The UK is blessed with an almost uncountable number of wonderful wine merchants, and I love too many of them to be deemed a truly loyal customer. They range from tiny enterprises like Basket Press, Modal Wines and Nekter up to the big boys such as Les Caves and Indigo. I’m not sure whether my computation of size is accurate, but in between sit the medium-sized operations, two absolute favourites which had scheduled tastings for consecutive Mondays. Fingers crossed, I shall be going to a perfectly formed tasting of Savoie, Bugey and Jura wines from Vine Trail next Monday (unless we have a travel ban in place by then). This Monday I was at Dynamic Vines‘ 2020 Portfolio Tasting held in their HQ in Bermondsey, London.
Dynamic Vines has a special place in my heart for a number of reasons. When I began to get seriously into Jura wines Domaine de la Tournelle rapidly rose to the top of the pile amongst my favourites. When my interest in Austrian Wine turned into a passion, it was almost single-handedly after I discovered Gut Oggau. Both are on Dynamic’s list. I must add that Dynamic is also one of just a handful of UK merchants who are starting to take Swiss Wine more seriously. So despite the fact that I had not visited the Bermondsey warehouse for over a year, though having availed myself of these wines from Antidote’s wine shop (near Carnaby Street), I could not have been looking forward to a tasting any more than I was, as I trudged through the wind and rain on Monday morning towards the wasteland around Spa Terminal and Discovery Business Park.
I managed to taste the full range on show from nine producers, out of approximately forty who were there. It seemed a good number because in this case it is worth me writing a bit more about each one. I’m afraid that when I come to write up Tuesday’s Vinateros Spanish tasting I shall have to be more brief. But it is worth listing just some of the names I missed out, to illustrate the strength of the Dynamic Vines range: Causse Marines, Franck Pascal, Josmeyer, Domaine Milan, Abbatucci, Alain Chabanon, Radikon, Tenuta Valgiano, Oriol Artigas and Forjas del Salnes are all producers whose wines I rate highly. But let’s crack on with what I did taste, every one a star in its own way.
DOMAINE COSSE MAISONNEUVE (Cahors, France)
I go back a very long way with the wines of Matthieu Cosse and Catherine Maisonneuve, discovering them in the early 2000s via Suffolk merchant and brewer, Adnams. They began their journey in 1999, at Preyssac near Cahors, and immediately established their vineyard as biodynamic. They started out with a little over five hectares, and have now grown the estate to fifteen. They have a variety of grapes planted on very different terroirs, making wines under the Cahors AOP along with some perhaps even more interesting Vins de France.
Dynamic Vines sells several of these Cahors, of which “Le Fage” (off clay), “Les Laquets” (their first wine, red clay and limestone with older vines) and “La Marguerite” (red clay with iron deposits) were on show. These are all very fine and (NB!) ageworthy Cahors. All are from the 2016 vintage. The wines below, however, are all labelled Vins de France.
Les Béraudies 2011 is a remarkably well priced cuvée made from a blend of Merlot and Malbec. It spent four years in barrel and shows fresh dark fruits underpinned by bite and grip. This is a single parcel, on limestone, and the Merlot vines are 70 years old. It saw three years in older oak and then four years in cement. I’m sure that gives an idea of the kind of approach Matthieu follows.
Abstemes S’Abstenir 2016 is a wine I went for immediately. Gamay (around 40-y-o vines) off limestone is aged in used wood and cement tank. The colour is dark for Gamay, denser than most, structured even. The finely drawn line of acidity running through its backbone defines the wine, as does its fresh acidity, perhaps more than the fruit. I like it because they have crafted a very fine Gamay which is not a mere Beaujolais replica. 12.5% abv seems spot on.
Carmenet 2017 is a remarkable Cabernet Franc, also grown on limestone, the vines having been planted before Cosse Maisonneuve in 1971. They are in what used to be the “Vin de Pays de Quercy” region, outside of Cahors. This is a terroir wine par excellence. The fruit is ripe but it has the kind of freshness I was tasting recently in Canadian Cabernet Franc, yet with plenty of concentration.
Sidérolithe 2017 is also a Cabernet Franc, but off red clay packed with iron and manganese. In fact it has an iron-rich glow and a slightly earthy bouquet beneath a profoundly floral perfume, a deeper expression perhaps than the wine above, more savoury. Just 12.5% abv though. I could drink this right now but without doubt it will age magnificently with all its tannin and texture.
