This latest case of “wines drunk at home” is titled “Autumn”, but to be honest the weather has been so unseasonably warm recently that you would almost think it was summer here. In fact someone was laughing at me on social media for drinking the Partida Creus included here the other day. I’m not sure where they were at the time, but it was pushing past twenty degrees in Southern England, and for mid-October that’s remarkable. There’s a slight caveat on the “drunk at home” theme this time because three of these, at the end, were taken to dinner with some friends and family. I’m sure you’ll let me off.
Pét-Nat Vol 1 2015, Fuchs und Hase (Kamptal, Austria) – This is a collaborative effort between Martin and Anna Arndorfer (whose delicious Vorgeschmack blend didn’t quite make this case) and their friends and fellow Kamptal producers, Alwin and Stefanie Jurtschitsch. It’s a blend of Müller-Thurgau, Grüner Veltliner and Gelber Muskateller. It’s fermented on its skins and bottled whilst still fermenting. It’s certainly a simple wine, but that doesn’t mean it lacks a lovely bead and a good frothy mousse. Nor does it detract from a linear purity with mineral acidity and a little chalkiness on the palate. Glug it!
Pink Bulles XVI, Jean Maupertuis, St-Georges-sur-Allier – Another pét-nat, this time French. It’s an unfiltered pink made from Gamay. The nose is red fruits, and it starts out frothy at first. It’s another wine with a rapier-like spine of acidity, refreshing of course, but it’s the bags of fruit that balances it. Almost fruit juice (though it does have 11.5% abv). It gains in texture as you drink it, and that’s even before the yeast sediment arrives in the glass. Both this and the above wine came from Solent Cellar, although the Austrian is relatively widely available, and Noble Fine Liquor should still have some of this pink bubbles left. With the weather we’ve been having, I’d grab some, but to be honest it will taste just as good in the middle of winter.
Monopole Clásico Blanco Seco 2014, CVNE, Rioja – So, CVNE Monopole, has he gone mad? This certainly looks like the cheap white Rioja in the tall bottle, but the very observant would notice a small neck label proudly proclaiming “clásico”. This is a return to the methods used to make white Rioja at the company forty years ago. Blending Viura (90%) and Palomino, it is aged in old oak, and then the trick (for which special permission had to be obtained), there is an addition of a small amount of Manzanilla (sourced from Hidalgo) which adds bite, body and structure.
Whereas modern Monopole is pretty light and fruity, this is dry and saline (albeit with orchard fruits). More body and more complexity round this out, a wine with a genuine heritage. Production is quite small, I think, and this goes with a RRP of around £25. I managed to find some for £21, and so might you if you are canny. But even at £25 it would be money well spent.
Cortezado 2015, Fedellos do Couto, Ribeira Sacra – This wine, imported by Indigo, is described by one retailer as “one of the best values in Spain”, and whilst right now there would be an awful lot of challengers for that accolade, there is no doubt that for about £20 you get a cracking wine. It’s made, of course, from Mencia, coming from a single site on the steep slopes up to 500 metres above the Sill River in this beautiful part of Galicia.
It’s made in simple fashion with fermentation in steel and plastic, and ageing in large, old, wood. Its character comes from those slopes of sandy schist and the wet and windy Atlantic climate which makes the region just about marginal at times, but certainly one where vintage variation can be expected.
The fruit is dark and red, with cherries and plums, but equally you get spicy pepper and almost a whiff of hickory smoke. Although 13%, it never seems more than medium bodied, so the terroir comes through without hindrance. It makes for a versatile wine. You can use it instead of a Pinot Noir, or you could break it out for the barbie. Fedellos do Couto has been so ubiquitous this year that it would be easy to overlook it. Don’t.
Haywire Secrest Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir 2015, Okanagan Crush Pad, Okanagan Valley – I’ve written about the Crush Pad wines quite a bit recently. I also keep saying that I like their Gamay best out of the reds, but it’s all about memory, and when I drank this Canadian Pinot I had to think again.
The Secrest Vineyard is a 35 hectare site above Oliver. Both fermentation and ageing is in concrete, but the fruit is ripe and concentrated when it goes in. So in the glass you first get berry fruits and a touch of spice, and then some texture underpinning it. This is not Burgundy, far from it, but Matt Dumayne has made a cracking wine for drinking on its fruit. With 13.5% abv it’s no little weed either, but the fruit-packed mouthful says “enjoy” rather than “pontificate”. Again, Christine and Steve have shown the potential of the Valley in different ways to those trying to make classical Cabernets, etc. Red Squirrel bring over a whole raft of the Crushpad’s wines.
