This final part of my coverage of the large and rather magnificent 2019 vintage Les Caves portfolio tasting (or at least the London leg) contains well over thirty wines, so I won’t waste time on introductions. If you haven’t read my preliminary and explanatory comments at the beginning of Part 1, it might be worth following the link here.
Part 2 covers various terroir categories formulated by the team at Les Caves as a way to allow tasters to look at some groups of wines from diverse geographical locations, yet which share the characteristics of a particular set of soils, climate etc. You should find that Part 2 sits below this Part 3 on my site.
If you don’t plan to read my intro it might be helpful if I point out that from all these wonderful wines I have given three hearts (♥♥♥) to those of which I am most enamoured. It’s purely subjective, wines I react to on an emotional level rather than being a reward resulting from organoleptic analysis.
ALL ABOUT THAT GRAPE (Around the world in twelve Pinots)
In my case make that seven Pinots. The standard on this table was incredibly high with four wines awarded the hearts (and one missing out probably because I worry that you think I just love everything…which isn’t far from the truth in this particular case).
♥♥♥Kelley Fox Wines Mirabai Pinot Noir 2017 I’m on solid ground here as I bought some of this very wine and vintage after tasting with Kelley earlier in the year. Right now it’s remarkably pure, heavenly even. But although I bought this cuvée in the hope that it will drink a little sooner than some of her others, I’ll stick my neck out and say it still needs a bit longer and will indeed age magnificently, which tasting it again confirmed. From the Maresh vineyard in the Dundee Hills, this shows the vineyard’s characteristic strawberries and spice freshness. Kelley is becoming a real icon producer. “Keep it secret, keep it safe”.
Vini Viti Vinci Bourgogne Coulanges La Vineuse 2016 VVV is a negoce based in the western part of the Côtes d’Auxerre, in Avallon, not far from Vézelay, where in sight of the magnificent Romanesque church Bernard of Clairvaux got the Second Crusade rolling in 1146. Apparently, the church contains relics of Mary Magdalene…so easy to digress, isn’t it…The wine, which incidentally appears to be one of the few from this negoce which doesn’t wear a risqué label, had good linear Pinot fruit and a bit of smoky spice. It has a “northern edge” and is quite cloudy, but the acid-fruit-texture ratio is spot on. An interesting diversion into uncharted Burgundy well worth following.
♥♥♥Tillingham Wines Qvevri “Tinop” 2018 Ben Walgate makes so many different wines in his artisan winery near Rye that I can no longer keep up. However, it’s his qvevri wines, buried under an oasthouse on the farm, which interest me most. Qvevri Pinot Noir is not something you taste every day, but one sip of this is enough to suggest that perhaps we should. A beautiful medley of fruit, texture, length and fruit acidity. A friend who has tasted all Ben’s 2018s tells me he rates the vintage at Tillingham as spectacular. On this evidence (and the white wine which follows later), I’m willing to agree. Sadly only 400 bottles were made of this and I’m already fearful of missing out. Wonderful experimentation that works astonishingly well.
Domaine Christian Binner Cuvée Béatrice 2017 I bought a bit of Binner when it first came over, and the first wine I drank was a Pinot Noir. It’s a proper wine, serious stuff, but one so full of fruit that you don’t need to prostrate yourself in front of it. It comes from old vine parcels on a conglomeration of very complex soils close to the Kaefferkopf Grand Cru, near the Binner family’s home village, Ammerschwihr. Viticulture is as one would expect from a CdP producer, but picking is always later than most of their neighbours. Vinification involves ageing in very large 100-year-old foudre. A lovely wine, but one I think you’ll agree has something different to it.
