Having made rash promises more than a week ago about all the articles I was going to write, I promptly got ill. Those promises will be met, eventually, but in the meantime I was unable to make it to the tasting at Antidote earlier this week.
Help was at hand…Inna Sirota has provided some notes on her favourite wines from this event. I hope that they provide some recompense for my own inactivity. I’d like to thank her for generously giving of her time to provide a record of this important tasting.
Inna spent fifteen years crunching numbers in New York (banking) and London (Google) before deciding to quit finance in order to concentrate on her passion for wine travel and photography (and hopefully a lot more wine writing). She began her real journey helping with the 2017 vintage in the Barossa, at Smallfry Wines, having already by 2016 achieved WSET Level 3. Inna says that she loves travelling to wine regions and hearing the winemakers’ stories, as well as connecting with everyone in wine. You will find her doing just that on Instagram as @poetryinawineglass.
Going to a new portfolio wine tasting must feel like entering the shop for a fashionista when the new season arrives – excitement and joy in the anticipation of all the new shiny, beautiful, trendy and exciting things the stores might have in wait for you.
That’s how I felt going into the trade tasting of The Winemakers Club, Otros Vinos, and Wines Under the Bonnet to sample their new arrivals in the airy room above Antidote Wine Bar near Oxford Circus.
What’s on trend? What’s new & exciting, what’s reassuringly beautiful but well known?
Below are my highlights from each importer. Turns out it is a very difficult exercise to write, taste and communicate at the same time!
THE WINEMAKERS CLUB
Ismael Gozalo of MicroBio Wines, Nieva, Rueda, Spain
Sin Nombre 2016 from 100 year old pre-phylloxera Verdejo vines, 900 metres elevation, mixed soils of limestone and clay, sandy topsoil. Twenty months on its lees, half of the time in large format oak barrels, then transferred on its fine lees into stainless steel tanks.
It is a special wine, full of its uniqueness. The little these ancient vines produce make for a complex and concentrated wine, round yet fresh, tingling on the palate. On the nose Chardonnay-like, ripe citrus, yellow stone fruits, mineral and a touch of brioche and yeast. Only 1,200 bottles made.
Karim Vionnet, Villié-Morgon, Beaujolais, France
Good old Beaujolais, oh how much I love you! And so happy to taste Karim’s wines again.
Beaujolais-Villages 2017 from two vineyards near Morgon, glass fibre vat fermentation, then 3 months in concrete tanks. Very well structured for Beaujolais-Villages. I could smell wet granite soils, super yummy red fruits. Delish!
Chénas 2016 aged for 3 months in Burgundian barrels. What a great nose, super sexy wine, complex aromas of fruits, rocks, minerality.
I don’t drink much Chianti these days for obvious reasons to natural wine lovers. But I’d throw in this one for the delight we sometimes need from a good old Chianti. Setriolo, Castellina in Chianti, Tuscany, Italy – mostly an olive farm, but now making their own wines from 4ha planted, organically farmed.
Chianti Classico 2014 – 95% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot. Fermented in steel and cement tanks with 15 days of skin maceration. Aged for 12 months predominantly in cement and steel with a small proportion in 2nd passage American oak barrels, and 6 months in bottle before release. A classic Chianti nose of dark cherries, smokey, almost cigar-like, meaty. Good muscular tannins to support the palate.
Costador Terroirs Mediterrani, Conca de Barberà, Spain
Sumoll Blanc Brisat 2016
Costador wines by Joan Franquet from the Conca de Barberà region of Spain are unique, and not only because they are bottled in the cool-looking, mighty ceramic bottles. Vines are 60 years old, tended organically, on soils of slate, clay and limestone. This is 100% rare Sumoll Blanc, 8 weeks whole berry maceration, 5 months in French oak and the result is this delicate flower that you cannot stop smelling and drinking. This lightness and effervescence is the trademark of Costador wines.
Bodega La Senda, Bierzo, Spain
El Aqueronte 2017
Thirst crunching with great mouthfeel, 70-year-old Mencia vines, whole bunch fermentation, eight months in chestnut barrels. It was so good, finally a very good Mencia!
The winemaker Diego Losada was born and raised in Ponferrada, Bierzo. He started Bodega La Senda in 2012, apparently quite a rebel (comes through the labels too). Diego works with old vines, mineral rich (clay or calcareous with slate, iron, gold or quartz) but nutrient poor soils on steep slopes. The wine is pure & clean.
WINES UNDER THE BONNET
Yann, Anna & André Durrmann, Andlau, Alsace, France
Kastelberg Riesling Nature 2017
New in Wines Under the Bonnet portfolio! I had to look up where Andlau actually was, while still in Alsace, it is a 30 minute drive south west of Strasbourg, further north than the well known regions of Haut-Rhin. André Durrmann took over his family estate in 1979, converted it to fully organic viticulture in 1998, and applied principles of permaculture to achieve the greatest possible biodiversity in the vineyards.
The vast majority of the production is sold to private individuals who buy at the cellar door. 28-year-old Yann, André’s son, is helping his father and they are now producing several ‘natural wine’ cuvees (labelled “Nature”). This Kastelberg is one of them – wine from the Grand Cru site which rises directly behind the town, a gorgeous Riesling, full of complexity on the nose and palate, a strong stand out.
Editor’s note – I’m so happy Inna liked the Durrmann wine. I’m going to claim that the UK had not heard about this producer until I visited in 2017. If you’d like to read my article on that visit, you will find it here.
Thomas Boutin, Rochefort-sur-Loire, Angers, France
2016 Quillette – Gamay, Cabernet Franc, Grolleau
A tiny producer (3ha), Tom Boutin started in 2008 in Rochefort-sur-Loire (across the Loire river from the famous Savennières), practising minimal intervention, after having worked for many years in larger wineries. Quillette – Gamay (55%), Cabernet Franc (40%), Grolleau (5%), undergoes a separate eight day maceration and fermentation (whole bunch) before pressing. Assembled in fiberglass tanks, Super easy drinking, crunchy, fresh wine with complexity. Lovely! 13.5% abv
A mental note to myself – next time, arrive early when trade people & wine is fresh. But overall, a very fun compact tasting.