New Year, New... Wines
[The below was originally published for Commodore Wine Club members. If interested in learning more about a subscription to this (or any other) wine club, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and he'll get back to you with more information.]
Let me lead off by saying both Happy New Year (!) and thank you (!!!). The holidays are a great time to come together with friends and family, and I hope that you found happiness in continuing traditions or in breaking from them. We at Vanderbilt Wine Merchants will continue to source the excellent and delicious for you. Thanks for trusting us... 2019 is going to be our best yet.
A few house-housekeeping things before we dive into the wines. A few of you have asked that we include suggested pairings, which I will now do at the bottom of each description. Keep in mind that the best pairings often come out of left-field; my main suggestion is to open and taste the wine before you finish seasoning the dish, making modifications to the dish as you wish. After all, the wine will not change for you, but the dish can be altered.
Additionally, I'm going to include a suggested drinking schedule for the wines. Overall, we do not pick wines that need cellaring, though we will include wines that can benefit from aging. If you don't have a wine cellar or wine fridge, and if your apartment is prone to heat fluctuations, I would advise drinking sooner rather than later. Please, please don't store these above your oven or near your radiator!
Matthew & The Vanderbilt Wine Team
Larmandier-Bernier 1er Cru “Longitude” NV
Region: Côte des Blancs, Champagne
If you’re like us, there’s now a spot in your wine corner once occupied by some random bottle of bubbles that got popped a few nights ago. We figured you should fill that spot with a seriously amazing bottle of bubbles.
Pierre and Sophie Larmandier represent what makes the 21st century the most exciting time ever to drink Champagne. For starters, they are a grower champagne house. (There are hundreds of articles written about the movement and its importance, so I’ll direct you elsewhere for a full accounting. Jancis Robinson has a good primer. Jon Bonne charts the changing winemaking climate here. These are both worth reading if you want to understand the ways that Champagne has changed in the last 30 years.) Secondly, they are part of a growing cohort of farmers who have turned to biodynamic farming as a way to increase the biodiversity and microbial activity in their vineyards. The slow turn towards the artisan & sustainable that has taken place in Champagne has been driven by individuals like Pierre and Sophie. They are like a farm-to-table restaurant that opened in 2000 that’s still packed every night. Once the “fad” has faded, the only thing that keeps the lights on is dedication to the highest quality possible.
The couple have pristine vines in preferred sites spread throughout the Côte des Blancs. Most of their holdings are in Cramant, Chouilly, Oger and Avize (all Grand Cru villages), and the remainder comes from premier cru villages like Vertus. They make two non-vintage blancs de blancs, the Latitude and the Longitude. In his impressive book, “Champagne”, Peter Liem outlines the difference between the two: the, “Latitude is largely sourced from clay parcels on the southern side of Vertus, producing a full-bodied wine, while Longitude comes from Vertus, Avize, Cramant, Oger and Chouilly, demonstrating the racy finesse of chalky soils” (pg. 245).
We are drinking the Longitude (NV) this month. As one of their non-vintage wine, it contains 40% base wine from a reserve tank started in 2004 (their first year of 100% certified biodynamic farming). Like all of their wines, the alcoholic fermentation is accomplished with native yeasts. The wines ferment in a combination of barrel and tank, and remain in the primary vessel for a year on their lees. The wines are bottles without filtering or fining, then taken to the cellar where they undergo their second fermentation and 2 more years of aging. The wine is disgorged manually and given just 4 grams of dosage (extra-brut).
Serving suggestions: Leave the wine flute in the 90’s and serve (chilled) in a white wine glass. Champagne is not just appertive: serve with anything from seafood to steak, from cheese to chocolate. There is enough acidity and weight here that it will stand up to almost anything you throw at it.
Cornelius says: Drink now, or hold for 1-2 years.
Philippe Jouan Coteaux Bourguignon 2015
Grape: Pinot Noir
Region: Burgundy, France
Appellation: Coteaux Bourguignon
We don’t enjoy chasing down importers & relentlessly inquiring about the latest vintage of such-and-such tiny project from ubiquitous far-flung corner. There are so many tiny-production wines that chasing small production for small production’s sake is a fool’s errand. Some allocations just aren’t worth the trouble. However, sometimes our nose sticks to a scent. Philippe Jouan has been one of those producers who we have been waiting for, and we couldn’t be more excited to offer the Commodore Club our allocation of his Coteaux Bourguignon.
Here’s the backstory: long ago (okay, not that long ago), there was a Burgundy producer in Nuits-St.-George named Jackie Truchot who made incredibly compelling traditional Pinot & became one of the most highly sought after producers in France. Truchot retired in 2005, and the tracking down his wines has become a fools errand. Philippe Jouan is the closest many of us will ever get to one of those bottles.
Truchot and Phillippe’s father, Henri, came up together, and they’re friends in addition to being contemporaries. Now that Truchot is retired and Phillippe has taken over from his father, we’re excited for the future the most consistent traditionalists we have access to. All told, Philippe’s estate – located in the heart of Nuits-St.-George – is less than 3 hectares. Vines range from 40-100+ years old, and average over 60 years old.
So. If you're lucky enough to like Jackie Truchot, drink Jouan. If you’ve heard of Truchot, but never tasted those unicorn bottles, drink Jouan. If you love full flavored, powerful Burgundies that are well oaked and destemmed, drink Jouan. I guess you get the picture… we’re excited to give you the chance to drink Jouan. He’s got a small and dedicated cult following that has been growing and will only continue to grow. I hope you’ll see why once you pop the cork on this one. If you find this wine compelling, we have a few bottles of his higher end cuvees - drop me a line if you’re interested and I’ll respond with an allocation offer.
We firmly believe that in 5 years we will pine for the days when these wines were available to those who know where to look.
Serving suggestions: Decant. Serve with everything from mild cheeses, chicken with mild mustard sauces, seared duck served with berries, and even earthy pasta dishes like mushroom risotto.
Cornelius says: Drink now, or hold for 5+ years.