♥♥♥Les Cailloux du Paradis Pinot Noir 2016 In the viticultural loneliness of The Sologne, the area of marshes, forest and small lakes so beloved of hunters and vaguely close to Alençon, near the Rivers Loire (north) and Cher (to the south), the Courtois family magic from their cauldron the most wonderful natural elixirs. How they got here is a long story but one ultimately worth pursuing elsewhere if you have time. Claude is the father, who now retains a couple of hectares with which to make the Racines cuvées. His sons, Julien and Étienne, both make wine themselves, separately but close together, and if I have it correctly, the Les Cailloux du Paradis wines are largely made by Étienne (the youngest of the two sons), with occasional help from Claude. It’s pointless writing a tasting note here. You have to experience such wonderful creations yourself. The minerality sings like a fine soprano, but it is the sheer life in the glass which sings the loudest.
♥♥♥Domaine Saint-Pierre Pinot Noir “Les Corvées” 2018 Fabrice Dodane farms around six hectares at Mathenay, just outside Arbois and close to where we have friends, so I’ve been following him, from vineyard manager to estate owner. I came to hear about him several years ago, during which time he’s become a rising star, albeit quietly. Most of his vines lie between St-Pierre-sous-Vadans and Vadans itself, where the soil is notably more limestone than the usual marls of the region, but Les Corvées is an Arbois site of gravel over Jurassic grey marls, located between the town and Montigny-lès-Arsures, presided over by the now famous “Tour de Curon”. Several well known natural winemakers have vines here.
This may be the best wine I’ve had from Fabrice so far. Pale, luminous, cherry scented (like those “car sweets” you get in a tin at service stations), it’s stunning and impressive yet so drinkable.
Celler Batlliu “Biu de Sort Negre” Pinot Noir 2017 This comes from Borda de Cebria, specifically Pallars, in one of the sub-zones of Costers del Sègre in inland Catalunya. The region has begun to get a name for international varieties, and at altitude it is possible to ripen Pinot Noir without losing acidities. That is what you get here, the grapes being farmed at 850 metres. The wine is made completely in stainless steel, fermenting with punchdowns and then aged in tank as well, “reductively”. The fruit has a little structure and a lot of flavour. Alcohol is a balanced 13%. So impressive, yet I’d never even had a sniff of this before.
ALL ABOUT THAT GRAPE (Native grapes and Field Blends)
Les Cailloux du Paradis Racines Blanc 2016 We’ve just had one of the Courtois wines, but this (as with its sibling red in Part 1) is from the “Racines” line made by Claude Courtois from his retirement patch of two hectares down in the Sologne. It’s a blend and what is in it is difficult to say as there are as many as forty varieties on the joint family properties. Certainly there’s Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay (or so I was told, and I know they have some very old Orléans clones of the grape, maybe 90+ years of age). There’s also Menu Pineau (another ancient variety which also, oddly, occasionally goes by the synonym “Arbois Blanc”, though I can’t discover a Jura connection). I found the wine intense and appley, but not an acidic apple variety. Someone else put it really well – “hoppy sour beer”. Don’t let that put you off, it was superb, if encouragingly different.
♥♥♥La Garagista “Loup d’Or” 2017 I won’t dwell over a wine I’ve written about before this year. Deirdre and Caleb make wines in cold climate Vermont, from American hybrid vines, and they really prove how good these varieties can be. In this instance we have the Briana variety, a hardy cold-resistant cross, close to Muscat, only bred (in Wisconsin by Elmer Swenson) in 1983. The result is intensely perfumed (floral, orange citrus and a hint of marmalade) and the palate is not remotely “foxy” (referring to the fox aroma of many US hybrid varieties). Tasting this, as with all of the Garagista wines, I can only exclaim YESSSSSS! So good…so interesting…mind stretching stuff.
Ramaz Nikoladze Tsolikouri “No Skin Contact” 2017 This wine comes from one of my two or three favourite Georgian producers. Nakhshirgele, in Imereti, is the location. The wines are made in qvevri, but usually (in this producer’s case) without extended skin contact. The fruit was directly pressed into the clay pots, fermented 18 days, then left 5-6 months before racking into fresh jars until bottling. The wine is quite linear, but that line is lovely and clean, acidities are fresh and the overall flavour is lemon citrus. My bottle at home has a lot of sediment, perhaps worth noting.
