Vinopolpick Thursday – Jan 30

January 30, 2014
Below, we feature two historic French wine estates that are leaders from their quite differing regions.  From Champagne’s Cote des Blanc, we explore the grower-producer estate of Pierre Gimonnet, a champion of their home village of Cuis.  Their style can best be described as fresh and feminine, and is evident thoughout their collection.  From Bandol in Provence, we explore the historic Domaine Tempier estate, family owned for over 100 years.  They are a driving force in promoting both their AOC and its quintessential grape: Mourvèdre.  Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Champagne, France 

“Gimonnet’s wines are pure, sleek and lithe, demonstrating a classical character of the northern Côte des Blancs. They are polished in the best sense of the word, demonstrating a fine elegance and sophistication while remaining highly individual in personality and true to their terroir origins.” – Peter Liem, Wine Critic, Wine Writer, & Champage Guru (Champagne Guide)

In 1935, Pierre Gimonnet began bottling his own estate Champagnes in the village of Cuis in the Cote des Blanc.  The family has a long history in Champagne and has been growing grapes there since 1750.  His son, Michel, took over the estate in 1955 and retired in 1996, handing off leadership to his two sons, Didier and Olivier.  They are a Récoltant-Manipulant (Grower-Producer): they produce Champagne from grapes grown in their own vineyards.  The estate is composed primarily of Chardonnay vineyards spread between premier cru and grand cru sites.  33 acres is in their home village of Cuis, and the remaining majority of sites are in the Grand Cru villages of Cramant and Chouilly, with small holdings in Oger (Grand Cru) and Vertus (Premier Cru).  Their sole acre of Pinot Noir is split between Grand Cru Aÿ and Premier Cru Mareuil-sur Aÿ.  

The family produces a distinctive and fresh house style based on Chardonnay, and four important practices help them achieve this goal: thorough knowledge of their vineyards, controlled yields, high average vine age and the inclusion of Cuis base wine in many of their blends.  Didier keeps a well-used notebook, passed down from his father, which contains handwritten notes on each harvest.  This exemplifies the knowledge and understanding the family has of its vines and vineyards.  The vineyards are hand-harvested and grown at a higher density than is common in the region, but at a lower yield per vine.  Didier explains this method is a way of finding moderation between the dilute results of high yields and the over-concentration of too-small yields.  The estate’s vines are on average older than most in the region.  Over 70% of the vines are at least 30 years old, 40% are over 40 years old, and in two lieux-dits in Cramant, Le Fond du Bateau and Buisson, the vines are over 100 years old.  Old vines produce wines great complexity.  Terry Theise describes Le Fond du Bateau as providing a Gruner Veltliner-like forceful smokiness and Buisson as providing a Riesling-like green tanginess.  

The brothers use the Chardonnay base wine from Cuis for many of their blends, which causes them to lose Grand Cru labelling for these wines.  The Cuis wines are important to Didier because he feels it is “indispensable to his style.”  Cuis, the coolest village in the Cote des Blancs, provides the blends with a fresh and lively essence of acidity, lightness and finesse.  Thus, Cuis provides the underlying core of freshness, acidity and delicacy that gives the Pierre Gimonnet Champagnes much of their distinctive character.  The base wines are stored between vintages in magnums instead of tanks to preserve their delicacy and fresh aromas.  Of the Grand Crus blended, Chouilly provides structure and complexity, while Cramant provides an expressive complexity and roundness.

We are pleased to present several selections from Pierre Gimonnet; all of which are Blanc de Blancs except the Paradoxe.  Their house style is evident throughout all of their wines.  The Cuis Premier Cru NV shows off the bright and fresh chalky minerality of these cool village vineyards.  The Fleuron 2005, their traditional house vintage wine, is leesy, chalky and can age for 7-10 years.  The Oenophile is the non-dosage version of the Fleuron with extended lees ageing.  The Gastronome is a complex and rich Champagne with high acidity that Didier and Olivier recommend as an aperitif.  At 66% Pinot Noir, the Paradoxe shows a balance between richness and acidity.  The 2005 Special Club is composed primarily of Cramant Grand Cru, including some of the estate’s oldest vines, and underwent strict berry selection.  We also offer the 2005 Vintage Vieille Vignes (Old Vine), available only in magnums, which has decades of ageing potential.

Gimonnet Wines, All Here Now:

Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs Fleuron 1996 ($18.95) $169.00 special, 3 bottles available
Wine Spectator 93 points
 “Fresh like a spring meadow, this delicate, vibrant bubbly evokes wildflower, citrus, almond and ginger aromas and flavors, all tightly wound on a racy structure. Harmonious and long, the finish hints at charms to be revealed.”

Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs Fleuron 2006 ($69.95) $59.00 special, 23 bottles available
Josh Raynolds 93 points
 “Pale gold. Smoky pear and nectarine aromas are brightened by zesty minerals and deepened by hints of toasty lees and iodine. Intense orchard fruit and melon flavors stain the palate, picking up citrus pith and floral honey qualities with air. Turns firmer and more minerally with air, finishing with excellent lift and smoky persistence.”

Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs Gastronome 2008 ($59.95) $49.00 special, 20 bottles available
Wine Advocate 92 points 
“The 2008 Brut Chardonnay Premier Cru Cuvee Gastronome is a blend of fruit from Chouilly, Cuis, Cramant, Oger and Vertus. Here the fruit begins to take on slightly greater textural richness and depth. Crisp yellow-fleshed fruits, flowers, almonds and spices are all woven together beautifully. The 2008 stands out for its inner perfume, sweetness and inviting personality. Disgorgement date: January 17, 2012. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2018.”

Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs Oenophile 2005 ($69.95) $59.00 special, 10 bottles available
Burghound 93 points 
“A markedly yeasty nose features notes of baked apple, pear and lovely spice aromas that complement well the rich, delicious and solidly powerful flavors that coat the mouth on the notably dry and impressively complex flavors. Like many ’05s, this is a big Champagne yet there is absolutely no heaviness and as dry as the finish is, it is not austere. This has arrived at a point where it could easily be enjoyed now or, if you prefer the taste of well-aged flavors, could continue to be cellared to good effect. In a word, impressive.”

Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs Special Club 2005 ($79.95) $69.00 special, 17 bottles available
Wine Advocate 92 points
 “Gimonnet’s 2005 Brut Special Club is made predominantly from old vines in Cramant, Oger and Cuis. It offers better balance than the 2005 Non Dose, as a little dosage, in this case 5 grams per liter, unleashes the aromatics and fruit to a considerable degree. Pears, pastry, lemon oil, almonds and exotic flowers all meld together nicely. The 2005 Special Club remains tightly wound and vibrant, with none of the awkward notes that are found in so many wines in this vintage. Disgorgement date: July 30, 2012. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2020.”

Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs Vintage Collection VV Brut 2005 1.5L ($199.95) $169.00 special, 3 bottles available
Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media 94 points 
“The 2005 Brut Vintage Collection, tasted from magnum, is stunning. Intense, layered and drop-dead gorgeous, the 2005 covers every corner of the palate with layers of mineral-infused fruit. Smoke, slate, crushed rocks and flowers appear later, adding gorgeous dimensions of pure nuance. Still young, the 2005 appears to have a bright future. This is one of the best 2005 vintage Champagnes I have tasted. The 2005 is 100% Chardonnay from Cramant, Chouilly and Cuis. This bottle was disgorged in January 2013 after spending 84 months on its lees.”

Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs  Brut Cuis 1ER Cru NV 375ml ($29.95) $24.00 special, 11 bottles available
Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs Brut Cuis 1ER Cru NV ($49.95) $39.00 special, 11 bottles available
Josh Raynolds 92 points
 “80% 2010 wine, 10% 2009, 4% 2008, 5% 2007 and 1% 2002; disgorged in May, 2013 after 30 months on its lees): Green-tinged yellow. Intense, mineral-accented aromas of orange zest, pear and white flowers, with an iodiney quality building in the glass. Chewy in texture and nicely concentrated, offering precise citrus and bitter quinine flavors and a strong topnote of dusty minerals. Finishes clean, bright and very long, with lingering chalkiness. This would make a superb match with fresh oysters or crab.”

Gimonnet Paradoxe Brut 2006 ($59.95) $49.00 special, 5 bottles available
Wine Spectator 94 points
 “Toasted brioche and almond notes add a smoky richness to this minerally Champagne, which offers a briny oyster shell accent to the flavors of apple tarte Tatin, black currant, grated ginger and citrus zest. Refined and creamy in texture, with a long, mouthwatering finish. Disgorged June 2012. Drink now through 2030. 12 cases imported” Paradoxe is 65% Pinot Noir (from Aÿ and Mareuil) and 35% Chardonnay (from Mareuil, Cramant, Chouilly and Oger).

