Notable Arrivals
Notable Arrivals

April 2020

In lieu of a new arrivals section this month, below are a dozen in-stock wines we’re currently loving: five whites, five reds, an orange, and a rosé. It’s a mix of the classic and the esoteric, but: all are farmed without chemicals; all are picked by hand; all are fermented spontaneously; and offer outstanding value. These are wines of real personality and broad applicability, and if you’re looking for dependable yet intriguing wines to get you and your customers through these days of homebound consumption, we can’t recommend them highly enough.

2018 Celler Credo (Recaredo) Xarel-lo “Miranius”
Recaredo—indisputably the greatest producer of sparkling wine in Spain, and the first biodynamic estate in the Penedès—produces small quantities of still wine as well. “Miranius” is pure Xarel-lo, the true conduit variety for this terroir, vinified on its fine lees in stainless steel for six months and bottled with minimal sulfur. At just 11% alcohol, this 2018 nonetheless offers a gripping mineral intensity, chalky and penetrating, with laser-beam acidity and a riveting sense of energy. Notes of fresh almonds, lime pith, and white pepper appear on the clinging palate and leave the salivary glands fully activated in their wake.”

2018 Bastide du Claux “Barraban” Luberon Blanc
Sylvain Morey, son of the legendary Jean-Marc Morey in Chassagne-Montrachet, created this domaine in the Luberon—or the “Hautes Côtes du Rhône,” as he cheekily calls it—in the early 2000s, bringing his sense of exacting precision and conscientious farming to this Rhône-Provence border zone known more for innocuous bulk wine than compelling expressions of terroir. “Barraban” blends 30% each Grenache Blanc and Vermentino with smaller amounts of Ugni Blanc, Viognier, Clairette, Roussanne, and Marsanne, all from organically farmed vineyards that are harvested by hand—two rare occurrences in the region. Raised 85% in cement and 15% in neutral oak, the 2018 reflects the Luberon’s relative cool climate in its bright, fleet-footed, fresh expression of these southerly varieties, offering a lively clarity of fruit, as well as mouthwatering marzipan notes. The value here is downright startling.”

2013 Louis Magnin Chignin-Bergeron
Husband-and-wife Louis and Beatrice Magnin were early adopters of biodynamics, and by any standard are among the few truly elite, legendary growers in the Alpine region of the Savoie. Located as they are in the region’s warmest zone, the Combe de Savoie, they produce more Mondeuse than they do white wine, but their whites offer a depth and textural complexity that is unparalleled in the area. The 2013 Chignin-Bergeron (it’s what the locals call Roussanne) is unabashedly saline, with a soaring nose of salted hazlenuts, autolytic brioche-y elements, candied lemon, crunchy green apples, and apricots. The palate is rigorous and penetrating in a way that Rhône Roussanne even at its best can never be, with a long, ringing finish of utter harmony. To find a more compelling expression of the variety than this, one would have to spend five times as much on a Hermitage that would still lack this wine’s irrepressible mountain soul. This is the best value on my list, even though it’s the most expensive wine I suggest.”

2017 Domaine Cheveau Mâcon-Solutré-Pouilly “Sur le Mont”
Even in the more accessibly priced real estate of the Mâconnais, the name of the game in Burgundy is location, location, location. This vineyard, which hugs the base of the enormous and imposing Roche du Solutré, is rich in limestone and littered with marine fossils, producing a wine thoroughly suffused with salty, chalky mineral essence. Nicolas Cheveau’s refined and transparent touch—gentle pressing, gravity only, a judicious blend of large barrels and stainless steel, minimal batonnage, minimal sulfur—yields a Mâcon of uncommon focus and complexity. As with all of his wines, the clarity of fruit here is expressed with high-definition digital precision, and, although the aromatic and flavor profiles are different, a wine like this puts one in the mind of the most refined and elegant of German Rieslings, such is its balletic poise and uncompromised sense of minerality.”

2016 Domaine Montbourgeau L’Etoile Chardonnay
Nicole Deriaux, now joined at her 120-year-old family domaine by her two young sons César and Baptiste, is one of the Jura’s true masters of the old style, producing wines that speak of the voile in clear but complex language, and which never allow their oxidative elements to overwhelm varietal expression or mineral tension. This is her flagship wine—pure Chardonnay from the fossil-packed soils of L’Etoile—fermented in stainless steel, then aged in a combination of 25-hectoliter foudres and old barriques with no topping up for two solid years. It is a testament to the magic of old-school Jura wine, with rivetingly salty minerality, notes of curry powder from the burgeoning yeast veil, and complicating traces of mustard seed and barley. Still, the fruit is fresh and prominent, reminiscent of the orchard, and the acidity, fruit, and minerality all hang in wonderful balance with one another. It’s a Jura wine driven by its terroir and enhanced rather than dominated by its traditional aging process.”

2019 Domaine du Bagnol Cassis Rosé
The dynamic Sébastien Genovesi describes 2019 as a beautiful harvest, one for which a sorting table was virtually unnecessary, and his family’s domaine produced 15% higher yields than in the similarly warm and dry 2018. Domaine du Bagnol’s rigorous vineyard practices (organic-certified since 2014) and careful, precise cellar work have resulted in wines of increased harmony and complexity with each passing year, and this vintage of their Cassis Rosé represents a new pinnacle for a justly beloved cuvée. Comprising 50% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, and 20% Mourvèdre, the rose-petal-colored 2019 was pressed directly and rapidly (in under two hours) to extract as little color as possible, and the bottled wine contains only 20 milligrams per liter of total sulfur—a factor which contributes to its gorgeous purity of texture and precise, intense evocation of limestone soil.”

