For my last article for around three weeks I am going to clear the decks with some more fascinating recent wines. What to leave out proved difficult, so there are fourteen here. I’ll try not to waffle too much. I’ve drunk some really cracking wines (and a cider) these past few weeks, so there’s plenty to rave about.
Österreichischer Sekt 2010, Ebner-Ebenauer (Weinviertel, Austria) – the keen-eyed reader will recall that I went rather overboard about this wine when I tasted it at the IOD Advantage Austria Tasting back in February. A friend kindly brought me a couple over from Vienna after a Roberson employee intimated that the couple of cases they get are snapped up by restaurants. However, another friend did manage to bag a bottle from Roberson, so it’s worth a try.
This is a zero dosage traditional method (bottle fermented) wine made from 100% Chardonnay, which had extended lees ageing of almost seven years. The Gault & Millau Austrian Wine Guide made it their Sekt of the year for 2018, and I’m told that Stephan Reinhardt has described it as Austria’s finest sparkling wine. He’s not wrong. It’s elegant, fine and long, with a freshness which belies its age. A sophisticated wine, which is not cheap but is good value at around €60. Stunning, honestly. I hope to make the trip up to Poysdorf to see Manfred and Marion later this year if I can work out a simple way of getting up there from Vienna.
Manzanilla Pasada Bota 80 (Bota Punta), Equipo Navazos (Jerez, Spain) – Sourced from Hijos de Rainera Pérez Marín in Sanlúcar, this latest Manzanilla Pasada release is stunning. This wine has previously been released as the “Bota” numbers ending in zero (10 through to 70), but the 80th EN release takes it to another level of complexity. Slightly darker, it is incredibly fresh and intense. Dry nuttiness dominates the palate, with underlying citrus gently adding zing. It is very long indeed. It does come in at 16.5% abv, which one observer commented on, but it doesn’t worry me. I don’t think elegance is lost, but there is, as I say, great intensity (which EN fans will adore).
This wine is unique. The butts had been filled to more than the usual level and the result was that the layer of flor was thin. This has enhanced the oxidative effect on the wine, and this also probably helps account for the quite pronounced saline character Bota 80 displays, and the higher than usual alcohol. It needs to open out, so give it air, don’t over chill it and, as EN recommends, use reasonably large glasses. It comes in 50cl bottles.
Watch out for the next “Florpower” release, which, will use up the rest of this source, if my information is correct, in an unfortified table wine. I really can’t wait. Alliance Wine is the UK agent for Equipo Navazos.
Sylvaner “L’Hermitage” 2015, Domaine Julien Meyer (Nothalten, Alsace, France) – Nothalten is a little to the south of Andlau, where I was staying in October last year. There is no doubt that my first visit to Alsace in five or six years has really reinvigorated the love I had for the region’s wines. I picked up this bottle from the remarkable takeaway list at Plateau, Brighton’s excellent natural wine bar/restaurant.
Patrick Meyer’s Sylvaner vines are planted on Nothalten’s Zellberg, not a Grand Cru but nevertheless a fine site in its own right. For Sylvaner there’s a touch of unexpected richness (the vintage, perhaps), and the freshness and acidity one expects comes in to act as a nice balance. To say this is full of life is not a cliche, but true. Patrick Meyer is making some lovely biodynamic wines, and this really shows how interesting, and good, Sylvaner can be. A domaine I must explore further on my next visit.
“Dynamitage” Vin de France, Baptiste Cousin (Loire, France) – Domaine Le Batossay is the name for the wines made by young Baptiste Cousin, who is now making the family’s Gamay and Grolleau south of Angers, in Anjou, whilst Olivier now concentrates on the Cabernet Franc. This Gamay comes from the vines from which Olivier made “Yamag” (so obviously Gamay backwards, oh how these poor vignerons have to circumvent French wine bureaucracy).
