This post brings us up to mid-April, as I attempt to catch up on the most interesting wines I’ve been drinking at home this year. Beginning with a couple of Austrians from Newcomer Wines (hoping to pop in there next week), it’s mainly crazy Europeans, except for the last, a solitary representative from Vermont.
Anyway, time is short, and with the Real Wine Fair, plus what I hope will be a very exciting Savoie Tasting with Wink Lorch just a few days away, I’d better crack on with these.
Puszta Libre 2015, Claus Preisinger, Austrian Rotwein – As you probably know by now, Claus is based in Gols, towards the northern end of the Neusiedlersee (eastern side), but this wine, in its tall, thin, bottle is labelled merely as a table wine equivalent. The label tells us to serve it “Gekühlt” (self-evidently “chilled”), which it certainly warrants. It’s a lively and fruity mixture of Zweigelt, Pinot Noir and St-Laurent, seeming to blend raspberries and cherries on nose and palate with a touch of spice. It slips down easily, and my note says “adorable”, which it is. Just 12% abv, so think of it like a really good straight Beaujolais and you’ll get the idea.
Blaufränkisch “Tochter” 2015, Andreas Nittnaus, Gols (Burgenland) – Andreas is brother to Martin, with whom he also makes wine, and he’s one of several producers with the same surname close to Gols (a real hotbed for Newcomer Wines producers these days). This “daughter” is dark, quite smoky at first before its very concentrated darker fruit enters the nose. The palate is initially quite grippy, but when it opens it becomes smooth textured. Its 13% alcohol gives it weight, yet it isn’t heavy. A very nice Burgenland Blaufränkisch, though labelled as a “Österreichischer Biowein”. Whereas the Preisinger wine (above) is definitely for drinking now, this wine will evolve if left a while, though also very tasty now.
Gentil de Katz 2015, Clément Klur, Katzenthal (Alsace) – Composed of Pinots Blanc and Gris, plus Gewurztraminer, this is a straw yellow Alsace blend of a style which had pretty much gone out of fashion. Once called “Edelzwicker”, a blend of noble grape varieties, and produced in large commercial quantities, I first came across a refined version of the label “Gentil” on the delicious Hugel blend from the Sporen vineyard (today, designated Grand Cru). Now “Gentil” has been appropriated by quite a few natural wine talents, and the noble blend is back with a vengeance.
This wine tastes somehow both old fashioned and modern. Biodynamic, just off-dry, it has a certain richness on the palate (13% abv), and nice fruit and floral aromas (including, perhaps, orange blossom). The back label suggests it will keep for five years, though this 2015 is delicious now. I wouldn’t serve it too cold as the aromas and flavours really developed as it warmed up, as did its gentle complexity. You may remember me writing about Klur’s Crémant, so definitely a name to watch in a region brimming over with new young talent. This came from Solent Cellar.
Côtes du Jura 2010, Domaine Macle, Château-Chalon (Jura) – This is a classic for anyone who has been drinking these from the 2010 vintage, though I imagine most have been drunk by now. Like Roulot’s 2010 Bourgogne Blanc, this is a wine people haven’t been able to get enough of. I think this was my last one.
Some would consider Macle the pre-eminent producer of this village’s famous Vin Jaune style, Château-Chalon. Here we have a lovely table wine, blending Chardonnay and Savagnin. It has a fresh citrus nose with a hint of apple, and the palate finishes slightly nutty, from the Savagnin, rather than oxidative winemaking. It has developed a rounded richness on the palate over its evolution in bottle, but it retains an almost firm minerality. Best of all is its amazing length. A very impressive wine from one of the Jura’s best addresses.
“Forks & Knives” 2014, Milan Nestarec, Moravské (Czech Rep) – This is the white version of Milan’s “Forks & Knives” wine. The previous bottle was a bit spritzy, yet this was flat. I’m not sure whether I preferred the version with a little CO2 present, but this one was still pretty nice though, and I mention it here to encourage others to try the wines of this excellent, and committed, Czech producer.
The rather obscure grape variety here is Neuburger. It makes a yellow-gold wine which, when it warms a little, gives out a fruity and floral bouquet, with a nicely soft and fruity palate. It’s sealed under crown cap, and comes in a light red/pinkish version too (made from Suché). The white, bottled unfiltered (so expect it to be cloudy unless you stand it up for a while) is a simple thirst quencher with appley fruit. Possibly not for everyone, but gaining quite a following since appearing at Raw Wine in London in 2016. Nice bright label too.
Terroir du Léman (Un Matin Face au Lac) 2015, Vin des Allobroges IGP, Les Vignes de Paradis (Savoie) – The producer behind Les Vignes de Paradis is the talented Dominique Lucas. This wine is from Ballaison, overlooking Lake Geneva on the French side, just east of Geneva. The grape variety is Chasselas, mirroring the wines on the Swiss Vaud on the opposite shore. Dominique, a Burgundian by birth, also has a small domaine just outside Pommard, up in the Hautes-Côtes, from where he makes a deliciously fruity Burgundy called “Nectar de Pinot Noir”.
