So, My Readers, today I present the annual “50 Great Wines” in the edition for 2012. Why 50? It’s a nice comfortable round number, but it also makes me work hard to determine those 50 great selections.

I reviewed 642 wines on this blog in 2012, so 50 choices represent only 7.78 percent of the wines I reviewed. Wines that I rated as “Exceptional” automatically make the cut. In 2012, I ranked 16 wines “Exceptional,” or only 2.5 percent of all the wines I reviewed. How did I ascertain the other 34 wines? That’s where the task got difficult. I read all the reviews of wines that I rated “Excellent” and wrote down the names of 68 that seemed promising, but of course that was already way too many wines; I had to eliminate half of that list. I went back through the reviews and looked for significant words or phrases like “an exciting wine” or “a beautiful expression of its grapes” or “epitomizes my favorite style” or “I flat-out loved this wine,” terms that would set a wine apart from others in similar genres or price ranges, even though they too were rated “Excellent.” By exercising such intricate weighing and measuring, by parsing and adjusting, by, frankly, making some sacrifices, I came to the list of wines included here, but I’ll admit that as I went over this post again and again, checking spelling and diacritical markings and illustrations, there were omissions that I regretted. You get to a point, however, where you can’t keep second-guessing yourself.

Notice that I don’t title this post “50 Greatest Wines” or “50 Best Wines.” That would be folly, just as I think it’s folly when the slick wine publications select one wine — out of 15,000 — as the best of the year. The wines honored in this post are, simply, 50 great wines, determined by my taste and palate, that I encountered and reviewed in 2012. Some of them are expensive; some are hard to find. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, though, at how many of them are under $40 or even in the $20 range; the price of a wine can be immaterial to its quality, and I mean that in both the positive and the negative aspects. Where I know the case limitation, I make note. With wines that are, for example, chardonnay or pinot noir, you can count on them being 100 percent varietal; in other cases, I mention the blend or make-up of the wine if I think it’s necessary.

Coming in a few days: “25 Great Bargains of 2012.”

Amapola Creek Cuvée Alis 2009, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County. 55 percent syrah, 45 percent grenache. 95 cases. Exceptional. About $48.

Archery Summit Looney Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009, Ribbon Ridge, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $85.

Black Dog Cellars Chardonnay 2010, Sonoma Coast. Excellent. About $25.

Bonny Doon Bien Nacido Vineyard X Block Syrah 2007, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County. 573 cases. Excellent. About $42.

Champagne Françoise Bedel Entre Ciel et Terre Brut. Excellent. About $75.

Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino 2005, Tuscany, Italy. 100 percent sangiovese. Exceptional. About $149.

Chalone Estate Chenin Blanc 2011, Chalone, Monterey County. Exceptional. About $25.

Chamisal Estate Pinot Noir 2010, Edna Valley, San Luis Obispo County. Excellent. About $40.

M. Chapoutier Chante-Alouette 2007, Hermitage blanc, Rhone Valley, France. 100 percent marsanne grapes. 350 six-packs imported. Exceptional. About $92.

M. Chapoutier De L’Orée 2008, Hermitage blanc, Rhone Valley, France. 100 percent marsanne. 40 six-packs imported. Exceptional, About $190.

Cima Collina Tondre Grapefield Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. Exceptional. About $48.

Etude Pinot Noir 2009, Carneros. Excellent. About $42.

Ferrari-Carano Prevail West Face 2007, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County. 61 percent cabernet sauvignon, 39 percent syrah. Excellent. About $55.

Foley Rancho Santa Rosa Pinot Noir 2009, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County. Excellent. About $40.

Foursight Charles Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. Excellent. About $46.

Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Pinot Noir 2009, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $42.

Dr. Hermann Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett 2009, Mosel, Germany. Excellent. About $23.

Hidden Ranch 55% Slope Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $45.

Kelly Fleming Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Oakville District, Napa Valley. 540 cases. Excellent. About $30.

Domaine Michel Lafarge Meursault 2009, Burgundy. Excellent. About $44-$48.

La Follette Van Der Kamp Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009, Sonoma Mountain. 429 cases. Excellent. About $40.

Lasseter Enjoué 2011, Sonoma Valley. 73 percent syrah, 24 mourvèdre, 3 grenache. A superior rosé. 570 cases. Excellent. About $24.

Champagne David Léclapart L’Amateur Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut, non-vintage. Exceptional. About $83.

Lenné Estate Pinot Noir 2008, Yamhill-Carlton District, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 491 cases. Excellent. About $55.

Chateau La Louvière 2009, Pessac-Lèognan, Bordeaux, France. 85 percent sauvignon blanc, 15 percent semillon. Excellent. About $42.

Manzoni Vineyards Home Vineyard Syrah 2009, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. 494 cases. Excellent. About $26.

Max Ferd. Richter Veldenzer Elisenberg Riesling Kabinett 2010, Mosel, Germany. Excellent. About $19.

Mayacamas Chardonnay 2009, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $30.

McCay Cellars Jupiter Zinfandel 2009, Lodi. 449 cases. Excellent. About $28.

Domaine Pierre Morey Pommard Grands Epenots Premier Cru 2009, Burgundy. Excellent. About $85.

Newton “The Puzzle” 2008, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley. 42 percent merlot, 36 cabernet sauvignon, 14 cabernet franc, 6 petit verdot, 2 malbec. Excellent. About $80.

Nicolas Joly Clos de La Bergerie 2009, Savennières-Roches-aux-Moines, Loire Valley, France. 100 percent chenin blanc. 580 cases. Exceptional. About $45-$60.

Pelerin Sierra Mar Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County. Exceptional. About $42.

Pfendler Pinot Noir 2010, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County. 250 cases. Exceptional. About $45.

Phifer Pavitt Date Night Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa Valley. 372 cases. Exceptional. About $75.

Piocho 2009, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara. From Margerum Wine Co. 58 percent merlot, 22 cabernet sauvignon, 18 cabernet franc, 2 petit verdot. 570 cases. Excellent. About $25.

Quivira Fig Tree Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. 862 cases. Excellent. About $22.

Sea-Fog Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Napa Valley. 380 cases. Excellent. About $25.

Shafer Hillside Select 2007, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $225.

Shafer Merlot 2009, Napa Valley. With 7 percent cabernet sauvignon and 1 percent malbec. Exceptional. About $48.

Signorello Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Napa Valley. With 12 percent cabernet franc. 381 cases. Excellent. About $75. Date on label is one year behind.

Robert Sinskey Vin Gris of Pinot Noir 2011, Los Carneros. Another superior rosé to drink all year. Excellent. About $28.

Spotted Owl Chardonnay 2010, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley. Inaugural release of this winery’s chardonnay. 120 cases. Exceptional. About $45.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa Valley. Exceptional. About $125.

St. Clement Oroppas Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Napa Valley. With 10 percent merlot, 2 petit verdot and 1 cabernet franc. Excellent. About $55.

Domaine André et Mireille Tissot La Graviers Chardonnay 2010, Arbois, France. 552 cases. Excellent. About $26-$30. Label is two years out of date.

