Perman Wine Selections Newsletter – December 7, 2009

Hope you had a great weekend!

Today’s newsletter marks the return to the Chicago market of the “Wizard of Wine.” Some of the great Italian portfolio of Robert Chadderdon just landed – and I have a few really special offers for you today!

Last week was a great week because I got to do what I really love to do: drink Champagne! I have written about my Champagne adventure on this newsletter. All of these are available for your immediate consumption!

Enjoy the read,


I like to refer to famed wine importer Robert Chadderdon as the “wizard.”

He reminds me of the “Wizard of Oz,” a somewhat elusive figure who offers very little information on his wines or himself. (Plus, sometimes he just makes it quite difficult to get his wines.)

What we do know is that Chadderdon offers wines, among others, from legendary Italian wine estates. With this in mind, well … I was off to see the wizard. About six months ago, I sent out a wish list for a few items that I felt my customers needed to have in their wine life. Patience paid off because today, I have four very special wines to offer you from true Italian icons.

As with all of Chadderdon’s wines, these are in very limited supply/ To my knowledge, the wines below are the only ones available at retail here in Illinois (plus I should clarify with the words – “or that aren’t grey-marketed.”) These are four wines that are not to be missed, so hurry!


Dr. J, David Thompson, World B. Free – names that evoke memories of the old school of basketball.

For Barolo, Bartolo Mascarello is the only name that you need to know when talking about the old school.

Over the years, modern techniques in the region of Barolo in Piedmont have become more and more common. Wineries were softening their wines by switching to shorter skin maceration, using roto-fermenters and switching to small French oak barrels for aging.

Bartolo wouldn’t have any of it.

He was a staunch advocate of low yields, long skin maceration, and aging in exclusively big Slavonian oak barrels. To Bartolo Mascarello, great wines take time.

Since his passing in 2005, his daughter, Maria-Téresa has continued his traditions with the same level of craftsmanship.

As we all know, great wine starts in the vineyard, and Mascarello has preferred to make a wine from a blend of vineyards rather than a bunch of single vineyard wines.

That’s not because he doesn’t have great vineyards – the top crus of Cannubi, San Lorenzo, Rue and Rocche all make up this bottling. But Mascarello always felt that the sum of the parts was greater than any single site.

2004 is already considered one of the legendary vintages from this icon. Much has already been written about it, so I won’t bore you. Let’s just say this baby is going to need some sleep! Best to drink from 2016-2035.

“’2004 is the first normal vintage I can remember in a while,’ says Maria Theresa Mascarello. ‘We were finished with our Nebbiolo harvest on the 12th of October.’ Her pure, finessed 2004 Barolo offers a compelling array of perfumed violets, dark cherries and baking spices with superb clarity and delineation. A weightless, ethereal Barolo, it reveals notable freshness and supple tannins on the long, finessed finish. Although I have tasted this wine many times from cask, I first encountered it from bottle at a blind tasting where it was immediately recognizable for its style, purity and class. This is the best young Barolo I have tasted here in many a year. Fans of traditional Barolo won’t want to miss this superb effort. The 2004 Barolo was fermented for 20-30 days in cement. The malos progressed at an unusually slow pace and weren’t finished until the following summer. The wine was aged in medium-sized casks. Readers can also look forward to promising wines in 2005, 2006 and 2007. I also had a chance to re-taste the 2003, which is a lovely Barolo for nearer-term consumption. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2029.  95+ Points, Antonio Galloni, Wine Advocate”


Look at what I got my – our! – hands on! While Bovio may not be the most well-known name in the world of Barolo, 1996 is without question one of the great vintages in the modern era of Piedmont. This is a rare glimpse into a well-aged bottle of Nebbiolo.

Gianfranco Bovio is a famed figure in his commune of La Morra. Owner of the destination Restaurant Belvedere, he is a man dedicated to all things that taste good. That is why it was no surprise that in 1977, Gianfranco decided to resurrect his dilapidated family wine estate, then just 3 hectares (7.5 acres) in size. During the past 30+ years, he has added new vineyards, and more importantly received help from two of Piedmont’s most talented enologists and winemakers: Beppe Caviola and Federic Curtaz.

