The 2010 Barolo Vintage and Why It Matters

Up until today, the 2 greatest Barolo vintages of the last 40 years were generally acknowledged to be 1996 and 1982.  Now we can add 2010 to the list. 

2010 was a cool, late ripening vintage, the result of a long growing season, cool nights that preserved lively acidity, a warm July month that concentrated the grapes and small berry size that ensured good tannic structure. The wines have great depth and richness of taste.

“It is a year that will appeal to classicists, as the wines are translucent and incredibly expressive. Stylistically, the 2010s remind me of the 2004s, but with more mid-palate pliancy and overall depth. Readers who have tasted the 2010s from Tuscany (especially Chianti Classico) and/or the 2010 Red Burgundies will have a very clear idea of the style of the vintage.  Simply put, 2010 is the greatest young Barolo vintage I have tasted in 18 years of visiting the region and a lifetime of buying, cellaring and drinking these wines”  Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media

“Classic” is the word.  This is Barolo as it once was.  Angelo Gaja described the weather “as if we had travelled back in time.”  The earlier ripening of the past decade gave way to long, cool maturation on the vine, allowing those quality conscious producers, who strive towards acidity, depth, and structure, to make wines their grandfather’s would have recognized.  However, we are far from the old-school vintage of yore that took 25 years to come around.  With the modern improvements in the cellar and vineyard, there is more finesse and accessibility in the finished wines than ever before. 

It’s something of a mystery why Barolo isn’t a larger part of the vinous conversation in the English speaking world.  It is undeniably one of the great regions, standing side by side with Burgundy and Bordeaux atop the summit.  No one argues the depth or longevity of the wines, or the dedication and talent of a fairly large collection of artisanal growers.  Yet, even as the prices for top Burgundy and Bordeaux push ever upward, the best Barolo, with a very few exceptions, can be had for under $100.  Despite over a century of achievement and an internationally recognized ambassador in the form of Angelo Gaja, Barolo still, inexplicably, falls under the radar. 

“Although Barolo is still is a relative bargain, a factor in the general difficulty in selling Baroli is the lack of generic marketing of this region and, as a direct consequence, a general lack of broader knowledge and appreciation from wine lovers and professionals alike.  While many wine professionals try to outdo each other showing off their meticulous and sophisticated knowledge of Burgundy, they are generally much less confident talking about Barolo. This is despite the fact that Barolo is very similar to Burgundy, sharing the intricacies of a fragmented vineyard area and single vineyards owned by many growers, all bottling their own interpretation of the site.”  Walter Speller, Jancis Robinson’s Purple Pages

To provide a simple explanation, Barolo is a region in Piedmont, southwest of the town of Alba, in the Langhe hills.  The grape, Nebbiolo, is a late-ripening, persnickety varietal which prefers very specific soils and has very specific climactic requirements (it needs a longer, cooler, diurnal growing season). 

“Nebbiolo is rivalled only by Pinot Noir in its ability to express the subtleties of different terroirs.  Nebbiolo tends to be light in colour, high in both acid and (especially) tannin, and to exhibit a haunting array of aromas which might include tar, cordite, dried cherries, liquorice, violets and roses.”  Jancis Robinson, Wine Grapes

The range of micro-climates and soil types in the ranging hills have led to a persistent discussion over the need to sub-divide the Barolo zone, in the same way as Burgundy, into communes and vineyards.  To offer a few examples, the vineyards around La Mora offer a more open, fragrant style while Monforte and Serralunga tend to be more concentrated, with Castiglione expressing itself firmly, and this without getting into the single vineyards or exceptions to the general styles of each commune.  To go into that would require a book which has yet to be written.  Suffice it to say, Barolo can express itself just as distinctively as Burgundy, with the same potential for greatness. 

When a historically great vintage in a historically great region comes along, it’s truly reason to become excited.  2010 is such a vintage in Barolo.  The relative value of these wines is enormous.  The best will age gracefully for decades.  If you are looking to start laying down wines, but feel priced out of the concept, this would be an amazing place to start.  Or, if you’re already collecting, don’t miss these wines.  Or, if you just want to discover the exceptional nature of Barolo, you’ll never find a better opportunity.  It isn’t nicknamed the “Wine of Kings, the King of Wines” for nothing.

