It’s a good time to be a white Burgundy enthusiast. Currently on our shelves with have plenty (a relative term) of 2004s. This is one of the better vintages in current years to celebrate the dirt of Burgundy. By this I mean that these wine practically scream their terrior. A fun and interesting way to approach this would be wines from these two producers, Denis Barraud and Paul Pernot. The wines, like the men who make them, come from two very different worlds. The first is a small farmer, the second one of the very largest land owners in the Cote de Beaune. 2004 Pouilly-Fuissé, Les Chataignieres, Domaine des Nembrets, Denis Barraud ($18.99) The Domaine des Nembrets is a small hold that Dennis has been able to put together by sharecropping and leasing. The entire holding are on the slopes of the Roche de Vergisson, a giant basalt monolith, surrounded by complex and folded rocky, well-drained soils with limestone outcroppings. It is these limestone outcroppings that are home to Pouilly-Fuisse, and it is only the vines planted in this area that can be called so. This is not Saint-Veran or Macon. The wine is bright and fresh, showing cool yellow fruits with hints citrus and a stony mineral undercurrent. This wine sees a little new oak, which serves to frame and accentuate the fruit. 2004 Puligny Montrachet, Domaine Paul Pernot ($39.99) In spite of having some of the largest holdings, this estate never produces much wine, selling almost 80% of their grapes. What they do keep (the best fruit, naturally) is reflected in their wines. They are not one of the superstars of Burgundy but the have a solid, quiet following. Preferring to have the wines speak for themselves, very little new oak is used. And speak they do! For young white Burgundy they are very approachable with lots of juicy, ripe stone fruits, citrus and the classic Puligny minerality. This wine has an open knit texture but never loses it focus and it betrays its intensity. It is almost like you’re getting away with something at this price. Drink now or hold onto it for a few more years. —Kirk Walker
As we sequeway into Spring, I have two fantastic Champagne jewels. The first, and one of our most popular, is the NV De Meric, Grande Reserve Brut Sous Bois ($27.99). This is a very small, quality-conscious negotiant begun by the Besserat family in 1843 in Ay. Only Grand Cru and Premier Cru grapes are used in De Meric’s Champagnes. The wines are aged in chalk cellars with rumage still being done by hand. Half oak-aged and half stainless steel-aged, this organic beauty has a big, toasty nose with a roasted hazelnut/almond character and a touch of sea salt. A blend of 80% pinot noir, 15% chardonnay and 5% pinot meunier. On the palate, golden and granny smith apples with an elegant, small bead. Anjou pears and a hint of cocoa at the forefront. A zesty finish with light yeast and toast. Champagne jewel number two is a name that most of you will recognize. The 1996 Laurent Perrier Vintage Brut ($39.99) is one of our top-selling Champagnes from this vintage. Am I selling out, you say? Nay! Although I usually focus on small estate-produced Champagnes, I am crazy for this larger (but, not HUGE) production bubbly. A masterful blend of 55% pinot noir and 45% chardonnay that received an amazing 92 point score from the Wine Spectator. A concentrated nose of citrus fruits, wet stones, lemon and spice. While brisk in the mouth, there is a nuanced texture with lemon cream, honeysuckle and (faint) ginger flavors. Starts out soft and ends with a long, lingering, complex finish. It is also available in half-bottles and magnums. The 1996 will also age well over the next six years. —Scott Beckerley
Last September, Kirk Walker and I were lucky to visit Champagne Hubert Paulet. Benoit Marguet, of Marguet-Bonnerave and Launois fame, had told us all about his friend Olivier Paulet, the young man in charge of this tiny Champagne house. When we arrived in Rilly-La-Montagne, on the north side of the mountain of Reims, we were not disappointed. Olivier took over Champagne Hubert Paulet in 1998 and works exclusively with estate fruit from Rilly. They sell half of their grapes to Billecart-Salmon, and make a little less the 2000 cases a year with the other half. The quality of the Champagnes is amazing. The style is friendly, and the value (due to our direct import) is fantastic. Olivier ferments in both tile and stainless steel vats, and is one of the rare producers to have a pragmatic view on malolactic fermentation. Ideally, he likes to put half of the blend through malo. He is also leaning toward organics, with grass growing between his rows even just days before the harvest, a rare sight in the chalk and vines landscape of Champagne. His Hubert Paulet Brut Tradition ($27.99) is a blend of 50% meunier, 25% chardonnay and 25% pinot noir. It is composed of the 2000 and 1999 harvests and has seen eight months of extra age on the cork as well as on the lees. It is very charming on the nose with ripe golden apple and fresh spring flower aromatics. It has very solid apple and pear fruit on the palate as well as an uncommon mineral note. It is quite dry, dosed at only 9 grams per liter with concentrated grape must instead of the more common beet sugar. The 1999 Hubert Paulet Brut Vintage ($32.99) is a blend of 40% chardonnay, 40% pinot noir and 20% meunier. Since 1999 was a very ripe and relatively low acid year, Olivier chose to completely stop the malolactic. This is a bigger, more serious Champagne that would go very well with barbequed chicken. It has a generous nose of dried apricots, wildflowers and cashews. The flavors are bold and full of fruit, but have a very nice counterbalance of minerality and acid. Contact me at email@example.com or by phone at 877-559-4637 ex 2728 with any questions. A toast to you! —Gary Westby
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