Pas de Frimeur – Guy Breton

Joe Gilmour Uncategorized

Like my dad, Guy Breton used to deliver gas cannisters. An honourable job, no doubt, but one that is not going to sustain some for the long-haul.

So a decision was made around 1986. He was going to take over his grandfather’s family vines. He was going to make wine.

Like all the best decisions, the happy gods of good timing smiled, and he was led, tutored and poured wines by Jacques Neauport and Marcel Lapierre. The Pied-Pipers who led so many of this generation away from the sweetly whispered promises of industrial vinification.

He didn’t listen to them. He joined some like-minded winemakers who wanted to explore this way of making wine. With Marcel Lapierre, Jean Foillard, Jean-Paul Thevenet he had found friends and allies.

The gang worked hard on their wines. Jacques Neauport, a partisan and winemaking consultant to the group, known popularly as Bidasse, rather mischievously told a Le Figaro reporter that while the industrious gang were busy in their cellars, analyzing samples under and checking the development of their wines, the rest of Villie-Morgon was sitting on its collective arse watching game shows on television.

But, my god, I’m myself lying on a bed writing this now,  and realise it is somewhat easy to throw shade on a post-war generation of Beaujolais producers, addicted to herbicides, pesticides and artificial yeasts, but that was the way. It wasn’t as if everyone accepted the trade off between quality and industrial farming. They were told they could have it all. A zeitgeist that said through science lay perfection and perfectibility. Happiness for all.

Additionally, for the prices paid for Beaujolais, for many it was the only way to survive. Making great wines with natural viticulture is great, sure, but feeding your family is better.

Even with work in the vineyards perhaps taking twice as much time, volumes smaller, and vinification more risky, this group didn’t recoup significantly more for their wines. The economics weren’t brilliant and it must have taken years before they were secure in this way of working.

With Petit Max  though, the gang had found a kindred spirit, who you sense, more than any philosophy, just loved the way these wines tasted. Silky, light and so beautiful to drink you finish a bottle before you’ve pulled the cork. They were all winemakers for sure, but they were also drinking friends where the consumption at parties is measured not in bottles but hectolitres. Now, whilst the domaines of Foillard and Lapierre have increased to around 30 hectares, Guy’s has stayed small, only about 4 hectares in total.

I stopped briefly a few weeks ago to see how Guy was getting on with the 16s and 17s, and found him in great form.

After going through the current releases, which are all terrific in their respective styles, and revisiting the 15s a bit, which I think were a great success for him. He opened a blind bottle, which was clearly very old and I guessed towards 1990, but it was the 1989, one of his very first vintages. Judging from the blogosphere, it seems he’s opened a few bottles of this recently. I liked it very much and like all great old Beaujolais it had a very strong sense of Pinosite, but I think perhaps the reason he’s opening a few is he knows it’s probably on the downward path. This wine was bottled without any sulphur, a concept that is, I believe much more Neauportian than Chauvertian, who as a negoce was much more ambivalent about the use of sulphur.

As the morning progressed and I began gulping down Gamay like it was water, he talked about his admiration for the young vignerons, Thillardon and Cotton, his love of the new generation of Lyonnaise restaurants and the future of the region.

I think I can begin to get a sense of this pride at what he has created over the last twenty years. Not a boastful pride, but the quiet sense of satisfaction for the results that his hard work has generated. He is not a showman, not a show-off (Frimeur), and you sense that these are characteristics he greatly disdains. Primeur – Pas de Frimeur!

 

Joe GilmourPas de Frimeur – Guy Breton

Jean-Luc Jamet – New Beginnings

Joe Gilmour Uncategorized

For a while there had been rumours of a rift between the brothers of the greatest estate in Cote-Rotie, Domaine Jamet.


Since the late 1980s, Jean-Paul and Jean-Luc had run their fathers’ domain with impeccable care and steadfastly traditional values. There was a sensible division of labour. Jean-Luc focussed on the vineyards, and Jean-Paul focussed on the winemaking. Why did they separate? There are plenty of soap-operaesque rumour but it is I guess, safest to say they had different visions for the future and leave it there.