To find out more information about the current allocation of 2010 Barolo available from Le Du’s, e-mail JT at  

April in New York Deserves a Rosé Sampler

Ah, Spring!  As the poet Harrison said, “It’s been a long, cold lonely winter.”  Well, here comes the sun!  We’ve been stocking up on Rosé with the hopeful belief if we acted like Spring was here then it would, in fact, arrive.  We’re extremely excited about this year’s line-up of Rosé.  2013 was a banner year for Provencal Rosé but we’re also seeing serious attempts at new Rosé styles from other areas.  So, without further ado, we’d like to offer our 2013 Rosé sampler, a mixed case of 12 different Rosé designed for you to find your Spring-Summer favorite!

2013 Rosé Sampler


To see a complete list of our Rose, click here 

Coeur Esterelle Cotes de Provence 2013

A light, expressively floral textbook Provencal Rosé

with notes of field flowers, cassis, and just a dash of mineral finish.

Triennes Provence 2013

From Jacques Seysses and Aubert de Villaine, owners of Domaine Dujac and Domaine Romanee Conti respectively, the Triennes Rosé shows the more serious side of Provence while still capturing the typically ethereal white flower and strawberry expression.

AIX Provence 2013

A more flamboyant style of Provencal Rosé, the AIX veers farther into the tropical, with spice notes of ripe cherries and mango, buttressed by a texture of cream. 

Chateau D’Astros Rose Provence La Plaine Des Maures

 Revealing the more feminine side of Provencal Rosé, the Domaine d’Astros glides in a more floral direction, with subtle but lingering red fruit flavors and a lithe, soft finish.

Saint Andre De Figuire Atmosphere Extra Brut Cremant De Provence

A unique sparkling Provencal Rosé made in the Method Traditionnelle, it offers all the elegant fruit flavors of Provence Rosé with the focus and effervescence of Champagne.

Chateau de la Selve Maguelonne 2013

From one of our favorite estates, the La Selve is from the Ardeche, where it makes a fuller, darker style of Rosé, bursting with ripe cherry and strawberry flavors yet complimented by a potent finish of honest acidity.

Moulin de Gassac Guilhem 2013

From Mas de Daumas Gassac, one of the most respected names in the Languedoc, comes this fun and sun-soaked Grenache blend which combines the overt fruit of the Mediterranean with the lightness of Provence.

Karine Lauverjat Sancerre 2013

Made from Pinot Noir by longtime grower but newly minted winemaker Karine Lauverjat, this Sancerre Rosé is wonderfully expressive with notes of wild strawberries, fresh raspberries, and, of course, the tell-tale minerality of Sancerre.

Francois Chidaine Touraine 2013

From one of our favorite Loire Valley producers, the Touraine Rosé is made from half Pinot Noir and half Grolleau is a medium-bodied gem with kirsch and garden herbs overlaying a refined, mineral backbone

La Grange Tiphaine Tournage Riant  Touraine 2013

From Natural wine rockstar, Damien Delecheneau, this Malbec (Cot), Gamay, Grolleau blend mixes candied red fruit with a dash of rustic mineral heft culminating in a deep, powerful finish.

Castello di Ama 2013

A Rose version of the Chianti Classico, the 2013 Castello di Ama Rosato is closer to a light red wine than a typical Provencal, with a powerful blast of tart black cherry fruit followed by a long trail of minerality.  The depth, length, and richness is not at all typical but more than welcome on the palate. 

Yves Leccia Domaine D’E Croce Patrimonio 2013

Hailing from Corsica, the Patrimonio is made from native grape Nielluciu, manifesting rhubard, very dark cherries, with a dash of seafoam, wrapped in a muscular yet polished package

To order the Rosé Sampler, reply to this e-mail, call the store at 212-924-6999, or click here to visit our website. 

A purchase of the Rosé sampler qualifies you for free delivery in Manhattan! 

Le Du’s also ships to 42 states!

The Return of Le Du’s Pinot & Chard!

Fashions come and go in the American wine landscape, but for over 30 years now Jim Clendenen has maintained a steady ship, crafting balanced wines that don’t hammer you with their power and lush flavors, but rather are striking for their balance and transparency.  Success came quickly for the balanced, terroir-driven wines from Au Bon Climat, but as the trend for bigger, bolder Pinots and Chardonnays started in the early nineties, the elegance of Jim’s wines (to say nothing of their remarkable aging potential) kind of got lost in the mix.

Nevertheless Jim’s philosophy never changed and as the trend has now come full circle toward wines with less bling and more substance, he is again in the center of the storm.  When we opened Le Du’s Wines in 2005, my first California visit was to Au Bon Climat so we could work together on our House Chardonnay. My instructions were pretty simple: I wanted a light, balanced wine, unencumbered by oak or alcohol and I knew Jim was the only guy that could make it for me. I’ve been delighted by each vintage ever since.