Piquentum “Crno Vino” 2017 This is made from Téran (from the Refosco family of grapes) in the Croatian region of Istria. I used to buy this producer from a small importer who I don’t think exists any more, so I was pleased to see Les Caves take them on a while ago. The Téran clones here have red stems, unique. Acidity is pronounced, but in a way that refreshes. As well as bramble fruit you get flavours and scents of iron and iron filings, perhaps a touch of blood…like wines made from the Fer Servadou variety in Aveyron, France.
Okro’s Wine Saparavi Budeshuri 2017 Okro’s Winery is in the village of Manavi, in Eastern Georgia’s Kakheti Region. I didn’t know this producer until I bought a mixed case of Georgians as recommended by Doug Wregg, and I was somewhat enthralled by their Mtsvane. This is just as impressive and, most important, equally enjoyable. It’s an intense qvevri red with big legs and very pure juice, made by completely natural winemaking, with no additives (including sulphur). It is made from a quality-based selection of a particular strain of Budeshuri Saparavi, aromatic and smooth.
BY STYLE – GLOU
That which binds us all together, those of us who seek pleasure through natural wines, is glou(glou). What does it all mean? It is a French onomatopoeic term which describes the glugging noise we make when “necking” a thirst-quenching glass of fruity, fresh and full of flavour vin de soif (or equally the sound of wine quickly glugging out of a bottle without undue ceremony). It’s a rare case of a very contemporary French phrase which has captured the zeitgeist in both the francophone and anglophone worlds of wine. The essence of these wines is not the worship of the gods of super serious wines at serious prices, but the worship of Bacchus, god of wine for pleasure and enjoyment (and occasionally, er, mild inebriation, right!). The next half dozen will quench any thirst.
Pol Opuesto Criolla Que Grande SOS 2017 That very much maligned heritage variety, Criolla (aka Mission, Pais) is starting to be recognised in Argentina and on foreign markets as a potential new weapon, albeit a niche one. Wines like this are doing wonders in advertising its potential for interesting wines which slip down easily, rather than the big faux-Europeans tasting of naked oak, which some producers there are aiming for. Sipping wines, to put it nicely.
Uco (Mendoza) old vine fruit, farmed at Finca Serrera, is harvested early and undergoes a soft extraction. There’s some Bonarda in here too, and probably Tempranillo and Muscat, but mainly Criolla. It’s a light (11% abv) wine with a palish colour and grippy bramble fruit, repeated on nose and palate. I really like this wine. 2017 is only its second vintage, and it is reasonably priced at the moment. Although I’m not reviewing a lot of South American wines in these articles, it must be said, this is a terrific advertisement for the possibilities outside of oaky CMM.
Domaine de la Borde Ploussard Côte de Feule 2018 Côte de Feule is a lovely steep hill situated in the bowl of vines just outside of Pupillin (off to your right if driving through from Arbois, and nice vineyard walking territory). I consider it possibly Pupillin’s finest site. Julien Mareschal, who we met previously, in Part 1, makes a Ploussard (Pupillinese for Poulsard) which I think is even better than his brilliant Chardonnay. It’s glugging qualities come from 11.5% alcohol, and the freshness that this site’s famous red clay (argile rouge) brings to the party. If you look at the soils here, or get them stuck to your boots, you just know the wine will have a rapier thrust of bite to it. What it requires is the cranberry and pomegranate fruit, with maybe a lick of strawberry sweetness, to go with it. We ask and Julien delivers, or rather the Côte de Feule, with a leafy nose and a modicum of grip for good measure.