Tudal Family Winery Clift Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley. 295 cases. Excellent. About $50.

Tenuta di Valgiano 2008, Colline Luccesi, Tuscany. 60 percent sangiovese, 20 merlot, 20 syrah. Excellent. About $55-$60.

Vieux Télégraphe “La Crau” 2009, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley, France. 65 percent grenache, 15 mourvèdre, 15 syrah 5 cinsault, clairette “and others.” Excellent. About $85.

Villa Huesgen Schiefen Riesling Trocken 2010, Mosel, Germany. Excellent. About $35.

So, My Readers, it’s Christmas Eve 2012, and tomorrow, not to belabor the obvious, is Christmas Day, the occasion on which I will launch the Sixth Edition of my series “Twelve Days of Christmas with Champagne and Sparking Wine.” I thought it would be informative, instructive and even wildly amusing to commemorate today the previous five lists in the series (but not the actual reviews; you can find those through the handy and easy-to-use Search function). When I produced the first “Twelve Days,” during the 2007/2008 Yuletide season that runs from Christmas to Twelfth Night, I didn’t realize that it would turn into an annual event, but once I finished that initial effort, it seem logical and inevitable. While plenty of the usual suspects show up in the series, I tried to introduce My Readers to interesting Champagnes from small artisan houses as well as unusual sparkling wines from around the world. In 2008/2009, because of the burgeoning recession, I kept prices fairly low. In 2011/2012, every product was French because, well, it just worked out that way. Five years times 12 days would result in 60 wines, but I made it a practice to offer choices at different price points on New Year’s Eve and Twelfth Night in addition to sometimes pairing or tripling products that matched well; the result is that this series, so far, presented reviews of 96 Champagnes and sparkling wines. We’ll work backward from the most recent edition to the first segment of the series.
Dec. 25, 2011. Christmas Day. Champalou Vouvray Brut. Excellent. About $19 to $26.

Dec. 26. Champagne Comte Audoin de Dampierre Brut Cuvée des Ambassadeurs. Excellent. About $36 to $50.

Dec. 27. Couly-Dutheil Brut de Franc, Loire Valley. Very Good+. About $21.

Dec. 28. Champagne Paul Bara Brut Réserve. Excellent. About $45 to $50.

Dec. 29. Gustave Lorentz Crémant d’Alsace. Excellent. About $26.

Dec. 30. Champagne Jean Vesselle Brut Réserve. Excellent. About $44.75

Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve. Simonnet-Febvre Brut Blanc, Crémant de Bourgogne, Very Good+. About $15-$19.
Champagne Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut, Excellent. About $45-$55.

Jan. 1, 2012, Domaine Achard-Vincent Clairette de Die Brut. Very Good. About $25.
André and Michel Quenard Savoie Brut, Very Good+. About $19-$25.

Jan. 2. Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Sublime Demi-Sec. Excellent. About $42.

Jan. 3. Champagne Michel Turgy Réserve Sélection Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut. Excellent. About $52.

Jan. 4. Cuvée Stéphi Ebullience, Cremant de Limoux, Very Good+. About $20.

Jan 5, Twelfth Night. J.J. Vincent Crémant de Bourgogne. Very Good+. About $23.
Champagne Taittinger Prelude Brut. Excellent. About $90.
Champagne Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Brut. Excellent. About $140
Dec. 25, 2012, Christmas Day. Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs Brut 2007, North Coast. Excellent. About $36.

Dec. 26. Lucien Albrecht Brut Rosé, Crémant d’Alsace. Very Good+. About $16-$20.

Dec. 27. Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut. Excellent. About $65.

Dec. 28. Vigne Regali Cuvée Aurora Rosé, Alta Langa, Piedmont. Excellent. About $30.

Dec. 29. Iron Horse Brut Rosé 2005, Green Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $50.

Dec. 30. Jaillance Brut Rosé, Crémant de Bordeaux. Very Good. About $17.
Chateau de Lisennes Brut, Crémant de Bordeaux. Very Good+. About $17.
Favory Brut, Crémant de Bordeaux. Excellent. About $16.50.

Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve. Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava, Spain. Very Good. About $10-$11.
Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco, Veneto, Italy, Very Good+. About $17-$20.
J Brut Rosé, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $35.
Champagne Rosé Premier Cru de Vve Fourny et Fils Vertus Brut. Excellent. About $55.

Jan. 1, 2011. Elyssian Gran Cuvée Brut, Spain. Very Good+. About $18.

Jan. 2. Graham Beck Brut; Graham Beck Brut Rosé, South Africa. Very+ for each. About $15-$18.

Jan. 3. Champagne Heidsieck & Co. Monopole “Blue Top” Brut. Excellent. About $35-$40.

Jan. 4. Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé 2006. Excellent. About $36.
Domaine Carneros Blanc de Noirs Brut 2006. Excellent. Available only at the winery.
Domaine Carneros Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs Brut 2004. Exceptional. About $85.

Jan. 5, Twelfth Night. Albinea Canali Ottocentonero, Lambrusco dell’Emilia. Very Good+. About $16.
Col Vetoraz Valdobbiadene Prosecco Brut. Very Good+. About $16.
Segura Viudas Brut Reserve Heredad Cava. Very Good+. About $15.
Paringa Sparkling Shiraz 2008, South Australia. Very Good+. About $10.
Lucien Albrecht Blanc de Blancs Brut, Cremant d’Alsace. Excellent. About $25.
Iron Horse Blanc de Blancs 2005, Green Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $40.
Dec. 25, 2009, Christmas Day. Dopff & Irion Crémant d’Alsace Brut. Very Good+. About $20.

Dec. 26. Champagne Guy Charlemagne Reserve Brut Blanc de Blancs. Excellent. About $65.

Dec. 27. Domaine Carneros Cuvee de la Pompadour Brut Rosé. Excellent. About $36.

Dec. 28. Hill of Content Sparkling Red. Very Good+. About $15

Dec. 29. Champagne Henriot Brut Rosé. Excellent. About $55-$65.

Dec. 30. Scharffenberger Brut, Mendocino County. Very Good+. About $18

Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve. Louis Perdrier Brut, France. Good+. About $9.
Jean-Baptiste Adam Crémant d’Alsace Brut, Very Good+, about $20.
Champagne Lamiable Brut Grand Cru, Excellent, about $50-$60.

Jan. 1, 2010. Egly-Ouriet “Les Vignes de Vrigny” Premier Cru Brut. Excellent. About $70.

Jan. 2. Bortolomiol Prior Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco, Veneto. Excellent. About $18.
Poema Cava Brut, Spain. Very Good+. About $13.
Finca La Linda Extra Brut, Argentina. Very Good+. about $15.

Jan. 3. Domaine du Closel Château des Vaults Brut Sauvage, Savennières, Loire Valley. Excellent. About $18.

Jan. 4. Champagne Haton & Fils Grand Reserve Brut, Excellent. About $55.
Haton et Fils Grand Reserve Blanc de Blancs Brut, Very Good+. About $55.
Haton & Fils “Cuvée René Haton” Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut, Excellent. About $62.