The wines of Bovio fall into the “traditional” camp, as you won’t find any of the aroma or taste of small oak barrels or inky, dark colors in the wines. The Gattera vineyard is a really special site located to the northeast of the village of La Morra. The vineyard is sandwiched between Le Turnote and Monfalletto. There is very good exposure to the sun here, and the vineyard produces a wine with great breadth and ripeness.

The ’96 “Gattera” is just starting to emerge from its slumber. Beautiful aromas of red fruits such as cherries and strawberries intermingle with hints of licorice and balsamic. Wonderfully layered on the palate with medium fine tannins, more of the classic licorice note, hints at truffle, and a long, elegant finish. Here is a Barolo to buy a few bottles of to drink now through 2016.


Italian wine geeks rejoice! “Pulin” has arrived from famed Ligurian estate Agricola Bruna. Riccardo Bruna, with his daughters Francesca and Anna Maria, run this top estate in the appellation of Riviera Ligure di Ponente. Lying just to the west of Genoa, Italy, the region is most famous for its white wine made from the Pigato varietal (that many relate to Vermentino).

While Bruna excels at making three different bottlings of Pigato, he also makes only 180 cases per year of a truly unique and delicious red called “Pulin.” Since Liguria isn’t that far away from the south of France, it may not surprise you to know that Granaccia (the local name for Grenache) plays a prominent role in this wine, making up 60% of the blend. There is also 30% Syrah, which Riccardo feels contributes to the Mediterranean feel of “Pulin.” The remainder is made from Barbera, to add freshness and aromatic complexity.

Fermented in stainless steel, it is aged in old barrel for just under two years before being released.

Don’t expect an overly extracted, jammy style of Grenache and Syrah. “Pulin” is truly unique with its complex aromatics of herbs, mineral and red fruits. The wine doesn’t hit you with a mouthful of ripe fruit, either, but that is what makes it so interesting. If you wish to drink it now, I recommend decanting it for an hour. I also would recommend pairing it with lamb or duck. Ultimately it could use a couple years, drinking best from 2011-2015. Only 2600 bottles produced!


Every time I drink a wine from the estate of Giuseppe Quintarelli, I feel lucky. Not because his wines are very rare or because some of them can be priced astronomically. The real reason is that you can taste the attention to detail.

“The fundamental problem in wine today, is that too many producers ‘hurry’ to make their wines: they hurry the fruit in the vineyard and they hurry the vinification and rush to bottle. They rush to sell their product without allowing it the proper time to age. Patience – this is the most important attribute in winemaking. Patience in growing, patience in selection, and patience in vinification.”  – Giuseppe Quintarelli

Giuseppe Quintarelli is a small producer who started in the humble appellation of Valpolicella in the northeast of Italy in 1924. The winery produces about 40,000 bottles of wine annually spread among eleven wines. Since Quintarelli is in no hurry, everything from picking to bottling is done by hand. This is truly an artisan producer.

While all the world knows the great Valpolicella, Amarone and Recioto of Quintarelli, it is often not known that he produces tiny quantities of a white wine simply called “Bianco Secco.” I was introduced to it when we poured it as one of the wine pairings while I worked at Alinea. Since it was from Chadderdon – that man behind the curtain, who divulges very little about the wine – all I can tell you is that it is a blend begun primarily in (the best white grape of the area) Garganega. I have been told that other varieties such as Trebbiano, Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Saorin are included, but then again, I don’t have any source with whom to confirm this. The wizard doesn’t return phone calls.

What I can tell you about is the taste, texture, and why I would go to such trouble to order this. It is a very aromatic white with hints at peach, pear, honey, flowers and herbs. It really coats the palate, but remains fresh and gentle. All Quintarelli wines have elegance, and this is no exception. It is a terrific wine with food, and naturally where it comes from, it would be paired with simply prepared shellfish. Have crab, langoustines or lobster alongside – and thiswill put you into orbit.


Last Thursday and Friday night, a few lucky customers and I indulged in back to back Champagne tastings at the store. Below are my notes and reflections.

Please use this as a shopping list, as all the following wines are available.  Some are very limited and won’t be around for much longer.