Vino di Anna Palmento Rosso 2018 is yet another near perfect Etna red from Anna. You know, I bought three bottles of the first vintage, and I remember some volatility, but this (as with all recent vintages) is just pure fruit. Thankfully I’ve drunk literally dozens of Anna Martens’ wines, and as you probably have too you won’t need much convincing. Largely the two main Nerello varieties (Mascalese = 90%) with Cappucchio, Alicante (Grenache, not “Bouschet”), Minella, and Grecanico. Everything is vinified together, first foot trodden after a four day maceration in Anna and Eric’s 250-year-old stone palmento (incidentally the name of a worthwhile book on Sicilian Wines by Robert Camuto, pub 2012, Univ of Nebraska Press). As I said, just pure fruit.
Domaine Le Clocher Capitalisme Rouge, 2018 This is a “Loire” red, but it’s made near Vendôme, which I visited a few years ago, not very much “wine country” as I recall. The full name of this 12% quaffer (sorry, promised never to use that word) is “Le Capitalisme Rouge Est Un Vin De Garage”. According to winemaker Brendan Tracey, the name is based on a Trotskyist newspaper headine where the original use is “Une Voie” instead of “Un VIn”, but I’m not really much the wiser.
We have two-thirds Gamay with one-third Côt (a Loire synonym for Malbec, common in Touraine), I believe from a bit of research (although the CdP employee on the table reckons it’s Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc, perhaps someone might know the correct encépagement?). It’s packed with fruit and goes down easily, but it does have a bitter twist. Brendan reckons it has a “punk energy”, and seeing him in one of his punk band t-shirts, you’d have to agree. Banging high glou quotient.
Ruth Lewandowski Wines Feints Red 2018 I won’t say a lot about this delicious red from Evan Lewandowski, who harvested this Arneis, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Barbera fruit in Mendocino and, as is his wont, trucked it back to Utah to make “biblical” wine. I shouldn’t joke. For one thing, you’ve got to sit up when a bloke says he has a “favourite” book of the Bible (Ruth, of course), and stay sat up when seemingly against all odds he continues to make stonking wine. An adorable, zippy, light red which I keep praising (and enjoying) when I taste it but somehow, inexplicably, never get around to buying.
♥♥♥Momento Mori Wines “Etcetera Etcetera” 2017 I’ve been trying to track down New Zealander Dane Johns, who makes wine out of a garage somewhere in Brunswick, from Heathcote fruit. Dane, if you’re out there get in touch. I plan to visit the winery where you trained (Bress) for lunch quite soon, but I’d far rather hook up with you in Melbourne, if you don’t mind me saying. This blend of Schioppettino (60%) with Greco, Fiano and Syrah (like there’s any Schioppettino in Australia, LOL!) is gorgeous, pure, juice, with sour cherry fruit. Les Caves previously sold Dane’s “Staring at the Sun” skin contact Moscato Giallo/Vermentino/Fiano blend, and this wine is equally as brilliant.
BY STYLE – O2 & FLOR
This is the table for oxidative and biologically aged wines. They can be tough on a hard-worked palate after (at this stage) more than four hours tasting. That may be why I was selective here. Three of the four wines got the ♥♥♥ treatment, and that’s only because I couldn’t justify giving them to all four. Anyway, you know my Jura passion and I’ve loved Marie-Pierre’s wines (see below) for many years.
♥♥♥Tillingham Wines Qvevri Rülem 2018 I will assume you’ve got the hang of Ben’s wine names by now. The fruit is organic but not EVA-certified, so he cannot use the varietal names. Lo and behold, here we have qvevri Müller-Thurgau. One of the world’s most maligned varieties, often with reason, it is making a comeback, alongside many other German grapes. Treated with care you need not make the dilute sugar water of Liebfrau-Gütes-Black Tower of 1970s infamy. This is partially fermented on skins, then “pressed” and the clean juice added back to the qvevri with some newly fermented Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc, where it formed a veil of yeast flor. There’s zippy citrus along with a gentle nutty quality. It’s pretty sensational, but only if you get hold of one of just 533 bottles will you be able to find out if I’m right. Is Ben a lucky maverick, a genius, or both?