It’s a novel situation. If you visit Jean-Paul’s new flash website, you can see that he has rubbed out all mark of Jean-Luc in the history of the estate and seeks to portray his lineage as the older brother as the true descendant of the spirit of Joseph Jamet, their father. He clearly benefits from the sense that the old wines that have made this such a legendary estate are part of his history, not Jean-Luc’s.

This is not the case. Jean-Luc was as much a part of the history as his brother, and as John Livingstone-Learmonth records, vinification, or at least the tasting and assemblage was a joint effort in the early days.

The vineyards have been broken up. Jean-Paul keeps the Cote Brune jewel, but, 4 hectares have been hewn from the original eight and both brothers have augmented to keep production of the two different estates relatively similar. Physically a wall runs down the middle of the estate and one winery is on one side, one on the other.

Jean-Luc’s 5 hectare Cote-Rotie holdings are mostly comprised: – Côte Bodin: 0,2 ha, Bonnivières: 0,6 ha, Chavaroche: 0,7 ha, Lancement: 0,75 ha, La Landonne: 0,17 ha, Mornachon: 0,86 ha, Les Moutonnes: 0,43 ha, Les Rochins: 0,3 ha, Tartaras: 0,13 ha

In addition to those prime Northern vineyard sites, he also holds 2 hectares of CDR and IGP, mostly from the plateau around the winery, Vallin and Bonniviere.

In order to raise new funds for the new cellar, JL sold approximately 75% of his production in 2013, 50% in 2014 and 25% in 2015. The first few vintages showed considerable promise, but I feel they were not totally representative of what he was looking to do.  He was seasoning new barrels with wine.  So, they show a bit oakier and perhaps a bit drier than the ideal he is going for. He believes that the first fill of a barrel is really important and has to be done with the same wine – he won’t buy second hand barrels from another estate. A change from the Jean-Paul wines is also in destemming, he tends to do a bit less full-bunch and ages for less time in barrel, this gives the wines a bit more a floral, mineral character when they’re young.

It’s with the 2015s that I think he has found his groove. The wines are incredible, and he has finally changed the labels after considerable pleading to ones that much more are in tune with the Jamet tradition.

I believe and I hope that in years to come, the relationship between the two Jamet brothers will be rather like that of Pascal and Francoise Cotat – wines that are a bit different in character but generally considered at the same quality level.

I also believe 2015 will reward early faith, as his star ascends, more people will take notice of the great work he’s doing and this is a great chance to get in at the start of his journey.

The first reviews are starting to come out – John Livingstone Learmonth says: “Given that Jean-Luc was almost entirely the vineyard man under the old, united family domaine, I have been agreeably impressed by the wines, which have got going since their debut.”

The 2015 Cote-Rotie is a 5* wine, and JLL says:

“The bouquet is bold, on beef stock, iron, dense black berries, has a poised, integral sweetness, airs of raspberry liqueur, oak smoke. It’s a solid start. The palate has the theme of mineral well placed through it, a lot of mountain of matter, thickening towards the finish. It holds sparkling and dense fruits – cassis, soaked cherries. It is vibrant and very full; there is real flair off its sun-dialled deck. It has great juice; it’s a treat to taste this. Decanting advised. “It has a lot of black fruits, a belle freshness to underpin it; it’s very long,” Jean-Luc Jamet. 12.5°.” ***** John Livingstone-Learmonth.

Joe GilmourJean-Luc Jamet – New Beginnings

Dinner at mine Bob?

Joe Gilmour Uncategorized

I sometimes dream of a special edition of Robert Parker’s Hedonists Gazette. I invite the bard of Maryland to my house. Over a meal, I uncork vintage after vintage of wines that he has scored 95+ points, that are dying, drying out and if not unpleasant, at least difficult to drink.

Pop goes a cork from a bottle of Dead Arm Shiraz, pop goes another vintage of some over-priced Spanish flash-in-the-pan. I look at him intensely but not without humour as he tries to drink them. I can sense they are not slipping down easily.

