You should be both alarmed and invigorated by the fact that the bottle(s) Joe and I picked as our "Wines of the Year" are unquestionably some of the strangest, most curious and unforgettable wines you will ever put in your mouth, period.
No, you probably didn't see this coming but our 2008 picks for the best of the best are the 2004 and 2005 Jean Macle Cotes du Jura! (We couldn't decide between one vintage or the other, so we picked both. Complete notes on each bottle below.)
How's this for a tasting note: Lemon pith, green apple skin, bright marmalade, orange rind, mushrooms, fresh green moss and pine needles, moist dark earth, pulverized cooking spices and a complex mountain stream medley of rocks, stones and pebbles all energized by a blow-horn-like citrus acidity that will send shivers down your spine and electrical pulses across your palate. (As wild as these wines are, they are *made* for food, check out this recipe.)
Andrew Jefford in his book The New France has a great turn of phrase talking about Macle's wines, writing that the flavors "...seem to rifle through a repertoire of the natural world as you sniff and sip." You probably hear a lot about "terroir-driven" wines - these take it to the ultimate level.
These wines are like a Rolodex of flavors, a never-ending carousel of sensory experiences and they *evolve* like nothing else in the bottle or in the glass. SERIOUS decantings are highly recommended. Don't be afraid to open the bottle as early as a day before your dinner and if you don't finish the bottle - good! Both bottles will improve with 1, 2, 3 days and even longer in the fridge. Just put a cork in them, stick them in the fridge and revisit as you please.
The wines of France's Jura are misunderstood, maligned and not widely imported - but these bottles are the rare artifacts of one of the world's most singular food and wine cultures and we really believe that as the big arm of globalization makes everything look (and taste) the same, there is a more and more pleasure to be had in the unique. Push your brain and your palate somewhere new! While the savory, gamey reds and oxidized whites of the Jura present flavor-profiles that are almost jarring the first time you experience them, there is so much depth and personality here that *anyone* with an open mind and a curiosity will appreciate the brazen splash into the unknown.
Now, make no mistake that Joe and I are ready for the controversy and confusion these two brilliant whites are going to cause. But we strongly believe that if you drop these wines into their correct context - a rustic table loaded down with aged Comte cheese or a Creuset pot with the classic chicken and morels in Vin Jaune sauce - they will *sing!* Few wines demand the dinner table more or find themselves so comfortable with hearty fare that's been slowly simmering all day. After a few hours, as the winter moon travels across its cold midnight sky and the fire turns to little more than warm glowing embers, you will wonder what all the fuss was about. In this context, there is nothing strange about these wines. Here, at this table, they are PERFECT and somehow, they begin to take on a primordial logic that seems inevitable. Check out the sidebar and its link to our Jura page for more on these fascinating wines and the region they come from.
Jean Macle is the greatest producer in the Jura. The easy selling point would be a question like this: How often do you get to try the Chateau Margaux, the DRC, the Conterno, Prum or Prager of their respective country/region for under $30 a bottle?! What sets Macle apart from nearly all other Jura producers is his ability to both give these incredibly diverse and unique flavors absolute clarity, while also weaving them together into a unified tapestry that has an undeniable mineral-driven elegance. These wines, for all their eccentric quirks, move amazingly across the palate with a calm grace, with a seamless oil-and-mineral infused spine that gives them great direction and focus.
Joe and I have talked endlessly about comparisons, but it's just so hard because *nothing* is quite like these wines. Here's an attempt: How about mixing up the focused, shivering transparency of a Mosel Riesling with the tangy shavings of a ripe lemon studded with mushrooms, nut oil, salt and moist, black earth?
Hmmm...or how about this: Take a sturdy, masculine and compact Corton-Charlemagne and dust it with moss and marmalade. Now turn up the contrast and make the lemon-yellow acidity howl! Yes, the effect is like when the color on your TV goes slightly haywire and everything takes on a bit of a radioactive glow - as if a meteor from somewhere far, far away has just buzzed the earth twisting up our magnetic and electrical fields.
These spirited comparisons of course don't do the wines any justice, but hopefully they'll get your mind and palate curious. At the end of the day there's just no substitute for the experience; you really do just have to try one.
Because of Jean Macle's huge reputation as well as the fact that the estate is tiny, with only 11 total hectares, Macle's wines are very hard to find, even within France. In the U.S., so far as we can tell, we are the only ones who have been able to source a few cases for this offering as well as a few lonely bottles of his vaunted Vin Jaunes.
These are rare, rare treats and frankly we're proud to be able to offer out these wines. Even more proud that we could find enough to hopefully fulfill the demand for their deserved place at the top of the pack. We would strongly recommend cracking one (or more) of these bottles open this winter and brew up something special in the oven. But as many of you probably know, these wines can be very long-lived. Macle's Vin Jaunes will easily cover 50 years to a century and only begin to come into peak form; the Cotes du Juras are more comfortable in the 5-20 year zone, so don't be afraid to cellar these. In fact, that's what Joe and I (and Tom and Ian) will be doing. We've provided special 6-pack pricing below for this very reason.
Some of you may remember an offering earlier this year that focused on Macles Vin Jaunes. In this we did also include a few bottles of Macle's 2004 Cotes du Jura for around $35. We've been able to find another parcel of this wine, and because we've bought the entire tranche, we've been able to bring the pricing down about as low as it'll go. But please do note, this special "Wine of the Year" price is good until the end of the year, or until we run out - whatever comes first. The wines themselves will arrive in early 2009 - most likely in February. Order now by calling the store at (212) 980-9463 or click button below to see our real-time online inventory of Macle Cotes de Jura:
Thanks for supporting great, and unique, winemaking!