Chardonnay “Les Brûlées” 2015, Domaine de Saint-Pierre, Mathenay (Jura) – This estate has been owned for about five years by its former vineyard manager, Fabrice Dodane, who originally came on board in 1989. I have seen the vineyards, which mostly lie just outside Arbois, between St-Pierre-sous-Vadans and Vadans itself (where we know people), but until this year I’d not tried this estate’s wines. Wink Lorch, in Jura Wine (2014) describes this Chardonnay as “reminiscent of slightly old-fashioned village Burgundy”, yet whilst I see exactly what she means, I think the wine may have come on a bit since Wink was tasting for her book, and now that Fabrice has his feet more firmly under the table.
What makes this particular wine, I think, is the terroir. Around Arbois and beyond you will find a constant discussion about the affects of the different marly clays (known as Marnes in the region). But as you head from Arbois towards Dôle you find some interesting outcrops of limestone, which really suits Chardonnay (although Stéphane Tissot’s “Les Amants” comes from plots on both clay and limestone, I’m convinced the limestone fruit makes this wine).
Biodynamic fruit is aged in 500 litre old oak barrels, topped up constantly. The terroir really comes through in a wine of great purity. It actually surprised me to see 14% on the label as it tastes fresh and even relatively light for the alcohol level. I think this is down to the minerality.
Domaine de Saint-Pierre was, without doubt, well under the radar in the UK until 2017, but now I keep seeing odd bottles in all the best wine shops. Expect to pay £25 to £27. I actually bought some more of this, so fascinated was I. I also have some “Les Corvées”, a co-planted blend of Pinot Noir and Ploussard (sic), but Wink mentions in her book that Fabrice makes a Melon à Queue Rouge, and I’m going to look out for that on my upcoming trip.
Le Zaune à Dédée, Anne & Jean-François Ganevat (Jura) – Rather provocatively subtitled “Grand Cul Classé”, this wine’s wonderful irreverence belies its unexpected class (the fact that it costs around £40 should give you a clue). The varietal blend here is a highly unusual one of two different wine regions entirely (Savoie and Jura), Gewurztraminer and Savagnin, bottled as Vin de France under the Ganevat negoce label. Both varieties are aged sous voile with no additives (not even SO2), and with skin contact.
On first sip I won’t deny that it tastes a little unusual, but in a few seconds you see what it’s all about. Darkish colour, highly perfumed (the Traminer comes across a little more than the Savagnin here), it’s fresh, alive and quite extraordinary. One of those wines that you find hard to describe in mere words, but it is quite astonishingly good. At just 12.5% it is versatile too.
Spätburgunder 2010, Friedrich Becker, Pfalz (Germany) – When I’m in Alsace next week I’ll be driving up to Schweigen to see Fritz Becker, and I had this entry level Pinot knocking around and thought I’d try it. Fritz is acclaimed, in Germany at least, even if his fame has not travelled to the UK quite as much, as one of the country’s best red wine makers (I’d love to ask Anne Krebiehl why he didn’t make her “Top 20” in her Decanter Spotlight on Spätburgunder this month?). Although he’s based in the Pfalz border village of Schweigen, and although his wines are all under German wine law, most of his vines occupy some wonderful sites in Alsace, France. They are the old monastic vineyards on the border, once cultivated by the Abbey of Wissembourg.
This Spätburgunder is smooth and quite rich. It bears some of the hallmarks of the vintage and it is drinking well now, though with more in the tank. There’s lots of silky fruit, and richness, plus a little of Pinot Noir’s typical earth and leaf development. Delicious and, if I’m honest, even better than I’d hoped after a few years in a cool dark place. It has put me right in the mood.
Rotwein 2011, Sepp & Maria Muster, Südsteiermark (Austria) – Sepp and his wife Maria make what I would describe as highly charged wines in Styria, near the Slovenian border. By “highly charged”, I suppose I mean with energy. I know, it sounds awfully new age but when you taste them, you can’t help but feel there is something vital there. Of course, they work biodynamically, and adhere to a non-intervention approach, attempting to let the terroir shine through. I suppose their ten hectare farm must have special terroir.