He would turn to me, let out a sigh, and say, “You know Joe, maybe I was a bit over-enthusiastic about some of those styles” and I would pause, smile benevolently and say, “that’s okay Bob, we’re all human. I’ll open some Beaujolais and then we can head to the pub”. Hmm, it would be a great evening.

This was what I was thinking as we were sipping some 1998 Clos Mogador at a recent lunch. The only theme was the vintages had to end in 4 or 8. We sloshed out way through all of the below wines blind, and some thoughts below, including my guesses where I can remember them.

1988 Henriot Champagne Cuvée des Enchanteleurs Brut

Clearly Champagne, quite dark in colour, developed and very enjoyable without quite having the elegance or length to challenge the very best, possibly assembled in such a way where power was favoured over elegance. I guessed it was from the 1970s. Err.

1988 Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile

This was, at least to my mind, clearly Riesling, and I also thought Alsace and Trimbach, so well done me. I also thought 1994 Clos St Hune, but close enough I guess. Had an interesting insight from one of the guests about how unreliable are the vintages of this wine, and CSH indeed, from the 1990s.

2014 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent) Chablis 1er Cru Séchet

Loved this, and arrived pretty quickly at Chablis and at Dauvissat, or a similar modern imitator (Pico, Vocoret etc) – I actually thought 2008, but really good wine, quite understated, which I think is part of the appeal of Dauvissat, the wines aren’t that obvious, or at least at the 1er level. They are subtle, like a quality finish inside a beautiful coat.

2014 François Rousset-Martin Côtes du Jura Terres Blanches

Can’t remember what I guessed this as, but I think got close to Jura, a really good wine.

1964 Aloxe Corton (Grants of St James)

I’ve had a few 1964 Burgundies and god knows what’s in most of them. The neck collar read ‘Special Reserve’ so at least Grants had a sense of humour, cause there wasn’t much Pinot in this (and it wasn’t that special) I guessed old Chateauneuf du Pape, which was kind of embarrassing but the wine was beefier than slab of steak and had lost all of its Burgundian origins. If it ever had any.

1978 Red Burgundy

Apparently, this was from Gros Frere et Soeurs, although only the vintage was visible. A stunning, soaring Pinot that was exceptionally brilliant. It kept its pinosité so well –  not a given in otherwise excellent old wines from the region.

1988 La Pousse d’Or Volnay 1er Cru Clos des 60 Ouvrées

The wines of Gerard Potel are tough to find, and well prized if not up to the heady heights of the Engel, Truchot, Jayer mob. Strange, someone reasoned, given he trained up half of Burgundy and was a quite brilliant pillar of knowledge and winemaking nous. Now, I thought this was good, but suffered a bit against the previous wine. It didn’t quite have the freshness that becomes so important a pillar in the foundations of great old Burgundy.

1994 Dominique Laurent Vosne-Romanée Vieilles Vignes

What are you gonna get when you open a Dominique Laurent wine? You never really know. I’ve had stinkers, a case of 1988 Chambertin that needed to be poured down the sink. And some pearls, including a cache of 2000 that was just gorgeous and a steal. This was really good. When it works his new barrel to new barrel, minimal racking approach can make some sumptuous wines that have really detailed fruit but a luxorious texture and fruit profile.

2004 Prieure Saint Christophe Vin de Savoie Tradition

Well I guess this a Savoie, but that was about it. A lovely, invigorating alpine burst of purity after those older wines. Did not taste that old either.

2014 Jacques Puffeney Poulsard Arbois “M”

Very good also, still quite young, and more on the primary than developing the characters of an older bottle.

2014 Envinate Ribeira Sacra Lousas Viña de Aldea

Didn’t like this at all, I know these wines are well regarded, but they do that thing where they have abundant acidity but it seems to be grafted onto the wine, like putting vinegar into sugar. I don’t think this will age well, nor was it very nice today. A struggle to finish the glass.

