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We're happy to offer some of the finest wines of Beaujolais, including the last bottles from the cellar of Joëlle and Roland Pignard. Quantities are tiny, especially from Descombes and Thillardon so don't delay...
Joëlle and Roland Pignard produced Biodynamic Regnié, Morgon and Beaujolais-Villages from their four and one-half hectares of hillside vineyards above Villié-Morgon. Preferring to use horse-power in the vineyard, their farming was similar to Christion Ducroux's (who is a close friend) and vinifications were with wild yeasts, with minimal extraction, seeking to emphazise balance and mineral characters in the wines. "Life in the soil is essential: we look after it by only ploughing and tilling using horse-drawn plows; this ensures that the soil is not as compacted and that microbiotic life can develop there. Because the vines’ roots delve down deeper, they draw up more of the terroir’s characteristics." The Pignards add a tiny amount of SO2 before bottling giving a total sulfur of about 10 - 15mg per liter. The wines are remarkably pure and natural and are some of the most "terroir" expressive wines in Beaujolais. Our last shipment from the Pignards contains 10 cases each of the 2016 Morgon and 2016 Morgon "Tradition." Fermentations at the Pignards were fairly short and at higher temperatures than Thillardon and Descombes, for example, giving wines that are fairly dense and structured which typically need a few years in the bottle to show at their best. The 2016s offered today are the last wines in their cellar and are drinking beautifully. Our thanks to Roland and Joëlle for their many years af great farming and superb wines!
The wines of Paul-Henri and Charles Thillardon have rapidly becme some of the most sought-after wines of the Beaujolais - we're happy to offer a tiny allocation of these extraordianary wines. "We are lovers of wine and nature, we produce healthy wines, without artifice and try to go as far as possible in our work to reveal our terroirs. Organic and biodynamic farming, pure wines, agroforestry and peasantry are the pillars that have made up our estate." (Badly translated from the Thillardon website) Indeed the Thillardons (Paul-Henri and Charles) have introduced farm animals into the vineyards, which are surrouonded by hedges and interspersed with trees (as at Domaine Ducroux). After briefly practicing Burgundian vinifications, the Thillardons have happily converted to a cold temperature carbonic maceration of 2 to 4 weeks followed by pressing (wooden vertical press) and aging in cement vats or old barrels. The resultng wines are vibrant and delicious, we urge you to try them...
One of the great pleasures of our winter trip to France is La Dive Bouteille in Saumur, where one can taste the great Beaujolais of the Descombes family, Lapierre, Chanudet, Breton, Leonis and others, including the beautiful natural wines of Jean-Claude Lapalu. Currently one of the most respected growers in Beaujolais, Lapalu began his career as a grape grower, only beginning to produce his own wines in 1996. The farming here In is exemplary with organic certification since 2010, and biodynamic methods as well. And Lapalu's vineyards have a very high percentage of old vines, with most parcels averaging between 50 and 100 years of age. The first of Jean-Claude's 2021's have just arrived....
As we say over and over again, Georges Descombes is one of the very greatest producers in Beaujolais - his 2019s - both the "regular" cuvées and the Vieilles Vignes are astonishingly delicious! And now the 2020s are begining to arrive, including the 2020 Morgon and the Chiroubles Vieilles Vignes (and arriving next week, the Regnié Vieilles Vignes as well). We're happy to report that the 2020s are sensational, with similarly beautiful fruit with a bit more structure and mineral character - both vintages are wonderful and perfect to serve cool with grilled foods this summer and over the next five-plus years. Allocations here get smaller every year - only a few more cases of the 2019/2020 Vieilles Vignes cuvées will arrive in the fall...
Things are moving slowly these days, but all wines should be available by Wednesday 8/24.