CHÂTEAU LE PUY (Bordeaux, France)
I’ve tasted these wines on many occasions but never really written about them, and they deserve an introduction. This is a remarkable Bordeaux estate. The Amoreau family has been in the region and farming the land since 1610. The land has never been subjected to agro-chemicals and current family winemaker (14th generation) Pascal Amoreau and his father, Jean-Pierre, began eliminating all sulphur additions to their completely biodynamic production since 1990. No sulphur is generally added to any Le Puy wine.
The estate has 51 hectares under vine, comprising all five Bordeaux varieties for the red wines. The white wine (not shown here) is 100% Semillon, no Sauvignon Blanc. Vinification is quite simple and consistent, with hand harvested fruit fermented in self-regulating open top fermenters for two-to-four weeks. Ageing is in used oak (fine grained) with “dynamisation” (I guess it’s biodynamic bâtonnage), except for the remarkable Rétour des Îles (not shown, trade price just shy of £200/bottle), which goes over the Atlantic and back and “self-dynamises”.
Rose Marie VdF 2018 is a saignée Merlot, fermented for around ten months. It is more a clairet, or light red, gastronomic with red fruits and a savoury edge. This wine is always exceptional. It won’t be cheap but treat it as you would Château Simone, Tondonia or a similar pink.
Emilien VdF 2017 blends all five red varieties (M=85%, CS, CF, Malbec and Carmenère), aged 24 months in both barrel and oak vat. Textured but fruity (blackcurrant and redcurrant) with a leafy sous-bois undertone. The tannins are smooth and the wine is reasonably full in the mouth. Requires perhaps five years for the ’17.
Emilien Francs-Côtes-de-Bordeaux 2016 comes from a more “classical” vintage but has generous fruit above the ample structure. When I said no sulphur is generally added here, well they did add a tiny amount to stabilise this wine in 2016. For me, you can’t tell. The 2013 vintage of the same wine has a more earthy/savoury bouquet showing just a little more evolution and gives a hint at how nicely these wines will age.
Barthélemy 2017 VdF is a parcel wine, 85% Merlot, the rest Cabernet Sauvignon, which has a long vinification and then two years in barrel. You get a purple wine, quite dense, with an unquestionable caramel note on the nose (Emeline Callet who was showing the wines identified it as butterscotch). It’s a complex wine, silky but not ready to drink. Very fine, potentially.
Barthélemy Francs-Côtes-de-Bordeaux 2011 comes up with the goods. Deep aromas of leaf mould and undergrowth underpinned by blackcurrant fruit and blackcurrant leaf. The potential here is significant, but it is already performing. This is probably what Bordeaux should be producing across the region, not just on this patch by the Gironde.
These are sensational wines, and they are priced accordingly, but how many fans of famous fine Bordeaux are even aware of them?
DOMAINE GIACHINO (Savoie, France)
I have admired the wines of the Giachino family for some years, drawn to them initially by their rather fun labels, a rarity in Savoie, certainly in decades past. The domaine is run by brothers Frédéric and David, and Frédéric’s son Clément was over to show the wines.
The domaine has fifteen hectares of vines on the opposite side of the A41 Autoroute to the Combe de Savoie, at La Palud, near to Chapareillan, just east of the infamous Mount Granier. Infamous? In 1248 a giant landslide estimated to have included around 500 million square metres of mountain tumbled down in one night, burrying five villages. The scree forms the Giachino vignoble (and that of other producers) today.
In addition to their own biodynamic domaine, the Giachinos have, since 2015, farmed the vines, dotted around the Combe, of Savoie’s most famous vigneron, Michel Grisard, and his Savoie beacon estate, Le Prieuré Saint-Christophe.
Caroline et Clément Giachino
Vin de Savoie “Monfarina” 2018 is an attractive entry level glugger blending Jacquère with several other varieties (Verdesse, and Mondeuse Blanche included). This is an easy going wine but with a quite unusual floral bouquet and classic Savoie/Jacquère acids.
Aprémont 2018 is another Jacquère, a regional classic but with more weight and mouthfeel. A step up. It has that clean flavour of almost all Savoie whites, whatever the variety, but a little stony texture as well. The terroir is limestone and marls.