2016 Il Censo “Praruar” Terre Siciliane Bianco
The indigenous variety Catarratto thrives in the flint-rich volcanic soils found at Il Censo, Gaetano Gargano’s old family farm in central Sicily which he revived and converted toward mixed viticulture and agriculture ten years ago. The 2016 “Praruar” (old Sicilian for “toward gold”) spent three weeks macerating on its skins, and its luscious, thick mouthfeel balances beautifully with cleansing acidity and a blast of spices. This was aged in steel with no temperature control, where it clarified naturally without fining or sterile-filtering—a method Gaetano learned from his old friend and mentor Giampiero Bea. In a world ravenous for skin-contact wine, this offers a tremendous combination of complexity and value.”

2017 Conti “Origini” Vino Rosso
Sisters Elena and Paolo Conti—the leading lights of the Boca appellation, in the far north of Piemonte—exude energy, warmth, and humanity, and it’s no accident that their lovely and transparent wines express those same qualities. “Origini” is produced from old vines planted in the locally classic maggiorina training, a labor-intensive method which involves two vines planted immediately against each other whose branches are trained outward and upward into an inverted-bell shape. This allows aeration and promotes ripeness but completely eliminates the possibility of machine work in the vineyards, and to have a wine of this level of quality and complexity requiring that amount of labor from vines of such extreme age at such a low price is nearly unbelievable. A true field blend of Croatina, Nebbiolo, Vespolina, Dolcetto di Boca, and several others, “Origini” shows its volcanic-soiled origins in its assertive minerality, and its fresh, soaring fruit speaks to the sisters’ utterly hands-off cellar regimen: no temperature stabilization, no sulfur until bottling, no fining, no sterile-filtering.”

2016 Ada Nada Barbera d’Alba “Pierin”
A relatively new addition to our family of growers, husband and wife Annalisa and Elvio Nada produce delicate, classical, wonderfully pure wines from their organically farmed holdings in Treiso in the Barbaresco zone. Their Barbera d’Alba “Pierin” is produced from vines in the Barbaresco vineyard of Rombone, vinified in stainless steel and raised for one year in large Slavonian-oak casks. Neither frivolous nor overly serious like some Barbera can be, this 2016 “Pierin” captures the ripping acidity and utterly scrumptious cherry fruit of the variety at its best, with penetrating soil-derived flavors of camphor and sun-soaked stones, and an arresting purity of fruit. Digestible and dangerously delicious, it’s one of those “bound to be emptied quickly” bottles.”

2018 Château de Chaintres Saumur-Champigny “Les Sables”
Another exciting new acquisition for Rosenthal Wine Merchant, Château de Chaintres is a stunning 15-hectare estate in Saumur-Champigny founded by Oratorian monks in 1675. Our old friend Jean-Philippe Louis—a long-time advocate of biodynamics who convinced Philippe Gilbert in Menetou-Salon to take the path and worked alongside him for ten years—took the reins here in 2018, immediately converting the entire operation to biodynamic viticulture (it had been certified organic since 2010) and producing wines of theretofore unseen purity and expressiveness. The “Les Sables” cuvée is produced from Cabernet Franc grown in the sandier parts of the clos which comprises the bulk of the estate’s acreage, aged in stainless steel and bottled with minimal sulfur. The 2018 is remarkably fresh, with fully ripe, snappy red fruits and beautifully integrated tannins—a testament to this appellation’s capacity for producing Cabernet Franc of uncommon elegance, as well as to Jean-Philippe’s masterful guiding hand.”

2017 Bitouzet-Prieur Bourgogne Rouge
Francois Bitouzet has been crafting some of the greatest Burgundies in our formidable portfolio for almost a decade now, having assumed the reins from his father Vincent in 2010 and immediately converting vineyard work to the fully organic. From his family’s enviable holdings in Volnay and Meursault, Francois, with impeccable precision and preternatural sensitivity of touch in the cellar, renders wines of regal classicism and striking terroir fluency. His Bourgogne Rouge, produced from vines planted between 1963 and 1970 in the lieu-dit Petit Pres just next to Volnay Les Pasquières, offers the poised, savory minerality of great Volnay, and the 2017 is an especially red-fruited, forward example—one that delivers a wallop of pure Pinot Noir pleasure in inimitably Burgundian fashion. Thankfully, no new oak is employed in the élévage here.”

2016 Mickael Boutin Rasteau
Mickael Boutin is the kind of guy we love to root for. Standing at least 6’6” tall, he farms his two hectares of Rasteau completely organically, and makes his wine in a literal shed with a manually operated basket press and a couple of cement tanks. His are Rhône wines without bells and whistles, without gloss, without pretense, without anything but grapes and a tiny splash of sulfur. Heck, we’ve probably only heard the man speak 30 or 40 words in total over the course of our three years working together—but his Rasteau speaks of its terroir with plain directness and honest purity. Boutin’s soils of sand and blue marl produce wines of relative elegance for the southern Rhône, an elegance he chooses to emphasize through full de-stemming and gentle extraction, and the 2016—a blend of 60% Grenache and 10% each Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, and Carignan—balances ripe, luscious fruit with plenty of spice and phenomenal acidity. A sense of tasteful restraint keeps this wine harmonious and drinkable, even as its wild Rhône elements shine through in true-to-type fashion.”

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