The sudden realisation that if I don’t write about some recent wines soon, we shall be into the festive flurry, reminded me I do have a few exceptionally tasty wines to tell you about. In clearing the decks, don’t think this means the wines I shall drink in the next couple of weeks will be far more expensive, nor in any way more festive. In our family, Christmas is no longer about pulling out old classics which no one other than me will want to drink, and in any case, more of the festive season will be spent driving to and from family than actually sitting down and drinking. The one time ritual of Champagne aperitif, an old red with the dinner, a dark dessert wine with the Xmas Pud, and an old Oloroso slumped in front of the TV, semi-comatose, will probably be replaced, on 25th, by a single bottle of red Bordeaux at home (and a nice long doze). It doesn’t matter that I don’t think Red Bordeaux goes all that well with Turkey – none of my family eat meat. But in any event, I’m sure any typical reader of my Blog would be pretty happy knocking back any of these wines over the festivities.
It was difficult, as ever, to choose my usual eight wines from those I’ve drunk at home in the past few weeks. Few bottles have been drunk which would fit the description “winter wines”, because temperatures have been unseasonably high (reaching around 14 degrees some days). This is illustrated by the first wine here, although it’s also true that most pét-nats are probably best drunk by the end of the year following their vintage, if not before (so I am prone to drinking a few up in December).
“Plouss’ Mouss” Pétillant Naturel, Hughes Beguet, Jura – I love Patrice’s pét-nat, but I can never get enough of it. Whenever I visit in September he only has a few bottles left and I’m naturally not allowed to clean him out. I actually decided to have this on my birthday. It’s the palest pink Ploussard, which starts off slightly appley, but as its bubbles turn to froth, this becomes redcurrants. It has that dry mineral edge which, despite its lightness (and low alcohol, 10.5%) means it will go beyond aperitif time. Light, refreshing, you don’t want it to finish…magnums please, Patrice? Purchased from the producer.
Brut de Cuve  Vin de France, Romain des Grottes – This is one of the wines I picked up in Paris on my Beaujolais Nouveau trip, which I mentioned in that previous article (see here if you haven’t read it). Effectively this is a Nouveau, a Gamay from near Odenas, biodynamic and unsulphured and, as Romain says, “produit…sans cochonnerie”. This has that slightly appley note which some people don’t appreciate with natural wines, but I will stress that here it is a long way from the cider vinegar notes which spoil some wines. This is fruity, fresh and tasty, a vin de soif without artifice. Purchased from Cave des Papilles (Rue Daguerre, Paris 14).
Arbois Chardonnay 2012, Domaine des Bodines – “Natural wines don’t age”. Bo****ks! I have a real liking for Domaine des Bodines, and they are rapidly moving onto my “Arbois A-List” too (which is very select, I can tell you). Emilie and Alexis’ Chardonnay had a golden orange tinge, suggestive of a little skin contact, and it isn’t 100% clear of cloudiness. The nose is apples and oranges, quite elegant. The palate has a pleasant hint of lees (I can hear the traditionalists clicking their mouse to exit at this point). It’s light but not wimpy, and both flavour and complexity grow with air in the glass (a Zalto Universal for a wine like this, not a White Burgundy bowl). A truly satisfying bottle where bouquet and palate combine with true harmony. Don’t serve too cold. Purchased in Poligny this time.
Magma Rock “LMR15”, Vincent Marie/Domaine No Control, Vin de France (Auvergne) – This is Vince’s Auvergnat Gamay, made from a 25-year-old parcel grown at 430 metres altitude in Beauregard Vendon (Volvic). Whole bunch fermented in a conical wooden tank with daily punchdowns and no chemical inputs, except plenty of protective CO2. That carbon dioxide froths up a little on opening and some is dissolved in the wine. It does dissipate. The fruit is supple cherry with a “volcanic” bite. There’s a tiny touch of the Lambrusco about it on first sip. It’s light, fruity, sappy, delicious. I’ve seen quite a bit of Vince’s stuff on social media, labels on Instagram etc, but so far this is the first of his wines I’ve tasted. I’m definitely searching for more. Purchased from Solent Cellar, Lymington (Hants). If in Paris try Cave des Papilles (see above).