Jan. 5, Twelfth Night. i Stefanini Spumante Brut, Very Good+. About $16.
Mumm Napa Cuvee M. Very Good+. About $20.
Bortolomiol Filanda Rosé Brut Riserva 2007, Veneto. Very Good+. About $22.
Champagne Guy Charlemagne Brut Extra. Excellent. About $62.
Dec. 25, 2008, Christmas Day. Wolfberger Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé. Very Good+. About $22.

Dec. 26. Mirabelle Brut, North Coast, California. Very Good+. About $22.

Dec. 27. Greg Norman Estates Australian Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir. Very Good+. About $18.

Dec. 28. Champagne A.R Lenoble Brut Nature. Excellent. About $35-$40.

Dec. 29. Patrick Bottex “La Cueille” Vin du Bugey-Cerdon. Very Good+. About $18-$24.

Dec. 30. J Cuvée 20 Brut, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $25-$28.

Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve. Domaine Laurier Brut, California, Very Good. About $12.
Rotari Rosé, Trento, Italy. Very Good+. About $14.
Champagne Taittinger Brut Millésimé 2002, Excellent. About $90.

Jan. 1, 2009. Champagne Roland Champion Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut. Exceptional, about $65.

Jan. 2. Dom Bertiol Proseccco Veneto. Very Good. About $16.

Jan. 3. Charles Duret Crémant de Bourgogne. Very Good+. About $20.

Jan. 4. Champagne G.H. Mumm’s Carte Classique. Excellent. About $35.

Jan. 5, Twelfth Night. Marcato i Prandi Durello, Lessini, Veneto. Very Good. About $16.
Dec. 25, 2007. Champagne Pol Roger Reserve Brut. Excellent. About $60-$65.

Dec. 26. Champagne Laurent-Perrier Brut L-P. Excellent. About $36-$45.

Dec. 27. Maschio dei Cavalieri Prosecco di Valdobbiabene Brut, Veneto. Very Good+. About $20.

Dec, 28. Champagne Chartogne-Taillet Brut Cuvée Sainte-Anne. Excellent. About $45.

Dec. 29. Champagne Bruno Paillard Rèserve Privée Blanc de Blancs. Excellent. About $60.

Dec, 30. Taltani Brut Taché, Australia, Very Good+. About $22.
Clover Hill Brut 2003, Tasmania. Excellent. About $32.

Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve. Gruet Brut, New Mexico, Very Good+. About $16.
Schramsberg J. Schram Brut 2000, North Coast. Excellent. About $90.
Champagne Veuve Clicquot Reserve Rosé, Excellent. About $70-$75.

Jan. 1, 2008. Champagne A. Margaine Premier Cru Brut, Excellent. About $45-$50.

Jan. 2. Champagne José Dhondt “Mes Vieilles Vignes” Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut. Excellent. About $70.

Jan. 3. Champagne Gosset Brut Excellence. Excellent. About $46.

Jan. 4. Inniskillin Vidal Sparkling Ice Wine 2005, Niagara Peninsula, Canada. Excellent. About $85 for a half-bottle.

Jan. 5, Twelfth Night. Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2004, North Coast. Excellent. About $35.
Champagne Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut. Excellent. About $45-$55.
Champagne Gosset Grande Reserve Brut. Excellent. About $63.
Champagne Bruno Paillard Premiere Cuvée Rosé Brut. Excellent. About $75.
Champagne Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut. Excellent. About $80.
Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle Brut. Exceptional. About $110.

Born in 1948, Pierre Morey has had an illustrious career in Burgundy — and specifically in the white wine commune of Meursault — that even older, more venerable figures might envy. The family’s heritage in Meursault goes back to the late 18th Century, though the modern history begins in 1937, when August Morey-Genelot, a traveling salesman, was persuaded to return to his family’s roots and take over the domaine, which he ran until 1972, when the young Pierre Morey took over. August had established a relationship en métayage with the estimable Domaine des Comte Lafon, which is to say, a system similar to sharecropping that in the wine world is practically unique to Burgundy. Pierre Morey inherited this arrangement, but, as Clive Coates writes, it “evaporated piece by piece from 1987 onwards as Dominique Lafon took his patrimony back, and has now ceased.” To gain access to Premier and Grand Cru vineyards, in 1990 Morey and his wife Christine founded a negociant company called Morey-Blanc, for which he buys grapes and must (moût in French), that is, the mass of material that comes from the crusher before fermentation takes place; the must includes juice, fragments of stems and seeds, skins and pulp. In addition to running the domaine and the negociant side, Morey was until recently the winemaker for Domaine Leflaive.

Domaine Pierre Morey began using organic methods in 1992 and went to biodynamic practices in 1997. Notice how the principles of biodynamism are described on the domaine’s website:

Respect of the vineyards : Soil work and addition of compost favor the development of the microbial life of the soils and improve the defenses and the health of the vines. The vines become more resistant to the different parasites and diseases. We only use very low doses of products, totally natural, when the time is right.

Respect of the fruit : Carefully looked after during their whole life, healthy and ripe, harvested by hand, the fruit is taken to the place where the winemaking is done : in old, vaulted, Burgundian cellars where the natural yeasts from the vineyard promote the fermentation process.

One does not have to subscribe to the philosophy of biodynamism to agree with the sentiments expressed here. Who would not want to show respect to the vineyards and the fruit the vineyards produce? Who would not want to want to work carefully and thoughtfully in the vineyard and the winery, to keep the soil, the vines and the grapes healthy? (Well, maybe plenty of people, but you know what I mean, people with integrity.) In any case, Pierre Morey is a meticulous farmer and winemaker, and he makes wines of great authority and principle (as well as being often delicious), as you will see from my notes about five of them. Morey, by the way, is sparing with new oak, using only about 25 percent new oak each year.

This is the last post about Burgundy wines tasted at the “Return to Terroir” event that occurred in New York at the end of February. Image of Pierre Morey from bibendum-times.co.uk The wines of Domaine Pierre Morey are imported by Martin Scott, Lake Success, N.Y.

