August is traditionally the month when people head off on their holidays, but we were at home, drinking our way through a host of wonderful wines as usual. I’ve cut this down to twelve bottles, assisted by having written a separate piece about the new wines from Alex and Maria Koppitsch, which I’m sure you’ve read (2nd September). I’m sorry to publish two articles in a day, but I’m off tasting again tomorrow (Modal:Nekter:Roland Wines) and I don’t want to get behind.
Looking through the selection, there are a few wines from The Jura, but we also have appearances from England, Germany, Greece, Austria, and Czech Republic. One or two of these might be new to you, so I hope you might be tempted to seek them out.
ARBOIS-PUPILLIN “CÔTE DE FEULE” 2012, DOMAINE HUGHES-BÉGUET (Jura, France)
This is “old school” Patrice, I think the last remaining bottle from my first ever visit to him, some years ago, when he suggested I see how this beautiful Pupillin vineyard ages. Things have changed chez Patrice, but this wine comes from one of Pupillin’s best sites. It’s pure Ploussard, pretty mature now for sure, but it has become a mellow red, still vibrant but with added complexity. There’s orange scents, autumnal leaf notes and tea leaf. The acidity remains to ensure freshness. It’s a haunting wine, a memory of when this domaine was one of the new stars of Jura wine. Patrice is easy to find, beside the church in Mesnay, just minutes outside Arbois (direction Les Planches).
For current wines from Patrice Béguet, try Les Caves de Pyrene.
COL ’17, TILLINGHAM WINES (East Sussex, UK)
Ben Walgate is creating a boutique wine estate not far from Rye, where you can dine and will be able to stay. You’ll walk amongst the newly planted vineyards, visit his burried qvevri “plantation”, and perhaps take a peak at his gleaming winery. Don’t be fooled. Everything here is done in a true artisan fashion, with a focus on biodynamic practices. But more than anything, the focus is on innovation. Expect lots of different experimental cuvées made in small batches. The grapes are all bought in from local organic and biodynamic growers whilst Ben waits for the estate fruit to come on tap.
“Col” references the “Col Fondo” style of cloudy Prosecco, so different to the industrial version of the famous Italian fizz. The wine is bottle-fermented but without disgorgement, so it retains the cloudy lees in the bottle. It is bottled in spring with a little sugar to enable a second fermentation, but no sulphur is added. Despite the nod to Italy, the grape blend is pure “Champagne” – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier. Crisp, frothy and with mouthfilling freshness, sealed under crown cap. ’18 is the current version.
Relatively limited availability, but you can find Tillingham wines in a surprisingly large number of small independents, distributed by Les Caves de Pyrene.
GOLDTROPFCHEN KABINETT 2014, JULIAN HAART (Mosel, Germany)
We are going a little “trad” here, but you probably know I like my German wine, especially the refreshing Kabinetts. Haart is a rapidly up-and-coming star. Three quarters of his four hectares are in the vicinity of Piesporter (as with this wine), with one hectare at Wintrich.
This is mature Kabinett. The acidity level has decreased, and the residual sugar seems slightly more emphasised as a result. However, it is still light and elegant, nothing like Spätlese levels. It still retains freshness as well, and comes in at a dainty 7.5% abv. This 2014, from a vintage which was largely cool and wet in the Mosel, shows just how good Haart is becoming. And he’s a relative bargain at the moment.
This was purchased from the region (Weinhaus Porn in Bernkastel), but Howard Ripley Wines stocks a very good range from this producer.
PATA TRAVA 2016, KTIMA LIGAS (Pella, Greece)
From Paiko Mountain at Pella, in Central Macedonia, Northern Greece, Domaine Ligas makes some of the very finest wines in the whole country in my opinion. This is Xinomavro, vinified en blanc, but with enough skin contact to give the wine some colour, a mix of pink and bronze. They make a little under 4,000 bottles of this, and it is one of the Domaine Ligas wines which is approachable young, yet will happily age a few years too. The scents and flavours here are complex and beguiling. Victoria plum, orange marmalade, pink grapefruit and a mineral note that shouts “big boulders”, not your mere gravelly grit. The bouquet reminded me just a little of Malvasia di Lipari, yet the wine is clean with a certain linear spine to it as well. That keeps it together nicely. No added sulphur, 12.5% abv.
It’s an unusual wine, and one which will benefit from a carafe, but the passionate wine lovers who shared this adored it. It came from Burgess & Hall (Forest Gate, London).