Bérêche & Fils Brut Réserve NV – This was (I think) my last bottle of Raphael’s NV from the 2012 base. It was disgorged in July 2014 (so two years and four months pda), bottled at a dosage of 7g/l. It’s a blend of all three major Champagne varieties, grapes for the NV coming from Montagne and Marne plots. There’s a little colour from the ageing, but the nose is still piercingly mineral and refined. This is mirrored with a very fresh palate, there’s real precision here. As it warms it evolves. It’s a lovely wine, and although I admit a strong emotional attachment to the house of Bérêche, and a genuine admiration for the winemaker (there’s no grower I admire more in Champagne), I find this almost tear-inducingly good for a non-vintage wine. Purchased from the producer, Craon de Ludes.
Pinot Noir 2014, Elio Ottin, Vallée d’Aoste – Another emotional draw for me is the scenic National Park, the Gran Paradiso, which lies south of the Aosta Valley. The wines of the valley are often distinctive, and on average of a very high quality, which goes unrecognised due mainly to the tiny production of Italy’s smallest region (which can be labelled as either Val d’Aosta or Val d’Aoste, depending on the linguistic preference of the producer in this bi-lingual part of Savoy). This Pinot has a dark colour, 13.5% alcohol, a relatively simple cherry nose, and a palate which, whilst not complex, is nevertheless smooth. There’s more cherry fruit here, allied to a little tannin, giving a nice bit of grip. This may not be a spectacular wine in the context of World Pinot, but it’s very good indeed. There’s a positive review on Jancis’ Purple Pages if you need convincing. It is nice to see Prohibition Wines stocking it, but I understand Flint Wines may be importing it. More people ought to be drawn to trying some of the wonderful, and varied (both autochthonous and international grape varieties) wines from this beautiful place. Ottin’s Petite Arvine and Fumin (two of those more or less local varieties) are also very much worthy of attention, and both are stocked by Flint.
Via Revolucionaria Torrontés Brutal 2013, Passionate Wines (Matias Michelini), Mendoza, Argentina – This is one of a clutch of wines I sought out after Dave Stenton’s trip to Argentina earlier this year (see his article on this site here). I’d forgotten about it and when I saw the vintage I thought maybe I should drink it. It turned out to be in a really good place. It’s made from old pergola-trained vines in Tupungato, fermented in open top vessels with 100 days on skins. It then gets 18 months in barrel, which I don’t think get topped up (although I don’t personally get any strong flor notes?).
Orange in colour with really big legs (alcohol 13.5%), the most unusual thing about it was the nose. Torrontés is an aromatic variety, but the bouquet was a pure cross between Muscat and Gewurztraminer, with a real sweet and sour thing going on. Very much muscat grapey sweetness with eastern spice. The palate, by way of contrast, was bone dry, with a tannic mouthfeel from the skin maceration. There was a lot of texture, and a bitter note on the finish. This is the “brutal” side of the wine, because if anything, as it warmed up, it became even more floral. It also became much more complex, with so much going on for what is a relatively cheap wine (under £20 in the UK). Worth seeking out, this won’t be to everyone’s taste but if you want to try something genuinely different…Purchased in Selfridges Wine Dept, Oxford Street (London).
Mondeuse “La…deuse…” 2013, Gilles Berlioz, Savoie – Gilles Berlioz is based in Chignin, which is south of Chambéry in a sub-region known as the Combe de Savoie. If you imagine the Combe as a bent arm with the elbow furthest south, then Chignin lies a little west of its crook, where the River Isère changes direction. It’s a region famed for some of the best white wines in Savoie, labelled Chignin-Bergeron, but the reds are Vin de Savoie. Berlioz has added a dash of Persan (15%) to his Mondeuse, and it is deliberately made in what he claims is the old fashioned style, where alcohol levels were between 8-10 degrees (this one has 9.5%). The lightness of the wine allows the fruit intensity to shine. It’s lovely. I really don’t need to say more. It matches its stated purpose perfectly, a glugging wine which refreshes the palate. Perfection if four friends glug a large glass each in around ten minutes. The only drawback I can see is that it costs more than you might think, the inevitable result of UK duty and the difficulty of sourcing tiny production natural wines, and shipping them at a safe temperature. I got mine from Winemakers Club in Farringdon Road, although Vine Trail also list it.
A nice set of wines, every one the epitome of deliciousness and individuality. In fact I don’t think I’ve written about a more individual bunch of wines for some time.
I’m not sure how much I shall get to write over the Christmas period, but the diary for January holds some very nice trade tastings, one of which I may turn out to be especially good fun, so please stay “tuned” for the New Year. Festive and seasonal greetings to everyone who has been kind enough to read my blog.