Marie-Pierre Chevassu Chardonnay Sous Voile 2017 Marie-Pierre Chevassu-Fassenet works out of the old family farm, Les Granges-Bernard, near Menétru-le-Vignoble in the Côtes du Jura, just north of Château-Chalon, where she also has some vines. This Chardonnay is made in a similar way to those Savagnin wines, not being topped up during maturation, so that a thin layer of flor (the voile) forms on the wine’s surface. It protects the wine from oxidising but adds a nutty character during biological ageing. But the oxidative nature of the wine is not all that pronounced, so the bouquet and flavours “hint” rather than “steamroller”. It’s therefore a subtle wine on most levels, and therefore quite fine. An under-the-radar producer you can rely on, and well priced compared to many of the “New Jura” stars.
♥♥♥Bodegas Cota 45 UBE Paganilla 2018 This is the second of the Cota 45 wines we’ve come across in this series of articles, the first being “Miraflores”. The third, Agostado Raya Oloroso, is no less fine than this so you can take it that my feelings for both are equal. I’ve tasted many of these wines before, and I’m hooked, but the wine from “Paganilla” is new to me. I consulted my “Liem & Barquin” to no avail, as they neither mention this pago, nor does it appear on one of the maps. I’m told it is “inland”, and has a high chalk content, which figures.
I chose this wine to illustrate that what at first might appear a relatively simple Palomino table wine blossoms into something far more complex than the lemon and lime which initially strikes you. It’s like when you listen to a record and after a couple of listens it reveals more and more. It’s pretty exceptional to achieve this from what we are all told is a fairly neutral variety and at low alcohol.
♥♥♥Marco de Bartoli Vecchio Samperi NV People often call this wine “Marsala”. Strictly speaking it isn’t (and does not have the Marsala DOC). Samperi is the arid limestone region outside of Marsala, where this wine (and Marsala) is made, a wine originally created by English merchant John Woodhouse in 1773. The variety is Grillo, here fermented in chestnut cask before moving to a solera. Although the wine shows 16.5% abv, it remains unfortified, unlike modern, often cheap, Marsala. This is a finer beast. The wines in the solera system average around 15 years of age, but the solera was started by the late Marco de Bartoli in 1978, so some parts of your bottle will be 40+.
The colour of cherry wood, it smells heady but not alcoholic. The mixture of dry salinity and complex wood, coffee, chocolate and caramel notes create a truly magnificent wine which deserves as much fame as Port, Sherry and Madeira. Sometimes available by the glass in some restaurants (occasionally, for example, at Terroirs), if you spot it don’t hesitate. Often thought of as a digestif wine, it has a surprising number of applications during a meal.
BY STYLE – AMBER REVOLUTION
The title of this table is a nice nod to Simon Woolf, whose book of the same name has just won, deservedly in my view (it was my “wine book of the year” in 2018) a Roederer Prize (a gong to sit beside my “WOTY” Certificate on his mantelpiece, no doubt). I will give notes on five wines here, but take it as read that the Rebula from Nando (Slovenia), Cascina degli Ulivi A Demû (Gavi/Piemonte) and my almost beloved COS Zibibbo In Pithos 2017 are at least equally worthy of your hard earned cash.
Christian Binner “Si Rose” NV is an unusual wine from a quietly innovative producer in the village of Ammerschwihr, west of Colmar. The grape blend is 65% Gewurztraminer and 35% Pinot Gris. Half the juice was from 2016, half from 2017. This is a skin contact wine and the juice is macerated on fine lees in foudre, too. As Pinot Gris in particular has a reddish skin, the wine is pink. Not the pale onion-skin-oeil de perdrix-ramato of most skin contact PG, but full-on pinko with a hint of Irn Bru. There’s definitely a bit of texture here, but overall you have a light wine, which you look into its depths as if through a telescope. There’s more in there and you are encouraged to fish for it, if that doesn’t sound too “Eric Cantona”. I guess I’m saying it’s bloomin’ good but it might take you a moment or two to realise.