BEAUJOLAIS 2014, YVON MÉTRAS (Beaujolais, France)
This is a remarkable drop of cherry juice from one of the region’s superstar natural wine pioneers. It was a bit reductive on opening, with a tiny pinch (or two) of volatility, but a few good swirls sorted it out. A very pure wine, with a ferral edge adding considerable interest, unless you are of a squeaky clean disposition. This truly is the glou that binds us. I drank his Fleurie “L Ultime” 2014 with friends about a week after, and it was not really ready, but this was singing. A joyful wine.
This came from Paris, either Caves du Pantheon or Verre Volé. Sorry not to be more specific.
SAVAGNIN 2016, DOMAINE DE LA LOUE (Jura, France)
Catherine Hannoun is well under the radar in the UK, but her tiny estate in the very north of the region, at Port-Lesney, makes wines every connoisseur wants to get hold of. In a clear case of “the pupil becomes the master”, some friends beat me to her door, pulling off a visit last year, but they didn’t forget me. This is the first of two wines from Catherine here from August. We didn’t strictly drink this at home, but no way is it not going to be included!
We have a gentle, svelte, Savagnin, smooth-fruited compared to many. The wine’s nutty character seems almost like a fading image on a screen, which considering Catherine was a film producer, is remarkably apt. She actually decided to stay and make wine in the region after working on Jonathan Nossiter’s Mondovino film. Catherine learned her second trade with help from Manu Houillon and Pierre Overnoy, and in fact her Savagnin is usually sourced from her plot of vines in Pupillin (see label below), where the Houillon/Overnoy domaine is famously situated. This was gorgeous. Truly, honestly. I’m told it’s a notoriously fickle wine, but we hit the jackpot.
This wine, and the petnat which follows, were sourced at the domaine. Visits welcome strictly by appointment. Quantities are tiny.
PETNAT 2018, DOMAINE DE LA LOUE, (Jura, France)
A few days later we drank Catherine Hannoun’s petillant naturel, also made from Savagnin, although if you thought you were drinking a racy Chardonnay I’d not laugh. There’s a bit of ripeness and great bubbles. This and the Koppitsch “Pretty Nuts” I reviewed recently are the best two petnats I’ve drunk this summer…it is stunningly good. The bottle wasn’t even labelled (they were yet to arrive at the domaine) so it was a gift of a gift, so to speak. It felt as much a privilege to drink this as any fine wine.
SAV ‘OR 2017, VIN DE FRANCE, DOMAINE DE LA PINTE (Jura, France)
This bottle was given to us by Laura Seibel, well known to any Jura fanatics, who used to work at La Pinte. The domaine was the first to go biodynamic in the region and has mentored so many of the first generation of natural winemakers in the Arbois area (see my article following a visit last December, “It Comes in Pintes”, 18-12-2018). This is a relatively new departure for them (though I have tried it before), a skin contact Savagnin. It had just a week on skins, in concrete, prior to destemming/pressing. It has a nice texture and, as is so often the case with orange wines, has hints of orange citrus, specifically tangerine here. The finish is savoury and pleasantly bitter. I should mention the 14% alcohol. Don’t let it worry you, seriously.
It’s not one of the domaine’s most expensive wines and I strongly suggest you try it if you are in the vicinity of the Domaine de la Pinte shop in Central Arbois (where many of their wines are on taste). Thanks, Laura.
“EX MONTE LAPIS” 2015, DVA DUBY (Moravia, Czech Rep)
Dolni Kounice, close to the Austrian border in Southern Moravia, has been famous for its wines since medieval times, principally Frankovka (aka Blaufränkisch) grown on volcanic magma 700 million years old, called Granodiorite. This wine is from another Austrian variety, Saint-Laurent. Just as this variety is gaining renewed interest in Burgenland, so here in the Czech Republic, in the hands of the local artisans, it should have a great future.
The wine is zippy and dark-fruited, with grip and texture. You’d call the fruit crunchy. But it’s not “tannic” as such, and served ever so slightly chilled it makes a very tasty summer red. Jirí Šebela’s Frankovka is impressive, but don’t ignore Ex Monte Lapis. It’s a cracking little wine, in the image of some of those crunchy reds from the northern side of Austria’s Neusiedlersee.
Available from Basket Press Wines.
