As usual, I’m way behind in describing the best I’ve been drinking at home, but I hope that the selection below will make interesting reading. But first I do want to mention Solent Cellar‘s Sicilian Evening last Friday. It’s because the COS Zibibbo 2014 made an appearance, in magnum, again. This is the wine which more people claimed as their “wine of the day” at the Real Wine Fair this year than any other.
It amply lived up to its billing, although some people found the amphora textures a little different. The nose is beautiful Muscat (flowery and grapey), but you can see from the colour that it will have texture from the ageing “in pithos” (amphora). Because the grape variety has that grapey, floral, nose you might not expect what comes on the palate, but over time it evolves into one of the most complex Muscats immaginable (Zibibbo is a synonym for the Muscat of Alexandria strain). Doug Wregg, of importer Les Caves de Pyrène, described this on IG as “sensational”, and it really is.
After that, COS’ delicious Nero di Lupo (Nero d’Avola) had a tough job, but acquitted itself well (as always, in the lighter and astonishingly fragrant style which often comes as a surprise to those used to “big boy” Neros). As did a Ciro Rosso Classico Superiore from Antonie Scala. This is a delicious organic version of the rare Calabrian grape Gaglioppo. With typical Southern Italian body, black fruits and plums, it is smooth, but also balanced. Great value at £14, somewhat less expensive than the Zibibbo! Among other wines by the glass they also had Vino di Anna Palmento, but I’ve had quite a few bottles of that this year. And as the rain was biblical, the reds seemed more appropriate. But if you need some more pinks for the summer weather when it returns, Solent Cellar have a pretty good selection.
Pasta with Sicilian toppings was by Bedda Co of Winchester.
We’re heading back a couple of months now, to one of the best wines I’ve drunk all year, in terms of value for money at least. Arbois Chardonnay “Les Amants” 2011, Domaine A&M Tissot is not, as far as I know, available in the UK, and the 2011 has sold out at the producer. But this is a reminder of how good Jura Chardonnay can be without reaching for a bottle of “Tour de Curon“. It really is gorgeous right now, mainly defined by its mineral line, but not without a little richness. It’s a blend of top parcels off the characteristic clays of Arbois, with some vines on limestone. There’s tension between butter, citrus and hazelnuts, and it’s oh so long.
I mentioned I’d bought some to a friend. Instead of saying thanks for the recommendation, he rather stunned me by his reply: “It is rather good, isn’t it. I went long on magnums”. To which I can only answer “looks like I’m a fool again, I don’t like it” (with apologies to Tom Petty). Why didn’t I…………
Cabronicus 2016, Bodega Cauzón
This is one of the gems imported by Otros Vinos. Made by Ramón Saavedra at Cortes-y-Graena in Andalucia, this became a firm favourite after my Granada trip last year, though I had already met Ramón and tried a couple of his wines earlier in 2016. As the name suggests, it’s made by carbonic maceration, giving a wine both earthy and fruity. It comes off sandy alluvial soils up to 1,000m up the north side of the Sierra Nevada, where temperatures are kept in check by altitude and cool nights. This nevertheless reaches 13%. The fruit is pure bright cherry and strawberry, and is (we think!) 100% Tempranillo. Saavedra is a bit of a guru, in the mould of Stefano Belotti. Strictly no additives, just grapes and possibly spiders. Otros Vinos sell by mail order, but you can find many of their wines at Furanxo deli in Dalston.
Grenache “A Tribute to Grace” 2013 (Lot 1, Los Olivos), Angela Osborne, Santa Barbara Highlands
This was tricky to track down, but Roberson had a bottle left. The quality is just as high as I’d been led to believe. Quite alcoholic (14.5%), yet it didn’t taste like a big wine, the fruit was developed plums overlain with red summer fruits. Very long, not in a way that showed massive complexity, but rather a wine with amazing fruit to the fore.
Angela is a New Zealander making wine in California, and this wine is a tribute to her grandmother. You can read all about her in Jon Bonné‘s The New Claifornia Wine. You really should try this!
“Ancestral” 2015, Claus Preisinger, Burgenland
You know Claus, of course. He’s one of my favourite producers, based in Gols at the northern end of the Neusiedlersee. Only last night was I drinking his deliciously quaffable Zweigelt. This is, as it says on the tin, a ancestral method bottle-fermented sparkler, unusual in that it is made from the Saint-Laurent grape variety, vinified as a white wine. It has a sort of bronzy hue, very fresh on the nose, very dry, quite acidic, but in a refreshing way. Simple, of course, but the kind of wine that, were I a bit younger, I could say “really smashes it” without causing too many chortles. Available from Newcomer Wines (until it’s gone!).
