When you’ve been somewhere nice and hot on holiday (see previous post) you really want summer to linger back home, and more or less that’s been the case, barring a few heavy showers. The parasol has been up and the occasional day taking three meals outdoors has been so relaxing. It’s not as if I have a right to feel low. Autumn has a couple of wine trips in store, but there’s nothing like coming home to a few nice, summery, wines.
Rotgipfler 2014, Thermenregion, Johanneshof Reinisch (Austria) – Rotgipfler is a grape variety I’d hardly heard of three or four years ago. The grape is a speciality of the area around Gumpoldskirchen in the Thermenregion, just south of Vienna (where a little is grown as well). A cross between Roter Veltliner and Savagnin varieties, there are less than 130 hectares in Austria, but that small planting creates some super wines and, having now tasted a good few examples, I’m convinced it’s a top quality grape.
Johanneshof Reinisch, since 2009 run by Johann’s three sons following his untimely death, is based south of Gumpoldskirchen, in Tattendorf. They are something of a Rotgipfler specialist. They make plenty of other wines from their extensive 40 hectares, but this variety may be the cream of the very impressive crop here.
They make some single site Rotgipflers, but this bottling is a blend from different vineyards. The nose is fruity and spicy and you might guess Pinot Gris. There’s good acidity and freshness, but a bit of structure too. That, and some richness, comes from a bit of skin contact (but not too much). It’s a dry richness making it very food friendly. It increases in complexity through the bottle and finishes with almost a ginger note. This is very good indeed. 12.5% alcohol.
Vino Rosso 2014, Domaine Lucci (Adelaide Hills, South Australia) – This has one of the least forthcoming labels of the year (though at least it has a label – see the final wine here). But most readers will know this is one of Anton van Klopper’s enigmatic creations from the Basket Range of the Adelaide Hills. The minimalist label echoes the minimalist approach Anton has to winemaking, adding nothing but grapes. Anton has done his time with some industry big names and he knows how to make wine, but his fame comes from the truly exciting stuff he’s dripping out under the Lucy Margaux and Domaine Lucci labels.
This red is a real enigma. The grapes which go into it can be, depending on your source, “a blend of Bordeaux and Burgundy grapes” (what he told Max Allen six or seven years ago), to 60% white varieties (Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc) with the other 40% being Merlot and Sangiovese. This latter blend is what most people would go with for the current vintages.
The wine is fruity in a soft brambly way, yet with crunchy acidity. Simple and fresh. There’s very little equipment in the winery and everything goes into wood, or the ceramic eggs. There’s no cooling, nor heating of must, and no intervention (although I understand that a little sulphur has been used for the 2015s). File under “hardcore biodynamic” (Max Allen) and natural. These are wines at the edge, yet very accessible. Alcohol content unknown.
Pinot Grigio “Fuoripista” 2014, Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT, Foradori (Trentino, Italy) – Elisabetta Foradori is perhaps better known for her Teroldego and Nosiola, made biodynamically in the Trentino region of Northeast Italy. 2014 is, I believe, the first vintage of her skin contact Pinot Grigio and forms a tiny part of her production (8,000 bottles from perhaps 2 hectares, from a total of 40 hectares), from the alluvial soils of the Campo Rotaliano .
The wine is nothing like the Pinot Grigio so ridiculed by so-called wine experts around the world. In fact, it’s not even quite the same as the traditional ramato style for which the region, and northeast Italy generally, is known among more clued-up wine lovers. Pinot Grigio/Gris skins have a pink pigment and light skin maceration produces a “coppery” tinge to these wines, but Elisabetta has given this bottling eight months on skins in amphora (Spanish tinajas, in fact). The bouquet is beautifully scented, the palate textured and mineral/saline. There’s also more colour than a mere ramato shows. It’s a truly lovely wine. It has an ethereal quality, despite being a wine of some presence. My only comment to Elisabetta – for a biodynamic producer who cares and thinks profoundly about nature, how about going a little easier on the heavy bottles to cut your carbon footprint? But keep making wine as great as this. I don’t use that word lightly. (11.5% alcohol).
Bota de Fino 54, Equipo Navazos (Jerez, Spain) – The 54 has proved a superb bottling over time, yet on opening this I wondered whether it was starting to tire, whether its acidity was on a downward path, and whether I needed to drink my last remaining bottle soon. Yet drinking this over two evenings, I was astounded at how it woke up on the second night, showing an astonishing level of complexity not present the night before. This may well not surprise many fine wine drinkers. A wine changes personality over time for all sorts of reasons. This became very complex in its tertiary flavours and aromas. Little citrus now, much more in the way of spice and umami.