The label is quite plain and gives little idea of what’s inside. It’s not your standard Loire Gamay, for sure. Sulphur free, it’s packed full of blackberry and blueberry fruit (rather than cherry) from whole clusters, aged in barrique. Enormously concentrated, I suggest that if you grab a bottle you will be in for a gorgeous surprise. Just 11% abv, Loire Gamay at its very best. I think (the label is not very illuminating) that this is a 2015. Imported by Les Caves de Pyrene but possibly available at Noble Fine Liquor and Solent Cellar among other good independents.
Ce Marrin 2016, Vin de Pays d’Allobrogie, Les Vignes de Paradis (Savoie, France) – Dominique Lucas makes wines in Savoie and Burgundy, but this is from his 7.5ha near Ballaison, just south of Lac Léman. Ballaison is in the Crépy AOC, which used to be known for slightly spritzy (crépytant as the local negoces used to call it) but anonymous wines made from Chasselas. Such wines are generally over-cropped, under-ripe and heavily chaptalised. Lucas’ wines are somewhat different in every respect.
Only 4,000 bottles of this Chasselas were produced and it is a lot more concentrated than the commercial versions of wine from this variety, from both sides of the lake. Although Dominique is based at Ballaison, the grapes for this cuvée come from the Marin cru, which is further round the lake near Évian. It has promising colour and is softly herby with just a touch of citrus acidity, yet with plenty of mouth texture (the vines are planted on glacial moraine over granite).
This is without doubt the best wine I’ve drunk so far from any of the terroirs south of the lake, whose wines (sometimes for my sins) I know pretty well. In fact all the Marin I’ve previously drunk has been quite close to battery acid. Dominique still makes wine in Burgundy, in the Hautes Côtes above Pommard, but he is surely the king of French Chasselas. I think I have another one, made from older vines on different terrain, to drink at some point. But do also look out for some amphora Savagnin, and the astonishing (if rare and expensive) Kheops Chardonnay, fermented in a concrete pyramid. 🕉
I picked up a mixed pack of the Lucas wines recently from Solent Cellar and they are another producer imported by Les Caves.
Foam 2014, Meinklang (Neusiedlersee, Austria) – This is an unusually old Foam which had been hidden away in the mess that is my pétnat pile on the floor of my wine stash. It’s a Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) made from fruit grown in Meinklang’s Pamhagen vineyards near the Hungarian border, just south of Austria’s most famous lake.
It’s fairly orange in colour, certainly cloudy (unfiltered), but it still has the zip of fine bubbles and a persistent bead, not having lost its fizz as quite a few older pétnats can. It has a certain edge to it, which I wonder whether results from the wild graupert vines Meinklang own (I’m loathe to say “cultivate”), from where the fruit is sourced.
It’s quite a wild wine in fact, and whilst it still has the “lightness of being” which you look for in pétnat wines, there’s a bit of depth in there as well. Naturally the vintage has moved on, but if you can find Foam anywhere, it will likely be at Winemakers Club.
“Doris” , Vinos Ambiz (Sierra de Gredos, Spain) – Fabio Bartolomei goes very much his own way at El Tiemblo, with his high altitude mix of rare, Spanish and international varieties, mainly made in amphora which he scoops up from around the village (there used to be an amphora factory there until the 1950s).
Doris is made from the Doré grape variety (which may be Chasselas Doré) . A massive twenty-four hour hailstorm in July 2016 took around 50% of the crop and Fabio said he was only able to make around 700 bottles of Doris. It’s a unique wine, and one which I suggest is for advanced students only. It’s cloudy (unfined and unfiltered) with no additives. If you’ve ever bought an Ambiz wine you will know that the back label is one very long list of what Fabio doesn’t do to the wine. In fact, the wine gets crushed/pressed, racked and is only clarified by gravity. It is fresh, with a very bitter orange peel note. You’d never guess it tops out at 13.75% abv, it’s so fresh.
It really is something very different, but lovely. Don’t let me put you off with a cautionary warning that this is a wine which will make you stop and think. If you can find one of those 700 bottles, it has one of the most exquisitely pretty labels anywhere. Mine came from Burgess & Hall, imported by Otros Vinos.