Zurab Topuridze Golden Blend 2018 Here we have a difficult wine in some respects. There is no doubt that you are captivated in part because, with 15% alcohol, it sort of thrusts itself at you. But it’s also an unusual wine that appears both friendly and interesting, and part of its appeal lies in the fact that it is unquestionably unusual. The blend is Mtsvane, Rkatsiteli and a rare Kakheti variety, Kisi. The three varieties are all co-fermented in qvevri for six months. I saw a note from someone which said “diapers and asparagus”, which my poor palate thankfully didn’t find at all. I found more pears, plums and maybe a little apricot. A clean wine too, I’d say. But Unusual.
Sisters Wines Kisi 2017 Another wine from the Okro’s Wine stable in Kakheti (Eastern Georgia), and this time the rare Kisi grape made as a 100% varietal wine. Winemaking is four months on skins in qvevri. Pear and galia melon dominate but there’s something akin to a very faint caramel note down in the depths of this wine. After a few sniffs I’m also certain I was getting some hint of leaf tea (don’t ask me to specify, but not “builder’s tea”, okay). The 14% alcohol sort of creeps up on you, unawares. I drank a Kisi and I liked it!
Iago Bitarishvili Chinuri Skin Contact 2017 Of the few Georgian winemakers I’ve met, I really warmed to Iago more than any other. He makes his wines in Kartli, which like the Kakheti Region we have seen wines from here, is in Eastern Georgia (not far from Tblisi), but is cooler and windier, which does affect the character of the wines. The grape is another of the less well known autochthonous varieties, Chinuri, a late ripener known for its highish acidity. This wine has a good bit of colour from Iago’s characteristic six month maceration in qvevri. The bouquet is almost floral, with hints of fennel, but the palate has lovely peach and pear flavours. Another well priced “amber” wine from Georgia, which country it must be said, Les Caves de Pyrene has pretty much cornered the UK market in.
♥♥♥Progetto Calcarius Nû Litr Orange 2018 We saw the Calcarius Bombino Bianco back in Part 1. This is their very differently coloured “orange wine”, again under crown cap and bottled in litres. Falanghina is the variety and here it creates a wine that is remarkably fresh and refreshing for that sun-seeker’s heaven, Puglia, down in Italy’s far south. What you get is simple yet interesting. Stone fruit is the dominant note. There is a bit of citrus acidity, and a bit of honey (a touch of richness, not sweetness). There’s a bit of grippy texture, but less than you would suspect from the colour, just enough to grate the tongue a little. I love it, and it just edges the non-skin contact version on my “to buy” list.
BY STYLE – BUBBLES
Fizzy wine! Just the thing after a long tasting. We are still spitting here, but tiny quantities are allowed to trickle down, especially as these are so good. Seven wines (out of nine on the table), five with hearts. All of these are fun…well, Valerie’s Champagne is a little bit serious. All of them are wonderful, and more than a few spectacular. But I do like a few thousand bubbles!
♥♥♥Recaredo Terrers Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2013 Cava had a terrible reputation twenty years ago, no better than Prosecco’s today, inasmuch as most of it was pretty commercial and the few that excelled were known by very few people on export markets. That has changed, and Recaredo must be at the top of the list of those quality producers (as opposed to brands) which are now given due credit. What makes this wine so good? Gran Reserva (six years old), Brut Nature (so dry) and from altitude in the Alt Penedès, so the fruit was fresh to start with. The perfumed bouquet is elegant and the palate is excitingly fresh with perfectly judged acidity, accentuated by the dryness. This is currently tasting better than ever. Time to try (the best) Cava again if you haven’t recently.
Cambridge Road Pet Nat “Naturalist” 2018 is perhaps a rare thing, petnat from New Zealand. About time. Since taking over the Martinborough vineyards of Cambridge Road in 2006 the Redgwell family has been committed to minimal intervention viticulture and winemaking, and their reputation has rocketed. This is a gently sparkling wine blended from Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris, with a touch of Meunier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (I think they make a red from Pinot Noir as well). The wine can be quite cloudy from the lees in the bottle (especially my first taste from the last couple of centimetres in the bottle) and there’s a bit of residual sugar too, adding sweetness to the texture. A new bottle was opened and this had more zip, but both were very good, if different. Shake or stand for cloudy or clear.
