Blind tasting wines – 2019 edition

Here are the wines tasted during the 2018 edition.


1. Domaine Escher & Thomas, Vouvray, « Vouvray Brut »vouvray.png

Region: Loire Valley – Touraine vineyard
Soil: clayey and chalky soils
Grape variety: Chenin Blanc
Vine growing: inspired by the methods of organic and biodynamic culture
Traditional Method: 18 months on laths minimum
Dosage of liqueur: Brut – (about 8 g/L)
Alcohol: 13 %

In the glass: The prestigious Vouvray sparkling wine offers a charming balance of honeyed fruit and mouth-watering freshness. Whether enjoyed as an aperitif or paired with local dishes (rillettes, goat’s cheeses), a glass of finely-bubbled Vouvray is always a delight.

Traditional Method by Escher & Thomas: The “Champagne Method”, today referred to as the “Traditional Method”, is the succession of two fermentations: the first creates the “base wine” by transforming the sugar in the grapes into alcohol, and the second, takes place in the bottle, a process also referred to as “la prise de mousse”. They pay special attention to these two key stages in the production of their fine sparkling wines. At harvest time, they pick ripe grapes from low yields, seeking aromatic balance above all. Their work is to preserve what nature has given us in the quest for a pure, authentic expression of the grape in its terroir. For the fermentations, they therefore selected a very old yeast, which expresses the original identity of the grape variety. Found in a bottle dating from 1895, the yeast was alive in the pre-phylloxera era: it did not, therefore, develop in an environment impacted by modern phytosanitary treatments. Its slow, meticulous action gives us bubbles of great finesse and beautiful aromatic flavours.

Iwan Escher & Cécile Thomas

2. Domaine Alain Voge, Saint-Peray, « Les Bulles d’Alain », 2013saint perray

With this wine, the Domain Alain Voge perpetuates Saint-Péray’s custom of making traditional method sparkling wine, which established the reputation of the Saint-Péray region as of the 1830s. The entire domain is cultivated using organic and biodynamic viticulture.

Terroir: Approximately 30 years old, the vines are planted on granite colluvium enriched by some limestone (Grandes Blaches), and in the higher areas purely granite of the Saint-Péray appellation (Perrier).

Vine growing and winemaking: Organic certification since the 2017 vintage for the vines and wine, biodynamic methods used. Marsanne vines trained and pruned in the Gobelet style and supported by stakes. Harvests picked manually and early at the beginning of September, to maintain the grapes’ freshness and floral aromas. Whole grape bunches pressed and not crushed. Sparkling wine made according to the traditional method: the base wine fermented at low temperature in small stainless steel and concrete vats, then a second fermentation in bottles: ageing on laths for a minimum of 3 years, no addition of dosage after disgorging (naturally brut sparkling wine), amount of sulphite reduced: 11 mg/l total SO2 (185 mg/litre authorized in organic winemaking)

Comment: Pale yellow. An exotically perfumed bouquet displays mineral-tinged pear, jasmine, succulent herb and lemon pith scents. Rich but energetic on the palate, offering incisive orchard and pit fruit flavors and a late jolt of smoky lees. The long, sappy finish echoes the floral note and leaves behind a subtle anise note. There’s not much non-Champagne bubbly out there of this wine’s quality and complexity – it spends at least three years on its lees before disgorgement and, in the case of this vintage, closer to four years.

Josh Raynolds: 91/100

3. Champagne Georges Vesselle, Champagne Grand Cru, « Extra-Brut Blanc de Noirs »vesselle.png

Soil: clay, chalk
Grape Varieties: 100% PinotNoir
Average age of vineyards: 15 years

The Domain: For several generation the Vesselle family have lived on the “Coteau de Bouzy”, one of the finest Grand Crus of Champagne region. Georges Vesselle’s sons, Eric and Bruno, now exploit the house’s 17-hectare vineyard.

Winemaking: A lightly dosed champagne (3g), recently disgorged after resting on lathes for 3 years in the cellar.

Character: Adorned with a refined burst of plentiful fine bubbles, this Champagne suggests intensely enticing aromas. Its generous nose raises sweet fragrances of mirabelle plum, bilberry and plums, with a discreet hint of spices (cumin and nutmeg). The mouth reveals a stirring balance between a supple creamy attack and a light tannin presence on finish.

