The last ten days worth of drinking, I mean wine exploration of course, has ranged from the sublime to the sublime, and from the very obscure to very classic. If the wines get more (sort of) normal over this period, guess what, we had family here for a few days.
We began with a couple that were probably in the “odd” category for most people, but I have to say that the first wine here was stunning, quite a revelation. Héjon erjesztett 2012, Adam and Julia Hegyi-Kalo is Hungarian Grüner Veltliner from Szomolya, near the famous Eger. Julia’s father is Imre Kalo, famous for extreme non-intervention winemaking with miniscule grape yields. Adam and Julia, following their mentor, go for long skin contact and long ageing in old wood. The wine is the colour of something nasty when you are dehydrated, which comes from one hundred days of skin maceration. It smells of apricot tarte-tatin (very nice indeed) and really takes up texture from the skin contact. Despite a cheap, dodgy looking, cork, it’s astounding. Seriously good. 14.5% alcohol, imported by Winemakers Club.
Riesling 2013, Apostelhoeve, Louwberg-Maastricht, Netherlands – I’ve had a few Dutch wines. A Pinot Auxerrois a couple of years ago smelt of runny cheese and went down the sink, but more recently the examples which have come my way have been tolerable. This one, purchased in Amsterdam last summer and kind of forgotten was actually pretty good. If I’d known how good I’d have saved it for an Oddtites Lunch.
The vineyard is on the River Jeker, on gravel, silex and loess. This part of The Netherlands is not exactly hilly, but at least it’s lumpy, providing some semblance of a slope or two. I first came across the producer in Tom Stevenson’s Wine Report (sadly no longer published), where Ronald De Groot listed Apostelhoeve as one of the top Dutch producers, and cited their Riesling as an exception to the rule that the country doesn’t do well with this grape variety. This one is appley with a hint of pear, very fruity-fresh without being lean. And it does smell of Riesling. A lot better than I expected, pretty decent in fact, and I don’t think it was a lot more than €10-12. Reminded me of a good Luxembourg example. Yes, The Netherlands can make good wine. 12% alc.
Navazos-Niepoort Blanco 2012 – Having just topped up on the 2014, I thought it would be a good idea to sample one of my diminishing stash of 2012s. Most readers probably know this is a collaboration between Dirk Niepoort and the Equipo Navazos team, a 100% Palomino Blanco table wine from the chalky Albariza soils of Jerez. When released, this was citrus fresh (I don’t think it sees a malolactic fermentation). Now it has the colour of one of EN’s older Fino, the nose is fino-like, but mellow and this is echoed on the palate. There’s an elegant softness. It’s a cousin to Florpower, but less wild, perhaps a little more refined being another way of approaching it. It has become a complex and lovely wine, very much a food wine too, with the weight and complexity to go with a very wide range of cooking, from something like paella to mildly spicy dishes and white meat or fish. Very versatile. 12.5% alc.
Postscript: I have read that Dirk has left Niepoort (since this summer). If true, I sincerely hope that this lovely wine continues to be made. If you see any of the 2014 magnums, grab some.
Brain de Folie Vin de France, Les Vignes du Mortier, Boisard Fils, Loire – This being a Vin de France there’s no vintage, but I’m led to understand that the current bottling is 2015. It’s a Cabernet Franc made by carbonic maceration and as a “natural” wine by a small domaine based in Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgeuil. No sulphur is added at bottling and the wine is pale red, quite light, quite appley, but think apple and blackcurrant crumble. Juicy Fruit, as James Mtume sang back in the early 1980s! The vineyard is in Brain-sur-Allones, but Brain de Folie is slang for a hangover. The recommendation from Simon at Solent Cellar to drink this chilled was spot on. It proved perfect on one of those baking hot, 32 degrees, end of summer days we had last week, but its freshness will make it delicious through autumn. 12.42% alc, so precise!