Arrives 8/24 (Our note from 2018) We're very proud to have the lovely Morgons of Roland Pignard at Chambers Street. From high-elevation 50 to 60 year-old vines in the commune of Saint-Joseph north-west of Villié-Morgon, in sandy clay soils over granite in the lieu-dit "les Charmes." Biodynamic farming, no SO2 until a minimal dose before bottling, with a relatively short period of carbonic-maceration. The wine shows a bright medium red color with elegant aromas of black raspberry, black cherry and earth with rose and violet. The palate is deep and ripe with firm acidity but stays light on its feet at 12.5% alcohol, with black and red fruits and mineral flavors that continue in the long finish. The "Tradition" cuvée is slightly rounder and deeper, but there is little difference between the wines in this super vintage for the Pignards. Serve cool with chicken and pork dishes, and put a few bottles away for five years as well. Highly recommended. David Lillie
Arrives 8/24 (Our note from 2018) The Pignard's Morgon Cuvée Tradition is simply superb in 2016. Good friends with Christian Ducroux, the Pignards practise similar methods of biodynamic farming and natural vinifications. Produced from steep hillside vineyards, the wine ferments naturally, with approximately 10mg of SO2 added and spends a year in vat followed by a year in old barriques. The 2016 vintage was a difficult one for the growers, resulting in low yields, but with a sunny late season that produced beautiful wines with pure fruit, light to medium body and firm acidity. The 2016 Morgon Tradition is a superb wine, showing a deep red color and aromas of ripe morello cherry, strawberry and black raspberry liqueur, with violet, rose, orange peel and earth. There is berry liqueur on the palate which is dense and long but not heavy. It's well balanced and bright at 12.5 % alcohol, finishing with sappy black fruits, citrus and earth. Serve in it's vibrant youth with steak frites, charcuterie, coq au vin and cow cheeses. This will be worth cellaring, best perhaps 2022 - 2026. Highly recommended. David Lillie
(Arrives 8/24) Georges Descombes has created another superb Morgon in 2020 - not as bright perhaps as the 2014 (pictured) but with a similar balance of alcohol (13%), freshness and very ripe sappy fruit. The wine shows a bright, vivid red/black color with earth, violet and citrus notes mingling with lovely raspberry and blackberry aromas. The palate is ripe, silky and well-structured with fresh, velvety raspberry, cherry and blackberry fruit, with earth and mineral notes bringing texture and length to the sappy, lingering finish. This is a beautiful Morgon to serve cool with farm chicken, grilled pork and lamb, cow cheeses and charcuterie over the next 4 - 5 years. David Lillie
(Arrives 8/24) Haven’t checked in on a lot of the 2020 Beaujolais Crus. George’s Descombes is a longtime favorite, and what a treat to taste the Chiroubles Vieilles Vignes. The 2020 displays a darker ruby robe than the 2019. The nose is a bit circumspect on opening. More black raspberry and tangled bramble on the nose than strawberry and spice. Dust, dried rose and violet petals accent the deep fruit. The midweight palate is sculpted and driving and offers intense flavors of hedge fruits, cherry pit, and mineral salts on a long and punchy finish. This marries stony intensity with succulent fruit framed by taut structure. Tasty for sure, buoyed by a nibble of saucisson, better still with leftover potato gratin and duck confit and sautéed chard. This is delicious, but rather than being “crushable,” it rewards patience and contemplation. Decant now or cellar for a couple of years to allow the elements to knit. John McIlwain
The 2020 Regnie VV is arriving at the importer's warehousse on 8/19, thus we have not had a chance to taste. Recent vintages of this wine have been sensational - here's our note on the 2018 - we would expect the 2020 to have a bit less alcohol and be a bit brighter...? "The 2018 Regnié Vieilles Vignes was one of the stars in last winter's tasting showing gorgeous red and black raspberry aromas with earth, citrus and spice, really lovely. The palate is elegant and long with black cherry, prune and red fruit liqueur with earth and smoke, with underlying mineral, graphite flavors. The wine is beautifully balanced and fresh at 13 - 13.5% alcohol, powerful yet refined and delicate, and will improve with a few years cellaring - but in such a nice place right now. This is an outstanding Beaujolais, simply delicious - serve cool with pork and lamb dishes, coq au vin, charcuterie, over the next ten years. EL"
(Arrives 8/24) This is a classic version of the Descombes Morgon VV, showing ripe high-toned black raspberry and tart cherry aromas with plum, violet, citrus, earth and brown spice, really lovely. The elegant sappy black and red fruits continue on the palate with complex notes of blood orange, mint and spice, quite saline and earthy as well, really showing the terroir. The wine is dense and structured but bright and balanced, finishing with refreshing acidity, citrus, cherry fruit, anise and mineral flavors. Delicious now, this should be superb in three to five years, and should drink well till 2030 and beyond. David Lillie
The 2021 Lapalu Beaujolais Villages is a selection of old vines (50 to 80 years-old) from several plots with a density of 11,000 plants per hectare. Mostly mid-slope, south-east facing early ripening parcels on sandy granite soils. Whole cluster carbonic fermentation in stainless steel vats with indigenous yeasts, maceration of 10 to 12 days, aged on the fine lees for 7 months in concrete vats. 10 mg/liter of SO2 added only before bottling. A Beaujolais-Villages that will reward patience here, this was angular and dusty upon opening, with quite crisp red fruit and incredible acidity that stands the wine firmly at attention. However, as it sat open, the dustiness lifted and the fruit rounded out, giving ballast to the wine. The last glass was joyous classic Beaujolais, crying out for head cheese or boudin noir. Delish.
