FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar

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    Burgundy’s sobriquet, the "king of wines," is not entirely figurative: Many of the region’s choicest vineyards belonged to French noblemen and, in some cases, crowned heads. Bonneau du Martray, however, carries this distinction further by claiming imperial origins: Its 25-acre estate once belonged to Emperor Charlemagne, who reputedly was overly fond of its red wine, Corton. In fact, the existence of the plot’s white wine has been attributed to the emperor’s unflagging thirst, the by-products of which were frequent stains on his robes and beard. Embarrassed by these blemishes, his wife insisted that some of the red be replaced with white, and so was born Corton-Charlemagne. Centuries later, the Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne 2002 sparkles as majestically as a yellow diamond, releasing rich aromas of peach, apple, and citrus blossom. The finish is indeed a royal procession that begins with a fanfare of fruit and ends in a fine mineral acidity. ($100) www.bonneaudumartray.com

    As with many of today’s revered Scotches, BenRiach (pronounced "ben-ree-ak") was made for the sole purpose of blending and was never intended to be offered as a single malt. Yet the BenRiach 40 Years Old (the oldest expression of the spirit that exists today), with its lack of radical characteristics and very low peat (about 1 percent), typifies the Speyside region. Released this year, it was taken from limited stocks of the 1966 vintage to produce 265 bottles, of which only 60 are available in the United States. The amber spirit shows rich honeydew melon, orchard fruits, toffee, and oak on the nose. The palate is complex yet elegant, with citrus, apricot, pineapple, hazelnut, dark chocolate, and baking spices on a slightly medicinal finish. Each bottle comes in a mahogany gift box, which also contains a miniature bottle of the 40 Years Old, an engraved BenRiach pewter hip flask, and a certificate of authenticity signed by BenRiach’s master distiller, Billy Walker. ($1,750) www.benriachdistillery.co.uk

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