The average wine drinker doesn't think much about distributors and importers. And why should she? There's not much need to interact with the folks behind the scenes who are responsible for getting wine into stores and restaurants where the public gets a chance to try them.
Despite a general lack of familiarity with this whole tier of the wine industry, it should come as no surprise to most wine drinkers that there are a lot of different kinds of wine distribution companies. Just as there are different kinds of wine retailers, from the corner liquor store to the highest-end wine retailer on Madison avenue, the range of service, product quality, and focus among importers can be vast.
And, just like wine stores, there are distribution companies which become renown for their selection and service, and it is to these distributors that the finest restaurants and retailers turn when they want upper echelon wines. Many of the world's finest wine estates have relationships with only a select few distributors or importers around the world, so often there is just one go-to company for a top-end wine, at least here in the United States.
Frederick Wildman and Sons has become a well recognized name for true Burgundy fanatics, and has been synonymous with high quality European wines for decades. On the heels of the repeal of Prohibition, Frederick Wildman purchased the wine merchant Bellows and Co., which already had a century-long history as a major wine importer. Wildman quickly set out to Europe in order to add wines to the companies portfolio, and quickly signed on some of Burgundy's top producers, some of which are still with the company today (most notably Armand Rousseau).
Wildman sold the company before joining the service during World War II, and then returned after the war to be employed by the new owner, National Distillers. Eventually National Distillers decided to get out of the wine business, and Wildman was in a perfect position to start the company that still bears his family name.
In the intervening decades, the company has changed hands several times, eventually ending up as a partnership between a group of shareholders that include Olivier Leflaive, Champagne Pol Roger, J. J. Vincent, and Pascal Jolivet, among others. The company has also grown to become the third largest importer in the United States -- a remarkable feat -- but perhaps more so for the maintenance of its reputation for quality during that growth.
When the opportunity arose a couple of weeks ago to taste 2007 barrel samples from the company's Burgundy producers, I jumped at the chance. Both because I have not had the opportunity to taste Burgundy barrel samples before, and because it would likely be a rare chance to taste wines that I will most likely never get the chance to drink, save for the kindness of wealthy strangers I may encounter in my journey through the wine world.
From my reading, my general impression is that the 2007 vintage in Burgundy was a tough one. Bad weather throughout the summer meant that around harvest time there was a lot of rot and mildew in the vineyards. But a very dry fall meant that with careful harvesting and sorting, many producers were able to bring in fine fruit, especially white grapes, but yields were correspondingly low. As is true in all but the most disastrous vintages, the best producers did just fine, and they are fairly happy with their wines, but there apparently is a lot of variability across the region.
Here are my scores for the wines that were on offer at this tasting. The vast majority of these wines are not yet available for sale, having just been bottled in many cases, or not being in bottle at all in many others. The prices listed are calculated as a 1.5x markup from the wholesale prices provided by Frederick Wildman and Sons, which means the wines should be findable on the Internet or in your local wine shop for slightly less in many cases.
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2007 Château de Chamirey Mercurey 1er cru "La Mission" Blanc. $ ??
2007 Domaine Christian Moreau Pére & Fils Chablis grand cru "Valmur". $84
2007 Domaine Christian Moreau Pére & Fils Chablis grand cru "Clos des Hospices dans Les Clos". $117
WHITE WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2007 Château Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé Le Clos. $60
2007 Château Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé Vieilles Vignes. $60
2007 Domaine Christian Moreau Pére & Fils Chablis 1er cru "Vaillon". $46
2007 Domaine Christian Moreau Pére & Fils Chablis grand cru "Vaudésir". $84
2007 Domaine Jacques Prieur Meursault "Clos de Mazeray". $95
2007 Domaine Jacques Prieur Beaune 1er cru "Champ Pimonts". $81
2007 Domaine Jacques Prieur Puligny-Montrachet 1er cru "Les Combettes". $150
2007 Domaine Olivier Leflaive Chassagne-Montrachet 1er cru "Clos St.-Marc". $94
2007 Domaine Olivier Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er cru "Champ Gain". $96