This entry level red is quite dark and dense to look at. The bouquet is full of concentrated scents of blueberry, bilberry and blackberry, yet the wine is lighter than you expect on the palate, quite sappy too. The blend is Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt and Blauer Wildbacher. This latter variety is a local speciality which is the signature of Schilcher Sekt. That rare sparkler from Western Styria is highly acidic (I love it, but I know others find it hard going), and the Blauer Wildbacher adds a touch of acidic bite to this still wine red cuvée. “Rotwein” has few pretensions to complexity (not least in its name), but there’s a nice touch of spice and pepper too. If you like really sappy wines from Northern Italy, you’ll love this.
Vinel.lo VN Blanco 2016, Partida Creus, Penedès – Partida Creus was founded by two Italians, Massimo Marchiori and Antonella Gerona, who left careers as architects to make some of the region’s most singular wines, wines which could not have received more praise among natural wine enthusiasts since they burst on the scene. This is a blend of typical Catalonian varieties, Garnatxa (Grenache Blanc), Macabeu, Moscatel, Parellada, Xarel-lo and Vinyater (a rare autochthonous grape similar to, and often mistakenly equated with, Xarel-lo). Partida Creus also make an Ancestral Method fizz from the same varieties, but this is the still version.
It’s very fruity, the fruit coming to the fore as it warms up a little, but it’s oh so zippy as well, with fairly high acidity which bounces around the palate. It will pretty much cut through anything, but the fruit and freshness takes the edge off the acids. It’s as if this were the very wine for which the word “drinkable” was invented, or so it seemed on an unseasonably hot evening in October after a long and frustrating drive. Just 10.5% abv as well.
Savagnin “Pourquoi Pas?” 2015, Domaine de la Pinte, Arbois – This biodynamic Savagnin is cultivated on the marnes bleues soils around Arbois. After picking, the grapes are macerated on skins for three weeks in concrete vats before pressing. No CO2 is added, neither is there filtration. The wine is therefore a beautiful autumnal orange colour and slightly cloudy for me (I had to lie it down in the fridge). The gentle bouquet has nuts and spices, citrus peel and generous fruit.
This is an experiment. I first tasted it with Laura Seibel at the domaine’s Arbois shop last year and she told me how it was her idea, after having helped make wine in Georgia. Only around 100 cases were made but this is a real success in every way possible. I love it. It’s a shame that there will be no 2016 when I’m in Arbois soon, as I would be adding several bottles to my order, but I understand there is a 2017 in the making with longer skin contact.
Domaine de la Pinte is the oldest biodynamic estate in Jura. In the past few years I think they have moved to another level, and this experiment exemplifies that. Kudos to Laura.
I usually try to keep it to twelve “recent” wines. But we are compromising this time, with a very quick mention of three more wines. The first couple are the pair I took to dinner with friends a few weeks ago. Montevertine, Rosso Toscana 2007 was the wine of the night in good vinous company. Classic Tuscan all the way through, Sangiovese with Canaiolo and Colorino playing a minor role. Dark cherries with hints of tobacco and violets, relatively rich and smooth, drinking extremely well, yet I know this will get better and go on for many years.
Gut Oggau Emmeram Weiss 2015 is unusual among this producer’s wines in that it is a 100% varietal, a Gewurztraminer. It’s the Gewurztraminer to open for people who say they don’t like Gewurztraminer. Off limestone soils, it has a lemony note and fresh acidity, but this is balanced by an inconspicuous 13.5% alcohol. No chubbiness, just refreshing wine with a heavenly scent from one of my favourite producers anywhere.
The last wine here is a bit of an oddity. Some of you may have seen it around. After a holiday trip to Santorini by Peter Barry in 2006, he was determined to bring Assyrtiko to Australia. It has taken ten years of quarantine, grafting and experimenting to produce the first commercial vintage of Jim Barry Clare Valley Assyrtiko 2016. It’s not exactly like a Santorini version. It lacks that true windswept, volcanic, minerality and a little of the acidity that marks Santorini Assyrtiko in youth and sets it up for ageing. But there’s more fruit. It’s a nice counterpoint to Clare Riesling. Only 500 cases were released of the 2016, so we have been lucky to see obtainable quantities in the UK (there are still a few bottles around).