Domaine Pierre Morey Bourgogne Aligoté 2009. This pale straw-gold wine is very pert, bright, spicy and lemony, and it displays that sense of racy tension and nervosity that we want from the aligoté grape, composed of whiplash acidity and scintillating limestone minerality, but nicely balanced by lemon, grapefruit and lime peel flavors slightly enriched by touches of lemon balm and cloves. Bring on the oysters, please, bracing and briny in the shell! 12.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2013. Very Good+. About $17 and well-worth the price.
Domaine Pierre Morey Meursault 2009. The domaine owns 0.86 hectares (about 2.14 acres) of vines, in portions of three well-placed vineyards, in the village of Meursault, well-placed meaning in proximity to Premier Cru vineyards; Morey “village” Meursault is usually a blend of grapes from the three vineyards. Average age of these vines is 29 years. The wine, sporting a radiant mild gold color, offers lovely depth, breadth and balance, cleaved with a kind of clean animation and energy poised with the moderate richness of spicy citrus and stone-fruit scents and flavors. The Pierre Morey Meursault 09 is very dry but juicy and flavorful and delivers a range of nuances from jasmine and honeysuckle in the bouquet to limestone and flint in the long finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2015 to ’17. Excellent. About $75.
Domaine Pierre Morey Meursault Les Tessons 2007. That’s right, 2007, a stressful vintage in Burgundy, generally
regarded as better for whites than reds, though elegance can be found in both. In any case Morey turned out an intense and pure expression of the chardonnay grape from 0.89 hectares of Les Tessons, largely planted in 1975; this is a very stony vineyard just above the village of Meursault. The wine is quite floral and spicy — whiffs of camellia and cloves — and deeply imbued with lemon, grapefruit and pear flavors supported by earthy, limestone-like minerality and, in the distance, an almost tea-like quality. There’s a sheen of oak, mostly subdued, that adds to the smooth suave texture and the abundantly flinty, spicy, slightly briny finish. 12.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2016 or ’17. Excellent. About $86.
Domaine Pierre Morey Monthelie 2009. The pinot noir grapes for Morey’s Monthelie derive from 1.32 hectares of vines in six lieux-dits, that is, traditional local vineyards below the Premier Cru level. The average age of the vines is 48 years. Monthelie is sandwiched between Volnay on the east and Auxey-Duresses on the west. The (let’s admit it) not very important commune, which surprisingly has 11 Premier Cru vineyards, produces far more red wine than white. Pierre Morey’s Monthelie 2009 is clean, bright and appealing, with sprightly black cherry and red currant flavors, loads of spice and slightly earthy graphite elements, and vibrant acidity that cuts a row on the palate. The finish brings in touches of leather, brambles and slightly mossy forest elements. Quite attractive and drinkable, now through 2014 or ’15. I’m thinking roasted chicken or rabbit fricassee. Very Good+. About $35.
Domaine Pierre Morey Pommard Grands Epenots Premier Cru 2009. Morey owns 0.43 hectares — a hair over one acre — of this 10.15-hectare Premier Cru vineyard. (There is also a Petits Epenots vineyard, which is, paradoxically, about five hectares bigger than Grand Epenots.) The commune of Pommard, with its 28 Premier Cru vineyards, is a few minutes drive south of the city of Beaune. Well, damnit, this is great. The wine is characterized by terrific heft, intensity and concentration, though it’s ultimately elegant and harmonious. The color is medium dark ruby; it takes a couple of minutes for the bouquet to open with notes of ripe and fleshy black cherries, red currants and plums permeated by hints of rose petals, graphite and leather. Smooth and polished tannins bolster earthy and spicy black and red fruit flavors ensconced in a supple, satiny texture whose sense of luxury is rigorously tempered by resolute acidity and a slightly lithic or iron-like element of minerality. The point is the balance and integration among all these qualities. 13 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $85.

Sometimes we can learn a lot about wine from small producers who keep ambition, not to mention grandiose schemes, in check and focus on doing an excellent job on a small but impeccable scale. Such a producer is Domaine Emmanuel Giboulot, from whose 10 hectares of vines — a bit more than 25 acres — around the city of Beaune in Burgundy come about 4,350 cases annually of what could be considered minor wines, at least compared to the Big Leagues of Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards. Emmanuel Giboulot, the name of the owner and winemaker as well as the domaine, is not trying to be all things Burgundian to all people, accumulating a few rows here and a few rows there in all the prestigious appellations up and down the Côte d’Or, in the manner of the important negociants. No, Giboulot steadfastly works in the Côte de Beaune, up on the hilltop, or to the east of the city, in the little-known Vin de Pays area and manages to produce wines of precision, clarity and integrity. He does make one Premier Cru wine, the white Rully La Pucelle.

This is a bio-dynamic estate. Giboulot went all organic in 1985 and bio-dynamic in 1996, and he subscribes to most of the principles: root and flower “tea” preparations; the infamous dung buried in the cow horn; organic composts. He also uses methods that just make sense: indigenous yeast, manual harvest, very careful deployment of sulfur, minimal new oak. How much the success of the wines depends on the bio-dynamic approach I couldn’t say; I do know that while we are not looking here for the glorious depth and dimension of chardonnay and pinot noir from the world-renowned Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards what Giboulet delivers is a gratifying sense of infallible craftsmanship, unimpeachable character and lovely purity.

These wines were tasted at the “Return to Terroir” event in New York on March 6. A Becky Wasserman “Le Serbet” selection for Domaine Select Wine Estates. New York. Image of Emmanuel Giboulot from rawfair.com
Made from chardonnay vines that average 50 years old, the Domaine Emmanuel Giboulot La Grande Chatelaine 2009, Côte de Beaune, is a wine of “verys” and verities, that is, it’s very floral, very spicy and very minerally, and it expresses what feels like the truth, the verity, of the chardonnay grape’s fruit, acid and mineral-driven essence; 18 months in oak lend suppleness to the texture but do not hamper the crystalline purity and intensity of the grape. The vineyards of the Côte de Beaune appellation lie nestled around the tops of the Montagne de Rochetin and Les Mondes Rondes — 396 and 350 meters, respectively — above the prime area of the Beaune appellation, which are adjacent to the famous medieval city of that name; we do not expect wines from Côte de Beaune — red and white are permitted — to be as full-bodied, complex, generous or expansive as from Beaune’s Premier Cru vineyards. I mean, to take a rather extreme example, last night a gentleman at an event I attended poured me a glass of Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2007, from the great vineyard north of Beaune; the wines produced from the Côte de Beaune vineyards could not attain that level of sublimity, not would we expect them to. Pleasure, however, occurs at many different planes and ranges of excitement; if this were not so, we would die of transcendent satiety. The point is that Emmanuel Giboulot’s La Grande Chatelaine 2009 offers its own essay, as it were, on the virtues and character of the chardonnay grape, among which are a lovely dense, almost talc-like texture balanced by crisp clean acidity; a full range of citrus and stone-fruit scents and flavors fleshed out with slightly macerated and baked elements; and a burgeoning earthy limestone and shale quality that keeps the wine scintillating and vibrant. 12.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2014. Excellent. About $39.

Image, much cropped, from vinloyal.wordpress.com.

