Thursday, November 7, 2013

Marie-Pierre Manciat: Maven of the Mâconnais


While there are many badass ladies making wine featured in the Langdon Shiverick book, one Burgundian has particularly stood out to me over the course of this year: Marie-Pierre Manciat and her repertoire of deliciously textured and exceptionally pure whites from the sub appellations of Mâcon. Her Pouilly-Fuissé, Pouilly-Vinzelles, Mâcon Chaintré, and her delicately saline Crémant de Bourgogne provide a solution to the age-old question of how to drink Burgundy on a budget. This is affordable Chardonnay in its apogee.

Born into an established winemaking family in the Mâconnais, Marie-Pierre Manciat became the sixth generation to take over the family Chardonnay biz in 2002 (the estate has been in existence since 1871). Up until the 80’s, the juice was largely sold off in bulk to local negociants. Then her father Claude took the helm and resurrected the domaine to its proper pedigree and potential with the use of meticulous viticultural and vinification standards, sustainable agriculture, attention to detail, etc.

Manciat made wines with her husband during the aughties (some of you may recall when the wines were labeled Larochette Manciat) but since 2009, the wines have been elaborated solely by Marie-Pierre. And frankly, they are better than ever. Moreover, there is something for everyone. If you crave a delectable picnic wine white with pedigree, her Mâcon “Les Morizottes” inspires from a 25 year old parcel in Chaintré and frontlines in the low $10 range. It is ideal for guzzling at outdoor gatherings or early evening apéros (not to rub in it, but here in Los Angeles we still enjoy these types of activities well into the darker days of the year.)

Though Pouilly-Vinzelles possesses significantly less renown than its neighbor Pouilly-Fuissé, Manciat’s PV “Les Longeays” is a Chardonnay possessive of great length and character – it’s also a playful wine that punches well above its weight class and will delight Burgophiles curious about lesser-known AOCs. The Pouilly-Fuissé “Les Petites Bruyeres” is rich and mellifluous with plenty of golden delicious apple and crushed rocks; it also features a laser-like acidity that sprints up the tongue, leaving you jonzing for your next sip. This duality is, in my humble opinion, the quintessence of sexy wine. Finally the crémant is a clean and crisp and brilliantly dry, a good choice alternative to sweeter prosecco or even Champagne.

If you haven’t yet, give these wines a go. They’re the next big thing.

- Lily Davis 11/6/13

NV Manciat Cremant de Bourgogne – 91WA

2011 Manciat Macon “Les Morizottes” – 91WA

2011 Manciat Pouilly-Vinzelles “Les Longeays” – 90WA

2011 Manciat Pouilly-Fuissé “Les Petites Bruyeres” – 92WA

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Loire Cabernet Franc’s Sleeper Status


Here at LSI we’ve always been huge proponents of the Loire Valley, which offers a diverse range of cépages and astronomical value for the money. The marketing machine behind Sancerre over the past decade has had an indelible effect on sales and pricing of these wines (much to the pleasure of the Sancerrois.) But there are a myriad other regions which have curiously received no limelight, despite that their wines are pure, gastronomic, inexpensive, and delicious. The communes of Reuilly and Menetou-Salon in the Centre Loire craft wines of 100% Sauvignon Blanc just like Sancerre; however most people have never heard of these places or their wines. You can sit on the terrace of a café in Paris and order a carafe de rouge, receive a chilled Chinon, guzzle it down with your bacon & egg salad, and never have a clue what it was. These are the wines of French every day life. So why don’t we know their names?

Loire’s red offerings of Cabernet Franc, specifically the wines of Saumur, Bourgueil, Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil, and Chinon, are particularly vulnerable in small markets once you stray out of New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. Here in LA these wines are often met, even by knowledgable buyers who respect the wines, with a sense of bafflement. “Delicious but…how do I sell it?” is often their perplexed response. It’s particularly sad when you think about producers like Bertrand Galbrun, and his sexily nuanced little Bourgueil. Bourgueil, a sleepy commune situated on the right bank of the Loire River about midway between Angers and Tours, was granted AOC status legally in 1937, but red wine production dates back centuries. Here we see the mainstay grape, Cabernet Franc, produced in its apogee. Clay-limestone soils unique to this part of the Loire, called Tuff, feature lots of fine white calcareous content. Another soil commonly seen in Bourgueil is called graves, an alluvial gravel of small pebbles. The best wines render these soils purely, dustily, a quality that gives Loire reds their mystery.

