There is a lot going on in the world of wine in London this week. Monday was no exception, but I’m so glad I decided to choose the trek down to the Spa Terminus for Dynamic Vines‘ 10 Year Anniversary Tasting. Of course, my choice was never in doubt. I wasn’t going to forego the chance to meet up with the people behind two of my favourite producers, Domaine de la Tournelle (Arbois) and Gut Oggau (Oggau, near Rust), though it was also nice to bump into some visitors I didn’t know would be there.
Regular readers will know that Domaine de la Tournelle is one of my favourite Arbois producers, but I do have a habit of visiting the region around harvest time these days, and they are resolutely closed when they need to focus all their energy there. So it was not only really great to taste through a few of a range I know pretty well already, but to say hi to Pascal and Evelyne as well. The Clairets are both two of the most sympa individuals in wine, laid back and friendly, but at the same time determined to make the best wines possible from their eight hectares.
I can recommend all of their wines without hesitation, from the brilliant natural Ploussard “L’Uva Arbosiana” (very light colour, sensual gorgeous fruit) to the complex Vin Jaune 2007 (my first taste of this). Buy from Dynamic, or try them at Antidote restaurant near Carnaby Street (which has been getting a lot of really good press of late). Pascal and Evelyne are partners in this London venture.
Pascal and Evelyne with their 2007 Vin Jaune
If any other domaine has been written about in abundance on this Blog, it is probably Gut Oggau. The domaine with possibly the best wine label concept in the world is run by husband and wife team Stephanie and Eduard Tscheppe-Eselböck in the village of Oggau, just a couple of kilometers north of Rust on the western side of the Neusiedler See. They have literally constructed a family of wines which aim to express terroir (mainly limestone or schist here) over grape variety.
Eduard took me through a good few of the range – a lovely, cloudy, bottle fermented sparkler in the mould of a pét-nat, the fresh white Theodora, the Bertholdi red 2013 (from Blaufrankisch grown on limestone and schist), the Josephine red 2012 from magnum (a blend of the red-fleshed teinturier Roesler with Blaufrankisch grown on limestone) and the wonderful (if presumably rare) sweet version of Josephine. Same grapes as the dry one, 12% alcohol.
Eduard and Stephanie
To read more about why I love these wins so much, see “All’s Gut in Oggau“.
It seems a very long time ago since the very first time I tried the wines of Francis Boulard. Francis at that time made the wines for the family Champagne firm of Raymond Boulard, but in 2009 he struck out on a resolutely natural path with his daughter Delphine, and now also with son, Nicolas. The vineyards in the Saint-Thierry massif, the valley of the Marne, and near Mailly on the Montagne de Reims, approximately just 3 hectares, are, from this year, farmed 100% biodynamically. Since I last tasted Francis’ own wines a couple of years ago they seem to be even better. Complex, mineral but really refreshing, all wines are dosed lightly, and a very strict pruning regime ensures grapes grown even in cooler sites ripen regularly.
The range kicks off with a NV, Les Murgiers, which comes in both zero-dosage Brut Nature, or Extra Brut (3-5g/l) forms. 70% Meunier, it’s refreshing and clean. First pressing juice is fermented in a variety of sizes of old oak, unergoing batonnage and malo. An excellent aperitif wine.
More serious is the Grand Cru from Mailly. Mainly Pinot Noir with 10% Chardonnay, this also comes as EB or BN, sees wood fermentation and has 30% reserve wines. This wine will accompany food.
The vintage wine on show was the 2006, a stunning vintage making a broad and rich wine whose 3g/l dosage also makes this, when it has aged, a good food wine match, perhaps covering richer dishes than the Mailly.
There was none of Francis’ absolute cracker, Petraea, to taste, but I was able to finish on the Les Rachais Rosé. The white version was Francis’ first biodynamic masterpiece, and it appeared in the book “1001 Wines You Must Try Before You Die” (2008 edn, Quintessence Books, Ed Neil Beckett). The pink was really good. Massale selection Pinot Noir from a sandy/limestone plot on the Massif de Saint-Thierry, it is dosed very low at 2g/l. For me, it could not be a better accompaniment for a side of salmon. There are red and orchard fruits, with peach and apricot, but an additional complexity too in this 2005 version. Delicious.
One of the stars of the Dynamic Vines range, albeit made up of delicious but expensive bottles, is Emidio Pepe, who will need no introduction to the more up-to-date followers of the Italian wine scene. The Pepe family has been active in the Abruzzo hills since 1899, but Emidio founded the domaine of his name in 1964. Three generations of Pepes now work this 15 hectare estate around the foot of the Gran Sasso mountain.
The whites on show included my favourite, the Pecorino 2012 (£60), which is totally unlike any Pecorino you’ll find elsewhere. Complex notes of curry spice and a wonderful mouthfeel make this a must try if you can afford a bottle. I’ll admit that none of the Pepe wines are cheap. The lovely Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2012 seems restrained after the Pecorino but is no less fine. For many, the star of the range is the red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. This was available to taste in 2012, 2003 and 2000 vintages. The 2000 is a very fine wine, but it will keep for a lot longer. Dynamic actually have a host of back vintages available, if at serious prices, going back to the 1970 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva (£646). I’m guessing that’s one amazing wine!
If I write about any more wines in detail I may lose the reader, but there are a few names worth exploring. You’ll probably know that I think Savoie is about to make an appearance and I tried two good producers – Domaine Giachino, whose attractively labelled wines impressed a lot for their lightness/freshness, and Domaine Prieure Saint Christophe, whose winemaker, Michel Grisard, is known as the Pope of Mondeuse (why always “Pope” in France!). He showed some older Mondeuse from 2009 and 2005, from tank, old wood and a new wood cuvée, but he also makes a good Persan and some nice whites.
Dynamic Vines combine big name producers (Josmeyer, Radikon, Nicolas & Virginie Joly) with the new stars of natural wine (Julien Courtois, Emmanuel Giboulet), alongside some producers whose star has not yet risen above the wine press radar quite so much (Domaine de Velloux, Anthony Thevenet, Le Casot de Mailloles). Whatever your taste, if it is of the “natural” persuasion then Dynamic’s range will have something you’ve never tried before. Judging by the positive responses I was hearing, you may find a few of them in an independent wine merchant near you very soon. I hope so.