Roussette de Savioe 2018 is an appellation for Altesse, generally my favourite white variety from the region. This is fine, with lemon citrus, pear and stone fruit purity. A genuine further step up is their Roussette de Savoie Prieuré St Christophe 2017 bottling. This has seen twelve months in barrel and 2017 was a pretty exceptional vintage. This is very fine indeed, and although I doubt I shall be able to hang on to my bottle, this will go five or six years. It’s like the Giachinos’ own version but amplified in every aspect.
It has been suggested that the Giachino Prieuré wines do not yet show the depth of Michel Grisard’s. I don’t honestly have the experience (sadly, I will add) to comment, although I have been privileged to drink several of Michel’s creations.What I will say is that both wines under that label are a step up in the Giachino range, which is already very good indeed, one of a handful of the best in Savoie. That is doubtless why Michel trusted his legacy and vines to this family.
Vin de Savoie “Giac’ Potes” 2018 is the first red, a 50:50 Gamay/Mondeuse blend. Gamay is widely planted in the region but is most often seen in nondescript co-operative bottlings. This underwent a short maceration for ten days, whole clusters naturally. It has a fresh cherry bouquet and is very much a “natural wine”, fruity, smashable as they say.
Vin de Savoie “Black Giac” 2018 is pure Mondeuse Noir this time, aged six months in oak. It’s a nice, typical, Alpine red and a good intro to the lovely Mondeuse variety.
Vin de Savoie Persan 2017 is made from a variety which should be more widely recognised. It may be unknown to most people but it is a grape with serious potential, at its best producing highly ageable wines. This shows texture and structure, but with a softness too. That goes with pronounced acidity, which aids its potential for longevity as a varietal wine, but which also signals potential as blending material.
Vin de Savoie “Ma Douce” 2018 does indeed flag up that proposition, here Persan found alongside a splash of Mondeuse and rather more of the even rarer variety, Douce Noire. This is aged in stainless steel for around ten months and is a fascinating blend.
Vin de Savoie Mondeuse Prieuré St Christophe 2016 is the current vintage of the wine which made Michel Grisard the most famous face in Savoie. I know people who would genuinely drink Prieuré over DRC and suchlike, if they could just beg a bottle from the Grisard era. Eighteen months spent in barrel and the product of 60-year-old vines is surprisingly pale. Acidity is quite high but you get a decent hint of the depth and elegance to come. I think this is the first, or maybe the second, cuvée the Giachino family has made from these vines. We can only judge if it lives up to the Prieuré name when it has seen more age, for it is a wine stamped with longevity. The potential is definitely there.
DOMAINE DE LA TOURNELLE (Jura, France)
Pascal and Evelyne Clairet farm vines for their relatively small domaine around Arbois, and their Central Arbois tasting room is attached to their Bistrot de la Tournelle (open July and August in dry weather) at 5 Petite Place, in their garden by the swift flowing River Cuisance. I cannot be objective here, but I hope that my passion for these wines is well founded. They don’t often appear on the list of “sexy producers” beloved of many a youthful Jura fan, but trust me, the wines are every bit as good as you will find. Pascal has helped mentor quite a few young stars in his time, and will be approaching thirty harvests soon.
Arbois Les Corvées Sous Curon 2016 There are lots of wines made in “Les Corvées”, a vineyard north of Arbois, below the road to Montigny-les-Arsures, but the clue here is “Sous Curon”. These vines are right below the famous terraces of Chardonnay beneath the “Tour” which Stéphane Tissot sells for three times the price of this wine. Immaculate Chardonnay from stony argile over clay.
Arbois Fleur de Savagnin 2017 This is a wine that I’m never without at least one bottle in the cellar. Their classic ouillé (topped-up) Savagnin, all lemon and nuts, aged on the lees, giving texture and purity.
Arbois Ambre de Savagnin 2017 This vintage is stunning. A six month skin maceration produces an amber wine with a bouquet of orange and citrus peel. Think texture and tannin on the palate, but lingering, haunting, even exotic, flavours. I bought several wines in the Dynamic Vines shop on the day. I’d have bought this but I am hoping to visit the domaine again later this year and took a gamble, knowing I could carry no more. This could be the one that got away. Essential for fans of the amber revolution.
Arbois Uva Arbosiana 2018 The first Tournelle wine I ever bought, and probably the second and third too. A very natural Poulsard, made via carbonic maceration. Pale, ethereal, total fruit, unbelievably refreshing, if on the edge of wild. Drink cool to chilled. An anytime wine, yet it excels in summer sunshine. I find this wine sometimes shows signs of reduction. All it requires is air, in a carafe, perhaps with a vigorous shake, to help it reveal its magic.
