I’d fallen into writing a series of ongoing articles on “recent wines”, those I’ve been drinking at home. Not necessarily the poshest wines at all, but those I thought you’d enjoy reading about. But 2017 has really taken off in terms of the number of wine events I’m attending, and as we head into mid-April I haven’t written one since December last year.
So, catch-up time. I’d fallen into the habit of keeping these pieces to eight wines, but despite some heavy culling, I will stretch to twenty wines in order to bring us up-to-date. Don’t worry, I’ll split them into two articles over the next couple of weeks. The following bottles were drunk at home during January and February 2017. The next part will bring us up to Easter.
I hope you enjoy reading about my usual eclectic mix. I hate missing out a lot of very good wines, many of them being a bit too “classic” or, dare I say it, normal, for the many wine aficionados who I know read Wide World of Wine regularly. All of these wines below are worth seeking out, with the usual caveat that I’m talking here to the more adventurous wine lover. Let’s face it, who else reads my Blog?
“Simone” 2014, Vin de France, Julie Balagny (Beaujolais)
Julie’s wines just speak to me. I have been buying them in Paris for a few years, and continue to do so, but I shared a case after tasting this at the Tutto Wines tasting at Ducksoup in Soho last October (which you can search for quite easily on the Blog).
This particular wine is usually a “Fleurie”, but in the 2014 vintage the fermentation stuck and Julie had to restart it with some must from 2015. It’s not completely unusual. I know a young Jura grower who had a similar problem. So Vin de France it is. Light in colour, this is still vibrant cherry juice, with fruit and freshness (and just 12.5% abv). In fact it’s so fruity you forget it’s alcoholic, almost. Tutto will always sell out of Balagny’s wines as they are so sought after. But it’s worth asking.
Crémant d’Alsace Brut, Clément Klur
Klur is one of several new Alsace discoveries for me. He is based in Katzenthal, just a few kilometres more or less east of Colmar. Clément does like his slogans. This unsulphured sparkler, for instance, he calls “Crémant de Clément”, and his little quip “Klur, c’est Pur” on the back labels sums up his philosophy in the vineyard and cellar. This has fine bubbles, quite a floral nose, dry on the palate with apple and brioche, finishing with a citrus intensity. Klur is distributed in the UK by Alliance Wine, and mine was purchased from Solent Cellar (Lymington).
Allegro 2013, Castagna, Beechworth
Beechworth, in Victoria, is one of Australia’s most exciting wine regions, and ought to be seen as one of its most prestigious. Giaconda may well be the most famous of the wine estates here, but Castagna, along with producers like Sorrenberg, is not far behind. This wine is a rosé made from 100% Syrah, and if truth be known I was a little worried by its age. It’s not unknown, given the random mix of single bottles I own, for wines to get forgotten, as this one had. It was one of several wines I purchased after a tasting with Julian Castagna a couple of years ago (it was with the reds, which continue to age, gracefully I hope).
The Castagna vineyards in Beechworth are farmed biodynamically, and this wine is full of biodynamic life, even after three-and-a-half years post-harvest. Dark salmon pink in colour, the bouquet is quite evolved, both fruity but also hauntingly floral (violet). The palate was still very fresh, it has held up rather well. I include this here because Castagna is known for very fine red wines, and this is something rather different. A pink to match with Asian-Pacific food, perhaps. Altogether a lovely surprise.
Saint-Véran 2015, Domaine de la Croix Senaillet, Macon
This is a domaine unknown to me before a friend gave me this bottle. Richard and Stéphane Martin farm 25 plots on the slopes around Davayé. They make wines within the AOCs of Pouilly-Fuissé, Pouilly-Vinzelles and Macon-Davayé, along with six or seven St-Véran cuvées. This is their sulphur free bottling, from vines grown on limestone and clay, and made in oak.
It was very good indeed, a Southern Burgundy of real beauty. It opened a little dumb, but after ten minutes was really singing. There’s not masses of acidity, but the fruit is very ripe and the richness just seemed in balance. This is the sort of wine for which you pull out a word like “harmonious” and know it’s not being misused. The lack of acidity makes it seem a little understated, but its qualities build as you drink it, stopping just short of a crescendo. Not a wine for a grand Burgundy dinner, more one to surprise two or three genuine lovers of White Burgundy on a Wednesday or Thursday evening.