(Arrives 8/24) The 2021 Lapalu Brouilly "Vieilles Vignes" is from very old vines on granite soils in Brouilly. The grapes are chilled for 1 day, then undergo carbonic maceration/fermentation for 12-14 days with indigenous yeasts. The wine ages for 5 to 6 months in tank and is bottled with no fining or filtration (except the last 10% of the tank), with 10-15 mg SO2 added at bottling. From the moment the cork comes out, this announces itself as serious wine. There is some of the same dusty chalky quality to the nose as in the Beaujolais-Villages, but the red fruit is more concentrated and there is an interesting meaty character in the mid-palate. With air this sheds weight, becoming brighter and more precise, with a salty mineral core. This is very good and will reward some time in the cellar.
(Arrives 8/24) The 2020 Thillardon Moulin-a-Vent is from vines in the commune of Chenas on a south and east facing hillside with soils of "granit rose," a small parcel just behind the "Chassignol" vineyard. Lovely, delicate aromas of raspberry and wild strawberry with notes of allspice and pepper. Light-medium-bodied with lively acidity, fresh-picked berry flavors and mellow tannins. Lots of "buvabilité" (read easy-to-drink), so enjoy now or follow over the next 2-3 years.(12 btls available)
(Arrives 8/24) Paul-Henri Thillardon began with 3 hectares of family vineyards in 2008, then acquired 2 hectares in Chénas, always worked with organic/biodynamic methods and certified organic in 2011. Vinifications here are semi-carbonic, with a long maceration but gentle extraction. The 2020 "Vibrations" is an assemblage of all of the domaine's Chénas parcels, including some fruit from their top site, "Chassignol", bottled with zero So2 additions. Pretty, ethereal aromas of juicy, red berry fruit and high-toned floral notes, combine with subtle, flinty-mineral notes. Medium-bodied with lots of energy from the lively acidity and bright red-fruit flavors, and supple tannins. Drinking very well now, and should continue to evolve over the next 3-5 years. Punchy, racy fun with saucisson before dinner, but with enough earthy soul to shine magret of duck with Greenmarket peaches and summer vegetables. This is sensational Chénas and “Vibrations” is an apt name for the cuvée—it’s just humming and strumming with energy. Highly recommended.(24 btls available)
(Arrives 8/24) "Chassignol" is the domaine's top site, located on a steep slope right behind the winery and very close to the border of Moulin-à-Vent. Many of the vines are over 100 years old, planted in quartz and granite with "roche lardée" (friable pieces of granite reminiscent of lardon). The 2020 shows a complex nose of red and dark berry fruit, sweet spices, citrus peel and dark mineral notes. Not quite full-bodied, but more structured and concentrated than the other Chénas cuvées. The generous acidity maintains balance and freshness through the lengthy finish that's dominated by spice and dark berry flavors. Best to open an hour before serving, or decant. This should evolve nicely over the next 5-10 years, minimum. (12 btls available)