Riesling Trocken “Faß 16” 2015, Weingut Peter Lauer (Saar/Mosel, Germany) – Florian Lauer’s Faß 16 is so named because he tries to use the same casks every year for the same wine. The Faß numbers originated when the 1970s German Wine Law removed the right to use the long-existing individual vineyard names, and at Lauer the practice has stuck.
This may be entry level but this really is the dry German Riesling (12%) you want to grab a case of for the summer (I think that the current 2016 is even racier than this 2015). It’s quite intensely fruity, and just so fresh, although it doesn’t have the rapier-like acid spine you can get from many a dry Saar wine. In fact, there’s even a hint of richness in 2015’s ripe Riesling fruit.
This is a truly lovely wine, but it is also something of a bargain at around £15 for the 2016, from Germany and Burgundy Specialist, Howard Ripley.
See below for photo
Loibner Gelber Muskateller Auslese 2011, Weingut Knoll (Wachau, Austria) – Knoll is one of the producers that sparked my interest in Austrian wines many years ago. Perhaps, as I’ve found new interest in Austria’s natural wines, I’ve been purchasing fewer Wachau wines of late, but I still enjoy them just as much.
This Auslese in 50cl format is a bottle I picked up a few years ago at Vinothek Hubert Fohringer in Spitz. The shop, right on the Danube by the ferry stop, is the best wine shop I know in the region, really worth a visit upstairs. It’s on the Wachau cycle trail and if you hire bikes, be sure to get ones with a basket between the handlebars! But you can also visit the Knoll restaurant in Unterloiben, on the same trail, where the Knoll wines can be sampled in the warmer months outdoors with excellent food.
All the Knoll wines seem to share a common trait. They are always quite tightly wound expressions of their terroir. This Muscat à Petit-Grains is not especially Muscat-like. It tastes drier and more mineral than you might expect, with plenty of fresh acidity. Would I know it was a Muscat? Well, just about. But it’s more “a Wachau”, which is actually what makes it so attractive.
This might be impossible to find, but it should encourage you to think outside of the Riesling-Grüner box in the Wachau. Impressive.
Malvasia Rose Frizzante “Il Mio” 2016, Camillo Donati (Emilia, Italy) – This is dark pink with a hint of an orange tinge (like you can get in a negroni). It’s basically a simple dry frizzante with only a little mousse and visible bead (drunk from a Zalto Universal), but the palate is packed with secret CO2, which combines with a touch of bitterness to make a very refreshing glass. When it goes down it’s another case of not really noticing 13.5% alcohol, but as it goes down so easily, it does creep up on you (alcohol with bubbles!). This wine has become a classic now, and I’m sure many readers will have tried it. If you want to smell summer roses and spring blossom along with a hint of tea leaf, this may be the place to look.
Doug says that their Lambrusco “would happily unite Klingons…” but I can tell him that the chance of The Klingons reforming is pretty much zero! England’s loss, I’m afraid. Imported by Les Caves de Pyrene and hopefully available at many of the retailers who buy from them.
Starvecrow Pét Nat Cyder (East Sussex, England) – Many years ago I used to be a frequent visitor to Normandy. I used to bemoan the fact that I was going to a part of France that didn’t make wine, but in the land of the apple I soon developed a taste for Normandy’s sparkling cider (and Calvados, so often to my cost). There really does seem to be a renewed interest in Cider/Cidre in Europe once again, and this is being driven by the “naturalistas”, especially by the success of Eric Bordelet’s Sidre from north of Le Mans in France, and the Cidrerie Le Vulcain, near Fribourg in Switzerland, both of whom make some of the finest ciders in the world.
Ben Walgate is one of the people behind this cider made at Clayton Farm, Peasmarsh. Fashioned like a petnat wine, bottled during its “wild fermentation”, it’s made from an interesting blend of apples, not your normal cider varieties (from Bramley, Golden, Jonagold and Braeburn). It’s unfined, unfiltered, and importantly, unsulphured.