We are pleased to announce the arrival of the 2012 Le Du’s Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, from Au Bon Climat with labels designed by New York artist Elizabeth Gregory-Gruen!

2012 is our kind of vintage.  Across the state, full ripeness arrived with lower sugars, meaning the alcohol is in check and the acidity persists.  It is a vintage of balance, elegance, and depth.  Many a winemaker is talking about 2012 as one of the best vintages of the last 25 years and, judging by the wines Jim has made for us, we’re inclined to agree. 

Le Du’s Au Bon Climat Chardonnay 2012  $27.99

Focused aromatics with an edge of flamboyance on the nose.  Dried pineapple, green apple with hints of cinnamon, and just a dash of flan.  The palate is taut yet expressive, displaying classic unoaked Chardonnay flavors of apple peel and ripe pear.  The impressive acidity, coupled with the gripping grape tannins, bring to mind a Chassagne while the more tropical fruit flavors speak for Santa Barbara.    


Le Du’s Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir 2012  $27.99

Immediately appealing aromatics with bright cassis, strawberry cream, but an undercurrent of dark chocolate and thyme.  The palate is both voluptuous and lithe, with a nervy, Passetoutgrains finish.  As with the Chardonnay, there is evidence of the California sun, in the baked raspberry fruit flavors, but the bright, expressive energy speaks to a French style.  

To order, reply to this e-mail, call the store at 212-924-6999, or visit our website.

Le Du’s offers 15% off any purchase of 12 bottles or more, free shipping in Manhattan over $150, and shipping to 42 states.

Re-Imagining Chianti Classico with Castello di Ama

Sometimes the bad apples ruin the bushel.  The Chianti Classico zone was one of the first wine regions to be singled out as important.  As far back as 1716, the area surrounding the towns of Radda, Gaiole, and Castellina were delimited as a special vineyard area.  For 2 centuries, the reputation of Chianti was a byword across Europe for quality, producing Sangiovese of depth, length, and elegance.  Then, greed got in the way.  The Chianti zone was dramatically expanded.  In the 20th century, a bottle labeled simply “Chianti”, made from a region larger than Bordeaux came to define the region.  Shackled by ill-conceived laws designed to protect the larger producers, the great Super-Tuscans (Tignanello, Sassaicaia, etc.) emerged in the 70s.  A century before, these tremendous wines would have proudly borne the mark of Chianti Classico (a black rooster signifying membership in the Conzorsio del Vino Chianti Classico, the centuries old confederation of quality minded producers which is now the governing body, under Italian wine law). 

But there are some people who are not so quick to give up.   Marco Pallanti and Lorenza Sebasti, the married co-owners of Castello di Ama, are two such people.  They began in 1982, when Marco took over the winemaking duties at the dilapidated estate Lorenza’s family owned.  He began a tedious, if fruitful, process of replanting the vineyard and resuscitating the reputation of a once great estate.  Somewhere in between replanting the vineyards estate and establishing Castello di Ama as one of the great wine producers of the world, Marco and Lorenza fell in love, married, and had a boy named Arturo. 

“We have the land to produce unique wine but we have to believe. When the producers ran into problems in the past, they chose to make commercial wines. But that wine will be impossible to sell when the sea of New World wines—cheaper-to-produce wines—arrives. We have to make unique wine, or we are finished.”   Marco Pallanti

We are extremely pleased to present the exquisite Chianti of Castello di Ama, in Classico and Rosé form, with the hope you will re-evaluate the wines from this wonderful region.    

Castello di Ama Rosato 2013  $23.99

A Rose version of the Chianti Classico, the 2013 Castello di Ama Rosé is closer to a light red wine than a typical Provencal, with a powerful blast of tart black cherry fruit followed by a long trail of minerality.  The depth, length, and richness is not at all typical but more than welcome on the palate. 

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico 2010  $27.99

“This exquisite wine offers classic Sangiovese aromas of violet, wild cherry and tobacco leaf. The palate delivers bright red cherry, mint and cinnamon notes along with vibrant acidity and bracing but supple tannins. It’s extremely elegant and should develop complexity over the next few years. “  Kerin O’Keefe, Wine Enthusiast

To order Castello di Ama, reply to this e-mail, call the store at 212-924-6999, or click here to visit our website.

Le Du’s offers 15% off any purchase of 12 bottles or more, free shipping in Manhattan over $150, and shipping to 42 states.

