I haven’t written a roundup of “recent” wines since mid-September, so I’ve had to be fairly strict about how many I mention, and culling it down to a case-sized dozen seems reasonable. The fact that the wines below contain four Austrians and five from Jura suggest that my focus has been on those two favourite wine sources. It’s not strictly true, I’ve had a lot of wines from other places. But it’s these I think warrant most attention. All were drunk at home, except for the last one, which I had at Noble Rot on Wednesday.
Sankt Laurent 2013, Burgenland, Meinklang – Both of the Meinklang wines featured here, and indeed all of these Austrians, are relatively inexpensive wines intended for enjoyment with friends. Austria makes some fine and expensive wines, and isn’t really known for cheap quaffers. But they are increasingly filling that gap in my house, even without a bottle from Claus Preisinger on the list. Sankt (or Saint) Laurent plays third fiddle to Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt these days, but this is dark in colour with lightish brambly fruit, and a bite to the finish which might remind you of the kind of effect a Dolcetto has, albeit with a different flavour profile. If you are buying Meinklang’s star wines for £40-£50, don’t neglect to try these entry level Burgenland cuvées.
Look for it at: Winemakers Club
I thought the posh corks would make a neat contrast with this appealingly gluggable Sankt Laurent
“Secco-Frizzante Prosa” 2015, Österreicher Perlwein, Meinklang – Okay, so I’ve written about this before, but look at the lovely colour of this gently fizzy Pinot Noir. It was just made to go with paella, even #vegan paella – well, in colour at least. The strawberry and raspberry red fruits, not so much, but it’s just 10.5% alcohol and be assured, most of it was gone before we hit the food. Totally refreshing, almost a perfect aperitif. Nicely edging towards rusticity too.
Look for it at: Wholefoods (though it may be out of stock); Vintage Roots
Blauer Zweigelt 2013, Wagram, Eschenhof Holzer – Another regular in our house. You’d think that obsessive wine lovers like me would drink posh wines all the time, wouldn’t you? When you can get such gems for not much more than a tenner, why would we? Arnold Holzer is another young guy whose wines can set you back £40 if you wish, but the dark fruits (blackberry, plus a little blackcurrant) here, along with a grippy finish, make this “basic” cuvée perfect for “quaffing” with food, rather than contemplating and pontificating over.
Look for it at: Red Squirrel; Solent Cellar
Sieveringer Ringelspiel Gemischter Satz 2014, Jutta Ambrositsch, Wien – Jutta is a proudly independent natural winemaker, and you don’t see her in the conservative Austrian wine press too often, despite her apprenticeship with some of the saviours of Viennese Gemischter Satz wines. She has a couple of small holdings of old vines and this vineyard is, in the GS tradition, planted with a field blend, of no less than twelve varieties in Jutta’s case, which are co-fermented to create this individual and harmonious wine. Precise but fruity too.
Look for it at: Newcomer Wines; Solent Cellar, Lymington
Savagnin “Empreinte” 2011, Côtes du Jura, Domaine des Marnes Blanches – Pauline and Géraud Fromont are two of the rising stars from the south of the Jura region, where there is a vibrant scene fomented by the likes of the Labet family and Ganevat. “Empreinte” (which translates as it looks) is the label for their biologically aged wines (sous voile). Golden yellow, a whiff of flor (though the bouquet of Savagnin is often confused with the sherry-like smell of the ageing under a veil of yeast), but there’s also a serious lemon freshness and (I can’t avoid saying it) a direct in the mouth minerality, which you might get with the topped-up (ouillé) wines. There’s also a touch of nuttiness which suggests that as, for example, with a Puffeney ouillé Savagnin, we are on the way to a Vin Jaune style. But that freshness is amazing. It’s a young wine, but so hard to resist now. If you haven’t tried Marnes Blanches, I really recommend you do. The rest of the range is just as good.
Look for it at: Winemakers Club
Dora Bella 2014, Vin de France, Domaine L’Octavin, Arbois – Dora Bella (sometimes you’ll see “Dorabella”) is a gently fruited (strawberries and cherries) Poulsard with a mineral-like streak and gentle tannic bite. It comes from vines over fifty years old, mainly from Arbois’ Le Mailloche vineyard, plus a bit from their “En Curon” holding just above Les Corvées (between Arbois and Montigny-les-Arsures). A producer whose wines will take you to the wild side, I find them stunning. Stunningly different, stunning your preconceptions when you first try them, but just stunning. If you love these wines I think you know you’ve overcome the hurdle of unconscious bias in wine appreciation.
Look for it at: I’m afraid that this came from the Domaine. However, Tutto Wines have begun importing L’Octavin into the UK. Contact them to see which of their wines they have left in stock.
Arbois Pinot Noir “C’est Max” 2014, Domaine Les Bottes Rouge, Arbois – Jean-Baptiste Menigoz seems to be cementing his fast-growing reputation as one of the new kids in Arbois, or to be more precise, Abergement-le-Petit (off the Route de Dôle, not far from Vadans, where I wrote about the wine festival back in early October). If you want a cracking fruity Pinot with a vibrant colour, packed with “cherries”, low in alcohol (11.5%), then this is for you.