If you are a Champagne addict like myself, then I think you will enjoy the read.

Champagne Night #1 –
Each night began with a bang, pouring the N.V. Henriot “Blanc Souverain”out of magnum!  Since this was my Champagne value of the year on one of my newsletters I won’t go into great detail.  Henriot is a producer on the rise, and their dollar for dollar the “Blanc Souverain” is their best Champagne.  Pure Chardonnay, almost 4 years on it lees, with 40% composed of reserve wine.  Now you have an idea why this is so complex, with autolysis and rich yeasty notes intertwined with fresh citrus notes (** – $37.99 Btl.).

I primarily poured in flights of two for my tastings.  This wasn’t done necessarily to to draw an exact comparison between the two, but more of an exercise in showing what great differences there are.

The first flight of the night included the N.V. Bruno Gobillard “Vielles Vignes” alongside the 2000 Gaston Chiquet Brut. Gobillard is a small grower in the Côte de Blancs, and works primarily with “older” vines.  Half of his grapes he still sells off so that he can work with just the older vines.  This Champagne is a blend of 45% Pinot Noir, 45% Chardonnay, and 10% Pinot Meunier from 40-year-old vines.  This has a lot of unique earth tones starting to emerge, with hints at crimini mushrooms, cherry fruit, and a fresh, but rich finish.  I would pair this with some simple roasted chicken. (** – $52.99 btl.)  The ’00 Chiquet is really singing right now.  This is a Champagne that virtually anyone will love.  A grower since 1746, they began estate bottling in 1919. Located in the Vallée de la Marne, there is a great consistency to the Champagnes at this house.  Nicolas Chiquet loves this vintage for its elegance.  I can see why, this just glides across the palate with citrus and white peach notes.  This really pushes my buttons (**+ – $57.99 btl.)

Next it was time to drink some Pinot Noir based Champagne.  Up first was the N.V. Gonet-Medeville Blanc de Noirs.  This is a newer producer having been founded in 2000 by Xavier Gonet and his wife Julie Medeville.  Gonet grew up the son of a Côte de Blancs producer, and Medeville, the daughter of Sauternes and Bordeaux producers.  This is one of the real rising stars of the Champagne region. Their N.V. Blanc de Noirs is a study in Pinot Noir from the village of Bisseuil in the Vallée de la Marne. It showed great aromatic complexity with red fruits like cherry, and notes of white chocolate.  You can easily put this with meats like duck or lamb.  A great value given its breed (** – $54.99 btl.)  Alongside this was the 2002 Camille Savès Brut poured out of magnum.  A Bouzy estate founded in 1894, this is a great expression of a Champagne from the Montagne de Reims.  Composed of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay, it comes from 35-40-year-old vines, and was aged for over 4 years on its lees. Powerful and rich like a great Champagne from Bouzy can be, it showed lots of raspberry, cherry, brioche notes. This was so delicious, but will easily age for a decade, especially since it is in mags! (***+ – $149.99 per magnum).

A Rosé Champagne was next.  The N.V. Henri  Goutorbe Brut Rosé is such a pretty and elegant example of the pink stuff.  Goutorbe is an impressive estate which started estate bottling in the ‘40’s.  Emile Goutorbe, who was the father of Henri was a vineyard manager for Perrier-Jouët, and also was in the vine nursery business.  I’m pretty sure this has rubbed off on his grandson René! The fruit for this Rosé is all from the Grand Cru village of Aÿ.  It is made up of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay.  Red wine is added after it was aged for a year to create its pretty Copper River Salmon color.  In a word, this is pretty (** – $57.99 btl.).

