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…).