Philippe Alliet is a mercurial vigneron who makes Chinon east of the town, in the back streets of Cravant-les-Côteaux. He is best known for his single vineyard Côteau de Noiré, but Chinon Vieilles Vignes 2008 comes from Cabernet Franc vines over fifty years old and is a gem. Perhaps 2008 was not the finest vintage here, but the old vines have produced a complex wine where the fruit on the nose is morphing into something leafy and smokey. There’s a plumpness as well as a lightness (I know…but it’s true). Very impressive and, in view of the vintage, pretty much ready to drink at around a decade old. I dare say more lauded vintages may go longer, and this 2008 is in no desperate need of drinking.
Txacoli is getting better known these days, but if you’ve never drunk this Basque wine, then this hot English summer is surely the time to do so. Getariako Txacolina 2017, Ametzoi is a showcase for the autochthonous Basque variety, Hondarrabi Zuri (with a little Hondarrabi Beltza for company). This small, golden grape produces wines in three DOs, of which Getariako is the one most often seen outside of the Pays Basque.
With just 10.5% alcohol, this version is apple fresh and frothy, with just a touch of salinity (maybe that Bay of Biscay influence). Ignacio Ametzoi’s Txacoli is always one of my favourites, full of youthful vigour when drunk soon after release, it has a crispness which reminds me of just picked, cool, apples, and a greenness reminiscent of the rolling Basque hills between San Sebastián and Bilbao. Re-freshing!
Bourgogne Aligoté 2017, Du Grappin is probably the unicorn wine of this batch. It proved hard to source any initially, and then I ended up, somewhat embarrassingly, with three bottles. Andrew and Emma Nielsen have really hit on something here. Eighty year old vines from the “Perelles” lieu-dit in the Macon village of La Roche-Vineuse provide the grapes. The soils, White Bathonian Limestone with marl give a mineral flavour and texture, but the acidity is in no way biting, as can be the case with Aligoté. It’s what you’d expect from vines this old.
Foot crushed, basket press, six months on lees, no fining nor filtration…in other words great care has been lavished on this. Beg a bottle if you can, or indeed the skin contact version which is about to be introduced to that salivating public very soon, at Wine Car Boot in London on 28 July. Sadly I won’t be there, but I think they will sell rather a lot of it.
More recently I drank my first full bottle of Du Grappin Beaujolais-Villages “Nature” 2017. I admit that I’m finding that the amazing “Le Grappin” Côte d’Or wines are getting harder to afford, so it’s good to know that the “Du Grappin” label continues to provide amazing value with wines of quality coupled with genuine personality.
From La Pente in the village of Lancié, where the terrain is granite and schist, it undergoes a traditional whole bunch fermentation in concrete and wood. As with most of today’s wines, there’s no fining/filtration, and as the name suggests, no added sulphur. There is, however, a bit of CO2 to preserve freshness, and this really enlivens an already fruity wine. This bottle showed no reduction, nor spritz, although they recommend a carafe (not a bad idea, here).
This is just lovely, juicy cherry, “smashable ©”, bojo. #gogamaygo as they say.
ZBO 2016, Riverland, Brash Higgins – Brash Higgins is the label of Chicago native Brad Hickey, who makes wine in South Australia’s McLaren Vale. He should be far better known. Perhaps his range is too wide for many importers, though his labels are striking. He is most famous for his sous voile masterpiece, Bloom. Although the variety there is Chardonnay, it is made almost exactly like a Vin Jaune, even down to ageing, and bottling in a 70cl clavelin look alike.
One of Brad’s loves is amphora, and he makes several wines in these vessels. ZBO is Zibibbo, sourced from Ricca Terra Farms in the Riverland Region on the Murray River, east of Barossa in South Australia. The region may not be known as a quality fruit source, but Brad has found 70-year-old bush vines here. He trucks the fruit to McLaren Vale, where it spends 150 days in amphora. Only 105 cases were made in 2016.
This is dry “Muscat” with a lovely apricot nose. The palate shows a little lemon extract and a touch of honey. There’s that lovely amphora texture too. As it is unfined/unfiltered you get a bit of cloudiness at the end, for me a pleasant contrast to the clearer first two-thirds of the bottle. Despite 13.5% abv, this is remarkably refreshing, and so long as well. Vagabond Wines is the exclusive UK importer of Brash Higgins. They should have stocks of the 2017.