La Bruja de Rozas 2015, Comando G
An Instagram friend was asking me about wineries nearest to Madrid the other day. These guys may be an hour or so away, but if you want to try some of Spain’s most exciting wines right now, then the Gredos is one of the places to head for. Comando G is the joint venture between Daniel Jiménez Landi, Fernando Garcia (Marañones) and Marc Isart (Bernabeleva). As individuals they make the finest wines in the region, and in Comando G (the G is for Garnacha), they have revolutionised their chosen grape, turning it from jammy blockbuster into something fruity and pure.
“La Bruja” is labelled Vinos de Madrid, and comes from the Valle del Tiétar in the Sierra de Gredos. In fact, whilst Comando G make several wines from very tiny parcels, genuine terroir wines of Grand Cru quality (and prices), this is their “village wine”, from vineyards around Rozas del Puerto Real. The grapes are grown on granite at around 850 metres altitude, surely one of the key reasons these wines have a purity so rarely found in the past in Garnacha/Grenache wines.
It has a darkish colour, some tannins, and lots of concentration. I’d recently had a corked bottle of the 2014, so this bottle made up for it several times over. This will age a little, but it doesn’t have to. It’s a super wine and pretty exceptional value for money, the perfect introduction to the range. You can read about more Comando G wines, and also the wines of Daniel Landi, in my Viñateros writeup here.
Regnié 2014, Antoine Sunier
Many readers will have come across the wines of Julien Sunier. Antoine is his brother. Julien started making wine in 2008, and soon got spotted for his lovely Morgon, Fleurie and Regnié (working with Jasper Morris MW). Antoine’s wines are a more recent addition to the Beaujolais canon (2013), with most of his small holding of around five hectares being in Regnié.
Both Julien and Antoine make lovely Regnié, and in fact their wines have done much to raise the profile of this most recent addition to the Beaujolais Crus. If both make very good Regnié, and indeed I read someone recently suggesting that their Regniés might be their best wines, how do they differ? It is said that Antoine’s version is a little darker and a little more intense.
On the evidence of this 2014, it is very fruity indeed, the hallmark of the wines of all of the young generation of Beaujolais producers. Fermentation begins as a carbonic maceration, but then proceeds with punching down, as in what some call the Burgundian style. Antoine aims for a wine which has depth and terroir expression, and indeed he succeeds (not that I could claim to identify Regnié terroir myself). But for me, the essence of this wine is that it is light(ish) and fruity, exhibiting all the positives of a sulphur free natural wine, and the characteristics of this lighter Beaujolais Cru. Or, in fewer words, it’s simply delicious.
Fledermaus NV Deutscher Landwein, 2Naturkinder
Melanie Drese and Michael Voelker aver to make wines inspired by Alice Feiring’s definition of Natural Wine – “wine with the intent of nothing added and nothing taken away”. They worked in publishing (including in London, where they first got bitten by the natural wine bug), before taking over Michael’s father’s vines in Kitzingen, just east of Würzburg, in Franken (Franconia), Germany. They make several cuvées, this one being a blend of around 75% Müller-Thurgau with 25% Silvaner.
Cloudy and darkish yellow, this is going to put a lot of people off, at a guess. It’s cloudy because it’s unfiltered, and yellow because of skin contact. It comes off limestone soils, and other than the skin contact (in stainless steel), its vinification is not remarkable. It has undergone its malolactic, and it comes out with just 11.5% abv.
The nose is hard to describe as well, neither fruity nor herby. Perhaps it’s stone fruit you get? The palate is also rather hard to describe, because there’s both austerity and softness, which strangely cohabit in the same mouthful.
I’m sure that by now a couple of readers will be running scared, but it’s this slightly odd palate which frankly makes this wine, if not unique, one of a small bunch of hard to describe wines which leave some of us so irrepressibly fascinated.
The name comes from the fertiliser used on the vines, harvested from a local bat colony. I drank their equally edgy Bat-Nat pét-(b)nat, made from Pinot Meunier (Schwarzriesling) at our Oddities Christmas Lunch (at Brunswick House) in December, and was equally enthralled. I know fellow blogger Simon Reilly (www.wineloon.com) is a fan, he wrote about them in December last year, and was really the person who sparked my interest. 2Naturkinder wines can be found at small importer Wines Under the Bonnet.