Arbois Cul de Brey 2015 This is a very interesting blend of Trousseau, Petit Baclan and Syrah. It’s vibrant, prickly on the tongue and zippy for a red. I like this wine as a contrast to the more sophisticated Arbois Trousseau des Corvées 2014. Fermented in open tanks, it is then aged in large foudres. This is classic Trousseau which is made to age. I purchased this very wine at the domaine, both in bottle and magnum. The larger format is highly recommended for this particular Trousseau.
Arbois Vin Jaune 2011 I try to spread my VJ buying, so expensive is it becoming, and I just checked to discover that the last vintage of Tournelle Vin Jaune I bought was 2008. I need to remedy that, because this 2011 is a stunner. The Clairets have a dry Vin Jaune cellar and it produces a very thin layer of flor. This still protects the wine, allowing it to undergo its seven years of biological ageing, but it helps create an elegant and fresh wine. The high notes always sing out, and I can happily drink their VJ relatively young. It always has this lighter side, emphasising the fresh citrus above the nutty tenor notes. 14% abv. I say I can drink it young, but of course there’s no use by date to adhere to. Heavenly.
EMMANUEL GIBOULOT (Burgundy, France)
Giboulot became unintentionally famous a few years ago when he risked prison for his organic and biodynamic principles. Burgundy was, and is, infected by flavescence dorée (aka golden rot), spread by a leafhopper insect. The authorities decreed that growers had to spray for it. Most organic producers in reality either did so, or so I’m told, pretended to. Giboulot stood up for his principles, seemingly alone. It was massive public support, both in France and internationally, which saved him. He farms Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, along with the much rarer Pinot Beurrot.
Emmanuel showed ten wines, and I won’t dwell on every one of them. He farms in the appellations of Beaune, Côte de Beaune, Saint-Romain, and even further into the hills for his Hautes-Côtes de Nuits wines (“En Gregoire” and “Sous le Mont”).
Saint-Romain Blanc “En Chevrot” 2017 is a good place to begin. It has a fine mineral bouquet, a wine of simplicity, but I mean that as a compliment. Finely dawn. It contrasts nicely with the ever so slightly cheaper Côte de Beaune Blanc “La Grande Chatelaine” 2017, a lovely vibrant Chardonnay. Aged 12 months on lees in large, used, oak, it has medium body and texture. From older vines.
Côte de Beaune “Les Pierres Blanches” 2017 comes from a vineyard immediately above the Beaune 1er Cru Bressandes, with a southeast exposure. 2017 was a good vintage all round for Emmanuel and this bottle shows a little amplitude, ripeness, but great balance. His other Côte de Beaune parcel is Combe d’Eve shown here from the 2014 vintage. It’s a deeper wine with confit lemon and peach on the bouquet, the palate showing a blend of citrus freshness and nutty depth, with plenty of acidity.
Heading further south, Giboulot farms a parcel in the Chalonnaise. Rully 1er Cru “la Pucelle” 2017 shows the latent, but not always realised, promise of this region of more open farmland and soft hillsides. It’s overall a broader rendition of Chardonnay with lovely balance.
Of the two reds from the Hautes-Côtes, I would say grab them in any vintage, especially a good one. Climate change is enabling growers to get a lot more from their Pinot grown up in these once chilly hills, especially, I would argue, the biodynamic growers.
The red version of Saint-Romain “En Chevrot” 2017 is pale, with a defined upper register giving really lovely high-toned fruit. It’s a moreish wine, seemingly easy to drink, until you stop and notice that there’s more here than initially met the eye (or tongue).
Côte de Beaune “Les Pierres Blanches” Rouge 2017 is highly recommended. I will only say that it seemed to me like a distillation of intense strawberry and raspberry fruit. I suggest it’s wine to bring joy rather, perhaps, than mere intellectual stimulation.
Last comes something quite special, I think. Beaune “Lalunne” 2017 is a wine of pale intensity, texture, and seemingly floating over the wine’s structure, a strong waft of fruit. The plot is well exposed to the sun, effortlessly ripening the grapes in 2017. This will surely age into a beautiful wine. But there’s also a certain joy to all of Giboulot’s wines, perhaps surprising considering all he’s been through.