1998 Clos Mogador Priorat

Which brings me to this one – see opening paragraph, I’ll leave you with the words of Robert Parker, which I would slowly intone to him whilst watching him drink this dying wine that probably tasted massive when it was young:”Perhaps the finest Clos Mogador to date, this inky purple-colored 1998 (40% Grenache, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah, and 5% Mourvedre and Petit Verdot) boasts a huge nose of blueberries, blackberries, minerals, and vanillin. It is a wine of great purity, intensity, and mass, with extraordinary richness, a blockbuster mid-palate, and a whoppingly long finish. This decadent offering requires a few more years to fully develop. Anticipated maturity: 2003-2020.”

2004 Domaine Pascal Cotat Sancerre Les Monts Damnés

This was my wine, and I was sad to see it didn’t perform terribly well. There was some really nice tropical and secondary flavour, but it was so dominated by a vegetal milkshake, it was impossible to see past that.

2016 Alice et Olivier De Moor Le Vendangeur Masqué Vin de France “En si Belle compagnie Méridionale”

Reallly nice wine, but I do sometimes think that as good as they are, the fetishization of the De Moors production runs a little ahead of the wines greatness. They’re good right, but they’re not THAT good. This was a negoce offering so perhaps not the ideal specimen to take pot-shots at.

1971 Faiveley Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Les Cazetiers

I was out the door at this point, so just a little sip, but really loved this one. A kind of roasted character to it – really well balanced – seemed just perfect example of old Faiverleys wines after enough ageing being really quite brilliant.

Joe GilmourDinner at mine Bob?

Joe Gilmour Uncategorized

Chambeyron-Manin

 

The history of the Chambeyron-Manin family entwines with the competing crops of Cote Rotie.  Wine is largely on top now, in terms of financial and cultural return, but its ascendancy is relatively recent. For the Chambeyrons, vegetables, fruit and tobacco have been as much a part of their story as wine.

The earliest record I can find is that of Jean-Marie Chambeyron. Jean came to the region as a stone-mason towards the end of the 19th century but soon switched to making wine for the local cafes and bistros. He was one of the men who helped replant many of the prime sites that loom over Ampuis post-phylloxera.

His grandchildren Maurice and Marius went different ways. Maurice went into the fruit and vegetable business, a much safer financial proposition after the Second World War and his brother, Marius took the more risky vocation of growing grapes and making wine. He never lacked confidence in his abilities. The Chambeyron name entwines in the history books like a handful of headphone leads long in the pocket.

The majority of the Marius’ 4 hectares went to his daughter Nicole, who used it to start the Levet estate with her husband Bernard in 1983. He only kept a tiny parcel (0.5 hectare) to work himself until 1992, when he finally hung up his boots and passed it onto his other daughter, Christine. She continued the label, adding her husbI wonder if Marius decided to keep this plot after he’d given the rest to his daughter Nicole, as it was the closest to his house and as he got older, the easiest to get to and back from.

The winemaking and style here are very naked. There is no new oak, no destemming, the vines are old and perfectly exposed. It is not a heavily extracted wine, but one that has great elegance on release.ands name, Manin as a tiny concern of only 165 cases as a homage to her father.

Although there are 2 different labels in circulation, one of them is the same label that Marius used for his wines. Now the estate is run by her daughter Veronique, whose main business is the vegetable market in Ampuis.

It’s a simple operation, although one that demands a lot of work. The vineyard is just across the road from the family home / winery, and rises and curls around the corner beneath the Chambeyron sign erected by the bold Maurice sometime in the 1970s.

It remains wonderful value and a perfect homage to Marius, pictured above, one of the legendary ‘old timers’ whose sweat on the demonically pitched slopes kept alive these magical vineyards for the next generation, who found a market receptive in a way I suspect their grandparents could only dream of.

 

Joe Gilmour

Controversy

Joe Gilmour Uncategorized

Drinking old Italian wines can be like licking god’s coat-tails, but has the era between 1960 and 1980 yielded more misses than hits?

I think so. Here are my reasons why and some non-scientific thoughts on a recent dinner and tasting.

