Focusing on wines produced in California, Oregon and Washington has always been Carpe Vino’s sweet spot…and our comfort zone. After 13 years zeroed in on West Coast juice, I’m comfortable rating us as experts of the region.
We’ve made a case for not straying far afield principally because we’re giving our customers what they want. We seldom get requests for imported wines, and that’s no doubt because we’re located in the middle of California wine country. I’m sure wine merchants in Marseille find the reciprocal to be true: they don’t field many orders for Rombauer Chardonnay.
Truth be told, another reason we’ve not ventured far from wine regions with which we are familiar is there is a huge learning curve in mastering the basics and the nuances of Old World wines. Understanding the appellations, chateaus, winemakers and even the language of French wines, for example, is clearly intimidating.
Italian wines also present substantial barriers, but are a bit less complicated. The rest of the world—South Africa; Australia and New Zealand; Argentina and Chile—are much more user friendly.
What all of these diverse regions share is they are “hand-sells,” in wine industry parlance. For the uninitiated among us, we’ve got to open bottles for tasting; plus there is an educational imperative: People don’t buy what they don’t know or understand.
As Carpe Vino’s business has grown and we need greater access to more and more wine, we have made a commitment to consciously break out of our mold. . .to commit to seeking out new wines no matter where they are made, and perhaps equally important, to challenge ourselves to broaden our collective understanding of wines from around the world.
I personally embarked on this track a few years ago by traveling to some the great wine regions of the world. Thus far I have explored Italy, Spain and South Africa. In October, I’m serving as host for a group of 26 Carpe Vino Wine Club members on a “Pilgrimage to Provence”. I’ll be in France for two weeks, and I hope to soak up as much insight as possible and tell the story when we return.
As long as I am able, I hope to make at least one international trip each year to see, smell and taste the greatest wines on the planet where they are vinted. These are cursory explorations at best, so we’ll work with our brokers and distributors to do a remote journey by sampling wines here in Old Town and bring the best tasting and best values into the shop.
We’re taking baby steps; we’re learning on the job. In that quest, here’s my first selection for your consideration:
2011 Louis Latour Marsannay, Cote d’Or, $21
(Retail $28; Average on Wine Searcher.com, $25)
Two characteristics of this wine were immediately appealing to me beyond its translucent cranberry color in the glass: it is 100% pinot noir from Burgundy and the fruit is much more restrained and subtle than the amped cousins to which we’re accustomed in California. And the alcohol comes in at just 13%, resulting in a wine that in my mind is relentlessly respectful when paired with food. . .as the good Lord intended.
Right down to the label, there is an elegance and sophistication to this wine that bespeaks a 200+-year heritage and seven generations of family controlling the company. . .largely a négociant-based enterprise that seeks out the best juice and fruit in Burgundy to make/blend amazing wines using both classic techniques and 21st century technology.
At a price point of just over twenty dollars, this wine is an excellent and affordable entry into the world of Burgundy. And with a score of 89 points from Wine Spectator, it’s a winner.
You won’t find this wine at K&L, BevMo; it is in very limited distribution and fine wine shops in the Golden State, principally SoCal.
From the Louis Latour web site: “Marsannay is the village marking the northern gateway to the Côte d’Or on leaving Dijon, the capital of Burgundy and home to the Ducs de Bourgogne. This village marks the beginning of the Route des Grands Crus which follows the N6 highway through the Côte d’Or. Wines from Marsannay are generally lively and robust; characteristics that come from the rich iron soil. Marsannay received its Appellation Contrôlée in 1987 in recognition of the consistently high quality of its wine.”
Wine Spectator Tasting Notes (89 Points): “Black cherry is the main flavor theme, with touches of boysenberry, spice and mineral. Ripe and firm, displaying fine balance and length. Best from 2015 through 2021.” –Bruce Sanderson
Winery Tasting Notes: “Of a lovely ruby red color, the Marsannay 2011 reveals a nose of cherries and licorice. It is round and elegant in the mouth with smooth tannins. Food Pairing: Roasted duck, “coq au vin,” lamb stew, mature cheeses.”
Cases Produced: 2,500
Blend: 100% pinot noir
Winemaker: Nathalie Bobard
If you managed to wade through the full story about Louis Latour Marsannay, you’re a great candidate to push the “Buy Now” button and place an order. Regular discounts apply.