Look for it at: This is another bottle from my September Jura trip, but Les Caves de Pyrene are importing Jean-Baptiste now. I’m not sure whether they have this cuvée, but I noticed that Doug has been drinking a few Bottes Rouge bouteilles recently, a good sign.
Savagnin-Chardonnay “Cuvée L’Automne” MV, Domaine de la Pinte, Arbois – This is quite an unusual cuvée. It contains 80% Savagnin from 2007 and 20% Chardonnay from 2009. The Savagnin is itself a blend of both ouillé and sous voile wines. It has that burnished yellow-gold colour of age and is wonderfully aromatic. The palate is quite exotic for Arbois too. I’d like to bang a gong for La Pinte. You may have read my tasting notes from my September visit. La Pinte is a fairly large producer, for the region, and they often get forgotten when we are gushing about the young guns. But they were one of the first organic domaines in the Jura, and their wines are improving all the time. The wines I chose to sample on that visit were all excellent.
Look for it at: Liberty Wines are the UK importer for Domaine de la Pinte, and so their wines have a reasonably good distribution around UK independents. However, they don’t, as far as I’m aware, import this wine. For that you’ll need to go to Arbois…but you were planning to anyway, were you not?
Kopin! Vin de France 2014, A & J-F Ganevat – Glougueule (see label) is a French natural wine website, Kopin is (in this particular instance) a cartoon character. If you think that the wine above is unusual, this is even more so. You probably know that Ganevat has been making negociant wines to help ameliorate grape shortages from recent tough harvests (his Gamay from the Beaujolais will spring to mind). Well, here he’s blended around 70% Chardonnay from both Jura and Macon sources with near to 30% biodynamic Alsace Riesling. It’s an unusual blend but believe me, it’s brilliant. Made for knocking back, no more, no less.
Look for it at: Quite widely available around London, although one main stockist, Roberson, are clean out at the moment. My bottle came from Solent Cellar (Lymington).
BEST OF THE REST
Beaujolais-Villages 2015, Karim Vionnet – We’re frankly spoilt for choice with new beaujolais producers. Karim is especially identified with continuing the philosopy of the original “gang of four” (Lapierre, Thévenet, Foillard and Breton) who, in many ways, were both behind this region’s undoubted revival in the 21st Century, as well as the natural wine movement itself (with a little help from the Loire etc). This cuvée is one of my favourites from this Morgon-based producer. It’s a pretty perfect “Villages” really. It’s packed with fruit, set off by lively acidity. Distinctive cherry notes combine with a little backbite, so absolutely no bubblegum softness here, and for my palate, it’s drinking perfectly now. The senior cuvées have a bit more structure, and those 2015s need keeping a bit longer. This one’s a cracker.
Look for it at: Outside of Paris, he’s hard to source, but Winemakers Club have some at the moment.
R/SM 2016, Brash Higgins, McLaren Vale, Australia – Another unusual blend (Riesling and Semillon) from one of Australia’s most exciting wine regions. It’s a field blend where the two elements seem to mesh together perfectly. There’s the lime signature of classic South Australian dry Riesling which gives the lift of, as its maker says, a fresh margarita. Supporting this table top you have the legs of lemon-fresh Semillon, which also seems to give a little weight and just a tiny touch of puppy fat. Altogether very nice. There’s a salinity which refreshes the palate, and adds versatility – aperitif, or wine for white meat salads and freshly cooked fish, for example.
Look for it at: Well, sadly, you won’t find it in the UK as there is currently no UK importer. A work in progress which I think may hopefully have a positive result in 2017. If you are in America, you may well already know these wines as they are available in many US outlets, with good distribution back home as well. The label enjoys being quite well known over there, and well known here too, despite lack of distribution. Rarely have I heard so many sighs and pleas when I told people I had some of Brad Hickey’s wines to taste. Especially his sous voile Chardonnay, Bloom, but that’s a story for next week.
Tête à Claques 2014, Mas Coutelou, Languedoc – This is the one wine not drunk at home from this set of notes. I was in Holborn on Wednesday, and couldn’t resist a cheeky lunch at Noble Rot in Lamb’s Conduit Street. I’m not generally in a habit of going to restaurants alone, but the friend I was meeting had to dash off, and Noble Rot have just started a brilliant value set lunch – two courses for £16, three for £20. On Wednesday the main course was a generous chunk of ox cheek with mash and leaves in a rich gravy.
This blend of Syrah with Grenache and Cinsault, from the village of Puimisson, not far from Béziers, was a perfect match. The Syrah is bright and, on the nose, quite obviously Syrah. Under this you have nice, plumply fruity, Grenache. The Cinsault adds perfume, and maybe a bit of herbs and spice. Colours to the mast here, I’m a very big fan of Jeff Coutelou’s wines. I’ve seen a review of this (limited edition, I believe, I don’t think it appears on the Mas Coutelou web site) cuvée which describes it as spritzy. None of that here, served in a nice big glass. In fact, Coutelou’s wines are usually exemplary and don’t display the so-called common faults associated with some (increasingly few, I find) natural wines. This has both elegance and body, and it’s actually the best Languedoc red I’ve had all year. I really have to get myself down there some time. £7 for a larger (125ml) glass, and an excellent lunch deal as well. I’m not sure there’s any left in the UK at the moment, so pop into Noble Rot…seats seem available at lunch time.