Also from the Côte de Beaune appellation, the Domaine Emmanuel Giboulot La Combe d’Eve 2009 is 100 percent chardonnay and aged 12 months in small oak barrels, none new. The color is mild straw-gold; the bouquet is a penetrating and beguiling amalgam of jasmine and camellia, damp shale, spiced peaches, yellow plums and pears. The wine feels lacy, transparent, edged with limpid and lucent limestone elements and bristling acidity that decorate and support the delicious citrus and stone-fruit flavors. The finish is lithe and silky smooth, packed with spice, stones and bones. 13 percent alcohol. It would be difficult to find a prettier, more seductive chardonnay. La Combe d’Eve means “the valley of evening” or perhaps of Eve herself. Now through 2014. Very Good+. About $39.
Domaine Emmanuel Giboulot Terres Burgondes 2009, Vin de Pays de Sainte-Marie-La-Blanche. This seldom-seen Vin de Pays, established in 1979, covers 17 parishes in the Côte d’Or administrative department that surround the village of Sainte-Marie-La-Blanche, four miles southeast of Beaune. We are, in other words, in the flatlands not entitled to the name Burgundy. Red and rosé wines may be made from pinot noir, gamay and pinot gris grapes, whites from chardonnay, pinot gris, pinot blanc, aligoté and auxerrois and even melon de bourgogne, the grape banished from Burgundy by royal edict in the 17th Century; it migrated to the Nantais and became the grape of Muscadet. Anyway, Emmanuel Giboulet makes the red Terres Burgondes from pinot noir; the white is pinot gris. The red Terres Burgondes 2009 — is the name Giboulot’s way of saying that the wine still comes from “Burgundian earth”? — is a light cherry color; the bouquet offers delicate, almost ethereal scents of dried roses, spiced cherries and red currants and a hint of briers and slightly mossy underbrush. The flavors are a bit warmer and fleshier — there’s a touch of mulberry and plum — and definitely more spicy, yet this remains a spare, dry, earthy and slightly austere pinot noir, held soldier-straight by a backbone of brisk acidity and graphite-like minerality. 11.5 percent alcohol. Now through 2013 or ’14. Very Good+. About $32.

Image from bonamanger-bonapenser.com.
The Domaine Emmanuel Giboulot Beaune Lulune 2010 is from the Beaune appellation, not Côte de Beaune. One hundred percent pinot noir, it offers a light, almost transparent red cherry color that makes up in radiance what is seems to lack in darkness; red Burgundy does not need to be blatantly dark in hue. Aromas of macerated and slightly roasted cherries and currants are borne by briers and brambles, a touch of mossy earthiness and a delicate wafting of that characteristic beet-root scent, a hint of honed granite. How is this wine different, you ask, from its cousin from the wrong side of the tracks? (The Paris-Lyon line runs east of the town of Beaune, and Sainte-Marie-La-Blanche lies beyond that.) The difference, particularly on the palate, is concentration, intensity and duration and, paradoxically, a sense of refinement. Every aspect of the Terres Burgondes 2009 can be found in its Lulune stablemate, but in deeper more profound qualities, with more breeding and elegance and with a longer, slightly more layered finish; the wine is kept vibrant by clean acidity that cuts a swath on the tongue. Now through 2015 or ’16. Excellent. About $54.

Domaine Michel Lafarge is one of the great producers of the wines of Burgundy’s Volnay appellation. The domaine is small, owning just under 25 acres of vines, and producing only about 4,000 cases annually, but the wines are models of their genres. The family has been cultivating grapes in Volnay since the early 19th Century and possibly back to the late 18th Century. Very gradually did the Lafarges accumulate, piece by piece, the portions of vineyards that comprise their domaine; these include Volnay Clos des Chênes and the wholly owned Clos du Chateau des Ducs, Beaune Grêves, Pommard Pezerolles (all Premier Cru) and parcels of Volnay village and Premier Cru, as well as Bourgogne Aligoté and Bourgogne Passetoutgrains and a village Meursault.

Lafarge was a pioneer in bottling its own wine, rather than selling the wine to a negociant, beginning with the harvest of 1934. The wines see only about 25 percent new oak, typically aging for 15 to 20 months, depending on the vintage and the vineyard. The entire domaine has been farmed on biodynamic principles since 2000. Does that mean that the wines are better than they were before the domaine’s steps toward biodynamic methods were instituted in 1997? And what would “better” mean? My experience with the wines goes back only to the Meursault 2002, Volnay Clos-des-Chênes 2003 and Volnay Clos du Chateau des Ducs 2004, so I have no standard of comparison, though these wines were superb and a little challenging — of the Clos du Chateau des Ducs 2004 my first note was “a chill comes off this.”

The literature, however, is primarily unstinting in regard for the classically proportioned and detailed pre-biodynamic wines — read Clive Coates on the Volnay Clos des Chênes 1990, 1983 and 1952 — so is it possible that the post-2000 wines are in some sense truer, more authentic, more reflective of the vineyards than they were for all those decades? The domaine’s philosophy has always been to pay close and careful attention in the vineyard and to leave the wine as undisturbed as possible during its making. What more could grapes or wine ask for?

Tasted at “Return to Terroir: La Renaissance des Appellations” in New York, February 27, 2012. Becky Wasserman Selection for Martin Scott, Lake Success, N.Y., and other importers around the country.
Domaine Michel Lafarge Raisins Dorés Bourgogne Aligoté 2009. Aligoté is Burgundy’s “other” white grape, grown usually in the highest or lowest sites, that is, not in the areas of the superior vineyards in the middle of the slopes. The wine is bottled as Bourgogne Aligoté; only in Bouzeron, in the Chalonnaise, does it get its own appellation. We expect aligoté to be immensely crisp with acidity — which is why it’s essential in a Kir, combined with cassis — even sometimes fairly arid with acidity’s drying quality, but this example leavens the intense vibrancy and nervosity with a lovely supple, moderately dense texture and tasty flavors of lemon curd and roasted lemon, subtly wedded to cloves, dried rosemary and limestone. A beguiling jasmine and honeysuckle aspect gets matters off to a good start. 14 percent alcohol. Seductive harmony and balance. Very Good+. About $23, but prices range from $18 to $28.
Domaine Michel Lafarge Meursault 2009. I’ll repeat the phrase from the previous note — “seductive harmony and balance” — but add something individual, almost feral that lifts this commune wine above its counterparts. It opens with notes of jasmine and lilac, cloves and orange rind, wedded to roasted lemon and lemon balm. The wine feels fleet, transparent, luminous, with lovely depths of spice and limestone, light citrus and quince-like fruit and a sort of crystalline distillation of chardonnay character, enrobed in a texture of ethereal silkiness and enlivened by bright acidity. This is chardonnay that I could drink every day, if I could afford it. 13 percent alcohol. Now through 2018 to ’20. Excellent. About $44 to $48.
Domaine Michel Lafarge Bourgogne Passetoutgrain “L’Exception” 2009. We rarely see the quaffer Passetoutgrains outside Burgundy — Lafarge spells this without the “s” — where it’s often consumed with simple meals. The wine is made from a minimum of one-third pinot noir with the rest gamay. This example offers a light ruby-cherry color and delicate aromas of red currants and black and red cherries supported by modest brambly tannins and shimmering acidity. 12.5 percent alcohol. More character and less rusticity than most Passetoutgrains I have encountered. Very Good+. About $25 to $28. (Can that be right? Passetoutgrains used to sell for $15 to $18.)
Domaine Michel Lafarge Volnay “Vendages Selectionnes” 2009. Classic Volnay, made from a selection of older vines. The color ranges from mild cherry at the rim to a slightly darker ruby-cherry in the center; the bouquet is a subtle weaving of dried spice and flowers with red currants and black cherries and a touch of plum and, at the heart, an almost ethereal gamy, slightly earthy aspect. The texture feels like the most delicate and ineffable of satin draperies, yet you sense, also, the structure of stones and bones and the clean acidity that cuts a swath on the palate. There is fruit, of course, red and black, a little spiced, macerated and stewed, yet nothing forward or blatant. The wine is elegant and graceful but very dry and draws out a line of spareness and austerity through the finish. Now through 2018 to ’20. Wonderful quality for a village wine. Excellent. About $68 to $75.