PETNAT , OFFBEAT WINES (Dorset, UK)
Offbeat Wines is the side project of Langham Estate’s Winemaker, Daniel Ham. The fruit comes from Solaris grapes grown on clay and flint soils over Greensand, by Kathy Archer, at Ottery Saint Mary in Devon. She farms with no chemicals and Daniel bottled it without sulphur. Two things to note with this wine. First, around 10% of the very ripe grapes developed noble rot, adding a honeyed richness here. Second, the wine developed just 2-bar of pressure, so it is fully, yet gently, sparkling. It was disgorged, but only to get rid of the gross lees. There is still some finer sediment remaining in the bottle.
The whole package is excellent, with a great label. Although like most petnats, it has a degree of simplicity to it, so many things (the botrytis element, the grape variety and the lower pressure) put this up there with the other finer petnats I’ve drunk this summer in terms of interest. It’s a shame only 360 bottles were made, but I’m sure you will find the odd one still knocking around. The word hasn’t really got out, I don’t think. Yet.
Mine came from Solent Cellar in Lymington, who also sell the Langham Estate wines.
“PAMINA” VIN DE FRANCE , DOMAINE L’OCTAVIN (Jura, France)
This Arbois domaine is right up at the forefront of experimentation in the region. Alice Bouvot makes such a wide range of wines it’s hard, if not impossible, to keep up. All those “gnome labels” (well, nearly all) are made from grapes purchased from her many friends around France. Pamina, though, is one of the original estate wines. The variety is Chardonnay, from old vines in Arbois’ “La Mailloche” vineyard, which have always been farmed without synthetic pesticide sprays. Wink Lorch has called it L’Octavin’s “most serious white”.
It sees direct pressing of the fruit, then a year in older oak from various locations. It’s a savoury wine, almost salty. It starts a little reductive but we gave it the respect of a wide bottomed decanter where, after some vigorous swirling, it opened its petals to reveal an extraordinary wine, one of the finest whites I’ve drunk this year in fact. It starts out lean, and although this is the leanness of a thoroughbread, it does put on a little flesh as it opens out. Scents of heaven with a very long finish, suitable for food (including Comté), or to be savoured on its own.
This bottle was purchased from the domaine, but Tutto Wines is the UK importer for Alice Bouvot’s remarkable creations. They currently list the 2016.
MASKERADE WEISS , GUTT OGGAU (Burgenland, Austria)
Oggau is a small village on the Western shore of the Neusiedlersee, just north of Rust. The estate and its wines have to rank among my top six wine estates. I’m not talking just Burgenland, although heaven knows there are plenty of contenders there, but I mean anywhere. This cuvée has sparked plenty of excitement because it, along with a red version, is new, from 30-y-o vines Eduard and Stephanie acquired and have converted to organics/biodynamics.
These wines are made available in litre bottles and the characters (rather, family members) on the labels are masked because they/the wines have not yet revealed their true personalities. The white version is a field blend of Grüner Veltliner, Weissburgunder, Welschriesling and others, grown on gravel, limestone and slate. Vinification included a couple of hours skin contact before direct pressing into older oak for fermentation and ageing.
The wine is dry, saline and fresh, with a pronounced savoury note, not unlike a Wiener Gemischter Satz. It is in some ways simple, but so satisfying, quite light but gourmande too. It will be interesting to see how the personality of this wine is revealed in the future, but I really like it, and I hope “she” doesn’t grow up too quickly.
This wine, and its red counterpart, cost close to £30/bottle, but remember that is for a litre…£22/75cl is pretty cheap for Gut Oggau. Grab these whilst they are still around. The importer is Dynamic Vines, whose Bermondsey shop is open on Saturday mornings. However, I bought this one from the new wine shop upstairs at Antidote Wine Bar (12A Newburgh Street, close to Carnaby Street, London).
Before I sign off, I just have to mention something else. We have been enjoying a lot of Vermouth over the summer. I do love a negroni, but specifically we have been drinking vermouth on ice with a drop of orange and mint leaves, topped up with tonic water (mostly Fever Tree Mediterranean). It makes a wonderful long drink as an aperitif. Occasionally, if I have one to hand, I liven it up with a small squeeze of lime.
The two vermouths of choice have been Partida Creus’s MUZ from Bonastre in Catalonia, and Vermood from GP Hahalis/Tentoura Castro distillery in Patras (Greece). The latter is sweeter, made from Rhoditis and Mavrodaphne, aromatised with saffron, bergamot, artemisia and other ingredients, plus the added delight of Greek honey, which really dominates the bouquet. I can’t find a current stockist for MUZ, which sells out like wildfire. Vermood is available from Greek wine specialists Southern Wine Roads (£28). Thanks go to sommelier and wine consultant Ania Smelskaya for sharing this with us.