The Remarkable Wine of Eben Sadie

“There is a wheel of terroir. There’s history, tradition and time and these three aren’t always welcome in the world that we are living in today.  We live in a world where we “make” wines’.  To be involved with a great wine is to remove yourself from the process.”   Eben Sadie

Call me a true believer.  Eben Sadie, the prophet of Swartland, is the real deal.  As I wrote in last week’s Barrique (which you can read here if you missed it), Eben Sadie is the leading light in the Swartland Revolution, a small, coastal area of South Africa which is emerging as one of the most exciting wine regions of the world. 

“Eben Sadie is widely regarded by South Africa’s younger wine producers as a prophet in his own land.”  Jancis Robinson

I first encountered his wines almost ten years ago in Chicago.  It stood out like a flame in a roomful of flashlights.  They were so elegant, so unique and yet somehow universal.  They were undeniably compelling and Sadie was obviously headed somewhere special.   

“A bottle of wine should take you on a journey, a journey into what it is. What drives me is this quest to make perfect wine.  I’m not interested in money. I’m running around this beautiful arid mountain landscape trying to find the answers.”  Eben Sadie

After a long absence in the United States, his wines are once again available.  For only the second vintage, his Old Vine series is on our shores. 

“Let me make it clear that these very limited bottlings are as much an intellectual exercise as a sensory one. If you are seeking wines that mean something – then you should learn about them first, understand where Eben is coming from and then appreciate them for what they represent as much as how they taste.”  Neil Martin

I will state, without reservation or shame, Eben Sadie is one of the greatest winemakers in the world.  Known widely in South Africa and the UK, I feel it is long past time he receive his due in America.  These are remarkable wines, deserving of placement in the pantheon and I would encourage any and every lover of wine to give yourself the opportunity to experience them.  

Sadie Family Old Vine Series Pofadder 2012-$58.99

This is a feminine 100% Cinsault, medium bodied on the palate with notes of sour cherries and buttermilk. 

“The 2012 Old Vine Series Pofadder has a warm, sensual bouquet that captures the lighter, more feminine side of the Cinsault variety. The palate is medium-bodied with a very tart entry. There are plenty of pretty sour red cherry and citric notes with just a mote of fieriness toward the finish. There is joie-de-vivre in this Pofadder – nonchalant and cheeky.” 

Neil Martin, Wine Advocate

Sadie Family Old Vine Series Soldaat 2012-$63.99

100% Grenache featuring notes of saline, with dried herbs, clove and gunflint notes. Reminiscent of a cooler vintage Chateauneuf du Pape from Rayas.

“The 2012 Old Vine Series Soldaat has a distinctive tertiary and undergrowth-scented bouquet with gunflint/firecracker scents developing with aeration. The palate is medium-bodied with a gentle, saline entry that is reminiscent of the sea. The acidity is nicely judged with a generous sprinkle of white pepper on the Chateauneuf-inspired finish. This is complex and cerebral. Gorgeous!”

Neil Martin, Wine Advocate

To order the Old Vine series from Sadie, reply to this e-mail, call the store at 212-924-6999, or click here to visit our website.

Le Du’s offers 15% off any purchase of 12 bottles or more, free shipping in Manhattan over $150, and shipping to 42 states.


Introducing the Swartland Revolution

You’ll be hearing a lot from us in the coming months about Swartland but it’s been on my brain lately so I thought I’d make a brief introduction.  Swartland is, to my mind, the most exciting young wine region in the world.  It’s a small little coastal corner of South Africa where a revolution has been brewing for the last decade.  For most of its viticultural history, Swartland was dominated by the local co-operative, quietly making ripe, high alcohol wines for quick, deep consumption.  It was only the arrival of Charles Back, owner of Fairview Estates, who, in 1998, started a small boutique called Spice Route and hired an unknown iconoclast named Eben Sadie as his winemaker, which began the sleepy region on the path to revolution.  For Swartland, the ascendance of Mr. Sadie was the oenological equivalent of The Beatles on Ed Sullivan.

“Eben Sadie is widely regarded by South Africa’s younger wine producers as a prophet in his own land.”

Jancis Robinson

It’s rare for a single person in any field to have the sort of effect Sadie has had on Swartland.  Through the sheer force of his talent, vision, and commitment to quality he has inspired, in a few short years, a cadre of brilliant compatriots.  When Charles Back started Spice Route, there were 10 wineries in Swartland.  Today, there are close to 40.  The area itself has special qualities, with a high percentage of old vines and Mediterranean climate balanced by Antarctic wind.  The land is cheap so ambitious dreamers can come with little and leave with lots.  In short, the sky’s the limit.

