I rarely write about the wines I drink at home, but this week social media has been awash with one thing, Burgundy en primeur. Well, that’s not entirely true. Those lucky wine writers big enough to be invited to the launch of Krug’s 2002 vintage have been sharing their adulation too. But I have to buy my own Krug, or sidle up to a nice wine friend, so even if I am granted a taste of the ’02, it won’t be for ten-to-fifteen years, when it actually starts to become ready to drink. So I thought I’d be different.
That seems to fit nicely with a post by fellow Blogger, Steve Slatcher this week on his Winenous Blog, where he discusses the difference between tasting and drinking. I go to tastings, as you know. If I need to decide which 2014 Kabinetts to buy, then tasting through sixty bottles requires a particular focus and method, but enjoying wine at home is where the real pleasure lies. As my palate has moved away from bigger blockbusters to more subtle bottles, I find that the differences between the two activities increases. Of course, we all know that wines we enjoy over an evening, when the wine develops nuance in the glass, so rarely stand out in a tasting line-up where that nuance is lost in the speediness of the four s’: swirl, sniff, sip and spit.
So here are a few bottles I have enjoyed since Christmas. Of course, there have been others. Just as I actually love Burgundy and Krug, I’ve also enjoyed wines by Bollinger, and indeed several others. But they are not the interesting bottles.
Arbois Pinot Noir 2013, Domaine des Bodines (12.5%)
This domaine, run by Emilie and Alexis Porteret, is just on the edge of Arbois on the road to Dôle. Their holdings are small, under 4ha, but they are really getting a great name for themselves, aided by their snappily named pét-nat, Red Bulles. Since I discovered them in 2014 I’ve had a string of delicious wines. This Pinot is very fruity in the best natural wine tradition, and the fruit bursts out from the glass. Just a touch of appley acidity might make it a challenge for more conservative tastes, but for me this is delightful, in the best sense of the word. Gluggable. One bottle is hardly enough.
Gamay “Cueillette” 2014, Vin de France, France Gonzalvez (11.5%)
At the three Beaujolais dinners last year France’s wines did well, but they didn’t shine as much as others. Yet in drinking them at home, they have been truly lovely, and I think some of the major wine writers have already discovered them. Quaffable cherry fruitiness, though not ephemeral at all. It’s Fresh and persistent. France is taking her place, alongside fellow female winemaker Julie Balagny, at the exciting tip of the New Beaujolais adventure. Striking labels too, as with Julie. The guys need to step up on this front.
Time Flows 121bC 2012, Vignaioli – Contra Soarda, Veneto (13.5%)
This is a skin contact Vespaiolo which would never win a medal in a wine competition, yet over Christmas lunch it unfolded like one of those lovely “Slowfilm” productions (anyone see the Sleigh Ride real time journey in Northern Norway, best thing on TV all Christmas!?). Very dry, textured, yet with an underlying richness. On the surface it appears simple, even dilute. Underneath there are layers which slowly reveal themselves. Haunting, lovely, and perhaps also profound.
Mokka & Dunkle Beeren Zweigelt 2012. Christoph Edelbauer (14.5%)
Most Zweigelt is of a more gentle nature than this blockbuster from Langenlois in Austria’s Kamptal (just east of Wachau). This is dark in colour and the bouquet almost brings to mind a sweet wine. But with the power there’s a touch of restraint and complexity, though the mouthfeel shows a thickness of texture I’ve not encountered with this grape variety. Do I like it as much as Claus Preisinger’s lighter Kieselstein? Perhaps not, but this is really well worth a go to see how far you can take Zweigelt.
Riesling Sekt Brut, Maximin Grünhauser, Mosel (12%)
This gets a mention as an oddity I picked up in Bernkastel. For all Riesling’s delicate finesse, this is rarely translated into the sparkling version. I won’t argue this completely breaks the mould, but that Saar steel gives a certain precision to a broad wine. The Grünhaus makes some of my favourite German wines. I’m not sure how easy it is to find this outside Germany, but I hope I’ll find more next time I’m down that way. One of those sparklers which works well with food.
Etna Rosso “Allegracore” 2013, Fattorie Romeo del Castello (13.5%)
Not a Sicilian producer I’d heard of until this was recommended by a wine friend whose knowledge of the shelves at Winemakers Club is unrivalled (thanks Tony – he also recommended the Vespaiolo above). This is mainly Nerello Mascalese, which really is one of my favourite Italian grape varieties. It’s very pale. The nose is on that cranberry tissane spectrum. It’s not remotely like you’d imagine a wine with 13.5% alcohol should taste – real delicacy, very beautiful. Another wine which would die in a mass tasting, heading for the highly uncommended bucket. How wrong they are!
Wiener Gemischter Satz “Nußberg” Alte Reben 2012, Wieninger (14.5%)
For GS fans, this is one of the big sites, a kind of Viennese Grand Cru. Look at that alcohol! Not one of your light and spritzy Gemischters here. Very serious, old vines, darkish yellow, complex in every way. This performed much better than Wieninger’s Bissamberg, which I took to an Oddities lunch a while ago. 2012 was a very hot and dry year in Vienna, as the high alcohol suggests, but the Wieninger vines are cultivated biodynamically here and they coped well with the stress. There are nine varieties which make up this wine, including rarities like Rotgipfler and Zierfandler.The palate is broad but the minerality of the terroir keeps it focussed. Tiny quantities. You’ll find few more impressive versions of a Gemischter Satz, though due to the hot vintage it is not entirely representative.
Arbois Pinot Noir “L’Ingénue” 2014, Domaine Ratapoil (11.5%)
Like the Porterets of Bodines, Raphaël Monnier is one of Arbois’ young winemakers, trying to survive with around 2.5 ha of vines, and he’s only been going for around five years so it’s a great achievement to find his wines in the UK. He’s actually based way north of Arbois, near the World Heritage site at Arc-et-Senans, by the river Loue. His wines are all characterised by certain traits common to many natural wines – more than anything, a bright fruitiness which many might find almost overwhelming. Indeed, someone remarked about a week ago on Twitter that they didn’t really get on with this cuvée. This bottle, from a single parcel called en Paradis, was really nice. For me, Raphaël’s Poulsard is even better, but for a taste of this young vigneron do pick up one of these if you see it. Definitely a Domaine I shall keep up with.
What am I drinking now? Figuratively speaking, because it’s 11.30am and I don’t have a glass in hand…I’m half way through a bottle of Barbaresco, but I think there’s another Blog post in that.