Thursday, February 08, 2018 Charles Curtis Uncategorized No comments

Even a house as august as Krug occasionally feels the need to reinvent itself.  We were surprised upon arriving at Krug to find that the entrance had been completely reconfigured along with the completion of the new reception areas for guests and some ongoing work in the cellars.  Even Krug, it seems, is not content to rest on its laurels.

Among the newer pieces of the Krug story is the rediscovery of Joseph Krug’s original notebook of his discussion with Hypollyte de Vivès, who was his backer as he broke off from his father-in-law at Jacquesson.  Krug and de Vivès met in 1840; Joseph set up his own company in 1843.  One can only imagine that it was a tumultuous time in his life.  As we discussed Krug history old and new, we clarified that in 1972 Private Cuvée was changed to Grande Cuvée, that in 1971 the Clos de Mesnil was purchased with funds from the sale of Krug to Remy Cointreau, and that the vineyard was replanted and that the first vintage was 1979.  There was little inform...

Thursday, February 08, 2018 Charles Curtis Uncategorized No comments

Founded in 1864, Gratien is a traditional Champagne négociant in the best sense of the term.  They have employed members of the same family as their chefs de cave for four generations.  The first was Gaston Jaeger, who began in 1905, and the present winemaker, Nicolas Jaeger, began working with his father in 1990 and took over the reins seventeen years later.  The house purchases the quasi-totality of the fruit that they use, but they source fruit only within an easy drive of their premises, located in Epernay.  All of the base wines are fermented in cask.  There are over 1,000 used oak casks on the premises – the third largest collection after Krug and Bollinger.  Wines are kept on the lees until the spring following the harvest, but no lees stirring (bâtonnage) is done, as Nicolas feels it can make the wines heavy.  Only the first run juice (the cuvée) is used, and the press wine (the tailles) are vinified in a separate process for a different brand entirely that is only commerci...

Thursday, February 08, 2018 Charles Curtis Uncategorized No comments

Marie Duval-Doyard is taking an increasingly confident hand with her husband in the administration of their family estate in Champagne.  They are proprietors of 23 ha: 16 in the Marne, split between Le Mesnil and Vertus, 3 ha of Pinot in the Aube, and a further 4 ha of Pinot in the Aisne.  Eighty percent of the production is vinified in cask (none of it new).  The wines spend six to eight months on the lees (with bâtonnage) and are normally bottled in June.  Malo is blocked systematically, dosage is low, and the wines see a minimum of four years on the lees for NV and 5 – 8 years on the lees for vintage wines.  The house has invested heavily in recent years including new cellars and a new cuverie.  Lots of renovation. New cellars.

Brut Blanc de Blancs NV « Brut Expérience »

The wine is 60% from Vertus and 40% from Mesnil, 5 years on the lees.  80% is from the base year of 2012, and 20% is a combination of resesrve wines from 2009 – 2011.  .  60% of the vin clair was fermented in ca...

Friday, April 07, 2017 Charles Curtis Uncategorized No comments









Delicious, elusive, compelling, frustrating, the wines of Campania have long been among my favorites.  This ancient region has been producing marvelous wine since before the foundation of Rome, and there are wines from this region that rank among the best produced in all of Italy.  They are less well-known abroad, perhaps, since they are produced from indigenous varieties.  Some of these, such as Fiano and Greco among the whites, and Aglianico among the reds are becoming more well-known.  Savvy wine lovers, however, will want to explore the full range, as they offer thrilling tastes and flavors, and often provide extraordinary value for money.

This being said, such a quest is often complicated by limited availability.  Having tasted several hundred wines from Campania last week, I was frustrated by the limited availability of the top wines.  Although this is undeniably true (and perhaps understandable), there were a number of interesting wines that are available – a...

Thursday, March 23, 2017 Charles Curtis Uncategorized No comments

The main event at the annual tasting organized by a dear friend in Atlanta was a blind horizontal tasting of the 1982 Bordeaux vintage in three flights.  I offer these notes in the order in which they were tasted.  I was also fortunate to be present in 2012 for a tasting of the same vintage drawn from the same collection, tasted in the same apartment, with most of the same tasters.  For some reason, I did not rate them then, although I did after this most recent tasting.  The line-up was not exactly the same in 2012, but I include those notes by way of comparison.