Witness today that the “Damn, This Was Good!” series is not always about expensive wines.

Last night I prepared Jamie Oliver’s Risotto with Fennel, Ricotta and Dried Red Chili (pictured here) from his book Jamie’s Italy (Hyperion, $34.95). A little prepping is involved, mainly slicing the fennel and some garlic thinly and crushing fennel seeds; these you sweat in a covered pan over low heat so they turn soft. Make the risotto as usual — yes, that requires standing and stirring, but you can use those minutes as an opportunity for meditation — add the fennel mixture and so on, and serve with crumbled ricotta (or, as here, grated ricotta salata), crushed red chili flakes and fennel fronds. It’s a terrific dish for Spring, with bright, savory flavors and a lush texture that’s not too rich.

For wine, I opened, with a deft twist of the wrist. a bottle of the Domaine Perraud Vieilles Vignes Mäcon-Villages 2010, a lovely and eloquent expression of the chardonnay grape, made all in stainless steel; no oak needed here! The wine hails from the Mäconnais region, south of Burgundy proper. Aromas of pineapple and grapefruit are highlighted by notes of jasmine, quince and ginger with just a smidgeon of apple skin. Citrus flavors, again, leaning toward pineapple and grapefruit (with a hint of peach), are bolstered by the vivacity of crystalline acidity and a burgeoning tide of limestone and shale-like minerality, while the wine’s texture offers attractive talc-like softness; it’s that combination of inextricable effects — the tautness of sinewy acidity with the moderate ripe juiciness of texture — that gives such wines their liveliness and appeal. 13 percent alcohol. Drink through the end of 2012. Very Good+. I paid $21 but the average national price is about $16.

Imported by North Berkeley Wine, Berkeley, Cal.

You know me. I like to write extensive reviews of individual wines or groups of wines that include notes on history, geography, climate and terroir, the techniques and methods of winemaking and evaluations of the wines that weigh them in terms of detail and dimension, philosophy and spirit. I don’t, unfortunately, have either time or space to perform that educational and critical function for all the wines I taste, and so this week, in the spirit of the still fairly new New Year, I am launching “Friday Wine Sips,” a new feature on BTYH that will present quick reviews of wines that otherwise might not make it onto the blog. In these “Sips,” I forgo the usual attention to personalities and family history, weather conditions, oak aging, malolactic fermentation and such in favor of stealth missions that present the brief essence of each wine, along with a rating. I’m not giving up my preferred treatment; it’s simply the case that I receive too many wines to give the full FK treatment. Unless otherwise indicated, these were samples for review. Today: nine white wines. (Hmmm, a couple of these are longer than I meant them to be: I have to get used to brevity.)
Jean-Luc Colombo Les Abeilles 2010, Côtes du Rhônes blanc. Clairette 80%, roussanne 20%. Palm Bay International. Fresh and clean and snappy, lanolin and bee’s-wax, camellia and honeysuckle, roasted lemon; spicy and taut with bracing acidity but moderately soft texture, peachs and pears, celery seed and thyme. Very Good+. About $12, Good Value.
Michel Dutor La Roche Pouilly-Fuissé 2009. 13% alcohol. Stacole Fine Wines. Lean and minerally, limestone, jasmine and honeysuckle, quince and ginger, roasted lemon; very dry but a lovely, almost talc-like texture encompassing lithe, scintillating acidity and profound limestone with a hint of chalk. Classic. Very Good+. About $20. Not a sample.
Michael Torino Estate Cuma Torrontés 2010, Cafayate Valley, Argentina. 13.5% alcohol. Frederick Wildman & Sons. Organic grapes. Melon, lemon drop and lemon balm, pea shoots, thyme and tarragon, jasmine and camellia; very dry, very crisp, a spare, slightly astringent sense of almond skin, peach pit and bracing grapefruit bitterness. A terrific torrontes. Very Good+. About $15.
Veramonte Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Casablanca Valley, Chile. 13.5% alcohol. Huneeus Vintners. Fresh, clean, crisp and snappy, pea shoot, grapefruit and lime peel, tangerine; brings in celery seed and green grapes, touch of earthiness; taut with acidity and limestone, stand-up grapefruit bitterness on the finish. Screw-cap. Very Good+. About $12, Good Value.
Roth Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Alexander Valley. 13.2% alcohol. 2% viognier grapes. Very clean, fresh, pure and intense; distinctive without being exaggerated; lime and limestone, tangerine, peach and pear, slightly floral, very spicy, vibrant acidity, grapefruit on the finish. Lots of personality. Very Good+. About $16.
Cadaretta SBS 2010, Columbia Valley, Washington. 14.1% alcohol. 75% sauvignon blanc, 25 % semillon. Sleek and suave, beautifully balanced, no edges except for a crisp line of vibrant acidity; lime and lime peel, camellia, dried thyme and tarragon, pent with energy and vitality; very dry, heaps of limestone and chalk. Lovely wine. Excellent. About $23.
J. Moreau & Fils Le Croix Saint-Joseph Chablis 2009. 12.5% alcohol. Boisset America. Radiant medium gold color; slightly green, flint, pears, roasted lemon, jasmine and verbena; touch of slightly earthy mushroom element; “wow” (in my notes) “what a structure, what a texture”; heaps of powdery limestone and shale and talc but riven by chiming acidity, bracing salt-marsh-like breeziness, all enrobing pert citrus and stone-fruit flavors. Classic Chablis, cries out for a platter of just-shucked oysters. Excellent. About $20. Not a sample.
Leitz Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland Riesling Spätlese 2009, Rheingau. 8.5% alcohol. Michael Skurnick. Pale straw color, hint of spritz; subtle and nuanced, peach and pear, damp hay, jasmine, baked goods; quite spicy, lip-smacking acidity, almost lush texture but with real “cut,” a bit sweet initially but finishes quite dry, even austere, like sheaves of limestone and quartz; superb balance and intensity. Try with trout or skate sauteed in brown butter. Excellent. About $33.

Ah, here we are, the final day of this series of “Twelve Days of Christmas with Champagne and Sparkling Wine.” I offer three examples, one charming Crémant de Bourgogne and two splendid Champagnes, thus bringing to conclusion this foray into different styles of French sparkling wines from various regions. Twelfth Night is the Eve of the Epiphany, or, that is to say, the earthly manifestation of a deity, specifically, for Christians, marking the baptism of Christ by John in the River Jordan. That falls on January 6, tomorrow, a solemn occasion, while Twelfth Night was traditionally given over to revels and fetes, plays and masquerades and general disorder, the sort of fol-de-rol memorably captured by Shakespeare in his romantic comedy Twelfth Night, or, What You Will, written in 1601 or ’02 intentionally for presentation at the close of the Yuletide season. Tis a fitting night, in other words, for a glass or two of sparkling wine or Champagne, but then what night would not be appropriate for the world’s most festive beverage?