Casa Costa Piane Di Loris Follador, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene NV The 100% Glera vines here, all over sixty years old, in the Valdobbiadene sub-zone of Prosecco, are planted on very sparse and rocky limestone and sandstone soils. Loris Follador and his sons farm organically on hillsides where no tractor or machinery could go. So this is as far from flatland, industrial, Prosecco as you can get. The nose gives a good nip of arrowroot (if anyone still recognises that these days), but otherwise it is quite neutral. The palate is almost totally different, cleansing the tongue with apple and lemon freshness and a line of bright rocky acidity with a little lees texture. Not a wine for long ageing, but for fun drinking, preferably with (lighter) food in my opinion, despite the producer’s suggestion of an aperitif function.
♥♥♥♥La Garagista Grace & Favour Petnat 2018 Another Garagista wine which I’ve written about recently, so I won’t go over the whole story. Just to say that “Grace & Favour” refers to the apartments granted by the British Monarch to former Ladies in Waiting and other employees at the royal palaces (specifically, here, Hampton Court), in gratitude for services rendered. The vine, La Crescent (as always here at La Garagista, a hybrid) is a descendent of Muscat d’Ambourg, the “Great Vine” at Hampton Court. The climate is cool, maybe “cold” is a better word, in this part of Vermont, but the waters of Lake Champlain do ameliorate the temperatures, as up in the Great Lakes (Niagara, for example, benefits in the same way).
This has savoury qualities, depth, a little weight, balanced with brisk and fresh acids. It’s a wine I find quite gourmande and even a little complex (dare I say that of a hybrid?). If I were to order a mixed case from Les Caves today there would be one, if not two, bottles of this in it. What more can I say. I truly love this wine (so it gets an extra heart).
♥♥♥Loxarel “A Pel” Ancestral Petnat 2018 This is another wine from Alt Penedès, but not a Cava this time. Josep Mitjans started Loxarel in the 1980s, which you might not guess from the modern feel of this wine. Xarel-lo spends a week on skins for texture and finishes fermenting in bottle using the Ancestral Method (so the lees remain in the bottle without disgorgement). This wine is frankly brilliant for a retail price of perhaps around £20 or so. Apple-fresh with strong herbal notes beneath, a lovely gentle fizz and a bit of savoury bite. It’s also memorably packaged.
♥♥♥Camillo Donati Malvasia Rosa Frizzante 2018 Back in the 1990s I’d come across occasional “frizzy” wines from Emilia-Romagna, but then they’d disappear, never to return. Nowadays this kind of wine obviously must sell better. Now Malvasia is a white grape, but this wine is pink. I know that there is 5% of a red grape in here, but I’m not sure what. This looks like a simple, frothy, fun, glass, and to a large degree it is. But there’s a lot going on here. Cherry and plum fruit combine with spice and fine earthy flavours suggesting that it wants to pair with typical Italian country dishes or cold meats. I love the acidity (like you get in a good Lambrusco, without quite the bitter bite), and also how as it sits on the palate a harmony takes over, as if it resolves right there on the tongue. I may forget to buy this for a year, maybe two, but rarely for longer.
♥♥♥Champagne Val Frison “Goustan” Brut Nature NV In just the past two years I’ve taken up buying quite a bit of Valérie Frison’s wines. She now farms around 6ha at Ville-sur-Arce, in the Aube/Côte des Bars, just east of Bar-sur-Seine. Her vines are 93% Pinot Noir, the rest Chardonnay, on Portlandian Limestone, all farmed organically. This Blanc de Noirs cuvée is direct pressed before fermentation and is aged in neutral oak (secondhand Chablis barrels) until the following summer. It stays on lees in bottle for around 19 months before disgorgement.