If you like your sparkling cider dry and brisk you should go out and grab this. At just 5.5% abv it’s instantly refreshing. Appley aromas combine with the spine of acidity you get with (good) cool climate Riesling. I grabbed several bottles from Butler’s Wine Cellar in Brighton. Les Caves take Ben’s petnat Dornfelder/Pinot Noir, PN17, so they might have some. This is the red label. The black label “Natural Cyder” has 7% alcohol and was made in old whiskey casks. It has a bit less of the zip and is slightly broader, and less fizzy. Both are good, but this one’s my favourite. It has a lot in common with a petnat wine, but for a mere tenner a bottle.
Chardonnay 2011, Riverby Estate (Marlborough, New Zealand) – I’ll ‘fess up here that Kevin Coutney, who owns Riverby, is someone I’d count as a mate now. He’s a generous bloke. If you are passing by you should tell him I sent you to see him, and try his wines. I’m sure not many readers will know them, but whenever people try them in Tastings in the UK, opinions are almost always way more than just positive. They are indeed some of Marlborough’s hidden gems. That said, his sweet botrytis Rieslings are well-lauded, and awarded, in New Zealand, among the country’s very finest dessert wines.
This single vineyard Chardonnay, from fruit grown on the gravels of the Opawa River which was diverted in the 1930s, has a bit of bottle age, yet it was so fresh. Lean (almost sinewy) but not mean. Even our non-expert guests knew the variety, but unlike some examples from the region it’s devoid of overt fatness, oakiness and sugariness. You get just a touch of butter, but not “slapped on”. It’s also quite pale. It does pack 14%, yet it seems light, well, relatively speaking.
Riverby Estate doesn’t have that wide a UK distribution, but their importer is Black Dog Wine Agency, a small importer specialising in New Zealand wines, based in Cheshire, who you can contact for direct sales or a list of stockists. Riverby does a wide range of varietal wines, including good Pinot Noirs and equally interesting Grüner Veltliner. Their Chardonnay is most often my own favourite from the dry wines (the ’14 is another winning vintage), but the sweet Rieslings are sensational.
Côtes du Jura Trousseau “En Rollion” 2015, Les Dolomies (Jura, France) – Céline and Steve Gormally farm around 4ha at Passenans, to the southwest of Poligny, and just north of Château-Chalon (where they have some vines, but only classified as Côtes du Jura). This glowing bright light red smells of concentrated red summer fruits (raspberry, strawberry, cherry), is smooth, but really lively on the palate, and probably the most gluggable bottle of 13.5% alcohol red wine you’ll find in a region where gluggable wines abound. Amazing stuff.
My bottle came from the region. The Cave des Papilles in Paris is often a good bet for Les Dolomies. I noticed that last year Vine Trail in the UK began to list the domaine (along with two other excellent choices, Marnes Blanches and Domaine de La Touraize), but not this particular cuvée. US distribution is very good. If you come across any of the Gormally wines, grab one.
La Bota de Florpower 44 (LMMX), Equipo Navazos (Jerez, Spain) – I make no apology for listing another Equipo Navazos wine. In some ways drinking this, just a couple of days ago, was a sad moment for me. Bota 44 was the first Florpower, EN’s Palomino table wine, and this was my last bottle. 2010 was the first vintage of a wine sourced mainly from Jerez’s Pago Miraflores, plus a few other sites in the Sherry Region. It was fermented in stainless steel and aged eight months in butts before blending into steel again for bottling in July 2013.
Visually, this looks old, quite dark. It smells of flor and nuts, and tastes quite nutty, with a saline lick on the finish, like salted almond with a touch of deeper hazelnut. What you don’t expect is its retained freshness, emphasised with a little lemon citrus on the finish. It’s also quite chalky in texture as it trails off, very long and clean.
Florpower is an amazing wine, really. So eminently drinkable, but with real personality. The most recent release is Bota 77, although as I mentioned above when discussing the Manzanilla 80, watch out for the next Florpower which should hit the UK in the next few months, via Alliance Wine.
See you in May (you can follow me on Instagram)