Pinot Noir “Sand” 2016, Jean Ginglinger, Pfaffenheim – Jean Ginglinger is a biodynamic producer whose family has been making wine in the region since the early 1600s. I’ve been drinking so much wine from “up north” in Alsace, that it’s nice to be reminded that the Haut-Rhin is just as good a source for exciting natural wines.
“Sand” is a Pinot Noir blended from all Jean’s different plots, because 2016 was no less a horribly small vintage in Alsace as anywhere else in France (although he did make an unusual blend of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir that vintage as well). It ticks all the boxes for gluggable glou with strawberry and light raspberry fruit dominating. It actually manages 13% abv, yet has good acidity, and indeed a very tiny bit of volatility, but I loved it. Serve a little chilled. I bought this at Le Verre Volé in Paris.
“Perfect Strangers” Artisan Cider, Charlie Herring Wines – Charlie Herring is the label under which Tim Phillips made wine first in South Africa, and now from his walled vineyard near Lymington in Hampshire. He has also begun making beer, but his largest crop comes from his old orchard behind the vineyard. You can read more about Tim (if you haven’t already) here…when the two of us visited Ben Walgate back in late May.
Perfect Strangers, with its lovely “A Humument”-inspired label, is actually a blend of apple cider and wine, rather like Tom Shobbrook’s “Cider”, except that this is somewhat more appley (the Shobbrook version, made with pears, has Mourvèdre added, which has a more prominent, rather than dominant, influence). So good, and if I’m honest you are probably more likely to get hold of some of this than the rarer wines Tim makes.
Artisan cider is surely underrated. The increasing propensity for small scale English winemakers to produce some cider to supplement their wine output is doing nothing but enhance the reputation of this beverage as a quality product, not merely a rather unsophisticated drink. Perfect Strangers (ie cider and wine) is far from being unsophisticated, but it is also a real thirst quencher. Contact www.charlieherring.com for stockists.
“Murmure” 2016, Domaine Rietsch, Mittelbergheim – I visited Jean-Pierre Rietsch last October, and he was kind enough to sell me a good selection of his wonderful Alsace wines. Murmure is a dry Muscat Ottonel, the fruit coming off Mittelbergheim’s marno-calcaire soils. The grapes undergo semi-carbonic maceration for seven days and the wine is aged six months on lees. This 2016 was bottled with 0.5 g/l of residual sugar and 9 mg/l sulphur.
I’d argue this is a genuine terroir wine with beautiful balance. As with Brad’s ZBO, this wine is slightly cloudy as it has no pre-bottling filtration, nor fining. There is lees texture and precision which, although Muscat doesn’t perhaps make wines to which one would always add this adjective, is very elegant. I think that is something which can generally be said of all of Jean-Pierre’s wines, and they also all show very considered winemaking.
I’m not sure Rietsch has a UK importer right now. Someone will put me right on that, if they indeed do. If it is true, it is quite unbelievable. He’s one of the best, if not the best, producers in the village…in Alsace even.
Petnat 2015, Vol 4, Fuchs und Hase, Langenlois – Fuchs und Hase (which translates as “Fox and Hare”) is the joint label of Austrian Kamptal producers and good friends Alwin and Stefanie Jurtschitsch and Martin and Anna Arndorfer. These two top producers decided to work on this petnat-only project together.
Volume 4 is a blend of Müller-Thurgau and Grüner Veltliner, fermented in stainless steel undergoing a 12 day maceration on skins, and was bottled just three weeks after the harvest. It then spent twelve months ageing on lees in bottle before disgorgement. There is no added sulphur, and just 10.5% alcohol.
It is dry, and quite gentle for a petnat, but has lots of dry extract and acidity. Nice length too. I drank Vol 1 back in October last year, which blended the two varieties here with Gelber Muskateller, if I recall correctly. That was good, but the hot summer weather brought out another side to this wine. Only 1,000 bottles were made and it’s worth seeking out as a relatively inexpensive crown-topped fizz whilst you can still find it.
It’s imported by Les Caves de Pyrene and I understand that there is also another Volume I’ve not tried which blends Zweigelt and Cabernet Sauvignon. On the evidence of the first two Volumes, I really need to try some of that.
