This Week’s Wine Tasting

France, Italy and Portugal


Olivier Leflaive– “We vinify and age the equivalent of 120 hectares of vines (including 17 of our own), the majority of which are white wines from the three prestigious Côte de Beaune villages of Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet and Meursault, as well as from Chablis and the Côte Chalonnaise.

Our daily mission is to produce top quality grapes. This involves a sustainable approach to working the vines, and also supporting our partner winegrowers in cultivating their plots using an organic or biodynamic approach.

For many years, Olivier and Patrick have wanted to grow the estate, and taking over the family legacy of the Domaine Leflaive seemed like a natural development in their shared adventure. Having been director of the estate with his uncle Vincent and then his cousin Anne-Claude from 1982 to 1994, it was important to Olivier to be able to share his vision of these prestigious appellations.”

Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc ‘Les Sentilles’ 2011
Burgundy, France. “The name “Sétilles” comes from the cadastral name of the place of wineries in la Maison Olivier Leflaive. The wine is stemming from the blending of about sixty plots located in the village of Puligny and Meursault. As flagship of the House, this wine is given as much attention as for the greatests. Average age of vines: 35 years. Sustainable cultivation. The wine aged for 13 months. 70% aged in barrel, 10% new oak; 30% aged in vats. The aromas of white flowers, peach, grilled almond and lemon peel dominate on a mineral background. The attack is full and warm on the palate with a lively and gourmand finish. Ideal with onion tart and cheese such as Brie, Vacherin, Saint-Nectaire, Mont-d’Or and the range of Gruyères.” Burghound: “An expressive nose of ripe yellow orchard fruit leads to succulent and very round flavors that possess a generous mouth feel. The finish is reasonably vibrant and overall this is a delicious wine meant for immediate consumption.” $20.99


Hugel et Fils– “The first traces of the Hugel family in Alsace can be traced back to the XVth century. During the XVIIIth and XIXth centuries, the Hugel family gained an enviable reputation for their winegrowing skills and for the meticulous way in which they cultivated their vineyards. In 1902, Frédéric Emile Hugel left the old family property and established himself in premises in the centre of Riquewihr which still form the heart of the family business.

After 1918, a handful of farsighted and courageous winegrowers, including Frédéric Emile Hugel, took steps to save the vineyards of Alsace. This veritable pioneer devoted his entire life to the promotion of high-quality wines from noble grape varieties. His son Jean continued this crusade. By his perseverance and hard work he proved that Alsace wines merited a place among the finest wines in the world.

Generic “Hugel” wines are made exclusively from grapes purchased from winegrowers under long-term contract, in a dozen of the most favoured localities around Riquewihr. With true Alsace character, these “Hugel” wines faithfully mirror the characteristics of each varietal and each individual vintage.”

Hugel Gentil 2012
Alsace, France. “A blend of Riesling 15%, Gewurztraminer 19%, Muscat 2%, Pinot gris 24%, Sylvaner & Pinot Blanc 40%. This wine revives an ancient Alsace tradition that wines assembled from noble grape varieties were called “Gentil”. Gentil “Hugel” allies the suave, spicy flavour of Gewurztraminer, the body of Pinot Gris, the finesse of Riesling, the grapiness of Muscat and the refreshing character of Sylvaner. Attractive, flattering bouquet, open and forthcoming, quite aromatic, scented, floral and fruit-driven: cardamom, lemon balm, rose, lime blossom, cherry blossom and sweet almond. Harmonious and well-rounded, with a nicely ripe- yet not over-ripe grape character. On the palate, the wine is dry, generous, soft and supple, almost juicy, filling the mouth, showing good structure but also a nice, fruity, aromatic finish. A wine with all the hallmarks of a fine, sunny vintage, yet with no loss of finesse.” $11.99


Churchill’s Estate
“Churchill’s Estates Douro table wines are produced from select vineyards owned and farmed exclusively by John Graham’s Churchill Graham Port Company. These dry wines have turned heads since their first releases in 2005. Today the range extends beyond a dry Douro Estate red to include a single varietal, Touriga Nacional, and a single estate from the famed and celebrated Quinta da Gricha. These spectacular wines challenge the world’s best and are a special challenge to their Iberian cousins in the Priorat.

Churchill’s is today positioned in the industry as a high quality “boutique” Port and Douro Wine Company, specializing in premium Port and Douro Wine categories.”

Churchill’s Estate Rose 2013
Douro, Portugal. 100% Touriga Nacional. “Sourced from high altitude vineyards in the Cima Corgo sub-region of the Douro Valley. Our 2012 Douro Rosé has a fresh mineral nose with a floral background of violets and lavender as well as a touch of fennel with a lively pink pale cherry colour. It has a juicy palate of pomegranate and strawberries, with plenty of natural acidity gives this wine a fresh and well balanced finish.” $16.99


“Banfi is a private concern, founded in New York in 1919 by John Mariani, Sr. and today owned and operated by his grandchildren. The company is focused on the production and import of wine. Banfi Vintners is the sole U.S. importer of the Mariani family’s internationally renowned wine estates in Italy: Castello Banfi of Montalcino, Tuscany, and Banfi Piemonte of Strevi, Piedmont. Banfi also imports the wines of several other producers, including category leaders Bolla, Cecchi, Florio, Fontana Candida, Placido, Riunite, and Sartori from Italy, Concha y Toro and Emiliana from Chile, and Trivento from Argentina, Wisdom & Warter Sherries from Spain and Stone’s Ginger wine from England. The company has ranked as North America’s leading wine importer for more than three decades.”