Bertrand Galbrun is a young guy with a passion for clean, simply-spirited wine. He farms 3.5 hectares of 100% organic grapes. He started his domaine in 2005. He is truly committed to the production of non-interventionist wine in order to eke out the purest, most limpid expression of grape and terroir. Harvest is performed manually. Grapes are collected in small boxes and undergo many tries before vinification. Grapes are then 100% destemmed and crushed by foot. No yeast, no added enzymes, and no SO2 are added to the vat, and the wine is not chaptalized.

Similarly, Beatrice and Pascale Lambert are producing organic, minimally-sulfited Chinon in Cravant les Coteaux and have been since Nicolas Joly & and the early days of the biodynamic movement in wine. Their Chinons, which range from entry level bag-in-box to rich, high-end Cuvée Danaë with all representations and a rare white Chinon of Chenin Blanc in between, are gorgeous.

The reds of Bourgueil and Chinon, which can include up to 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, are elemental and visceral: they make you want to eat. They are peppery, savory, with just enough tannin to crave food. Perhaps it is their savory component that’s made them hard to understand Stateside. Though it is evolving, the American palate beyond the coasts (and even on the coasts, according to a recent chat with the head buyer at Bristol Farms, who says as much as he loves the wines, he can’t give Loire red away) remains geared toward soft, sweet-fruited juice. But Loire Cab Francs are both vins de meditation and vins de soif. Plus they’re generally low in alcohol, so you can have multiple glasses (which appeals to small people, like myself.)

- Lily Davis 9/26/13

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Examining Vins de Soif

The opening post for the Langdon Shiverick blog got me thinking about the concept of vins de soif –one of those sublimely simple yet curiously nuanced French expressions that you know means more than just quaffable. What are vins de soif? When I first started to study wine about 10 years ago, the concept of terroir gave me just as much Kierkegaardian anguish; it took a couple years to understand that, like so many French expressions, the word’s meaning is plural: not only does it mean the soil’s geological composition, it also means the way the soil, and effectively the place, tastes as it renders itself through the wine. It’s an image and a concept and a taste and a way of life all at once.

I quickly went to work dissecting the expression: vins de soif, wines of thirst. Wines that you drink when you’re thirsty. Thirst-quenching wines. What is a thirst quenching wine? Intellectually walking through it, my mind immediately goes to Muscadet, and its high-pitched, briny flavors for hot days, or chilled rosé, dry with bright fruit. Aligoté with a drop of cassis (kir). Punchy Crémant de Bourgogne. Savoie Jacquères – like Evian with a kick. Yup – it worked: my mouth had started to water.

Moving through it, I imagine Christmastime in Boston, snow and wreathes and friends and laughs and a crown roast of pork in the oven, juices seeping into the air in the warm kitchen as we cook and congregate against the cold. Cru Beaujolais pops into my ken – volcanic Morgon, or limpid Chiroubles is what I want to guzzle, or a salty, dark, gastronomic little Barbera. What do all these have in common.  They are all under $20 – which means probably between €3-€6 a pop in their place of origin. Inexpensive, gastronomic, what else – firm core of acidity, good with food, not limited by color or bubbles.

Suddenly I’m remembering grabbing a bottle of anything off the shelf at the local alimentation in Paris to go with baguette and fromage. Cheap and cheerful, well-made, dry, wines that offer an excellent effort-return ratio. Then it dawns on me: this is precisely why I like the Shiverick book so much. 

- Lily Davis 7/21/13

Friday, June 28, 2013

“David Shiverick maintains a remarkably low profile in view of the high caliber of his portfolio. The estates are not always household names and that’s the reason why wine insiders are his biggest fans.”

Robert Parker