March 2019

In this newsletter: an update on my business, a love letter to Chianti, my latest vinous discoveries, and of course, the best bottles I drank this month.

What is your business again?

I'm often asked what my business is, so here’s a snapshot of work I’ve done so far this year:

  • I advise private clients on wines to buy, to drink and to cellar.  I identify lots at auction and at retail that would make for excellent drinking or investment and execute purchases.  I manage client inventories, storage and all logistics concerned with wine purchases and delivery.

  • I perform inventories for private clients on a one-off basis, organise cellars and make recommendations for what to drink and what, if anything, might profitably be sold.

  • I host guided tastings and dinners for private clients and businesses.

  • I advise wineries on marketing and sales in the US market.

A Paean to Chianti

For years - decades, even - Chianti was a joke of a wine.  With its wicker flask (the fiasco) the wine was the poor, country cousin of Tuscany’s great wine, Brunello.  But no more!  To my mind Chianti is producing some of Tuscany’s most thrilling wines today; heavenly, ethereal wines that showcase the many virtues of the Sangiovese variety, and all for very affordable prices.

Why the current success of Chianti?  1) Better winemaking: since about 2011, we’ve seen a movement away from extraction and heaviness and towards lightness and finesse, a style that suits the Sangiovese so well; 2) less blending - Sangiovese by itself is wonderful, and the movement away from including the dull international varieties has much improved the wines; 3) a run of excellent vintages: 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Producers to look out for: Fontodi, whose 2015 Chianti Classico is a perfumed beauty; Felsina, whose Chianti Colli Senese 2016 is crazy value at under $20; and wonderful classicists Castell in’Villa and Castello di Monsanto.    

New Discoveries

I attend many tastings every month, and am always discovering producers new to me.  This month the following jumped out at me.  I apologize to those of you who know these estates already, but I was excited to get to know them!

  • Moreau-Naudet, Chablis: long aging on the lees gives wines of remarkable depth and mineral authority in the Premier Cru wines.  These are benchmark, intellectual Chablis.

  • Yvon Clerget, Volnay: I tasted the ‘15s, ‘16s and ‘17s this month, and each was better than the last.  The 2017s are pure Volnay heaven.

  • Walter Scott, Willamette Valley, Oregon: some of the best Oregon Chardonnay I have encountered, and lovely Pinot Noir (particularly the 2017 Sojourner Vineyard).

  • Cosimo Taurino, Puglia: bargain basement southern Italian reds.  Check out their (current vintage!) 2010s for around $15/bottle - crazy value.

The Best Wines I Drunk in March

  • Louis Roederer Cristal 1996 - an unbelievably wonderful bottle.  For me, Roederer is first among equals of the grandes marques, and while Cristal may not quite have the longevity of Dom Perignon, when it’s been appropriately aged, it’s sublime.  And today, this is.  Do whatever you can to find it.

  • Margaux 2001 - Margaux really shines in these good but not great vintages.  There’s a gorgeous sensual perfume and the tannins are soft now, but this will be great for at least another 10 years.

  • Fourrier Gevrey Combe Aux Moines 1999/Fourrier Gevrey Cherbaudes 2009 - capturing red Burgundy at the right moment is as much luck as it is experience, but in their very different modes, both of these Fourrier bottles were outstanding.  The 1999 is at last softening and giving so much pleasure, while the 2009 has a shimmering beauty and distinction not often associated with this warm year.

  • Bartolo Mascarello Barolo 2007 - surely too young?  Not at all.  Yes, it is still primary, but I for one love the purity of those high toned Barolo aromas.  The tannins are mellow now and this was pitch perfect Barolo for now and over the next 15+ years.