I have always previously felt I liked Val’s rarer Blanc de Blancs best of all (though a close call), but this made me think again. The cuvée tasted here is based on perfect 2014 fruit, and it’s another wine where I got a distinct hint of arrowroot biscuit (regularly consumed with tea in my family childhood), plus gorgeous, sparkling, clean red fruits with that nice edge that ripeness brings, all underpinned by stony minerality.
This was a rather classy way to finish such a magnificent tasting. I hope you’ve enjoyed the three parts I’ve managed to bring you. I’m afraid “the torture never stops” as I’m off to London tomorrow (hoping they manage to remove a fallen tree from the line) for the rather similarly titled tasting for a group of small (and “young, apparently) importers, “Out the Box 2019”. It’s another of the best tastings in town, and I hope to bring you some notes soon.
Great stuff David. Love these last few posts. I recently visited Ben at Tillingham. We were shown round by the wonderful Serena and then Ben joined us for a tasting. I’d already tried the Rose, Rullem & Endgrain at home. I loved all 3. I stupidly didn’t take detailed notes but the wines that blew me away were the 2 Pinots, 1 being the Tinop and another that saw no Qvevri. Don’t know the name of that but it was fabulous. Both pinots were world class to my palate. Also tasted the pet nats, brilliant, and the component parts of the brand new Qvevri White. 2 chardonnays and a pinot blanc combined to make that with the PB a sort of savagnin styled wine which I thought very exciting. Ben joked about combining the 3 to which my wife and Serena said “no, keep them separate”. Anyway he blended them and I’m massively excited to taste that wine. The Tinops available on the Tillingham website btw. I can’t quite believe how exciting the still and fizz wine coming out of a few UK producers is right now. You tipped me Westwell recently and I have a mixed case of their wine coming plus a mixed six from Tim at Charlie Herring. He’s actually sending me 2 versions of the new riesling vintage (2014) where he’s tried different sugar trials, 2 g/l & 6g/l. Anyway I’m rattling on. Btw we tried The Sportsman based on your blog, absolutely brilliant food & service. And we stayed in their fantastic new cabins. Annual trip alert! Keep up the good work. James
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So happy about all those things, James. I’ve visited Ben but not since the restaurant and rooms are up and running, and I can’t wait to return.
I’ve written before about Black Chalk. Next week I shall write about their Wild Rose 2015 in my regular recent wines article. I must say, to whet the appetite, that I’ve never drunk a “better” English Sparkling Wine.
Feedback is appreciated so much, so thank you.
Interesting. I’ve had the ‘15 BC Wild Rose and it was superb. Fabulous quality. My wife remarked it was the best wine we’d had since the Hambledon PC. Also the BC Classic equally so. It’s funny we talk in exalted terms about English wine. We used to be a joke, not any more. Do you think that the ‘15 Wild Rose is better than the ‘16? All my wino friends say ‘16 is better.
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I “tasted” 16 but not yet drunk a bottle. I very much look forward to doing so. Jacob Leadley said they’ve only got around five bottles of the 15 at the winery. 15 benefits greatly from age and I’d say is gorgeous now. We shall see, but if they are both brilliant I shall be tempted to avoid choosing a “best”.
David. You may already know but if not the Tinop is now sold out. Hopefully you got 1. Ben told me that he’s making 2 other cuvee from the same batch of Pinot, presumably in 2 different styles from each other and from the Tinop. I’ll keep an eye out for those. James
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Sadly (I really mean that, not just as a figure of speech) I didn’t. Usually I’d say life’s too short, plenty more fish etc, but in this case NO! But there were so few bottles, hardly surprising. I guess my praise of certain wines might not always help me buy them if I’m beaten to it.
He said there was a “rush” on the Tinop. Maybe it coincided with your piece. Anyway he suggested the other 2 may be just as good but weren’t ready for release just yet. Well I tasted one of them and it was! If it makes you feel better I could of bought one on my visit but inexplicably didn’t and have failed to act on my return so have missed out to. Bugger