Forks & Knives Red 2014, Milan Nestarec, Moravia
This Czech producer is getting a bit of a reputation in the UK. This companion to the white Forks & Knives is really a dark pink, gently sparkling, light wine made from a grape variety called Suché. The sparkle has diminished to a gentle fizz, but I still really liked it (in fact, a bit more than the white version). The fruit is juicy and soft, and there’s enough acidity to give it lift. I would like to try a recent bottling, though I’m not just adding it here because of the label – it’s tasty as well as unusual. Newcomer Wines import Nestarec.
Cseresznyeérés 2014, HegyiKaló, Hungary
Another wonderful wine from this equally wonderful estate at Eger. Adam and Julia make wines which, more than anything, I’d describe as beguiling. Not that they are always as haunting as this one. Cloudy pale red, with a bouquet of red fruits and tea, the palate is quite soft and the fruit lingers forever. Serve it just chilled (but not too cold) and savour it. Its simplicity and purity is its complexity, if you know what I mean. Winemakers Club import HegyiKaló. All their wines are worth trying, but this is a little different. Let it grow in the glass.
Vino Tinto , Pvrvlio, Alpujarras
Another wine from Granada Province, made as a simple table wine by Torcuato Huertas whose vines, like Cauzón, are on the north side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, in this case the Valle de Alhama. After making wine for home consumption and helping out at Barranco Oscuro, he planted just three hectares on red clay, at altitudes between 900m and 1,200m. Like that previous wine (Cauzón), the vines benefit from temperature reduction at night. There is very little rainfall here. Like so many of these natural wines from this region (there are exceptions, for sure) it doesn’t feel as alcoholic as the 13% on the label, but then 13% is quite restrained for Southern Spain. These mountains make wonderful wine terroir. Once more, no additives. Otros Vinos, again, is the importer.
Rosé for Albane NV, Pierre Péters, Champagne
I’ve written about the stunning Péters Cuvée Les Chetillons a few times in the past year. It ranks as one of my favourite of all Prestige Cuvées. For Albane is a cuvée I’d not tried before. They take their signature Chardonnay, from some of their top sites, and blend in a little rosé de saignée, making a wine between salmon pink and orange-pink, very attractive. Fresh and “mineral”, with delicate red fruit, framed by a very fine bead. A very elegant pink Champagne, I really loved it and will buy more. From Solent Cellar (not currently on their web site but I swear they had some at the weekend).
Red Bulles Vin de France, Domaine des Bodines, Arbois
Alexis and Emilie Porteret’s provocatively names pétillant naturel pink sparkler is bone dry but packed with ripe and concentrated red fruits (redcurrant, pomegranate and raspberry), with a mineral note, and perhaps the faintest earthy texture. It’s made from Ploussard in Arbois. The bubbles are persistent, the producers are really nice, all their wines are delicious…phew! I’ve written about this couple enough not to repeat it all again here, and for them to have a UK importer by now, so thank you Les Caves de Pyrène. Walking distance from Arbois if you are in the region.
Côtes du Jura 2012, François Mossu
Mossu is one of the old timers of the region, but almost unknown in the UK (unlike his peers, Overnoy and Puffeney). In Jura he’s known as “The Pope of Vin de Paille”, and it’s hard to argue anyone makes a more complex and concentrated version of that rare sticky. He’s based at Voiteur, one of the villages in the Château-Chalon AOC. This wine is a traditional Savagnin, biologically aged under flor, so it has nutty depth, but also surprising lightness, plus citrus-mineral freshness. Just 12.5%. Really good. No UK importer as far as I’m aware, this one came from the domaine, via very kind friends who visited recently (as a thankyou for my recommendation).
Côtes du Jura “La Cabane” Pinot Noir 2016, Les Dolomies
I’ve wanted to visit Céline and Steve Gormally for a couple of years, but have never quite made it to Passenans, not far from Lons-le-Saunier in the southern part of the region. They only have a few hectares, but their reputation is growing. This has raspberry/strawberry scents with smooth, juicy, fruit. Light, yet not lacking for body (only 11% abv), it’s a perfect vin de soif. I have an idea there may be a UK importer this year, fingers crossed. I also have their Trousseau “En Rollion” to try soon.
Blaufränkisch “Rusterwald” 2011, Heidi Schröck, Rust (Burgenland)
Rust is a beautiful town on the western shore of the Neusiedlersee, famous for its summer nesting stork population, and chocolate box houses. Heidi is one of Austria’s most welcoming winemakers, and this Blaufränkisch is concentrated cherries, dark and smooth now, with great length. Savoury, but not lacking in fruit, with more body than her entry level version of the grape. I’ve never not adored a Heidi Schröck wine, but I warn you, I’m biased. From Alpine Wines.