Not Bartolo, not Gaja, not Conterno, not Rinaldi, not him, not her. Sure. These are some of the historic greats of the world. But they are the exceptions not the rule. Not only that, but they are I think exceptional in a way that is unique to Italy and not France.

There’s so much stuff, that could, that should be interesting after thirty years that has just departed from the world of joy.

Barolo, Brunello, Vino Nobile, these were not wines that sold off their silky newness, they were supposed to age. But most of them didn’t. Some tell me that traditionally there was less binning of wines, that they were often left upright and the corks dried, which is a novel explanation of why many wines have not aged too well. Well maybe, but I’m not convinced.

At my previous company, Roberson, we organised a tasting with a pretty representative sample of Italian wines of the 50s, 60s and 70s, We opened fifty wines, and how many did we truly enjoy?

How many were truly alive? Five? Six?

Maybe my sample size is too small. Certainly the general quality of Italian winemaking today is light and day with the wines made in the 60s and 70s.

This impression was somewhat re-enforced in a recent tasting with a supplier in Piedmont. We were in Mondovi, just half an hour or so from Monforte d’Alba, a historic town where old and young parts are linked by a nifty funicular railway. Top speed 30 miles an hour, which seemed unnecessarily quick.

2002 Pol Roger

Top stuff,  compressed like a spring and with plenty of power in reserve.

2011 Chablis 1er Butteaux Raveneau

This seemed to be infused with a herby, almost bitter character. When 2011 is done well, they can be lovely, approachable wines that delivery real pleasure, this seemed to lack the purity and precision that one associates with this estate. A disappointment, which is rare with the wines of Raveneau

2009 Riesling Kabinett Scharzhofberger

Although from a warmer vintage, this had precise minerality and a creamy, lemony style. A real balm for the palate.

1997 50/50 Avignonese

A stunning nose of substantial depth and cool mint freshness but lacked a bit of cohesion on the finish. Maybe just starting to turn.

2007 Chateau de Fonsalette Rouge

Another hot vintage, which is not almost becoming a sort of criticism as we worship at the alter of the fresh and the elegant. But in the Rayas style, so super-elegant, cherry infused light in colour. Really very good indeed and with some years to go.

1994 Haut Brion

Pretty good but a bit unexciting to be honest. I think I’ve had this before and enjoyed it more, so maybe a bad bottle, or maybe a bit too subtle at a tasting like this.

1990 Lafleur Petrus

Really vegetal and with not much in the way of elegance. A real disappointment in such a good vintage. Not really sure how you get so much green character in such a dry and hot vintage.

Unidentified vintage Barolo Riserva Brunate M.Marengo

I brought this from the local wine shop (100 Euro) in Morra. No neck vintage, but from the style of the label it is at least pre 1995 or so. Thoughts odds were decent on this one. Very useful producer, great levels, the guy in the shop was telling me how he was considering buying it for himself. Er…no, absolutely shot to bits. Poor storage? Not even in the ball-park of being drinkable.

1996 Barolo Faletto Red Label Riserva Giacosa

I feel perhaps I didn’t give this wine enough time. There is a Giacosa style that is hard to find elsewhere. Reminds me of Pinot Noir in the same way that Reynaud’s wines do. It was getting better all of the time, but I’d drunk most of it by then. Even so, I was expecting to find a bit more to like.

1964 Barolo (Alba) Unidentified producer

Buggered

1961 Barolo Oddero

Really nice – showing very freshly and smoothly. Excellent wine.

1964 Barolo Riserva Oddero

Buggered.

1947 Tokaji Szamorodni Dry Budafok

Sweet – not a lot of complexity but very nice.

1960s Barolo Chinato Cappellano

I quite liked this, but very developed – the restaurant owner thought it was buggered, but I don’t know what his credentials are with old Chinato – better than mine no doubt.

 

Joe GilmourControversy

Clape 1979 – 2015 with Olivier Clape

Joe Gilmour Uncategorized

It’s very easy when writing about wine to fall into the habit of wittering mindlessly about how great everything is.