Enkircher Ellergrub Riesling Spätlese 2013, Weiser-Kunstler, Traben-Trarbach, Mosel – Just about straw coloured, quite tropical on the nose, and it has a decent fruity acidity balanced by quite a bit of sweetness for a spätlese right now. Still pretty youthful so it’s kind of frisky, not quite settled down. I don’t do scores, but the fact that this is generally a 90+ scoring wine which can be had retail for under €20 says everything about the quality and value coming out of the Mosel. Whilst not at the top of my very personal list of favourite producers from the Mosel, you get nothing but excellence from Weiser-Künstler, and this bottle was no exception. 7% alc. Purchased at the incomparable Weinhaus Pörn in Bernkastel, probably the best wine shop on the river.
Chianti Classico 2011, Riecine – This is the bottling for London department store Fortnum & Mason. Fortnums are not the only wine seller to take their own label wines from very good producers, but they are pretty innovative in both the wines they release under their own label and the producers they choose. There’s always a little intake of breath when they release a new one, signifying a pleasant surprise. There’s a Franken Silvaner from Horst Sauer, an Alsace Grand Cru Riesling from Bruno Sorg, A red Priorat from Alvaro Palacios, a Barolo from Vajra’s Albe vineyard and a Valpolicella from Corte Sant’ Alda.
Not all of those I haven’t listed are quite as interesting, but my favourite is almost certainly this Chianti Classico from one of my favourite Chianti domaines, Riecine, based near Gaiole in the (southern) heart of the Classico region. The wine is quite dark and the nose has hints of coffee or liquorice along with the darker cherry fruit. It is rich on the palate and still has softening tannins. It’s still grippy and very much a food wine, but it has clearly matured a bit since bottling. Very impressive for an “own label” wine, or as Fortnums say, “House Selection”. 14.5% alc. Normally £17.50, the current vintage is on offer at £15.75. Quite a bargain, although their web site doesn’t say when the offer ends, and it’s not always bang up to date.
Brut Réserve NV, Taittinger, Champagne – Okay, some regular readers might think posting about this wine is a little boring (I don’t write about every wine I drink). But I have a great deal of affection for Taittinger. Okay, it may be for their Comtes de Champagne prestige cuvée, which I’ve probably been lucky enough to drink more frequently than their entry level NV of late, but this is good. There’s still 40% of the house’s classic Chardonnay in the blend and it does come through to give a clear house style. You do get some brioche, but there’s bags of freshness and elegance too. This was a gift, and I am not sure what the base vintage is, but it’s drinking nicely after a few months rest in the cellar. I’ve cellared the odd bottle of Taittinger’s 2008, by the way, but the quality is still there in the Brut Réserve. Widely available, as they say.
Grüner Veltliner “Handcrafted” 2015, Martin & Anna Arndorfer, Wagram – Yet another Wagram producer putting their region on the map, this time based in Strass. Actually, both Martin and Anna’s families have a background in wine, Anna’s father being the very highly respected Karl Steininger. The younger generation have embraced more minimal intervention in vineyard and cellar and if this wine is anything to go by, are making exciting new wines.
Slightly cloudy (but clearing somewhat in the glass), fresh nose, but there’s a soft touch on the palate tempering the acidity, what I call a chalky minerality with a touch of salinity (others feel minerality doesn’t exist). I’m not sure I’m getting the traditional black pepper on this GV but there’s certainly something on the finish which reminds me of quince with a touch of grapefruit rind. This wine is brought in by Les Caves de Pyrene, but some of Martin and Anna’s other wines are available from Alpine Wines (online). Definitely a producer to explore further. 12%.
Oh yes, mustn’t forget the beers. The Stockholm Lager (another great beer from Solent Cellar) has a nice citrus twist on the finish, the Beavertown “Quelle” is a Farmhouse Pale which is one of the nicest tinnies I’ve tried from N17’s finest (nice artwork too, as always), and The Kernel Table Beer is almost certainly my favourite pre-wine dinner tipple (only a little over 3% alc prevents peaking too soon), and ranks alongside Meinklang’s Urkorn-Bier as my favourite ale. I also can’t resist a record of the month this time. Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree is a deeply moving record, made at a time of deep personal tragedy. It’s got musical depth and fathoms emotional depths. Cave has long been mining a rich seam of creativity with Warren Ellis and the rest of the Bad Seeds.