From Elegant Femininity in the Cote des Blanc we turn to Gutsy Masculinity (the Rose excepted) from Bandol to showcase Domaine Tempier, and a very special sale opportunity:

Family-owned since 1834, Domaine Tempier has a long and influential history in Bandol.  The Domaine owns approximately 100 acres of vineyards around Bandol including the single vineyards of La Migoua in Le Beausset-Vieux and La Tourtine and Cabassaou in Le Castellet, where the winery is located.  The estate endured many revolutionary events, including the phylloxera epidemic that necessitated a complete replanting onto resistant rootstock and the French Great Depression which forced many vineyard owners to replant with fruit trees.  Lucien Peyraud the “high priest of Mourvèdre” ran the estate between 1941 (the year Bandol was granted AOC status) and 1982.  Peyraud was a great promoter of the Bandol region as a member of the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine) and the Bandol winegrowers’ association.  He oversaw the replanting of the estate with “noble” varieties of Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Grenache.  Mourvèdre was his special interest due to its long ageing potential and its historical ties to Bandol.  His sons worked to promote the estate’s single vineyard wines from La Tourtine, La Migoua and Cabassaou.  Daniel Ravier is the current manager of the estate and works closely with the Peyraud family.

The estate practices organic methods in its vineyards and use modern equipment to capture the terroir of Bandol.  Their rose wines are sourced from vines that average at 20 years old, while their vines for their red are at least 40 years old.  Wines are aged for at least 18 months in large oak barrels.  Wines are taste-tested blind frequently during their maturation to ensure quality and to determine readiness for bottling.  Domaine Tempier reds reward the patient with their fantastic ageing potential.

Domaine Tempier wines arriving tomorrow at the best prices in the USA:

Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose 2012 ($39.95) $27.00 special, 3+ cases available
Domaine Tempier Bandol Rose 2012 1.5L ($79.95) $59.00 special, 6 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 93 points
 “Light, bright orange-pink. Complex scents of fresh red berries, nectarine and orange zest, with a sexy floral overtone. Silky and expansive on the palate, offering juicy cherry and pit fruit flavors and an exotic touch of honey. A dusty mineral quality adds bite and lift to the strikingly long, chewy, floral back end.”

Domaine Tempier Bandol Rouge 2009 ($41.95) $33.00 special, 5+ cases available
Wine Spectator 91 points 
“This is focused on its graphite and slate flavors, with crisp accents of dried raspberry and cherry in the background. Cream and cocoa powder notes linger on the refined finish, supported by medium-grained tannins. Drink now through 2018.” 

Domaine Tempier Bandol Rouge 2010 ($39.95) $29.00 special, 5+ cases available
Domaine Tempier Bandol Rouge 2010 375ML ($27.95) $18.00 special, 3+ cases available
Wine Spectator 90 points
 “Notes of sanguine and rosemary line the core of taut cherry preserves and red currant paste. A singed alder hint flitters through the finish, showing good persistence. Mourvèdre, Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan. Drink now through 2020.”

Domaine Tempier Cuvee Cabassaou Bandol 2010 ($99.95) $79.00 special, 16 bottles available
Wine Spectator 93 points
 “The pure, solid core of kirsch and blackberry pâte de fruit is studded with rosemary, bitter plum, ganache and anise notes. This slowly yields to extra juniper, iron and sanguine accents that play out through the long, layered finish. This needs time to unwind fully. Mourvèdre, Syrah and Cinsault. Best from 2017 through 2020.”

Domaine Tempier La Migoua Bandol 2009 ($69.95) $59.00 special, 5 bottles available
Wine Spectator 92 points
 “Elegant and refined, this features luscious cherry and raspberry flavors. The long finish displays a slightly smoked essence to the sandalwood and cream notes. Mourvèdre, Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. Drink now through 2018”

Domaine Tempier La Migoua Bandol 2010 ($79.95) $49.00 special, 24 bottles available
Wine Spectator 93 points 
“Packed but racy, with a gorgeous note of cassis-soaked rosemary adding lift to the core of steeped plum, black currant and roasted alder notes. The long, taut finish has drive, revealing an echo of freshly seared meat that should meld beautifully with age. Mourvèdre, Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. Best from 2017 through 2027.” 

Domaine Tempier La Tourtine Bandol 2010 ($79.95) $49.00 special, 24 bottles available
Domaine Tempier La Tourtine Bandol 2010 1.5L ($119.95) $99.00 special, 6 bottles available
Wine Spectator 93 points
 “Densely packed, with a brooding feel, offering plum eau-de-vie, kirsch and blackberry paste notes held in check behind a wall of charcoal, loam and singed rosemary sprig. Features ample, fine-grained grip, revealing a mouthwatering sanguine echo at the very end. Mourvèdre, Grenache and Cinsault. Best from 2017 through 2027.”

These are the best prices in the country on every Domaine Tempier wine listed.If you were to buy a bottle of each from our closest priced competitors, you would have to shop at seven different merchants and pay at least $75.86 more!  That’s an average savings of over $7.50 a bottle.