2019 Lienhardt 'Les Plantes Aux Bois' - The 'You should have bought a case not one bottle to blind your friends on' Award
If you’re the kind of Burgundy drinker that likes to buy 1 bottle of lots of things, please note that 1) I often do this too and 2) the correct quantity to purchase here is 6 or more. In fact, I have consumed far more than this number in 2021, as we got in on this early and bought everything that exists this side of the pond. Why? Because it has a beauty that just melts you, and I’ve been under its spell since discovering it this past June. It is a love at first sniff kind of wine.
Fans of Antoine’s wines already know that his style has changed markedly since 2016, when his until-then sturdy and classically styled wines began trending more toward a natural approach and an increasingly high proportion of whole-cluster. I remember thinking that the 2017-2018s felt a bit ‘transitional’ despite the obvious charm of their nascent hedonism. And then, these ‘19s. These ‘19s! I remember where I was standing when first tasting the ’19 Plante aux Bois: I remember too how Slim’s face lit up as I slid a sip to him on a balmy summer day, and remember too the many emails from customers whose collective impression might be summed up as ’How is it possibly this much better than I expected it to be?’
For its frankness, exquisite purity, and life-affirming exuberance, it represents an amalgam of everything I love about Burgundy. Lienhardt’s cases carry the emblem ‘From Comblanchien, with Love’ to which I respond ‘From New York, gratefully.’ It’s my wine of the year.
2014 Gauby 'Coume Gineste' Blanc - The 'Vinous Equivalent of Doing Psychedelics' Award
I love wine, but positively worship its multiplicity. That wine can be easy and comforting, fleeting and mercurial, and a paradigm of beauty testifies to the enormous range of its pleasures. Wine can, at times, also offer us a unique sensual joyride, an experience whose intensity and particularity can seem, in the moment, nearly impossible.
Domaine Gauby produces whites among my favorite from outside of Burgundy, Roussillon whites that transcend their appellations not by degrees but rather by standard deviations. Careful farming, biodynamic viticulture, remarkable selectivity, and superbly executed reductive winemaking tell at least part of the story. But at their best, there is an almost hypnotic intensity and haunting, resonant beauty that reflects the inexplicable communion between family, soil, and vine that characterizes the world’s truly special wines.
The single-vineyard 2014 Coume Gineste is the finest white I’ve tasted from Gauby, or ever from the Languedoc-Roussillon for that matter. There is a creamsicle reduction and fennel-y / Provencal herb scented profile that just invades your senses and haunts you for days afterward. I swear this wine has its own gravitational field. You’ve been warned…
2017 Souillard Crozes Baties - The 'Beautiful Discovery You’ve Overlooked and Without Which Your Life Is Incomplete' Award
When I first tasted this wine back in October, I fell for its silky, expressive charms immediately. And yet somehow, it has continued to grow on me. Jean-Baptiste is a new name and his domaine dates back only to 2014. His ‘17s however struck me as remarkably sure and mature efforts. His work is guided by the Cistercienne principle of ‘one vineyard, one wine’ and his farming and winemaking aim to amplify the character of place in each micro-cuvee.
The Crozes ‘Les Baties’ stands apart for its remarkable purity, and yet the quality of this purity somehow seems both effusive and discreet at the same time. There is a little coil of red fruit perfume that picks up spice and floral nuances with air, gaining in intensity but remaining focused and certain. The tannins give shape and definition, a tight and complex textural profile that add much to the poise and breed of the wine’s fruit profile. Rather than the much in-vogue style of carbonic, whole-clustery Syrah, this presents as an archetype for lovers of the region’s classic wines. Is there better value in noble hillside Syrah?