Coming next…let’s see how 2016 in Jura is shaping up, Arbois bound (where my wine lies waiting silently for me…).
Out of curiosity which MSR producers would you rank above Weiser-Kunstler? I am a huge fan of theirs and for my tastes there is not a producer in the region who would produce better wines for drinking young. Then if we are talking about (more) mature wines it is difficult to compare as WK is so new.
Hi, I was talking about personal favourites, not making a qualitative judgement. There are so many fine estates. I have a strong affinity with the wines of JJ Prüm, Thomas Haag at Schloss Lieser, Peter Lauer and Julian Haart. It’s just personal attraction to these wines. Also a big fan of the Grünhaus on the Ruwer.
Take a look at my very recent write-up of the Howard Ripley tasting early this month. It covered the dry 2015 GG wines, a few Prüm, and some reds from 2014.
There are many more fine producers on the Mosel, some well established and some quite young. Rather than rank them I like to revel in the talent and diversity.
Sorry, I definitely chose the wrong word when I said ‘rank’. The producers you named however were very much the ones that I was expecting, although personally I have not really “found” Lauer (is he more about dry/feinherb wines?) yet while I really like Vollenweider and von Hövel. Mosel indeed is a treasure trove of great producers.
I did not miss your post about the Ripley tasting – I am definitely looking for new recommendations all the time (have to find me some Clonakilla!). It was an interesting read but personally I have not been convinced yet that the GG wines are a good way for me to spend my money. While many seem plain and simple expensive the ones from Mosel tend to just make me crave for an off-dry version. I know I am a weirdo also because I really seem to enjoy best the medium-bodied wines of Kamptal and the Federspiel-designated ones from the Wachau when it comes to dry Riesling. It could also be that I am just cheap, who knows. That being said I would not hesitate to participate in such a tasting to explore the category more, if it was held in Finland.
Ilbe, I think our tastes are not too far apart. I am actually a great fan of Kabinett, but I have begun to explore the GG wines and do like them when well made. I also feel they are improving all the time.
Lauer is quite a find for me. Just starting to gain recognition in my circle of wine friends.
You probably know that I am at least as excited by Austrian wines, and I will say that Wachau was my first base. I find the Smaragd wines impressive, but for drinkability the Feinherbs hit the spot. But so much is happening in Austria that it is hard to focus on one region. I seem to be drinking a lot of Wagram wines this year, a region I hardly knew eighteen months ago.
I’m just about to head off to Jura in France again, a wholly different type of wine region, but equally as exciting.
It really does seem that our tastes are very similar. Even though you are writing about many wines I have not heard of the familiar ones usually appeal to me also, just like WK and Riecine now. Therefore I probably must stay open-minded regarding the GGs and will be looking to try some more Lauer as well.
All I know from Wagram is Ott but if there are more producers in the same vein it is hard to blame you! The one you have in this post certainly seems interesting. You are lucky to have such a big market and importers who are concentrating on making such finds.
I hope you will have a great trip to Jura! It indeed is a completely unique place.
We are lucky in the UK. There is a section of the market which is very adventurous. Most things are available, although often at a price where you have to buy the wine on recommendation and trust. I think that market exists because so many people just getting into wine can’t afford the classics.
That Clonakilla Shiraz-Viognier is really very good indeed. They do an entry level wine which the source fruit for from the nearby Hilltops region, over the border in New South Wales, but the Canberra District wine is the one to look for. But it does approve of a good period in bottle if possible.
I would also assume that just like here especially young people there are also looking for certain “authenticity” in wine and on the other hand wish to support the small, family-owned wineries.
The Canberra District S-V is definitely the one I am looking to get in my hands. I have not had too much luck with Australian reds but then again it is mostly the large brands that get imported here. You definitely painted a picture of a wine that could appeal to my palate.
Good luck finding hills in the Netherlands, I think that Maastricht is actually the hilliest part around!
We were in Maastricht last summer. It was not very hilly, it has to be said. It was very wet too. My Dutch friends like to pretend that corner of The Netherlands is hilly. All relative, I suppose. Nice city, though, and one of the nicest bookshops I’ve ever been in (in a deconsecrated church).