Ageing: To be enjoyed now for the exceptional liveliness and freshness of its aromas.
Matching Wine and Food: This Champagne will be perfect for aperitif and a perfect accompaniment for white meats or fish. Must be served between 7 and 9°C.

4. Domaine Valentin Zusslin, Alsace, « Crémant Clos Liebenberg », 2012zusselin.png

Terroir: grès
Alcohol: 12,5 % vol.
Residual sugars: 0,3 g/l
pH: 3,01

The terroir: Clos Liebenberg is the monopoly of Domaine Zusslin. Clos of 3.5 hectares located at the top of the Pfingstberg hill. The whole of the Clos lies on a sandy subsoil, covered with a little clay. In the Clos are planted Riesling, Pinot Auxerrois and a little Sylvaner. It is a place to which they are particularly attached, with a very special atmosphere and a lot of life. They try as much as possible to promote biodiversity there: a shepherd leaves a herd of about thirty sheep to graze in the Clos every winter, a beekeeper deposits about ten hives each summer, they have planted an orchard in the middle of the vines, they rebuild by hand the dry stone walls surrounding the Clos to bring back lizards, birds and all a rich and delightful flora and fauna.

Winemaking: Through this crémant they wanted to express all this. To achieve this, they have chosen a blend of 90% Pinot Auxerrois and 10% Riesling. Vinified separately in casks for a year and a half, they were then assembled and bottled for foaming. To do this, they did not use any external yeasts by choosing to reseed the bottles with a foot of vat made from the lees of the fermenting wines and crémants on slats. This crémant then spent 36 months on slats before being disgorged in May 2015. Disgorging in Brut Nature. No sulphur was added during the production of this cuvée.


1. Bret Brothers, Domaine de la Souffrandière, Saint-Véran, « La Bonnode », 2016saint véran.png

Neighbor to “Combe DesRoches,” “La Bonnode” is a superb parcel of 2 hectares, facing east at the foot of the Roche de Vergisson. The vines are mostly bordered by old brush: a sheltered, isolated situation that allows us to biodynamically cultivate the vines with ease. Working in this parcel, they can see across the Saône Valley all the way to the Mont Blanc in the distance to the east.

Keeping: 10 years
Age of vines: 35 years
Area: 2 hectares
Altitude: 250 meters
Terroir: Clay and limestone
Vinification and ageing: 11 months in barrels + 6 more months in tank. No filtration.

2. Château de Tracy, Pouilly Fumé, « Haute-densité », 2015tracy.png

Vineyard location: Plateau of « Champs de Cri »
Exposure: South-west
Soil: Kimmeridgian & Portlandian limestone
Grape variety: Sauvignon Blanc
Average age of the vines: 15 years
Yield: 20 hL/ha
Alcohol: 12.62%
Acidity: 4.41 g/l 

« Haute Densité » represents a very small plot planted on one of the most qualitative terroir of limestone of the Château de Tracy. The high density of plantation is a unique way of growing in the Appellation, giving a rare complexity to Sauvignons. This vintage is produced in very small quantities with only 2569 bottles in 2015.

Winegrowing practices: This wine is produced from vines planted in high density (17 000 vines per hectare: the standard density for the appellation is 7 000 vines per hectare). Competition between the vines is therefore greater. As each plant has to draw its reserves from deep within the soil, the roots plunge deeper, increasing consequently the contact with the stone (more “terroir” effect in the wine). Vigorous growth is controlled and the plants are healthier. The specific pruning of the plants is the result of rigorous research and intensive work on the vines (such as disbudding and thinning out of leaves). The vegetation is less dense, far less vulnerable to disease and each plant bears a maximum of two or three bunches. The resulting grapes have a very concentrated and complex flavors.

Vinification: The harvest took place on the 4th of September 2015. Grapes were slowly and gently pressed to obtain the highest quality must. The wine was matured in oak barrels (500 liters) for a period of 9 months, with regular stirring of the lees. 

The wine:
Appearance: Pale yellow with golden highlights.
The nose: Rich and complex, it opens on aromas of pear, eucalyptus, licorice and rare wooden essences. After a short time in the glass, some “sunny flavours” appear: peach, fresh pineapple, mango, sweet grapefruit.
Palate: The first sensation is finesse but vivacity. The attack is sharp, fleshy, developing citrus, vanilla aromas and pepper.