Each night I presented a “Special Club” flight.  Club Trésors de Champagne was a group started in 1971, although under a different name. The goal of the group is to show that grower Champagne producers can not only produce good Champagne but also that which is extraordinary.  26 members, all growers are in the Club today, and they must bring their best vintage grapes to the table to create a “Special Club” bottling.  This is about as sure fire a way of getting a great bottle of bubbles, just look for the funny shape bottle that all of these come in. To highlight them we started with the 2000 Pierre Gimonnet “Special Club” Brut.  Didier and Olivier Gimonnet are producing some of the best Champagne out of the Côte de Blancs today.  Based in the village of Cuis, for this bottling all the Chardonnay came from the villages of Cramant, Chouilly, and Cuis.  This Blanc de Blancs shows what minerality is all about.  Laser like lemon citrus, with a true stony identity.  This is a touch on the young side, but have it was some oysters, or smoked salmon and it will be a good day.  (*** – $81.99 btl.)  The other producer matched in this category was Jean Paul Hebrart with his 2004 Marc Hebrart “Special Club” Brut.  A relatively young grower starting in 1964, Jean Paul has over 65 parcels of land in 6 villages in the Vallée de la Marne.  I feel like this producers Champagnes are often misunderstood, as they can use bottle age and sometime decanting to show their best. The ’04 “Special Club” is 60% Pinot Noir, from a vineyard located above Clos des Goisses.  The 40% Chardonnay comes from vines in Chouilly and Oiry.  Ripe, rich and powerful with hints of peach, yellow plum, and spice.  If you drink this now decant, and don’t serve it too cold.  Or I suppose you can just wait a few years for it to come around? (*** – $68.99 btl.)

Our final flight was a comparison of two amazing Blanc de Blancs from two great small growers.  I poured a very special Champagne out of magnum, the 2002 Pierre Gimonnet “Millésime de Collection – Vieilles Vignes de Chardonnay.” What a superb Champagne, made from all Chardonnay, 54% of which came from Cramant, the rest from Chouilly and Cuis.  Since I already spoke about Gimonnet, I won’t repeat.  What I will say is holy sh*#!  If you love a great Blanc de Blancs, this is a must for its exquisite minerality and spice.  Wow! (**** – $186.99 per magnum).  In the other corner was a really stunning Blanc de Blancs from Agrapart, a small grower Champagne house located in the Côte de Blancs village of Avize. Pacal and Fabrice really know their Chardonnay, and their most rare wine is the 2002 Agrapart Blanc de Blancs “Vénus” Brut Nature.  The Chardonnay comes from a single vineyard in Avize called “La Fosse” Its intensely chalky soil is worked not by tractor but only by their horse named Vénus.  Because this is a Brut Nature style with no secondary dosage, this is really tough to wrap your palate around.  Showing very stony with some intriguing floral and earth notes, it wasn’t showing as well as I know it will in the future.  Yet it was still mighty complex and delicious!  This is very rare as only six bottles came to Chicago. (***+ – $132.99 btl.)

Sine we had tasted so much Blanc de Blancs, I thought it may be fun to show one in that genre that was aged a very long time on its lees and has some bottle age on it.  The 1995 Charles Heidsieck “Blanc des Millénaires” is a real revelation each time I have it.  Heidsieck needs very little introduction as a Champagne house as Charles Camille made the brand known in the United States as early as the 1850’s! The late Daniel Thibault was prominent in resurrecting the stature of this producer.  Today it is still a strong, well run Champagne house with a few gems.  This is only the fourth vintage of “Blanc des Millénaires” that has come out since its introduction in 1983 (the sixth vintage, ’96 is rumored to be out next year).  The Chardonnay comes from 5 Grand Cru villages in the Côte de Blancs.  With its extend lees aging and bottle age it shows intense mineral notes, along with quince, fig, apple compote, vanilla and spice.  It is amazingly fresh at 14 years after its vintage and it will be fascinating to watch develop!  (**** – $104.99 btl.)

Champagne Night #2 –

Whew, we made it to night two!  There were three repeats from the night before, and some of the same growers made a reappearance.

After our Henriot appetizer we started the first flight with the N.V. Serveaux Blanc de Blancs.  While the Vallée de la Marne is not known for its Chardonnay, Serveaux has a beautiful mid-slope hillside vineyard that has great exposure, and grows great Chardonnay.  Minimal intervention in the winery, just tasty Chardonnay with three years on its lees.  Fresh, focused and easy to toss back, a real crowd pleaser (* – $45.99 Btl.)  Next to it was one of the most unique Champagnes around. The 2002 L. Aubry “Le Nobre d’Or” Campanae Veteres Vites.  Aubry is in the Montagne de Reims, and has become well known for their decision to try and bring back some of the old varietals that existed in Champagne. There are seven permitted varietals in the region, and Aubry uses them all for this wine.  There are the three you know, and then Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Fromenteau (a.k.a. Pinot Gris) and Pinot Blanc.  The nose has a true floral quality with pear and apple notes.  This has some body and is harmonious, and while it is absolutely delicious now, it will be interesting to see it evolve.  Really exciting juice. (**+ – $67.99 Btl.)