The 54 is from Valdespino, and the grapes hail from the Macharnudo Alto region, of course. It’s a 2014 bottling, from the same casks which have already provided Equipo Navazos with six Fino bottlings, a rich seam. The wines making up this bottling are around ten years old, I think, perhaps not ancient for EN. But the complexity with age is there. With an older Fino it’s recommended not to drink it too cold, perhaps ten degree and warming in the glass. Lower temperatures will mask the complexity. Truly world class, but also seeing this wine evolve is almost filmic. Pretentious as it sounds, each EN release does seem to have its own narrative. (15% alcohol).
Trousseau 2013, North Coast, Arnot-Roberts (California) – This is something of a unicorn wine. I know one or two out there will feel a tinge of jealousy in the same way as if I were bragging about some Coche-Dury Meursault. I did have to work hard to get a small allocation of this wine, a few bottles destined for a rather well known London wine bar (shhh!). And this is my last bottle.
Arnot-Roberts are one of the trendiest producers of the moment, and their base is Healdsburg, northern Sonoma’s exciting wine hub which has, for many, supplanted Napa’s St. Helena as the place to visit for its bars and boutiques. Nathan Roberts and Duncan Arnot Meyers went to school together, and whilst Meyers had a spell in pro-cycling, they ended up back together as drinking buddies. The drinking was usually whatever exciting European wines they could get hold of, and this inspiration has led them to seek out old vine, often neglected, European varieties in northern California..
Of course no one had knowingly planted the obscure Jura variety, Trousseau, in the Golden State, but Trousseau is the same grape as the minor Port variety, Bastardo. The Luchsinger family had planted a block of “Bastardo” in Lake County to add to a “port style” wine, and its relative success led others to plant some, but it’s this Lake County plot which provides the grapes for Arnot-Roberts’ “North Coast” labelled cuvée.
The wine is quite pale, but not close to rosé. There’s a nice strawberry note on the nose. It also has a touch of Jura bite giving a slightly darker edge to the palate, but it is overall softer than many of its French counterparts. It’s a lovely wine, satisfying and gluggable, not complex, but at the same time a wine you want to savour slowly. That’s not only because you don’t know where the next bottle is going to come from. (12.1% alcohol).
Vipava Rosé 2014, Batic, Sempas (Slovenia) – Batic is a smart biodynamic producer based in Sempas in the Vipava Valley, which at its western end borders Italy’s Gorizia (somewhat southeast of Collio). There are two things which strike you immediately about this wine. First, the bottle. It may be an attempt at sophistication, but I can’t help being reminded of other unusual bottle shapes which, especially in Italy, have rarely denoted a quality wine. The second complicated factor – the bottle has no label. Thankfully it does have a neck tag, but this sets out the producer’s philosophy, echoing their rather similar web site, without telling you much about the wine.
This is a pity because the wine is lovely, and very good indeed. It’s made from a blend of high density (almost 12,000 vines per hectare) Cabernet Sauvignon (97%) with 3% Cabernet Franc, from the Vogrsko vineyard at Brajda. The soils are clay-marl and the vines are 25 years old. The wine has an orange tinge as much as pink, and a nose blending orange blossom with darker red fruits. Again, it’s a wine with more body than you expect from such a refined nose. Quite a surprise, this is a pink wine which combines genuine drinkability (you could glug it quite swiftly without difficulty) with quite a presence. Dry but fruity, this is just how you wish Rosé d’Anjou would taste, but so rarely does. (12.5% alcohol).
Pacta Connect bring this wine into the UK, and I only mention it because I grabbed this bottle from their store at Brighton’s Open Market. People often complain at being unable to find wines from Slovenia and Croatia in the UK despite the awards these countries seem to win and the press they get. Pacta Connect specialise in wines from the Adriatic, and increasingly from Turkey too. Their web site is woefully out of date, I’m not sure when they last touched it, but don’t let that stop you exploring their wines. These wines need a bit more exposure.
And now for something completely different…I always like to mention a good beer and when it comes from one of my favourite Austrian wine producers, all the better. Meinklang urkorn-bier is made mainly from spelt, so I’m told (Urkorn means ancient grains, or heritage grains, a collective name for enkorn, emmer and spelt). It’s a biodynamic pilsner style beer at 4.7% alcohol. It’s really good, trust me. The only problem is that I don’t think Winemakers Club have any left, but hopefully they’ll get some more. It has proved as popular as this Austrian producer’s wonderful wines.