I’m getting behind (as usual) with this “recent wines” malarkey, so I’m going to split May and June into two more digestible bites – eight wines from May today and then eight wines from June next week.
PN17, Tillingham Vineyard, Ben Walgate, East Sussex – You may well have read my article about my visit to Ben Walgate’s Tillingham Wines (26 June) and I’ve certainly been talking up what Ben is doing for much of this year. In my defence, I’m hardly the only one to do so. I make no apology for featuring his pink petnat here.
Quite a lot of the driving force in the English wine scene is from fairly large companies. The likes of Nyetimber are not massive compared to the big Champagne Houses, but they are companies who can supply wine across the country and on export markets. The wines are wonderful, and this is what the industry needs to grow. But what we also need are the innovators, those who will push the boundaries, and experiment.
Ben (and Tim Phillips of Charlie Herring Wines in Hampshire) are the small guys who are doing just that. Ben’s production is currently tiny, but like Tim, everything he makes is exciting. PN17 is simply named, a “petillant naturel” from 2017 grapes, and it is a relatively simple wine too. The grapes are predominantly Dornfelder (which I think is a perfect choice for English petnat, more please) with a little Pinot Noir (which helped restart a sluggish fermentation). It is fruity, precise (very) and the gentle but persistent fizz gives the wine a nice bite. Although it doesn’t (shouldn’t?) count, it just looks so good in the glass as well.
I know there’s hardly any around. If any retailers still have some they should shout out because I know a good number of wine lovers who are sorry they didn’t get a bottle. I only managed five bottles from three separate sources…three more to go and I’m trying to share them.
Nevrosé 2016, Domaine des Bodines, Arbois – I have been seeking out the wines of Emily and Alexis Porteret for a few years, but October 2017 was the first time I had visited the Domaine des Bodines, on the edge of Arbois, just up the road towards Dôle.
I had first heard of the Porterets from Evelyne Clairet of Domaine de la Tournelle, because Alexis had worked with her husband, Pascal, for a couple of summers. Bodines has a lot in common with Domaine de la Tournelle, especially their love of the land itself, and the desire to express purely that through their unmanipulated wines.
Although I am lucky to have one or two Bodines wines at home, this was the only wine Emily had left to sell on that visit last year. Although it is pale and may look like a Ploussard, it is in fact Pinot Noir, from a plot intent on giving good yields. You’d never believe this lovely fruit-driven wine has 13% alcohol, with its strawberry scent adding to the mirage. Bottled as a Vin de France, this is firmly in the glouglou tradition. In this context it is just fantastic.
Check out my piece on Bodines here.
Ryzlink Rýnský 2015, Jakub Novak, Moravia – I’ve been drinking quite a few of the excellent Czech wines imported from Moravia by Basket Press Wines over the past twelve months. It’s amazing just how good these wines, all from small artisans, are. This wine is from a producer often stocked by Basket Press, but this bottle came from Winemakers Club on Farringdon Street (London).
As the name makes clear, this is the vrais Rhine Riesling and it is stunning, seriously. As the alcohol content (13.5%) suggests, it has body, but it also combines it with great definition and real presence. It’s almost certainly the best Moravian wine I’ve drunk to date (there are a few contenders), suggesting that we will hear a lot more about the region over the next couple of years. I’d also put it amongst a handful of the best white wines I’ve drunk this year.
Jakub’s background will prick up the ears of anyone who has tuned in to the Moravian natural wine scene. He was taught winemaking at college by Jaroslav Osička (also a member of the chemical-free Autentisté group of winemakers), and worked in the cellar at Dobrá Vinice, another of the region’s pioneers in natural winemaking. With only around a hectare of his own vines he has to buy in fruit to make his domaine viable, but all grapes are carefully sourced. The Riesling is one of the hardest to find, tiny quantities of just a few bottles entering the UK. If you hear of any going then run. Contact Jiří or Zainab at Basket Press for news on any of Jakub’s wines.
“Oh Yeah!” Savagnin 2015, Hughes-Béguet, Arbois – More Jura, this time an ouillé (topped-up) Savagnin from the young master of Mesnay. Patrice is an emeging talent with vines in his home hamlet and at Pupillin. This Savagnin is quite fruité, a joyful, lively wine with a tiny bit of CO2 to add piquancy to the grapefruit-freshness on the tongue. It’s so alive and a real pleasure to drink. It’s yet another wine where you just don’t notice the alcohol (13%) and it slips down all too easily.
This is bottled unfiltered, so it is slightly cloudy as you reach the bottom of the bottle. If you want it clear, then stand it up for a day or two. There is no added sulphur here either. This is from a batch I picked up on a visit in 2016 and it has lost none of its zip, even though (as almost everywhere) 2015 was relatively warm here. I would argue that 2015 was Patrice’s best vintage up to that date, and the wines (as I said at the time) have great potential.
This bottle sports the lovely new labels Patrice copied from the 19th Century lithograph his grandfather used for his distilled gentiane spirit.