The illustration is a sketch by Orson Welles of the characters Malvolio and Olivia in Twelfth Night, courtesy of hollowaypages.com.
A charming way to precede or begin a meal would be with the J.J. Vincent Crémant de Bourgogne, non-vintage, made completely from chardonnay grapes from the Côte Chalonnaise, south of Burgundy proper. The color is radiant medium straw-gold, and the mousse is persistent, pinpoint, slightly creamy. Plenty of stones and bones in this dry, crisp, lively sparkling wine, which has an aura of apples and green grapes, as well as hints of pear and peach, and a slightly earthy cast, a little sweet and foresty. Tasty and intriguing, with a lingering finish of spice and limestone. 12 percent alcohol. Very Good+. About $23.

Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York. A sample for review.
Taittinger introduced musically named Prelude and Nocturne in 2005; I recently tasted both and found Prelude much to my liking. The Taittinger Prelude Brut is made from Grand Cru vineyards and is a blend of half-and-half chardonnay and pinot noir; the chardonnay is from the villages of Avize and Le Mesnil-sur-Ogre in the Côte des Blancs, while the pinot noir is from Bouzy and Ambonnay in Montagne de Reims. The pedigree, you understand, is there. The color is an entrancing pale yet brilliant blond with silver highlights animated, of course, by the millions of glinting bubbles that swirl up in energetic draft. Balance and integration of all elements are impeccable; this is a Champagne in which every aspect is completely evident and neither dominates nor diminishes the others. Notes of cinnamon toast and roasted almonds are woven with hints of camellia and jasmine, candied ginger and lime peel and immense reserves of scintillating limestone minerality. Prelude is a substantial Champagne, delivering unmistakable presence on the palate, yet it also feels deft, fleet-footed, even delicate in some of its appealing dimension; a model of the marriage of power and elegance. 12 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $90.

Imported by Kobrand Corp., New York. Tasted at a wholesaler’s trade event.
Is there a Champagne, indeed any alcoholic beverage, that possesses a more alluring, festive — and better-known? — package than Perrier-Jouët’s Belle Epoque Brut? The curving bough of anemones, painted in enamel, the deliberately old-fashioned and nostalgic typeface, the way the name Perrier-Jouët is displayed so curvaceously on the capsule: all of these elements speak of a species of gaiety, pleasure and joie de vivre we assume to have existed in the era between 1890 and 1914, as if all of life consisted of dining at Maxim’s on oysters and Champagne. The emblematic flowers were designed in 1902 by Emile Gallé, the greatest of the French Art Nouveau glassmakers, but the product itself was not introduced until 1969, with the vintage of 1964. These wines benefit from a few years’ aging, so when LL and I opened the Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Brut 2004 on New Year’s Eve, to sip with caviar, it was just seven years beyond the harvest and drinking beautifully. The Champagne opens with biscuity, toasty elements that unfold to hints of roasted lemon and pear, toasted hazelnuts and exotic spices and back-tones of quince and ginger, jasmine and limestone, all of these qualities conveyed with utmost finesse and elegance. This is about brightness, clarity and clean definition, while earthy, almost loamy, coffee-like elements provide ballast and foundation. (The blend, by the way, is 50 percent chardonnay, 45 percent pinot noir and 5 percent pinot meunier.) Great tone and resonance on the palate, crystalline acidity, a kind of fresh, wind-swept feeling, vivacious and tremendously appealing, and at the center a surprising bell-note of spiced grapefruit. 12 percent alcohol. Drink through 2018 to 2020. Excellent. About $140.

Imported by Pernod Ricard USA, Purchase, NY. A sample for review.

Two wines from France, first the white, from the Maconnais region in the south of Burgundy, then the red, a Bordeaux Superieur.
The Henri Perrusset Macon-Villages 2010 is the real deal as far as chardonnay goes, and I mean that this little beauty, because of its intensity, dimension and detail, could pass as a ringer for a Cote de Beaune blanc — all right, a minor Cote de Beaune blanc –at half the price. My first note on the wine, which was made all in stainless steel, was, “Damn, that’s good!” Lovely purity of chardonnay character here, with spicy roasted lemon and baked pear scents and flavors accented by cloves, quince and ginger and a scintillating limestone element that goes hand in hand with crystalline acidity; oh, and a zephyr-like wafting of camellia. Yes, this is fresh, clean and vibrant, and it delivers terrific balance and integration; not only does it taste good, but it feels good in the mouth. 13 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2013. Very Good+. About $16-$20.

Imported by Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, Ca. Tasted at a wholesaler’s trade event.
Speaking of the real deal, the Chateau Senailhac 2005, Bordeaux Superieur — from a great vintage in Bordeaux — is the real deal as far as merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc are concerned. In fact, unusually for Bordeaux Superieur, this wine contains all five of the classic Bordeaux grape varieties: 43 percent merlot, 25 percent cabernet sauvignon, 23 percent cabernet franc, 7 percent malbec and, finally, a 2 percent dollop of petit verdot. At six years old, the wine displays a transparent medium ruby color tinged with brick-red/garnet at the rim; classic, too, is this bouquet of spiced and macerated black currants and black cherries with hints of cedar and tobacco, black olive and bell pepper and a touch of walnut shell and brambles. The wine offers slightly fleshy and meaty flavors of black currants and plums encompassed in a dense and chewy structure that’s firm and close to velvety without being heavy or obvious; tannins are mellow and a little chewy, a bit gritty with dusty graphite-like minerality that extends through the finish. Chateau Senailhac 2005 is drinking beautifully now and should do so through 2014 to ’16. Alcohol content is 13 percent. Very Good+. I paid $19; prices around the country start at $16.

Imported by Luxco Inc., St. Louis.

I attended a wine tasting in a retail store — Great Wines and Spirits — in Memphis two nights ago, and while that event may not seem worth celebrating in some other states and cities across The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, it marked a significant change hereabouts. The state legislature recently passed a bill that permitted, for the first time, retail stores to offer customers samples of wine inside the establishments, beginning in July. Yes, friends, Tennessee grew up a little bit today. Now if we could catch up to some other parts of the country where Higher Civilization is represented by the fact that wine and liquor stores can also sell corkscrews and glasses and selections of appropriate food items. That may take a while though. Even longer to accomplish will be grocery-store wine sales. Year after year polls reveal that a majority of Tennesseans desire wine in grocery stores, but the legislature will not be persuaded; too many special interests are arrayed against the notion.
Anyway, this was a great way to begin wine-store tasting in Memphis because the featured wines at this event were four pinot noirs and two chardonnays from the Domaine de la Vougeraie. What was extraordinary, aside from the high quality of the wines, was the fact that four of them were from the 2006 vintage and two from 2003; current releases on the market are the 2009s and ’08s. (Domaine image, much cropped, from jockovino.com)

Jean-Claude Boisset founded his negociant firm in Burgundy in 1961, at the advanced age of 18. He and his wife Claudine purchased their first vineyard, Les Evocelles in Gevrey-Chambertin in 1964, and from that point there was, apparently, no going back. In 1980, the family launched Boisset Family Estates, now the third largest supplier of wine in France. Run by Jean-Claude and Claudine’s son, Jean-Charles Boisset, the company has seen huge expansion over the past 20 years, including in California, where it owns DeLoach, Raymond and Lyeth, among other properties. The most recent acquisition, in April 2011, was Buena Vista Carneros, a descendent of California’s oldest winery, founded in 1857.