2007 Domaine Olivier Leflaive Corton-Charlemagne. $180
WHITE WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2007 Château Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé Les Combettes. $60
2007 Domaine Christian Moreau Pére & Fils Chablis grand cru "Les Clos". $84
2007 Domaine Darviot-Perrin Meursault 1er cru "Genevrières". $144
2007 Domaine Darviot-Perrin Chassagne-Montrachet 1er cru "Blanchots Dessus". $194
2007 Domaine Olivier Leflaive Meursault. $32
2007 Domaine Olivier Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet. $63
2007 Domaine Olivier Leflaive Meursault 1er cru "Charmes". $107
2007 Domaine Potel Saint-Romain "Vieilles Vignes". $43
2007 Domaine Potel Savigny-Lès-Beaune "Vieilles Vignes" Blanc. $30
2007 Domaine Potel Santenay "Les Charmes Dessus". $56
WHITE WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2007 Château de Chamirey Blanc . $41
2007 Château Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé Tête de Cru. $38
2007 Château Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé Les Brûlés. $60
2007 Domaine Christian Moreau Pére & Fils Chablis. $28
2007 Domaine Darviot-Perrin Meursault "Clos de la Velle". $78
2007 Domaine Olivier Leflaive Chablis "Les Deux Rives". $29
2007 Domaine Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc "Les Sétilles". $18
2007 Domaine Olivier Leflaive Chassagne-Montrachet. $57
RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10
2007 Domaine Armand Rousseau Chambertin Grand Cru. $ TBD in 2010
2007 Domaine Jacques Prieur Clos de Vougeot. $213
2007 Domaine Pierre Damoy Chambertin Clos de Bèze. $312
2007 Maison Nicolas Potel Echézeaux. $166
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2007 Domaine Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin. $ TBD in 2010
2007 Domaine Armand Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru "Clos St.-Jacques". $ TBD in 2010
2007 Domaine Humbert Frères Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru "Poissenots". $128
2007 Domaine Humbert Frères Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru. $191
2007 Domaine Jacques Prieur Volnay 1er cru "Santenots". $116
2007 Domaine Jacques Prieur Corton "Bressandes". $237
2007 Maison Nicolas Potel Vosne-Romanée 1er cru "Petits Monts". $96
2007 Maison Nicolas Potel Clos Vougeot. $166
2007 Maison Nicolas Potel Bonnes Mares. $258
RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2007 Domaine Armand Rousseau Charmes-Chambertin. $ TBD in 2010
2007 Domaine des Perdrix Nuits-St.-Georges 1er cru "Aux Perdrix". $126
2007 Domaine des Perdrix Echézeaux. $236
2007 Domaine Humbert Frères Fixin. $56
2007 Domaine Jacques Prieur Beaune 1er cru "Champ Pimonts". $71
2007 Domaine Pierre Damoy Gevrey-Chambertin "Clos Tamisot". $150
2007 Domaine Pierre Damoy Chapelle-Chambertin. $288
2007 Maison Nicolas Potel Gevrey-Chambertin. $60
2007 Maison Nicolas Potel Nuits-St.-Georges. $58
2007 Maison Nicolas Potel Vosne-Romanée "Vieilles Vignes". $62
2007 Potel-Aviron Côte de Brouilly Vieilles Vignes. $18
2007 Potel-Aviron Morgon Côte du Py Vieilles Vignes. $23
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2007 Château de Chamirey Mercurey 1er cru "Les Ruelles" Rouge. $ ??
2007 Domaine Darviot-Perrin Chassagne-Montrachet 1er cru "Bondues". $71
2007 Domaine des Perdrix Nuits-St.-Georges. $90
2007 Maison Nicolas Potel Volnay "Vieilles Vignes. $29
2007 Maison Nicolas Potel Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er cru "Les Marconnets". $48
2007 Maison Nicolas Potel Beaune 1er cru "Les Vignes Franches". $57
2007 Maison Nicolas Potel Chambolle-Musigny "Vieilles Vignes". $63
2007 Potel-Aviron Juliénas Vieilles Vignes. $20
2007 Potel-Aviron Fleurie Vieilles Vignes. $23
RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2007 Château de Chamirey Rouge . $41
2007 Domaine Darviot-Perrin Volnay "Les Blanches". $66
2007 Domaine Humbert Frères Bourgogne rouge. $32
2007 Domaine Pierre Damoy Bourgogne rouge. $ ??
2007 Domaine Potel Savigny-Lès-Beaune "Vieilles Vignes" Rouge. $30
2007 Domaine Potel Savigny-Lès-Beaune 1er cru "Peuillets". $41
2007 Domaine Potel Beaune 1er cru "Teurons". $50
2007 Maison Nicolas Potel Côte de Nuits-Villages "Vieilles Vignes". $37
2007 Maison Nicolas Potel Pommard "Les Vignots". $56
2007 Potel-Aviron Beaujolais-Villages. $14
2007 Potel-Aviron Moulin-à-Vent Vieilles Vignes. $23
2007 Vincent Selections Morgon "Charmes". $23
RED WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2007 Domaine Darviot-Perrin Beaune 1er cru "Belissands". $71
2007 Maison Nicolas Potel Savigny-Lès-Beaune "Vieilles Vignes". $41
2007 Vincent Selections Juliénas "Domaine de Cotoyon". $23
RED WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2007 Domaine Potel Bourgogne Rouge "Maison Dieu" Vieilles Vignes. $20
2007 Maison Nicolas Potel Bourgogne rouge "Cuvée Gérard Potel". $ ??
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