Dominique’s Savoie operation is not large. He made just 3,000 bottles of this 2015 Chasselas, in an experimental cellar stocked with various amphorae and concrete eggs. As with pretty much most Chasselas, it’s a fairly neutral wine to begin with. It has a bit more weight, and a bit less acidity, than many of the Vaud wines I mentioned, and indeed than the slightly pétillant Crépy wines, nearby (one of the several small French AOCs making Chasselas wines of various levels of quality from near the lake). But it also has texture, and a touch more complexity, although over all it majors on simply being delicious and fresh. It’s a very impressive wine, which sort of creeps up on you, unawares.
I bought this bottle directly from Terroirs Restaurant in London (but available direct from Caves de Pyrene), and bought the Pinot Noir from Ten Green Bottles in Brighton.
Frappato 2014, Terre Siciliane IGP, COS – COS is the result, as many of you will know by now, of a holiday collaboration between three school friends way back in 1980. The COS philosophy has changed down the years, and today’s wines are natural, and some of the most beautiful and poised wines on the island of Sicily. The estate is near to Vittoria, Ragusa and Modica, in the southeast.
Although COS are famous for their amphora wines, their pure Frappato is fermented in stainless steel, and aged in cement tanks. It’s a vibrant, palish red with a bouquet that sings of red fruits (strawberries, redcurrants, cranberries), with a slightly earthy finish which often makes people wonder whether it has seen the inside of a terracotta vessel. I’ve been in love with the wines of COS for many years, and I regularly change my mind as to which of their cuvées I like best. The Frappato always has its turn.
Müller-Thurgau 2015, Stefan Vetter, Franken – Franken, or Franconia to some, is the source of some excellent wines, both white and red, although it deserves to be better known in the UK. What it has not previously been known for is fine wine from this particular, much maligned, variety. It is true that Müller-Thurgau does have its stars. I’m sure there are readers who can name at least a couple from Northeastern Italy, and some may have come across a once famous wine from the eastern end of Lake Geneva. But in Germany it is infamous for the sugar water which almost destroyed that country’s wine industry (and “industrial” it was).
Vetter is based at Iphofen, a wine village not far from Würzburg (to the southeast). This may be the most expensive German M-T you’ll have tasted (around £30 from Winemakers Club), but believe me, it is good. Flowery scented, it has nice extract and has gentle fruit. It comes in at a mere 10.5% alcohol too, very refreshing. Stefan Vetter also makes a range of extremely good Sylvaners, perhaps more of a mainstream variety in Franken. They are even more expensive, but their place on some very special restaurant wine lists should vouch for the quality.
L’Etoile 2010, Domaine de Montbourgeau (Jura) – L’Etoile is a very small and perhaps little known Jura appellation, close to Lons-le-Saunier. Its name (and that of the village at the centre of this AOC) comes from the star-shaped fossils found all over the vineyards. This nine hectare estate is run by Nicole Deriaux, the third generation of her family to make wine here.
L’Etoile is perhaps most famous for its Chardonnay, which from this estate can be particularly fine, but the Savagnin here is lovely too. It has a real purity, and a sort of crystalline texture, with a little spice, rather than the quintessential nutty flavours of Savagnin from other Jura AOCs. It’s also nice to taste a wine that combines the mellowness of maturity, with the fresh, slightly more mineral, texture from this special terroir. This is a producer who has garnered plenty of praise, but not yet enough, I think.
Grace & Favour 2014, La Garagista, Vermont – The Real Wine Fair is upon us this weekend, and it was at the 2016 Fair that I drank my first wines from the State of Vermont, including this rather lovely sparkler. The grape variety is La Crescent, descended from Black Hambourg, which is the variety of “The Great Vine” at Hampton Court, the Tudor Palace, just outside London. Grace and Favour apartments there are rented free to elderly Royal functionaries (former Ladies in Waiting etc), so this wine is a homage to Hampton Court.
Dierdre Heekin and Caleb Barber practice polyculture farming, with vineyards close to Lake Champlain, in northern Vermont. They are committed to American native vines from vitis riparia and lambrusca, along with some vinifera crosses. I recall Doug Wregg on the Caves de Pyrene (the importer) Blog saying that when tasting these grapes you really do begin to question the hierarchy of noble varieties. I seem to have that experience so often. Committed viticulture and winemaking from good terroir always trumps semi-industrial production, whatever the grape variety, and many a lesser known grape variety affords a wealth of new flavours.
Anyway, the wine…it’s fairly orange in colour, and if truth be told, somewhat like a very refined sparkling cider. That might put off the scoffing anti-natural wine bore, yet the palate is very clean and precise. It’s unfiltered, so cloudy if stored horizontally, with plenty of particulate yeast matter (er, bits) in the bottom of the bottle. But at the end of the day, it delivers a mouthwateringly refreshing glass, which is clearly wine, yet has the flavour of a crisp Braeburn apple, with a mere 11.5% alcohol. A slightly unusual wine, for sure, but I’ve met plenty of people who’ve tried it, and not one has failed to shout its praises.