Haut-Médoc 1982, Château La Lagune

Mature and starting to fade, this shows eucalyptus, cedar and cigar leaf on the nose along with a bit of cinnamon spice.  The tannins are soft and the finish is somewhat tart.  Time to drink.  **  In Atlanta with friends, March 2017

Saint-Julien 1982, Château Léoville-Poyferré

Thoroughly enjoyable and still fairly youthful, this shows black plum aromas accented with a hints of ground cof...

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 Charles Curtis Uncategorized No comments

The overall standard for the 2002 Bordeaux at the annual tasting organized by a dear friend in Atlanta was higher than I had expected, even going into the tasting with a fond personal recollection of doing the en primeurs campaign just prior to passing the MW tasting exam.  The wines were certainly fresh and still decidedly youthful, but they were surprisingly hefty, and few showed the unripe “bell pepper” aromas caused by some pyrazine compounds that I had feared.  In general it seemed that there was definitely at least a few more years before most of them opened, and several decades of pleasant drinking after that.

Pauillac 2002, Château Pichon-Lalande

Eminently pleasant, but a bit light, with bright, forward red berry fruit and a floral edge.  The texture is silky and fresh, but the wine lacks a bit of substance.  *** In Atlanta with friends, March 2017.

Pomerol 2002, Château l’Evangile

Impressive wine, with a rich, dark plum fruit character and plenty of impact.  There is densi...

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 Charles Curtis Uncategorized No comments

1995 is a very fine vintage after a string of poor ones. The spring was mild and fair, the summer was hot and dry, thickening the skins and blocking the maturity in some areas. Enough rain fell in September, however, to allow the vines to finish their work, and the overall result was impressive. The wines are tannic and rich, with plenty of substance and concentration. These continue to show well 22 years after the vintage. The top wines are still not ready, but one has the sense that when they are that they will be magnificent.

Pauillac 1995, Château Pichon-Lalande
Open and accessible, this shows a rich curranty fruit with an edge of pepper and spice. On the palate it is firmly tannic and well-structured, with nice density and a powerful if somewhat truncated finish. Drinking now, this can certainly hold. **** In Atlanta with friends, March 2017.

Pessac-Léognan 1995, Château Haut-Brion
A lighter style, this is silky and very elegant with marvelous balance and freshness. There is a...

Wednesday, February 08, 2017 Charles Curtis Uncategorized No comments


I recently had a bottle of the 2008 Blanc de Noir Côte de Béchalin from Roses de Jeanne, produced by Cédric Bouchard,  This was a noteworthy bottle of wine from one of the rising stars of the southern Champagne subregion of the Aube.  Unfortunately, it was also a bit confusing.  It is definitely worth the effort to get to know this producer, however, so a bit of explanation is in order.  When he began in 2000, he worked a 0.9 ha plot called Les Ursules belonging to his father, which he called “Champagne Roses de Jeanne” as a tribute to his grandmother.   Later he added another 1.5 ha vineyard site called Côte de Val Vilaine, which he initially called Inflorescence.   Since 2012, however, it has been labeled with the name of the vineyard, thus Côte de Val Vilaine, and since 2014 all of the champagne from Cédric Bouchard is bottled under the Roses de Jeanne label.

To this initial structure, he began to add single vineyard wines.  The first was called initially La Parcelle, a 1.5 ha...

Tuesday, February 07, 2017 Charles Curtis Uncategorized No comments









Fortunately it is not necessary to march in the saint’s parade during a cold Burgundian winter in order to commemorate the memory of Saint Vincent of Saragossa.  I was happy to pass my Saint Vincent this year in the very civilized environs of the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong at a dinner organized by the local importer Pearl of Burgundy.  It was a few days in advance of his official celebration on 22 January – peu importe!  A number of winemakers were present and pouring their wine, and the guests had all brought wine from their cellar.  We tasted some marvels.

Although Saint Vincent is the patron saint of vintners, his association with the grape is a bit of a mystery.  We do know that he was the first martyr of Spain, who died in Valencia in 304 AD under the rein of Emperor Diocletian.  French winemakers, who like him perhaps because his name starts with “Vin”, have long celebrated his feast day.  In 1938 the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin  resurrected the offic...

Tuesday, January 31, 2017 Charles Curtis Uncategorized 1 Comment









What to make of Bordeaux 2014?  This is an interesting time to assess the wines, as they are about to ship, yet they are still available as futures.  Recently there has been a perceptible uptick in interest in Bordeaux.  A colleague from the auction market speculated last night that Bordeaux had gotten so uncool that it was beginning to be cool again.  For my part, I have been drinking the wines all along, in good vintages and bad, the best wines and the best value wines. However, since I did not attend the en primeur tastings of the 2014 or 2015 vintages, I now rely on tasting them closer to when they arrive on our shores, and thus the tastings organized by the Union des Grands Crus is very important.  This report only assesses those wines poured at this tasting, which occurred Monday in New York.