Our concern, however, is Domaine de la Vougeraie, founded in 1999 by Jean-Charles Boisset and his sister Nathalie (pictured here); founded in the sense of producing a first vintage of wines. Actually the brother and sister had spent a decade consolidating all the family’s superb vineyards or parcels of vineyards in Burgundy — about 86 hectares or 221 acres — under the name and operation of one domaine named for their parents’ home. The vineyards, many of which harbor very old vines, are farmed organically or increasingly along biodynamic principles. For the Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines, indigenous yeast is allowed to start fermentation. New oak is employed judiciously or not at all. Winemaker is Pierre Vincent, who in 2006 replaced Pascal Marchand, so it was Marchard’s wines we tasted.

If you’re used to drinking pinot noirs from California and Oregon — and yes many of those wines are fine indeed — these four pinots from Burgundy may seem alien to you. Whereas many West Coast pinots are often made from very ripe grapes, are deeply extracted for dark colors, heavy fruit flavors and tannins and see a lot of oak, these Burgundian models are delicate, cleanly layered, finely chiseled, elegant and yet intensely varietal. Of course one could cite differences in climate, geography and philosophy for such discrepancies, yet a pinot noir that looks, smells, tastes and feels like a syrah is a betrayal of the character of the grape.

The domaine’s website, by the way, is the best winery site I have ever seen in its thoroughness and attention to detail in describing its wines and how they are made.

Friends, I am but an ink-stain’d wretch and proud to be counted amongst that company, though the financial rewards are not great, especially in the freelance cadre. I do not, as you can imagine, actually buy wine often, but, yes, I dipped into the credit card zone and bought three bottles of these Domaine de la Vougeraie wines, one each of the Côte de Beaune Les Pierres Blanches 2006, the Beaune Blanc 2006 and Beaune La Montée Rouge 2006. Here follow reviews of all six wines.
Côte de Beaune Les Pierres Blanches 2006. The chardonnay grapes for this wine derive from vines planted in 1989 and 1990, among the youngest in the domaine. The wine aged 10 months in oak barrels, 25 percent new. Lovely, lively; spiced pear and quince, touch of ginger and cloves, honeysuckle, acacia and — how to say this? — old-fashioned face powder. Smooth, supple, subtly earthy over a mantle of scintillating limestone; squinching acidity cuts a swath on the palate; citrus and pear flavors; gets deeper, spicier. A few minutes in the glass bring in lilac and a hint of mango and yellow plum. Incredibly fresh and inviting but with a slight tinge of smoky maturity. Drink through 2014 or ’15. Alcohol content is 12.5 percent. Production was 457 cases. Excellent. About $50.

Beaune Blanc 2006. Just under two acres (.74 hectares) includes vines planted in 1973 and ’74 and vines planted in 1994 and ’95. The wine aged 14 months in oak barrels, 25 percent new. Wow, what a chardonnay, and what a great price (relatively speaking, n’est-ce pas?). Gorgeous pineapple-grapefruit strung across serious depths of stones and bones; cool and clean, yet seductively spicy, seemingly infused with Parmesan rind and bacon fat, cloves, quince marmalade and ginger scones, Bit O’ Honey; yet very dry, austere even, with swingeing acidity and a huge component of river rock and limestone; gets increasingly spicy and savory and floral; thoroughly compelling but a little daunting. Drink through 2015 or ’16 (well-stored, I mean). 13 percent alcohol. 290 cases. Excellent. About $50
Beaune La Montée Rouge 2006. The vineyard is a hair under nine acres (3.46 hectares); the pinot noir grapes for this wine are drawn from several small parcels planted in 1964 and ’65 and 1985 and ’86. The wine aged nine months in oak barrels, 30 percent new. Here’s what we want from classic pinot noir: a pale but radiant ruby-brick red color with a hint of garnet at the rim; a delicate and impeccably knit congeries of dried red currants and plums, cloves and a touch of cola with a slight earthy/mossy/mushroomy cast; a supple, suave and satiny texture that entices the tongue while plangent acidity plows the palate; this is quite dry, a little brambly, slightly austere and woody on the finish, nothing that a roasted chicken wouldn’t cure. Drink through 2014 to ’15. 13 percent alcohol. 270 cases. Very Good+. About $50.
Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Corvée Paget Premier Cru 2006. From vines planted in 1987/’88, so fewer than 20 years old at harvest; the parcel is miniscule, about .85 acres (not much larger than my backyard). The wine aged 15 months in oak barrels, 50 percent new, though, interestingly, after 2006 this wine sees no new oak. Light ruby-mulberry color, faint blush of garnet; beautiful aromas of slightly spiced and macerated red cherries, red currants, mulberries and cloves, just a hint of smoke and cola; a few minutes swirling and sniffing unfold delicate tissues of plum pudding, fruitcake and roses; supple and satiny in the mouth, impeccable layering of red fruit flavors (including dried currants), vibrant acidity, a burgeoning spicy element and just a touch of briery, tannic austerity on the finish. Just freakin’ pretty. Drink through 2015 or ’16. 13 percent alcohol. 100 cases. Excellent. About $85.

Savigny-lès-Beaune Les Marconnets Premier Cru 2003. The name “Marconnets” is found on documents going back to the 13th Century. The vineyard parcel is about 4.7 acres and has been farmed on biodynamic principles since 2001. The wine aged 12 months in oak barrels, 45 percent new, but after 2006 will see no new oak. A beautiful but vivid faded ruby-garnet color, almost transparent at the rim; spiced and macerated plums and red cherries, touch of fruitcake, hints of roots, moss and leather; light, elegant, wonderfully knit, spare, tends toward dryness and austerity, especially on the slightly earthy, slightly woody finish; a diminishing beauty though still with power to provoke. Drink through 2013. Alcohol is 13 percent. 564 cases. Very Good+. About $50.

Vougeot Le Clos du Prieuré Rouge Monopole 2003. A monopole, a vineyard owned solely by one person, family or house, is rare in Burgundy, where vineyards tend to have been fragmented by marriage and inheritance over two centuries. Le Clos du Prieuré — the wall of the priory — is a small vineyard, a whisper over one hectare, meaning that it’s close to 2.57 acres. The vineyard has been carefully maintained — now on biodynamic principles — with plantings that go back to 1901/’02; the last planting was in 1982 and ’83. The wine aged nine months in oak barrels, 30 percent new. The color is a gently faded ruby-garnet with a flush of ruddy brick-red; the aromas are smoky, a little roasted and fleshy, spicy and macerated, with hints of plum pudding and fruitcake; it’s a grand wine, dignified, supple and subtle, seductively satiny in texture yet spare, graceful, polished; a few minutes in the glass bring out notes of smoldering potpourri and sandalwood, incense, forest floor, mildly woody tannins. What a beauty! Drink through 2015. Alcohol content is 13 percent. 261 cases. Excellent. About $75.

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