March 20, 2019

The Year’s Best

Wine & Spirits Magazine’s annual roundup of the best wines they reviewed in 2018. Usually, we despair of such pageantry, but W&S puts a lot more care into their listings than most, as witnessed by their tasting notes. A few highlights:

Year’s Best Loire Wines:

Sparkling
92 | Domaine Richou Vin de France Les “D” en Bulles Mousseux
This chenin blanc grows in Anjou (Rablay sur Layon). It’s a cool, brisk sparkler with fragrant chamomile pallor, the richness of fresh nutmeat and the tart flavors of white raspberries and green apples. It feels healthy and sound, an intriguing wine to cellar for a year or two.

Anjou Blanc
90 | Domaine Richou 2016 Anjou Les Rogeries
Tight scents of quince and yellow flowers introduce this lively chenin, its mineral acidity feeling almost tannic in the end. Tense and floral, this is a wine to decant for spicy braised pork.

Montlouis-sur-Loire
92 | Le Rocher des Violettes 2017 Montlouis-sur-Loire Touche-Mitaine
Xavier Weisskopf’s 22.5-acre domaine in Montlouis includes this ten-acre parcel of mature chenin on clay and silex over limestone. He farms organically, and consistently produces beautiful chenins, like this 2017 Touche-Mitaine, a wine with flesh and tension. Rich and round, the wine is also cool and zesty, sparked with lemongrass and ginger flavors. This will only improve with a few years in the cellar.

Muscadet Serve-et-Maine
95 | Claude Branger 2016 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie Terroir Les Gras Moutons
The Brangers farm 18 acres of vines in Les Gras Moutons, the site’s name believed to be an old French reference to a prominent rise (gros moton) rather than the direct contemporary translation of a voluptuously proportioned sheep. This 2016 is, however, pretty voluptuous in its concentrated flavors, completely integrated, all of a piece. The marine salinity is almost feral in its intensity, hinting at ginger and mushrooms; then it lengthens out into an ephemeral character and lasts with grace. Give it time in the cellar to tame the lemony undertow of acidity for Belon oysters.

93 | Claude Branger 2017 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie Les Fils de Gras Moutons (Best Buy)
Claude and Sebastien Branger blend this wine from a range of estate parcels averaging 40 years old. Their 2017 is so constricted in its salty pear flavors that it put some tasters off, but that youthful concentration turned into an advantage with air, evolving toward kelpy Atlantic intensity, layered with fruit: peaches that are just coming into ripeness, bright oranges and Meyer lemons. Crisply detailed, this should age well over the next five years.

Savennières
91 | Domaine Richou 2016 Savennières La Bigottière
From a vineyard of schist, quartz and wind-blown sand, this needs air to develop past its lanolin creaminess, revealing litchi and loquat nuttiness. It gains freshness and mouthwatering richness, lasting on orange-blossom scents and tense, smoky acidity. For the cellar.

Bourgueil
94 | Domaine de la Chevalerie 2014 Bourgueil Chevalerie
The Caslot family has farmed this domaine since 1640, 81.5 acres of vines, most of them surrounding the 11th-century cellars where siblings Emmanuel and Stéphanie continue to vinify and age their wines today. This wine is a selection from a 20-acre parcel where the vines, planted in two feet of clay over limestone, average 55 years of age. This earned a number of raves from our panelists, from “absolutely delicious, just barely ripe red fruit and minerality” to “brilliant green-tobacco richness, lovely and lush.” The raspberry and red-currant flavors brush up against that mineral tension, then last, cool and beautiful.

93 | Domaine de la Chevalerie 2014 Bourgueil Galichets
This 25-acre vineyard on a terrace above the Loire river includes original plantings from 1934, and more recent plantings from the 1970s through the ‘90s. The soil is sandy clay about three feet deep over limestone, and the wine is fat and happy, old-fashioned franc. Its ripe blackberry flavors have a stodgy elegance, or, as one taster suggested, “a little cabernet franc dirtiness, like rolling around in your lover’s clothes.” It’s foresty and rich, a 2014 to enjoy now with a pan-seared hanger steak.

90 | Domaine de la Chevalerie 2016 Bourgueil Diptyque (Best Buy)
Selected from gravel, sand and clay soils, this wine rests in concrete for four to six months before bottling. It’s immediately appealing, a rich, spicy cabernet franc with some tobacco and jalapeño spice over the round red-berry fruit. Give the wine a slight chill before decanting a bottle this summer for steak frites.

Year’s Best White Burgundies

Chablis
93 | Domaine des Hâtes 2016 Chablis 1er Cru L’Homme Mort Fourchaume
Texturally compelling, this wine’s layered richness has the abrasion and stony depth of chardonnay grown in limestone and clay. Its peach ripeness is fresh and fragrant, heightened by scents of chamomile, green pear and crisp notes of parsley. Hints of toffee and caramel create an ornate layering, a combination of fresh and ripe. Decant it for braised rabbit or other gamey stews.

90 | Domaine des Hâtes 2017 Chablis (Best Buy)
This wine’s crab- apple notes and saline acidity make it aggressively dry, needing air to round its edges and bring up the mellow richness of the fruit. Its power gains focus, yielding a savory, stony Chablis with smoky notes of oranges. Decant it for roasted sweetbreads.

Côte Chalonnaise
91 | Domaine de la Folie 2016 Rully 1er Cru Monopole Clos St- Jacques
The Noël-Bouton family has farmed a high ridge at the northern edge of Rully for three centuries, 32 acres of vines including this 4.2-acre vineyard on the steep eastern flank of the Montagne de la Folie. The estate’s top parcel, planted in 1952, Clos St-Jacques produced a gingery 2016, finely integrated with crunchy apple freshness and warm, curry-like spice. It’s a clean wine, lasting with finesse.

Jura
90 | Jean-Luc Mouillard NV Crémant du Jura Brut
This light sparkler sustains freshness against the caramel notes of autolysis and buttered toast. It’s rich and chalky, with hints of nut skin and touches of sweet apple in the end.

90 | Jean-Luc Mouillard
 2016 Côtes du Jura Chardonnay
This wine’s delicate fennel-like perfume mirrors the restraint of the flavors, focused on apple crunch and fatter fruit notes of peach marmalade that develop with air. Clean, pale and earthy, this will develop well over the next several years in the cellar.

91 | Jean-Luc Mouillard 2016 Côtes du Jura Trousseau
This delicate light-red wine is bloody animal, rooty vegetable and umami mineral all at once. There are herbal nuances to the floral scents, the tannins substantial yet fine. Decant it for veal tongue braised with celery and leeks.

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