Pinot Noir “Cuvée Julien” 2010, Côtes du Jura, J-F Ganevat
This is Ganevat’s simple entry level domaine Pinot Noir, but I kept a bottle to see how it would age. It probably wasn’t a big risk, based on the chosen vintage and the ability of J-F’s domaine wines to age well generally. The colour was vibrant pale red and the bouquet smelt intensely of raspberries. We are not looking at a kind of Burgundian complexity here, but more the kind of fruit-centred pleasure one hopes for with a Bourgogne Rouge from the finest domaines. But this cuvée does have the advantage of fairly old vines, planted in 1977 on Ganevat’s limestone/clay soils near La Combe, south of Lons-le-Saunier in the Revermont (a region between Jura and L’Ain).
What this wine dishes out is vivacity. At more than six years old, and with no added sulphur to protect it, you’d be hard pushed to nail this as a natural wine, I think. You shouldn’t expect complexity, as I said, but with its mouth filling fruit and very long and persistent finish, this is something quite magnificent in its simplicity. Perhaps it is in the wines at this level, rather than in the expensive masterpieces, that Jean-François best demonstrates his magicianship? If you ever were to buy wine after just looking at its colour in the glass, this might be the one.
“Mauvais Temps” 2013, IGP Aveyron, Nicolas Carmarans
The Aveyron is, without question, one of the most beautiful regions of France. It is also one of her poorest, most rural and, sadly, least well known to both tourists and wine lovers. Perhaps if I mention Marcillac, it will place Aveyron on the map a little more clearly?
What I can say without exaggeration about Nicolas Carmarans is that he is a very fine winemaker. After meeting him and his wife a year ago, I can also say that they are two of the nicest winemakers I’ve met, and nice winemakers is a pretty large field, is it not.
Carmarans used to own and run the Café de la Nouvelle Marie, one of the forerunners of the natural wine scene in Paris. Bitten by the bug he eventually moved to Campouriez, his old ancestral home village, near the former VDQS of Entraygues-et-Le Fel.
Mauvais Temps is the name of the vineyard, once a 20 hectare vine-clad slope until the devastating frosts of 1956. The land up here is mountainous, mostly on schist with some sands. The soils are largely volcanic in origin, near the edge of the Causse d’Aubrac. Most of the hillsides are covered in forest now, but they used to be covered in vines, making wine to slake the thirst of the coalmining industry. Coal mining has all but died out now, but it began around the town of Decazeville as early as the sixteenth century (the last mine closed in 2001, but I do remember small miner’s cottages in the late 1980s).
This red, the lightest in the range, is comprised 40% Négret de Banhars, 50% Fer Servadou (Mansois) and 10% Cabernet Franc, made by semi-carbonic maceration in conical wooden vats, after which it spent 12 months in old barriques. The resulting wine is light, but not simple, has only 11% abv, and is lovely. Pure grippy dark fruits sums it up, along with a soft concentration. It’s the kind of wine where one bottle is not enough. I wonder whether Nicolas has considered magnums…?
Just writing about this wine makes me yearn to go back to this beautiful part of France…and, of course, to visit Les Carmarans.
Chardonnay Vielles Vignes 2012, Vin de Pays de Franche-Comté, Vignoble Guillaume
Guillaume is probably best known to French winemakers as one of the country’s best vine nurserymen, Pépinières Guillaume. Their operations are based in Charcenne, near Gy. But they are also the largest producers of what used to be called Vins de Pays de Franche-Comté (now IGP), Franche-Comté being the French region in which you will find Jura. Their range is surprisingly large (more than twenty wines are stocked by Theatre of Wine in London), perhaps a result of the large number of grape varieties grown by the nursery side of the business. One of the best wines in the range is a Vin Jaune lookalike called Cuvée des Archevêques, made from Savagnin, well worth asking for if you visit one of Theatre of Wine’s three shops in Greenwich, Tufnell Park or Leytonstone.
The best value in the range, in my opinion, is to be found in the two Vielles Vignes wines, a Pinot Noir and a Chardonnay. This Chardonnay is dark straw in colour. The bouquet is quite nutty (hazelnuts), with a citrus note on top. The palate is fresher. It’s more Jura than Burgundy, very much a country wine with a little rusticity, fascinating. The Reserve wines come with ageing in new oak and are altogether different. They are also approaching £10 more expensive. I think I prefer these VV cuvées, although they are more of the type for recommending to those who want to seek out something unusual, rather than the out-and-out you must try it recommendation for the Carmarans wine above.