Y’a bon The Canon , A&J-F Ganevat (Vin de France – Jura) – Jean-François Ganevat makes an increasing range of negoce wines, usually as a chance to experiment, and to purchase fruit from other sources. This red is made from a blend of old Jura varieties, the like of which you will find in the nursery at Château-Chalon but in very few vineyards, along with Gamay. Ganevat is showing an increasing interest in using grapes from outside the Jura region, especially Gamay, which in this case was purchased in Beaujolais.
You can only tell the vintage here from the cork. The bouquet is very fruity, with cherries and other red fruits (certainly strawberry). The palate shows lightness but just enough structure (and 13% abv) to make it go with the kind of cheese, charcuterie and rillettes dishes you’ll probably find at any bar serving it. It is none the worse for some extra time in bottle, the fruit seemingly not at all diminished. But I doubt it is intended for long keeping.
“Lezèr” 2017, Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Foradori – The problem with Foradori’s wines has always been their need to age to show their best. So often I see pictures on social media of bottles of the senior wines popped open before their time. This cuvée was wholly new to me this summer, and it’s a chance to sample the Foradori genius in another guise.
This wine’s birth, fortunate as it is for us, was born from adversity, namely a hail storm in 2017 that destroyed 40% of the Teroldego crop. What resilient biodynamic fruit that was saved underwent a short maceration and fermentation in a whole range of different vessels to make a light red.
Lezèr, marketed in a clear bottle, is Teroldego intended for instant glugging. It’s a vibrant red which has a lightness of being, and a balanced 12.5% abv. So it’s easy to drink, but it doesn’t lack substance. Certainly the acidity comes with a tad of structure too. I bought three bottles and served this one just a little chilled, which I think worked well, accentuating the wine’s positive aspects. In every respect, this makes a perfect picnic or beach red, though it wouldn’t fall down at a barbecue.
The grapes come from the alluvial soils of the Campo Rotaliano, the heartland of the Teroldego grape. It is bottled with just 27mg/l of sulphur after vinification in cement, wood and amphora, which may be why this has a nice, slightly grainy, mouthfeel under the fruit when chilled. Many retailers will have sold this through. Try Ten Green Bottles, or Solent Cellar, which are the retailers where I bought mine. AG Wines is the importer for the UK.
Vinel-lo , Partida Creus, Baix Penedès – This is the estate created by former architects Massimo Marchiori and Antonella Gerosa, who moved from Piemonte to Barcelona for their practice, before heading up into the hills to Bonastre, in Tarragona Province, to make wine (and grow food). In a short space of time they have achieved a rare fame in the natural wine world, and I see their bottles in almost every natural wine bar I visit in Europe, and indeed in the cellars of several producers as well.
Vinel-lo comes from a blend of grapes planted on chalky-clay soils. These include Garnacha, Sumoll, Trepat and Carignan. Unusually, the wine has a prolonged fermentation as each grape variety (around eight of them) is added one after the other. Whole bunches with stems are used. After fermentation the wine sees seven months in stainless steel tanks before bottling without sulphur.
Vinel-lo is often the easiest Partida Creus wine to find. Its generous Catalonian character shines through concentrated fruit and even a touch of richness on the palate, but (not always the case in this region) light of touch at the same time (only 10.5% alcohol). Bottled unfiltered, it has some large chunks of sediment in the bottle, and a touch of CO2, but it is totally delicious. I keep buying single bottles of this, but every time I drink one I promise myself I’ll buy another. This one came from Noble Fine Liquor, though they do look out of stock currently. Try some of the other usual suspects.
Morgon 2016, Kéké Descombes, Beaujolais – Kewin Descombes is one of the newest of the new breed of young bojo producers to burst onto the scene. To be fair, he’s been around making wine for about five years (2013 was his first solo vintage), but as George Descombes’s son, and therefore a direct descendant of the Gang of Four, there is no hiding for Kéké. And this guy is only just in his mid-twenties,
Yet talent isn’t necessarily hereditary. Having a whole six hectares in Morgon and Beaujolais AOC to work is a good start. The vineyards are farmed organically so far, but with a strong will to produce the best wine possible from both appellations.
The delicious, light, Cuvée Kéké is in the latter AOP, from rented vines. The Morgon is sourced from the Courcelles vineyard (on granite), is made in cement vats using whole clusters, and is in some ways in the same style, an easy drinking Morgon (interestingly, he made a restrained Morgon in the hot 2015). The bouquet has a quite haunting cherry scent, and it is relatively lightly structured on the palate, yet that little bit of grip does ground the wine and make it food friendly. It’s just the most delicious glugging Gamay, but with a little something extra from reasonably old vines, some up to sixty years of age (although there is a Vielles Vignes cuvée as well).
Young Descombes is imported by Red Squirrel.
We strayed into June with that last wine, but I shall throw out another batch of wines next week. I say wines, but I shall also be including the Charlie Herring “Perfect Strangers” cider+wine brew from Tim Phillips…quite astonishing. I also realised a month ago that I’d been drinking too little Alsace this summer, despite my Alsace love-fest last year. And I’ve now decided on my favourite Brash Higgins wine after Bloom! The unicorn wine next time will be an Aligoté. Bet you can guess whose it is, or can you?