This guy is passionate, this persons wine is fantastic, on and on and on and on… I heard Tim Atkin talking about Klein Constantia on Radio 4 the other day. Great wine no doubt, but the whole thing had the feel of a thirty minute advertorial. It makes me want to write a wine column where all I do is slag-off wines. I think there could be a gap in the market since the Wine Advocate started basically giving every wine 88-100 points. The omission of a domaine is the only sign they are doing things right (Or I’m yet to get to them) – I might call it the Wine Antagonist.

Happily, or sadly depending on your perspective, one name you would never see me write about is Clape.

I am sadly though, not the only one to have come to this realisation. The paucity of older vintages on the market is testament to how well these wines are prized. We were very lucky to get the chance to try the vintages below. Olivier mentioned as an aside that they have less then 12 bottles of most of their older vintages. Still – you imagine they’ve had some good dinners over the years.

John Livingstone-Learmonth puts it well when when he says: “There should be a stone to Auguste Clape in the northern Rhône. A stone would suit more than a statue – it would be more fundamental and less pretentious. The legend on it should read something like ‘Wisdom, Integrity and Humanity.’ For this is an exceptional person.”

The first producer in Cornas to bottle his own production, Clape moved his production over from selling in barrel to offering in bottle in 1955. Throughout the next decade he moved towards bottling the entire lot and in 1969, there was none sent out. Following his leadership, local doyens Noel Verset and Robert Michel soon followed suit.

2015 St-Peray

The Clape family own 1 hectare St-Peray. They work hard to keep the freshness, particularly in a solar vintage like 2015. Aged 1/3 foudre, rest concrete, no battonage. Although it was hot, there was rain at the right moments says Oliver, but you sense this is not one of his favourite vintages. A little unformed at the moment, but thankfully without any pearey character, as you sometimes find. Not developed that much of interest in the moment, behind a wine like Cecillon for example in 2015 I think. Pretty good freshness. Give it a bit of time.

2015 Vin des Amis

From plains of Cornas town, all Syrah, 44 hl/ha. 50 yo vinyeards. 500 cases or so.
Really fresh, bright fruit. Exuberant and somewhat new-worldy at the moment although I suspect that will fade with time. Very forward. Touch of balancing green and tannin on the finish, discreet but there.

2014 Cotes du Rhone

More savoury, more tannin, crunchy, still family resemblance. Sees more cask as opposed to the VDP which is just concrete. This will be beautiful in a few years. Also about 500 cases.

2012 Renaissance

Picking up a bit of age and with it some nice, leathery notes. Still pretty fresh though. Very nice wine, a step up, but not a massive step up from the CDR though. 1/3 of their Cornas is Renaissance and it’s usually a somewhat tough sell on the marketplace, stuck as it is between their early drinking CDR and their ageworthy Cornas.

2010 Cornas

A slightly tarry note, really packed with tannin, and structure. Not too difficult now as it also has a lot of ripe fruits. Very powerful with lovely balance. Olivier puts this in the league of 1978 and 1990. The heat of the days and coolness of the August nights were one of the reasons for the strength of this exceptional vintage.

2005 Cornas

Drinking really nicely at the moment, still on the tannins but with a great sense of balance. Much better drinking then the 10 at this point. 1995 / 1985esque.

1996 Cornas

Interesting as a less good vintage. Shows with less focus and purity than vintages like 2005 and 2010. Quite green and stemmy, towards the more earthy style of say, Robert Michel.

1991 Cornas

Still really, really grippy. To me maybe just not ready yet, I would put it behind the 2005 in terms of drinking. Really incredibly structured for a wine this old. Olivier says it is drinking beautifully and has always been open, so who am I to argue. Maybe I just like them really old.

1979 Cornas

Very elegant, not a wine of power like the 1991. Finishes really nicely and doesn’t fall-in on itself at the end. That said, no room for improvement one feels. Great old soldier. Can’t be much of this around. It seems the group’s preference was for the 1991 which was incredibly powerful and vital. For me the faded 1979 was the most feminine and soulful of the lot.

Joe GilmourClape 1979 – 2015 with Olivier Clape