Wines of the Week: Les Monts Fournois & Canalicchio di Sopra

Les Monts Fournois 2010 Champagne Premier Cru Côte 94+
Canalicchio di Sopra 2017 Brunello di Montalcino 93
by Robert Millman & Ian D’Agata

Les Monts Fournois 2010 Champagne Premier Cru Côte            94+

by Robert Millman

At a recent superb diner prepared by my friends Ashley and Jae Chung, one of the guests brought a Champagne new to all of us: A Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs produced from Vertus Chardonnay by the gifted Juliette Alpis, with the assistance of her well-known cousins Raphael and Vincent Bérèche. Like her cousins, Ms. Alpis favors a long, slow élevage for her various Champagnes. In this case, the 2010 was not disgorged until October 2023—thirteen years after the fruit was first fermented! I have no doubt that this extended aging contributed to the superb quality of this developed Champagne. Blanc de Blancs can be lean, even harsh when young. In my view, the elevated acidity of an all Chardonnay cuvée needs to be tamed to achieve palate-satisfying richness.

The power of the 2010 vintage was evident immediately in the firm attack of this Champagne in initial taste. Rain in mid-august damaged the black fruits—Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier—but left the Chardonnay in relatively good condition. The wise decision to allow the wine to develop in bottle for such a long time minimized the harshness and greatly contributed to the full-bodied character of the finished bubbly. The most notable textural feature of this Champagne was its expansive mid-palate. Both in width and length, this intense, spicy mid-palate finally gave way to  a fine, dry, finish. I might call this a “food-Champagne”, not only for its excellence as an accompaniment to food, but as a wine in itself. All those present noted the intriguing scents of white pepper, boudin blanc and tarragon on the nose, Unlike the Bérèche Champagnes which, by intention, almost always exhibit a hint of oxidation, this bubbly from Les Monts Fournois is pure and flowery. While aging brought out the body, it did not oxidize the Champagne. For those who like technicals, the residual sugar was 3.4 grams/liter, which is good, because it is my view that zero dosage is not beneficial to Chardonnay Champagnes. Priced at about $130 in the USA, the 2010 Les Monts Fournois is well worth the price of admission. Drinking Window: 2024-2032.

Canalicchio di Sopra 2017 Brunello di Montalcino                    93

by Ian D’Agata

Some vintages are born with a bad reputation, from which the wines never recover fully. This is not always deserved but rather the product of knee-jerking by would-be wine writers who often didn’t even taste the wines at time of writing basing themselves on vague news of hot weather, or of hail and/or rain hitting the area that year. However, in the case of the 2017 Brunellos, everything bad you heard was mostly true. A hot and dry year, most of the Brunellos from that vintage are marred by gritty tannins and a lack of lift, not to mention notes of baked fruit. People who really know what they are talking about are aware that in 2017 even the wines of stellar Montalcino producers like Soldera were less than they might/could/should have been. But as always, there are exceptions, and seven after the fact, it is apparent that Canalicchio di Sopra is one of the year’s winners. Talented owner Francesco Ripaccioli has really kicked the estate into a higher gear, turning out single vineyard wines that are more  often than not head turning (Montosoli, Casaccia), but truth is, his classic Brunello di Montalcino is always one of the denomination’s best wines. And it is especially so in the challenging 2017 vintage.

Bright medium red colour with some garnet: not very dark at all, this is very pretty and very Sangiovese. Open-knit, fruit-forward, ample aromas of ripe red cherry, sweet spices, candied violet and sweet pipe tobacco on the inviting nose. Then creamy and broad, with suave tannins nicely framing the ripe, almost opulent red fruit, blood orange and cinnamon flavours but lifted thanks to harmonious acidity. The aftertaste lingers long on the juicy, lusciously mouthcoating finish. To be crystal-clear, in light of just how difficult 2017’s growing season was, this has turned out absolutely superb, so well done to all. Drink this beauty over the next six to eight years while 2016s and 2019 Brunellos continue to age and develop in the cellar. Drinking window: 2024-2032.


TerroirSense Team
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