here's a great descpription by our favorite Rhône writer, Livingston-Learmonth: "Thick, Cornasien robe, full. Big, oily, saturated bouquet that has a 1990 richness, gives the image of red meat strength – there is packing here. It is a very complex nose, with violet and polished leather involved as well, has a lot to show. The palate has a black berry drive, has acetate in it as well. It shows savoury, meat gravy features, is compact, but extends a long way. The black fruit is squeezy in this Big Beast Cornas, that bears black raisin, some brioche sweetness until the end grain enters – this resembles oak, but isn’t. The palate will need leaving until 2017 or 2018 – it is robust and demanding now, its deep-seated matter leading into a glowing end, which shows the strength of the vintage."

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Duclaux, Benjamin et David 2001 Cote Rotie

Two Duclaux brothers have revived this traditional producer and are making fine Cote Rotie in the classic style, blending fruit from different plots (in the Coteaux du Tupin, Maison Rouge, and Coteaux du Semons); this version is 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier. Grapes are destalked, cold macerated for 10 days, fermented for up to 30 days using indigenous yeasts, and cask aged for two years, with new oak just for the 15% or so of press wine. The result in 2001, tasted today: fresh black and red fruit, earth, a bit of pepper, violets and truffley stuff; medium body, good length, youthful but damn tasty now with lively juicy fruit and Cote Rotie meatiness. It’s not a blockbuster but could handle a few more years in the cellar; it’s got all of the classic elements and the suggestion from a colleague of a glass of this and some sausage from the grill has got us all wishing for an early lunch… JW

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Paris, Vincent 2010 Cornas La Geynale

(85% from the top of La Geynale, including vines from 1910, 15% from Tezier. 80 — 85% whole bunch fermentation, aged in 2 — 10 year-old casks) "Dark, shiny robe, black cherry, clean extraction, polished fruit on the nose, blackberry with suggestions of mint, raw tobacco, black soil. Somewhat gamey in it's intense blackberry fruit, has a lot of heart, a big core and well-juiced sides, with some powdery, pebbly tannins alongside. Has good drive, is ripely fruited and finishes with the grain of Cornas, with the cut of the vintage clarity in it, a real wine of terroir, very good, very long. Best around 2016-2021, drink until 2028." (Thanks to drinkrhone.com)

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Chasse Spleen 1996 Moulis

The wines of Chasse-Spleen come from Moulis-en-Medoc, a small village to the north-west of Margaux. Like Margaux, the soil content has a large amount of gravel, but uniquely Moulis hosts underlying layers of clay and limestone.  Chateau Chasse Spleen is the most well known of the producers in this village, producing Bordeaux blends with high portions of Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Lascombes 1994 Margaux

There is a lot of life in this wine. The nose is pretty, with dark flowers and dried red fruit. The palate is savory, with a hint of smoke and spicy dried plums. Drinking beautifully. David Hatzopoulos

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