EMIDIO PEPE (Abruzzo, Italy)
The Pepe estate was founded in 1899, so not the oldest here, but still..! Emidio began bottling the family’s wine for himself in 1964 and since then the vineyard has grown to fifteen hectares, creating almost unquestionably one of the two finest wine domaines in the Abruzzo. Emidio drew derision from fellow producers when he began to reject the so-called advances in agronomy and winemaking which took off in the 1960s and 70s, but who’s laughing now!
As you would expect, the wines here are made very traditionally, but there are a couple of things you need to know. First, the vines are trained on pergola. This is still derided by some as a primitive training system, but all over Europe biodynamic producers are discovering the benefits of this high trellising. For one thing, with climate change the high canopy protects the grapes from excessive sun but allows air to circulate beneath. It’s main disadvantage? These vines are backbreaking to pick. Only the old folks really have the stamina.
Secondly, there is no oak to be found in the winery…not even older oak. Glass-lined concrete is the preferred medium for fermenting and ageing the wines.
It was a pleasure to meet Chiara de Iulis Pepe, Emidio’s granddaughter, for the first time whilst I tasted once more some of Italy’s genuinely finest wines. Their acknowledged status, and popularity, is certainly underpinned by the sheer number of “likes” any photo of these wines garners on Instagram.
Never forget that this producer creates a pair of amazing white wines. Don’t make it all about the reds. Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2016 is savoury with hazelnuts, concentrated, long and smooth. Pecorino 2016 is labelled IGT and is even more on the nutty side, a big wine (not heavy). Small bunches with small thick skinned berries are gently foot crushed, so there’s a little skin contact but not a lot. It gives texture, but the Pecorino perhaps has a touch more acidity than the Trebbiano. It’s just about my favourite of the two, generally.
We were treated to five vintages of the Pepe Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. Each one had been carefully chosen to illustrate a point. Of course, there are lots of examples of the Montepulciano grape variety around for very little money, whereas these cost rather a lot. But as Chiara said, there is no comparison. Those cheap wines are generally examples of an easy going grape variety, and the Pepe versions are genuinely world class wines in my view. Let’s see what I tasted.
2015 – A young wine, for sure. Deep coloured and waiting for its concentration and structure to complete a long journey to maturity. But you can taste everything here that equips it for that journey.
2010 – An iconic vintage, a wine with amazing energy, yet so young. Do not look at this and pop the cork if you can avoid it.
2003 – A very warm year, even up here. This illustrates the function of the pergola system so well. It doesn’t come across as a hot vintage wine. It’s so far removed from stewed fruit (I could name some Tuscans…). Yet again, it also seems surprisingly youthful.
1997 – We are getting serious. Another warm year, it still holds its tannins at just over 22 years of age. Not quite fully ready, perhaps, but for me it is perfect. I wish I’d bought more Pepe before the prices went AWOL.
1980 – This is the wine with the most “different” bouquet of the lot. This is so alive it almost jumps out of the glass and walks across the floor. A guy tasted this and said 1980 was his birth year. He seemed visibly moved. I certainly was. Wines like this make me almost swell with tears – tears of joy, but also tears of pain. At £200/bottle trade price I am sure I will never get to drink a glass of this, though if I did there’s a fair chance it would make “WOTY”. No oak, no chemicals, just grapes aged in glass-lined concrete and bottle for just short of forty years. Perfection plus! If there’s a God……..
GUT OGGAU (Burgenland, Austria)
Remember what I said about this producer in my introduction. These wines are very different to those of Emidio Pepe. The Pepe family make deeply profound wines, the wonderful couple who make these wines in the hamlet of Oggau, close to Rust, on the western shore of Austria’s Neusiedlersee, make wines of profound happiness. That particular emotion, which permeates the all wines, comes from Eduard and Stephanie, and perhaps the whole family. Stephanie’s parents were pouring the wine in England (whilst, I think, their makers were pouring in Vienna), and it was noteworthy what a similar personality Stephanie’s mother has to her daughter, with a smile that lights up the room.
I’m sure you know the set-up. A “family” of wines, covering three generations, except that with devastated yields in 2016 only one blend of each colour was made (named “family reunion”). None of the wines are labelled as DAC (the Austrian version of AOP etc). Nor do their makers like to talk about the grape varieties in each blend (you can find a certain amount of info on the Dynamic Vines web site, but this is a domaine where it’s all about the terroir). Of course in one case, “Emmeram”, it is obvious that the variety is Gewurztraminer.
