Meanwhile, Back In France

I wouldn't be surprised at all if many reading this have received a recent email offering new French wines brought in by Uri Caftory and Eldad Levy. Well, here are some of them.

Michel Autran, Vin de France, Les Enfers Tranquilles, 2017

Michel Autran is a former E.R. specialist who turned to winemaking in his 40's. If that wasn't oddball enough, after 5 years in Vouvray he rebelled against what he considered the appellation's low standards of quality and decided to release all his wines under the humble Vin de France label. Thus, this is a actually a Vouvray, ergo Chenin Blanc. The wine takes a while to blow off acetic notes on the nose to show peaches, melons and a mineral strain that initially impresses as chalk before becoming more and more ash-like. The label claims 14% ABV, but the fruit is lively for all that, with a firm mineral backbone and a spicy finish, that pulls back its power in favor of expression. It's quite unique. I've tasted a fair share of Loire Chenins, and I've never drunk anything quite like it. It feels as though someone blended the bone dry intensity of Savenierres with the plump fruit of Vouvray. It's quite captivating, especially the nose, possibly the most interesting white brought in by either Caftory or Levy. (Aug. 18, 2020)

Domaine Ninot, Rully, La Barre, 2018

This is a very old family domaine in Rully (in the Côte Chalonnaise region to the south of the Côte d'Or) now being run by a siblings Erell and Flavien. This is a very good textbook white Côte Chalonnaise. The nose is fragrant with pears, dry grass and a hint of flint - convincing, charming and complete. The palate starts out relatively light in mid-palate but really fleshes out with air ad asserts itself on the finish with hints of nuts and mushrooms. (Aug. 15, 2020)

Domaine Ninot, Rully Premier Cru, Gresigny, 2018

This is, unsurprisingly, a step up. The style is the same, easily recognizable as a member of the Burgundy family tree, with greater complexity and substance. I didn't expect a Rully Premier Cru to match a Premier Cru from the Cote de Beaune, but it would match a very good village level wine and a notch more, at half the asking price, these days. (Sept. 2, 2020)

Philippe Tessier, Cheverny, Blanc, 2019

Philippe Tessier is another of the lovely oddballs that are Uri Caftori's calling and our lives are richer for them. Cheverny is a Loire AOC. The whites are predominantly Sauvignon Blanc. Tessier's version includes 20% Chardonnay. 

I'd be hard press to guess this blind. I'd probably guess Sauvignon Blanc, but I wouldn't necessarily go Loire, because it doesn't remind me of the Sauvignon Blanc appellations I know. It's not smoky/salty enough to be Pouilly-Fumé and it's not elegant and complex enough to be a fine Sancerre. If anything, it reminds me of a New World winemaker striving for the vivid freshness of New Zealand but determined to hold on to the restraint and mineral cut of the Loire. But what do I know, this may have been what the vignerons of Cheverny have been making all along. It's not incredibly original, but the acidity is great and it's very moreish. (Aug. 18, 2020)

Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book lists just about every French appellation, yet Cour-Cheverny rates only a line or two within the Cheverny entry. It's a sub-appellation that recognizes only the Romorantin grape, which is grown nowhere else. Tessier ages it in old oak, with a lot of batonnage. Thus, the character is oxidized but not oaky. I'm speaking from my experience with the 2017. The bottle of 2018 I opened was severely corked.

Philippe Tessier, Cheverny, Rouge, 2018

Cheverny reds are mostly Pinot Noir and Gamay blends. Tessier also includes 10% Cabernet Franc, Côt in the local dialect. Local sommeliers are calling this the perfect red for the Israeli summer and they're right, of course. Its floral freshness could well be addictive and the Cabernet adds just enough at lead pencil for an extra level of aesthetic appeal. Simple fun.(Aug. 24, 2020)

Domaine Olivier Merlin, Bourgogne, 2018

This is a small family estate in the Maconnais village of La Roche-Vineuse. Corinne and Olivier Merlin re-located there over 35 years ago and have accumulated quite a few holdings in Macon (most notably Pouilly-Fuissé and Saint-Véran), Beaujolais and even Puligny. Based on this modest wine, I hope more labels will be brought to Israel. It's the kind of small-scale, tasty Pinot that made me fall for Burgundy 15 years ago: silky fruit, suave tannins with a suggestion of meat, hints of forest floor on the nose. It's really tasty. (Aug. 27, 2020)