3. Domaine Joseph Drouhin, Oregon, « Arthur Chardonnay », 2016arthur.png

Arthur Chardonnay is produced from 100% Dijon clones, grown on the Drouhin Family Estate in the Dundee Hills of Oregon. First planted in 1990, the low yields of these vines and their early ripening ability have been a perfect match for the climate and soils. Arthur, named for Véronique’s son, is a wine that captures the bright, crisp acidit and mineral character of the vineyard, balanced with richness and lovely length.

Winemaking: The 2016 Chardonnay was hand-picked into small totes, and then whole-cluster pressed. It was partly fermented in French Oak barrels to reveal the complexity of the fruit through the slow breathing process that happens in wood. The rest was fermented and aged in stainless steel to keep the vibrancy and fruitiness. Véronique then blended these two portions to create a wine of a more delicate nature – Arthur. To Véronique, it as if one brought together elements of a pure Chablis and an elegant Meursault.

Vintage: 2016 marks the third consecutive season of warm, dry and largely harmonious growing conditions. Spring came early, and the vineyards enjoyed the warmer and drier weather. This helped maintain small clusters and berries that could mature evenly between bloom and harvest. In fact, harvest began during the last days of August, but a cooler September allowed us to achieve an overall balance of flavor and layered complexity.

Tasting notes: A fresh, floral nose of acacia and magnolia blends beautifully with almond notes and a hint of anise. Elegant and refined, the texture has density without weight. Flavors of pear, lychee and a touch of lemon custard present a complex, harmonious picture now, but the lively balance means you can easily cellar the 2016 Arthur for the next three to five years. 

4. Domaine Hugel, Alsace Grand Cru, Pinot Gris « Grossie Laüe », 2011grossie laue.png

Alcohol level: 14.8°
Residual Sugar: (g/l) 9
Acidity: 5.6 g/L
pH: 3.5
Age of vines: 30
Yields: 40 hl/ha
Grapes: Pinot Gris 100%

Grossi Laüe signifies the finest vineyards in Alsace dialect and represents an equivalent to the German Grosses Gewächs or the Burgundian Grand Cru.

The vintage: Harsh winter of 2011 with 26 days below zero. Early budding on April 7, May warm and dry and flowering 15 days ahead of time. Summer cool, damp and gloomy. Return to idyllic weather two weeks before harvest started on September 12, without any precipitation from beginning to end. Excellent maturity in a fair size crop with soft acidity. Wines already charming, easy to approach and early to drink soon after bottling.

Quick review: Great classic Pinot Gris which will gain in complexity for 8 years or more. Its minerality and long complex aftertaste will make it the ideal partner to white meat and dishes with mushrooms.

Vineyards and vinification: From a selection of the 3 finest plots of the Hugel estate in the chalky Pflostig. The grapes are taken in small tubs to the presses, which are filled by gravity, without any pumping or other mechanical intervention. After pressing, the must is decanted for a few hours, then fermented in temperature controlled vats (at 18 to 24°C). This particular vintage was fermented in used Pinot Noir barrels, kept on lees with bâtonnage and underwent malo-lactic fermentation. The following spring, the wine was lightly filtered just before bottling, and the bottles were then aged extensively in cellars until released for sale.


1. Domaine Faiveley, Gevrey-Chambertin, « Vieilles Vignes », 2015faiveley.png

The vintage: The weather conditions in 2015 were outstanding and the vintage is characterized by its rich and very distinctive style. Excellent ageing potential.

Appellation description: By royal ordinance from Louis-Philippe, the name “Chambertin” was added to the name of the village and it officially became “Gevrey-Chambertin” in 1847. The parcel selection of old vines aged over 35 years old produces an exceptionally intense and aromatic wine.

Exposition: East, South-east
Soil: Clay marls with a high iron content
Grape Variety: Pinot Noir
Characteristics of the plot: Surface area: 7 ha 20 a 28 ca (17,8 Acres). Years the vines were planted: 1945, 1950, 1951, 1956, 1962, 1967, 1969

Winemaking: The grapes are harvested and sorted by hand. The proportion of de-stemmed grapes and whole clusters varies depending on the vintage. The wines are punched down daily in order to extract color, tannins and aromas from the skin of the grapes. After a 19 day vatting period, the alcoholic fermentation is complete. The free-run wine is run off using a gravity system whilst the marc is pressed slowly and gently in order to extract an exceptionally pure press wine. The wines are aged for 14 months in French oak barrels (20-30% new oak) which have been selected for their fine grain and moderate toast. The wines are left to age in an hygrometry-controlled cellars at consistent, natural temperatures. The wines are aged in vats for 2 months at the end of the ageing process.