This article has stretched a little more than I originally intended, but last night we had a lovely Al fresco dinner at home with friends, and I just can’t resist sharing something about what we drank.
Two lovely wines and one stunner. Käferberg DAC Reserve Grüner Veltliner 2011, Davis Weszeli comes (like the Fuchs und Hase wine above) from Langenlois in Austria’s Kamptal Region, just east of the Wachau, and is designated Erste Lage (rather like a Premier or Grand Cru). This terroir sits at around 300 metres altitude, comprised in different parts of sandy loam, clay and gneiss. The altitude, and cool valley location, allow for a long hang time, thereby allowing the Grüner to become fully ripe, although this wine doesn’t always attain the 14% abv reached by this 2011.
It was rich and smooth with relatively low acidity, but showed really delicious stone fruit and texture. It went down very well with a red rice salad with tamarind and soy dressing, and spanakopita. We didn’t carafe it as suggested on the back label, but we did serve it only cool (though maybe a tad cooler than the suggested 12-14 degrees because we knew it would quickly warm up on a sunny evening here). An impressive wine, more so for failing to display its alcohol overtly in any respect.
I bought this from Newcomer Wines back in the Boxpark days, but I think Vagabond (again) might import Weszeli now (they had a Weszeli free-pour event last week).
A wine which has been tucked away even longer in my cellar reminded me that I just do not drink enough sweet Chenin Blanc. Chaume 2005, Domaine des Forges is made by Claude and Stéphanie Branchereau, who farm a few hectares at St-Aubin-de-Luigné at the top end of the Layon tributary of the Loire. Dark hued, this is peachy and creamy (“peaches” our guests chimed, and they were right). It tasted rather like a peach tarte-tatin, rich, concentrated, long and moreish. Shame this was just a 50cl bottle.
These wines are not only indestructable, not only invariably delicious, but they don’t really cost all that much. I’d had this so long I can’t really recall where it came from, but interestingly (it may be the answer) an unspecified (doubtless recent) vintage appears on the Waitrose web site at under £10.
I’ve told you those two were good, but I’ve saved the best until last…and this is a wine you can buy because I only got my bottle two weeks ago. Champagne Dehours Oeil de Perdrix Extra Brut is a palish pink made from mostly Meunier with 17% Chardonnay in this rendition – presumably 2015 fruit mise en cave in July 2016 and disgorged July 2017, with zero dosage.
Jerôme Dehours is based at Mareuil-le-Port, with vineyards centred round Cerseuil (one of Mareuil’s three constituent hamlets in the Marne Valley). It’s an area I know as Raphael Bérêche has vines here. Dehours is a Meunier specialist whose wines sit on the foundation of terroir with little dosage to “obscure” it. The terroir is indeed singular, being one of the coolest (no, let’s say “coldest”) in the region, but Meunier doesn’t resent a nip in the air as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay do.
The Oeil de Perdrix (partridge eye) has just a hint of pale pink colour which reflects a bronzed glint in the sunshine. The fruit is quite fresh and light, a rare whiff of strawberry here, but there’s also something more savoury. The Meunier gives it a little body and perhaps a slightly generous quality, but it is a truly appealing wine, really so good.
The wonderful thing about it is its price. This cost me £45, and whilst it might not quite match the amazing quality and individuality of Jerôme Dehours’ single vineyard wines (of which Peter Liem says “buy them without hesitation” (Champagne, Mitchell Beazley, 2017)), nor does it match their price. This came via Solent Cellar in Lymington. I know H2Vin import a few Dehours Champagnes, and I know this came via them, but they don’t list this particular Oeil de Perdrix on their web site. I think Solent Cellar may have half a dozen left.
These articles are supposed to be restricted to wines we drink at home, but there are three other drinks that I must mention. The photos below show Karim Vionnet “Grabuge!”, a sort of demi-sec Sparkling Beaujolais with just 7.5% alcohol, which was THE most perfect evening beach drink a couple of weekends ago. Then, on Saturday, we drank the L’Anglore Tavel from Eric Pfifferling at Plateau in Brighton, with Starvecrow Petnat Cyder (and a mean negroni). The food included one of the best dishes I’ve had there, a spaetzle with broad beans and ricotta.