But perhaps more than the land itself, the talent which is amassing itself inside of Swartland is staggering.  From the stylish Chenin of Chris Mullineux to the restless experimentation of the blokes at Three Foxes to the stunning white blends of Suzaan and Chris Alheit to the unbridled brilliance of Mr. Sadie (just to name a few), Swartland wine has grown so dynamic, so quickly, it tickles the brain.  To my mind, the only two equivalents in modern oenological history are Priorat and Napa, where a confluence of energies brought the right people to the right place at the right time.

The best of these producers have banded together to form the Swartland Independent Producers who have, on their own accord, placed a strict and sometimes idiosyncratic set of rules on how the wines can be produced.  They must be never be manipulated, in any way, shape, or form.  They must never have more than 25% of new oak (the fashion is for large, old barrels).  The list of acceptable varietals excludes heavyweights likes Cab, Merlot, Chard, and Sauvignon Blanc for lesser known gems like Chenin Blanc, CInsault, Carignan, and Roussanne (not to mention the downright strange such as Groendruif and Vallblaar).  The production in Swartland is small.  Actually, small might be too big of a word.  Microscopic is closer to the point.  The “big producers” manager a couple thousand cases a year while the upstarts think more in terms of bottles than barrels. 

Earlier this week, we tasted the new vintages of some of Sadie’s wines.  Jean-Luc had never tasted them.  I was nervous.  I’d been hyping Sadie up so much I was afraid there was no way they could live up to my praise.  I took one sip and realized I had nothing to worry about.  Jean-Luc said they changed the way he thought about South Africa.  He compared one of the reds to old school Rayas.  They were pure, elegant, and powerfully special. 

I haven’t been this excited about a single area in my entire career.  This is the ground floor.  Mark my words, there are legends being made in Swartland.   Right Place.  Right Time.  Right People.  Stay Tuned….   

To find out which Swartland wines are available at Le Du’s or for more information, contact JT at  

The First Family of Small Batch Bourbon

There is about to be a serious Bourbon shortage.  Forget boutique brands like Pappy Van Winkle or George T. Stagg.  These days, it’s getting hard to get your hands on previously omnipresent bottles like Eagle Rare 10 and Blanton’s.  The reason is pretty simple to understand.  There has been an explosion of interest in aged, small batch bourbon in the last 2-3 years but obviously you can’t go back in time and lay down barrels to satisfy current demand so any Bourbon over 3-4 years old is becoming scarce. 

Which is why I’m thankful Willet is still putting out their Pot Still Reserve.  The Willet family has been distillers since the Brandy days back in France (there is a Willette Square named after the family in Montmartre).  They moved to Kentucky the year it became a state (1792), running what were called “ordinaries” back then but which we would call a motel.  The distilling officially began after the Civil War (moonshining is such a potent part of Kentucky culture there was most likely distilling happening long before).  The Willet distilling tradition passed down from father to son for four generations, until 1971 when Even Kulsveen married Martha Willet, the daughter of the incredibly named Aloysius Lambert Thompson Willett.  It was Even who re-focused the distillery, first by acting as a distillery for hire (anyone who has ever enjoyed a bottle of Black Maple Hill already enjoys Willett), and now by re-establishing their own brand. 

The Willett Pot Still has no age statement but it is generally between 8-10.  Bottled at 94 proof with the barrel number and individual bottle written on the label (it looks like by hand), the Willett Pot Still is one of the best values in small batch Bourbon.  Towing the line between the rougher, back country firewater and the sweeter, caramel blast of commercial bourbons, the entire Willett style is one of balanced richness.  Mark my words, the next 2-3 years is going to be a rough time for people who love good, old Bourbon so, my advice, drink up while you can! 

Willett Pot Still Reserve


****Highly Recommended, F. Paul Pacult (Spirit Journal):

“Old gold/Palo Cortado sherry color; unblemished purity. Intensely grainy in the first inhalation after the pour; eight more minutes in glass allows for a baked banana-like aroma to emerge that goes well with the corn graininess. Entry is subdued, cornbread-like, and buttery; midpalate grows in richness as the taste profile remains creamy and buttery but now turns a touch woody/oaky/resiny as well. Ends on a medium-long, creamy note that’s more semisweet than full-out sweet. Complex and understated.”

To purchase Willett Pot Still Reserve, respond to this e-mail,

call the shop at 212-924-6999, or click here for on-line ordering

Le Du’s Wines ships to 42 States!