Gut Oggau does have a bit of an interesting local crossing planted, Roesler (Zweigelt x [Seyve-Villard 18-402 x Blaufränkisch] of 1970), and whilst I promised not to be too promiscuous about the varieties, I can now pretty much spot that variety where it is there in a blend on a few occasions, as I did on Monday.
Theodora 2018 is especially vibrant in 2018. Just a couple of hours skin contact adds a lifted hint of texture. Unfiltered, it remains a tiny bit cloudy. All wines here are Demeter Certified biodynamic, and Theodora is described as “passionate”, clearly the vivacity of biodynamics working its magic. Timotheus 2018 has more depth and smoothness, maybe a little bit more of a “grown up” white wine.
Emmeram 2018 is the Gewurz. It’s fairly rich but also mineral and dry. Two hours on skins and aged in barrel for a smooth texture. I have served this a few times to people who profess not to like the variety and they always appreciate this one.
Mechthild 2017 is clearly Grüner, off limestone and slate, which around here gives a classically fresh Veltliner. It’s hard to pin down the bouquet, but the wine is very savoury and very complex this vintage.
Atanasius 2018 is our first red, clean and vibrant. It was perhaps overshadowed by Josephine 2017, which was my top wine on the table (a bottle followed me home). She has an earthy touch, yet is so sweet fruited, and that fruit is just incredibly concentrated, almost blood-like. Stunning.
Joschuari 2017 claims to be pure Blaufränkisch but I reckon there may be some Roesler hidden away. It is partially fermented on skins in a mix of wooden and concrete vats, then aged in barrel. In any event it’s a fairly unique flavour which draws me to this cuvée time and time again. Iron is one descriptor which comes to mind, on the nose and in the soul, to plunder JPS. I get nettles too. Some would add mineral. Bertholdi 2017 is the grandfather red. What can I say? Blaufränkisch off limestone and slate again, fermented on skins and pressed in the family’s old tree press, very gently of course. A wine of depth, but you need deep pockets to buy a bottle.
The Family Reunion pair from 2016 were also shown. These are in a slightly different style, very much easy drinking wines, with real verve. The white is slightly spritzy, simple, lively, extremely refreshing. The red is somewhat in the same vein. These are wines to snap up and in my opinion enjoy fairly soon.
I want to go on record that these wines are among my favourites, not just from Austria but from anywhere. I’m not making claims as to overall technical quality. I’m not going to argue with fans of Screaming Eagle or Château LaMoutongauxblahblah. Why do we love what we love? Who knows. I just know these wines will always be a part of my life. Like music, wine creates bonds which define us as people.
KTIMA LIGAS (Pella, Greece)
So I have two favourite Greek producers, and Domaine Ligas is one of them. I’ve known their wines for a long time, and they are one of the reasons I truly believe Greece should have a much larger profile on the world wine stage. Pella is in Central Macedonia, in Northern Greece, somewhat north of Thessaloniki. Thomas Ligas started working the vines here in 1985, in vineyards planted purely with autochthonous varietes: Roditis, Kydonitsa and Assyrtiko for the white wines, Xinomavro and Limniona for the reds. Son Jason is now involved, though he also has various projects of his own (I think he’s in Santorini right now), whilst daughter Meli is often found travelling the wine tasting circuit, and she was showing the wines on this occasion (always nice to catch up, Meli).
Pella Roditis 2018 is a lovely, almost sour, white wine fermented in stainless steel and aged just four months in barrel this vintage (more usually 8-10 months, I think). It is labelled IGP, a country wine in the best sense.
Lamda Barrique 2017 gets labelled one step “down” (cough) as Vin de Grece. It’s the one with the famous (now) Maria Callas label. The variety is Assyrtiko, but oak aged (the best contrast to a young Santorini you might find). It sees one day on skins before it goes into barrel for 18 months. The key to this wine is old vines, more than 50 years of age. Superb. I have some.
Spira 2018, IGP Macedoine is another wine I own, but only in this case because I bought some on Monday. So I’ll admit, it was my favourite on the table, on the day. It is a solera wine, comprised of six vintages so far (2012 to 2017) of Xinomavro vinified white (or deep yellow to be accurate). Powerful fruit and a real complexity brought from the solera, a great combination and I won’t be able to keep from pulling the cork soon. I wonder who I will share it with?
Roditis Maceration 2017 (IGP Pella) is the orange wine here, another star in my view. One month on skins, manually destemmed, then aged eight months. If you like the amber nectar this is one to seek out.