The grape growing year started well, with auspicious weather in the spring and a very good flowering that set the stage for a large-ish harvest.  Unfortunately, the three...

Sunday, November 20, 2016 Charles Curtis Uncategorized No comments

crab-urchin-caviarThis dish, inspired by David Bouley, is a pure expression of the sea.  The flavors of the crab, caviar and sea urchin are all distinctly maritime, yet all three are radically different.  For me, the slightly fatty quality of the avocado serves to tie them all together.  This is a great dish to make when both crabs and sea urchins are in season.  Be prepared to substitute blue crabs for peekeytoe and Maine sea urchins for those from the Pacific Northwest.

Serves 6

1 pint peekeytoe crab
2 ounces osetra caviar
6 fresh sea urchins
2 avocados
2 ruby grapefruits
2 – 3 limes, depending on size
Salt and pepper

Ask your fishmonger to cut the urchins in half, which will save you an awful lot of trouble.  The urchin roe is then fairly straightforward to remove.  Retain only the fawn-colored roe; I imagine you will not be anxious to keep anything else you find in there.  Season the crabmeat with lime juice, salt and pepper.  Peel the grapefruit with a paring knife and use a serrated knife to re...

Sunday, November 20, 2016 Charles Curtis Uncategorized No comments

baked-eggsThis is an adaptation of a dish that I first ate for breakfast in Piemonte during truffle service.  The original was copiously laden with white truffles, and for those whose larder stretches that far, please feel free to substitute them here.  If not, you may also use the dried porcini, which give a very fine result.

Serves 6

  • 12 eggs
  • ¼ lb. thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 6 tbsp. dried porcini
  • 6 tbsp. heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper

Reconstitute the porcini by adding them to boiling salted water.  Allow them to tumble briefly in the boiling water, cover, remove from the heat and allow to sit for 15 – 20 minutes, until soft.  Chop coarsely and cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.  Oil a cookie sheet lightly and cook one slice of prosciutto per person while preparing the cocottes.  Bake until crisp, approximately ten minutes.  Remove and reserve.

Prepare six cocottes by lining the tops of each with a slice of prosciutto, and place a tablespoon each of the dried porcini and heavy...

Sunday, November 06, 2016 Charles Curtis Uncategorized No comments


Like the heady aromas of the wines on offer, an almost palpable air of discovery permeated the inaugural MW Fortified Wine Tasting, held in the shadow of the Flatiron Building in New York on October 26th.  Wine professionals and serious collectors traveled from around the country to taste over 130 different fortified wines.  The walk-around, self-serve format and the well-managed flow of tasters throughout both two-hour sessions allowed serious reflection of the rich array of wines.  Jerez was particularly well-represented, but Port, Madeira, the Roussillon, and Australia all showed exceptional wines.

Organized alphabetically by producer within established categories, the tasting began with Manzanilla and ended with the rich wines from Rutherglen and elsewhere in Australia.  On the Manzanilla table, the bright, salty freshness of the traditional Manzanillas like the Solear from Barbadillo and Lustau’s Papirusa were crisply refreshing, while the silky, softer texture of the Manzanil...

Wednesday, November 02, 2016 Charles Curtis Uncategorized 1 Comment

krug-caskanselme-selosse jean-hervet-chicquet









In order of preference

Champagne Krug, Reims

In my view, the best there is, from the “regular“ Grande Cuvée to the vintage to the Clos du Mesnil. The Rosé is a bit more expensive than it should be, and the Clos d’Ambonnay is much more expensive than it should be, yet this is hands down the very top.

Champagne Jacques Selosse, Avize

Probably the most skillful and innovative récoltant-manipulant working today; not inexpensive but worth it, especially if someone else is paying.

Champagne Salon, Le Mesnil sur Oger

Salon is a top classic collectible, steely and very fine, but takes a long time to come around.

Champagne Bollinger, Aÿ

One of the greats; Vieilles Vignes Françaises is the top cuvée, yet the RD is also superb and the Grande Année vintage is a solid value.

Dom Pérignon, Épernay

The inimitable classic and one of the best champagnes for aging, full stop.


In alphabetical order

Champagne Agrapart et Fils, Avize

Tremendous blanc de blancs champagnes with g...

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