Tasting: The old vines are over 35 years old and produce an exceptionally intense and aromatic wine that reflects the unique character of its terroir. With its deep, clear ruby red hue, it reveals notes of black fruits and excellent strength and concentration. As with all Gevrey-Chambertin, it requires a few years of patience before reaching its full potential.

Serve with: Beef bourguignon or a platter of mature cheeses
Serve at: 14°C to 16°C
Cellaring Potential: 4 to 6 years

2. Domaine Rostaing, Côte-Rôtie, « Ampodium », 2016ampodium.png

Assembly of 15 different localities other than “La Landonne” and “Côte Blonde”. Soil mainly micaschist, it is enriched according to the localities of silica, clay, limestone or ferric oxides.

Variety: 100% Syrah
Average age of the vines: 40 years old

Vinification and ageing: 95% whole harvest; fermentation by indigenous yeasts; vatting about 4 weeks long. Ageing for 20 months in 228-litre Burgundian pieces and 600-litre demi-muids. The proportion of new wood remains very modest in order to privilege the terroir and the purity of the fruit. Bottling at the Domaine after light fining and filtration.

Tasting: In its youth, the wine expresses aromas of blackcurrant, liquorice, with the rich fruity character of the syrah. It evolves with age towards fine notes of venison.

Characteristics of the vintage:
Yield: 40 hL/hectare
Production: 20 000 bottles
Keep: 6 to 15 years

3. Château Gazin, Pomerol, 2012gazin.png

Harvest: The harvest, manual, are carried out plot by plot, at perfect maturity. The grapes undergo a first sorting in the vineyard, done by the grape harvesters. In the vat room two sorts are made, before and after the separation of the stalks, to optimize the quality of the fruits.

Vinification and ageing: Alcoholic fermentations are made in small concrete vats, grape varietal and parcel per plot, before a period of maceration of the juices with the skins, for two to three weeks. Then comes the draining of the wines of gout and the pressing of the marcs whose juices are carefully set apart. The second fermentation – malolactic – is then carried out, according to the quality of the batches of wine, in barrels or in vats, varietal grape variety. The harvest is sung in oak barrels (50% new wood). During 18 months of aging the wines will be gradually assembled when racking “at the end” made about every three months. In contact with the lees and oak tannins, they will gradually acquire the structure and the complexity allowing them to constitute wines of guard capable of improving over time.

The Vintage: Our 2012 is 100% Merlot, which is the “King” grape variety of Pomerol. This is very exceptional for us because they usually have a little Cabernet Franc and sometimes Cabernet Sauvignon in their blend. This decision was taken in 2012 and 2013 because the climatology of these two years did not allow us to bring their Cabernets to the desired maturity; and in 1991 because the vineyard had been ravaged by a spring frost and they had only been able to harvest one Merlot vat.

4. Château Montus, Madiran, 2011montus.png

Château Montus benefits from a superb terroir, unique in the Southwest, consisting of steep slopes with large pebbles on top of fine clay from the Pyrenees. A miracle occurred in 1985 when this wine upset the hierarchy of mythical red wines and was noticed all over the world, with its significant proportion of Tannat. Nicknamed the Petrus of the Southwest by a dozen wine critics for 30 years now, Château Montus expresses all the characteristics of these exceptional terroirs.

Grape varieties: Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon (30 year-old vines)

Terroir: Steep slopes of rounded pebbles. Generally south/south-west facing. Well-drained warm terroir, resulting in well-ripened grapes. Subsoil with strata of brown and orangey clay. Very low yields with 5 to 6 bunches per vine 

Vinification and Maturing: Maceration for 3 to 6 weeks. Fermentation at 28°C, punching down of the pomace cap, malolactic fermentation in wooden vats. Maturing on the lees for 12-14 months in 60-80% new barrels 

Tasting Notes: A smooth, deep wine, subtle notes of red fruit coulis, fine tannins, and controlled power culminating in an elegant, persistent finish 

Food and wine pairing: This Madiran can be enjoyed with rib of beef, rack of lamb, duck breast, game, or spicy oriental cuisine.