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Nicolas Joly Clos de Coulee de Serrant, Savennieres 2019

  • $160.00
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$160/Bottle Limit 1.

This is a very rare and special wine for collectors and curious oenophiles.  It is absolutely the most profound and complex white wine I have ever experienced.  

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  • Today, I have 6 bottles of a remarkably rare treat for wine’s most ambitious and cerebral drinkers: The 889th vintage of “Coulée de Serrant” from biodynamic legend/father/wizard Nicolas Joly. That’s not a typo, nor is it an exaggeration. This hallowed site has been continuously planted since the Middle Ages, and has amassed praise from countless French icons along the way: King Louis XI called it a “drop of gold;” it was a house wine of Napoleon I; Alexandre Dumas wrote effusively about it; and Curnonsky, the so-called “Prince of Gastronomy,” deemed it a top-five French wine.

     

    In fact, “Coulée de Serrant” is so fabled, it is one of only three single-estate, single-site “monopole” appellations in France today—the other two being Romanée-Conti and Château-Grillet. The wines produced from this site are near-supernatural Chenin Blancs buzzing with immense power and energy, and although many consider them to be among the finest white wines of the world, we must still say “buyer beware.” These wines are not for everyone! They can be searingly dense, complex, dry, and explosively mineral, yet irascible, chameleonic, and bewildering. But, catch it at the right moment, with enough air (I generally consume a bottle over 3-5 days), and it will move you unlike any other liquid can. This is a highly allocated wine and very limited quantities exist. We can allow up to four bottles per person. 

     

    Before diving into Nicolas Joly, let’s first briefly explain biodynamic viticulture. There are many wild opinions on biodynamic farming—some may even call it witchcraft—but ultimately, this is about the harmony of an ecosystem and the integration of all-natural components. Simply put, chemicals and synthetic fertilizers are toxic. Manure and compost are parts of nature, and they promote the soils’ nutrients and, in turn, the vine itself. Yes, you’ll find Nicolas Joly playing music to his wines, monitoring lunar/solar cycles, and burying cow horns, but this is a man with the utmost respect for nature’s energy—and he wants to harness it! Whether or not you believe in the practices, his dedication and commitment to the ecosystem cannot be overlooked. 

    In the late 70s, Nicolas Joly returned home to tend to his mother’s vines after a brief career in finance. At the time, she was farming traditionally/naturally but when neighboring winemakers crowded Nicolas’ ear telling him to switch to more conventional methods (pesticides, machines, etc.), he did, and regretted it almost immediately. After reading a book on holistic farming, a philosophy introduced by Rudolph Steiner, Nicolas began putting it into practice. John Stuart Mill once said, “Every great movement must experience three stages: ridicule, discussion, adoption.” Nicolas Joly was ridiculed when he first made the move to biodynamics in the 1980s, but he weathered the storm and penned a number of exhaustive books, which were later disseminated and studied. Now, producers the world over are eagerly adopting these natural practices—hence, “the Godfather of Biodynamics.” 

    Since 2006, Nicolas’ daughter, Virginie, a trained enologist, has taken over the winemaking. It’s a perfect combination: he oversees the vines, she handles the wine. They make three Chenin Blancs, each from different vineyards, but there’s no competition when it comes to today’s top bottling. The seven-hectare “Clos de la Coulée de Serrant” vineyard/appellation has remained under vine for nearly 900 consecutive vintages, and the fruit it yields is legendary. The vines are planted on steep, southeast-facing slopes of schist and quartz and average 40 years of age, although the oldest parcel dates back to 1935. Farming is carried out by hand or horse, and the harvest takes nearly a month, as they comb over each row multiple times, selecting grapes of preferred ripeness—typically 10% of harvested grapes contain botrytis (noble rot), which Joly believes adds to the wine’s ageability, concentration, and aromatic complexity. 

    In the winery, only indigenous yeasts are used and fermentation can take up to four months to complete. For most producers, this would be a terrifying waiting process; Virginie and Nicolas embrace it. The wine then ages in neutral 500-liter oak barrels; new oak is only implemented to replace very old barrels. It is bottled without fining. Only a microscopic amount of sulfur is added. Nicolas Joly’s “Coulée de Serrant” always shows tremendous density and color in the glass and today’s 2018 is no exception: Its deep yellow-gold core moves to glints of silver and green at the rim and a few swirls show serious viscosity and concentration. It explodes with quince, Bosc pear, struck flint, honey, white mushroom, beeswax, lanolin, mashed yellow apple, white pepper, bruised peach, wet wool, exotic spice, dried ginger, and high-toned citrus zest. Although highly variable, you can expect this wine to open up and evolve greatly over a series of days. I recommend double decanting and tasting within the first hour to see where the wine is. If it’s tight or “off” plug the cork back in and let it sit in a cool, dark place. Try it again later that night. The next day, rinse and repeat as necessary. Day two or three is usually the sweetest spot for me but it’s important for you to be your own judge. Each bottle has a mind of its own, but when you find one that’s hitting on all cylinders, it’s damn near life-changing. Cheers.

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