Stepping it up in richness I next poured the mag of the Camille Savès after the 2002 Godmé Brut Millésimé.  A small grower in the Vallée de la Marne, there are 70 micro-parcels of vineyards spread out in 5 villages.  This state of the art, gravity fed winery, employs Burgundy cask in the first fermentation.  This helps explain the richness of the 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir that went into this.  This had plenty of morello cherry, toast, and vanilla notes to go along with its creamy texture.  I really like the style of this house.  (**+ – $66.99 Btl.)

Another night, another “Special Club” flight. We had seen both these producers the night before, but now we got to taste their best.  The ’00 Gaston Chiquet “Special Club” is made of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir.  A pretty low dosage of 8 g/l was added, and it is barely noticeable. Orange peel, mineral and a touch of tropical fruit is what I got from this young but delicious Champagne. (*** – $69.99 Btl.)  Perhaps the most “tight” Champagne of what we tried on both nights was the 2002 Henri Goutorbe “Special Club” Brut.  70% Pinot Noir mixed with 30% Chardonnay, all from the village of Aÿ.  Goutorbe ferments in stainless steel and doesn’t allow for malo-lactic fermentation to occur.  Lots of red fruits going on in this with strawberry up front, then hints of ginger spice, herbs and nuts.  Put this away for your own good, it will be great! (*** – $82.99 Btl.)

Now on to a Blanc de Blancs flight featuring the Gimonnet magnum of the night before the 2002 Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs “L’Esprit de 2002.”  When you tell people that a good chunk of your fruit in a Champagne comes from the Grand Cru village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, you tend to get people excited.  This longtime grower, has some amazing vineyards.  Their ’02 is from the aforementioned Le Mesnil, as well as Oger, Avize and Cramant.  It spent 5 years sitting on its lees.  Very citrus, grapefruit and orange, with lots of spice hinting at white licorice.  This is accessible now, but you will want multiple bottles to watch it evolve.  (*** – $73.99 Btl.).

By itself I went on to pour a very special wine from Gonet-Medeville who I talked about in the Night #1 tasting.  They make a few single vineyard wines, and this is one that I had special ordered just for this event.  The 2002 Gonet-Medeville “La Grande Ruelle” Ambonnay Extra-Brut is 100% Pinot Noir, fermented in old oak barrels, aged a whopping 53 months on its lees with a dosage of only 2 g/l!  The Gonet- Medeville parcel of  “La Grande Ruelle” is only .2 hectare on chalky soil.  In 2002 they produced only 1000 bottles. Whether you are for or against these small vineyard Champagnes, you have to respect a great Champagne like this. So complex, long and delicious. (**** – $144.99 Btl.).

The final Champagne of the tastings was the N.V. René Geoffroy Brut Rosé, one of my favorite examples of this style in all of Champagne.  A grower since the 1700’s, Jean Baptiste Geoffroy is at the help today.  Of the 14 hectares the Geoffroy’s own, 11 are in the village of Cumières in the Vallée de la Marne.  This is a great are for Champagne and particularly Rosé. This is a Rosé de Saignée which yields very intense juice.  Geoffroy only rests this the minimum 15 months on its lees wanting to show the freshness of Pinot Noir.  Despite this being labeled as a N.V. it does all come from one vintage. Intense and fresh with blueberry, strawberry, and spice on the nose and palate.  This has great viscosity and is about as delicious as a Rosé Champagne can get! (*** – $64.99 Btl.)

If you have trouble deciding which of these great Champagnes is right for you, please e-mail with questions!

Craig Perman
Perman Wine Selections
802 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60607
Phone 312-666-4417
Fax 312-666-4487

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