Banfi Col di Sasso 2013
Tuscany, Italy. A blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon. From hillside vineyards in the southern part of Tuscany. The soil is calcareous and well-drained. Grape maceration for 6-8 days at a temperature of 75-77˚F. This enables a good color extraction without encumbering the tannin structure, while maintaining aromatic freshness. The wine is released after appropriate bottle aging. Color: Intense ruby-red, with purple hues. Bouquet: Black cherries and spice. Taste: Rich with soft tannins, delivering persistent black-fruit flavors and subtle hints of smoke, with a lingering finish. Ideal with pizza, pasta, grilled meat and poultry.” $9.99


Secco Bertani
“Located near Verona in the province of Veneto in northeast Italy, Casa Vinicola Bertani is one of the region’s most important and influential wine producers. Bertani produces a full spectrum of the classic wines of the Veneto and has enjoyed a reputation for quality from the start. Bertani was founded in 1857 by brothers Gaetano and Giovan Battista Bertani, prosperous wine merchants who believed that quality winemaking held the key to the future. The Bertanis invested their funds in buying some of the finest vineyards in the province and making their own wines. As a result, unlike most other local producers, Vinicola Bertani owns its own vineyards and so is able to oversee the entire winemaking cycle from start to finish.

Bertani owns vineyards and cellars in the Valpantena as well as land in the Soave area and in the areas around Lake Garda. The company headquarters are in the original cellars in Grezzana, north-east of Verona, where the historic vineyards are still to be found and where the work of vinification, aging and bottling take place today.”

Secco Bertani Ripasso 2010
Veneto, Italy. “80% Corvina Veronese and 20% Merlot. The wine undergoes 11-days of maceration in vats at a controlled temperature and with programmed remontage. In March, it is re-fermented over Recioto Amarone skins, following the traditional Veronese technique called Ripasso. The wine is aged 75% in large Slavonian oak casks and 25% in French oak barriques for approximately 18 months. It is then refined in bottle for a minimum of 90 days. Deep garnet red. Bouquet: Delicate, characteristic of mature wine, with scents of spices and nuts. Taste: Light-bodied, with bright acidity and flavors of cherry, ripe strawberry with a hint of dried herb on the tangy finish.” $17.99


Hecht & Bannier
“The Negociant Eleveur Maison Hecht & Bannier, specializing in red wines from the South of France, came to light in 2002. Our goal is to have our wines become the reference for quality in the region with a unique range of appellation wines. We are convinced that from Roussillon to Provence, the most talented vineyard in France, has not yet received the international recognition that it deserves: our wines allow wine-lovers to discover the extraordinary quality and wealth of our region.

The cornerstone of our profession is our extensive knowledge of vineyards and cellars. Every year we visit hundreds of producers to select only the best wines. Often, our wines come from vineyards in the cooler foothills where it isn’t rare to see hundred-year-old vines. Once the long selection process has come to an end, we organize tastings to create the blends and decide on our elevage options.”

The Wine Advocate says of H&B
“Gregory Hecht and Francois Bannier’s are living up to the challenge they set themselves, namely to render, as negociants of a unique hands-on labor-intensity, wines that can stand comparison with those of each respective appellations top estates. They continue to focus on the same four appellations (for an account of their Cotes du Roussillon cuvees as well as an inaugural Maury, see the report on Roussillon that appears in this issue), although several other projects have emerged, including an Appellation Languedoc bottling that serves not only as an intro-level wine but as an outlet for fruit that does not make the cut for their four other dry red wines.”

Hecht & Bannier Minervois 2011
Languedoc, France. A blend of Syrah: 45%, Grenache: 45%, Mourvedre: 5%, Carignan: 5% vinified in a combination of concrete tank, large neutral oak cask and oak barrels. It is for us the typical expression of the Mediterranean wine dominated by Syrah with its spicy and liquorice character. They are mostly sourced from the area of La Livinière and from the cooler part of Caunes. The blend is usually completed with some fruity Grenache from Pepieux and some lively Carignan from the western part of the AOC, in order to balance the hottest Syrah.

Wine Advocate, 2010 (90-91+): “As with this team’s 2010 A.O.C. Languedoc blend – and, for that matter, so many other wines of its vintage – this combines the extra measure of glycerin and jam-like touch to its dark cherry and black raspberry fruits that we found in 2009 with a depth of mineral dimension; high-toned herbal inflections (licorice, tamarind, mint); high umami; and lift, vivacity, and infectious juiciness such as characterized 2008. This finishes with real vibrancy.” $14.99

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