Pata Trava 2018 (IGP Macedoine) is a stunning pale pink. I’m pretty sure this cuvée was the first wine I drank from Ligas, bought after tasting it many Raw Wines ago. Unfiltered Xinomavro like no other version of this usually quite “red” (in every sense) variety, and not at all “mavro”. Nor macho for that matter.
Xi-Ro 2017 (IGP Pella) is a more normal rendition of the Xinomavro variety, intense and quite tannic after a year in barrel (old oak). The overall effect is lightened considerably by the “Ro” part of the name – the white variety Roditis accompanies the Xinomavro in a well thought out blend.
Bucephale 2017 (IGP Pella) is the big boy here. Named after the famous white horse beloved of Alexander The Great, this dark Xinomavro saw 45 days on skins in a big oak tank, then a year and a half ageing in barrel. It has a whopping bouquet of bright and concentrated cherry. The tannins are very elegant, perfectly judged in fact, and the wine is very elegant too, if perhaps requiring some bottle age.
Perhaps it was a result of having a bit more time and space to taste these wines than at a more crowded event like Raw, but already firm favourites with me, the range this week tasted better than ever.
DOMAINE DE BEUDON (Valais, Switzerland)
Domaine de Beudon lies near Fully, between Martigny at the western end of the Rhône Valley, before it turns north to Lake Geneva, and Sion further east. The vineyards here are generally spectacular, some of the most impossible to farm in the world. At Beudon there are two ways to reach the vines, by rickety cable car or a one hour (if you are fit) climb.
The vines range from around 500 metres asl up to 900 metres, apart from a small plot near the valley floor. The vines all face south, and believe it or not this is one of the sunniest locations in Europe in terms of solar radiation. Jacky Granges built all the terraces which stop the domaine’s six-and-a-half hectares falling to the valley below, and if that didn’t signal him as a fully signed up eccentric in the eyes of his fellow villagers, farming biodynamically really must have got the conservative locals talking.
Jacky sadly died in 2016, from a fall in the vineyards. His wife and daughters carry on with his work, and one of them, Séverine, told me that his young grandson David says he wants to be a winemaker too. Let’s hope so. This is a special place to make wine. Seven cuvées were shown.
Fendant 2017 Fendant is the name for Chasselas in Switzerland’s Valais. It has taken a bad rap in the past, largely because it was the classic large cropper used to make watery whites back in the bad old days. Regular readers will know my appreciation for the work that highly skilled vigneron(ne)s are doing with the variety, whether in Switzerland (both Vaud and Valais), France (Dominique Lucas), or Germany (Ziereisen). If my favourite Valaisanne Fendant is made by Marie-Thérèse Chappaz, then this one comes second. Mellow, with mineral softness. Chasselas usually gives green grapes but in all the sunshine it is exposed to here, the berries are bronze in colour at harvest.
Riesling x Sylvaner 2014 Notice that they do not call this wine Muller-Thurgau, but rather by the crossing, as many others do in the region. I’m not sure why? This variety has a terrible press, and it generally goes by other synonyms in The Valais as well, anything but MT. The funny thing is that I’ve read that Dr Müller’s nineteenth century crossing has lately been discovered, via DNA analysis, to actually be a cross between Riesling and Madeleine Royale, not Sylvaner (one to remember when someone tries mansplaining MT).
Most commentators do it down…high yields, prone to disease, light and aromatic but incapable of complexity. Wrong! In Germany we are seeing very good examples, if short of greatness (try Stefan Vetter in Franken), and definitely try the skin contact version made by Hermit Ram (Canterbury, NZ). The Beudon wine is sour, in a way that makes it interesting. Dark-ish in colour and savoury. For the adventurous, maybe. Note the bottle age (2014).
Petite Arvine 2017 You don’t need to be adventurous to try this classic Valaisanne white variety, massively under rated by most commentators. It exudes mountain freshness with mineral depth and vibrancy, though with all that sunshine you get a bit of weight to the body, and certainly ripeness. Do try Petite Arvine, from the Valais, or indeed from over the Saint-Bernard, in Italy’s Val D’Aoste. Try this one if you can.
Gamay 2016 Gamay is indeed grown down here. It often finds its way into the Passetoutgrains-like blend, Dôle. This is a good stand alone version, with high acid freshness to the fore. Nice fruit.
Pinot Noir 2013 This also shows similar liveliness to the Gamay. A freshly opened bottle showed a little CO2 on the cork being pulled, but it has a deep fruity bouquet. It also checks in at 14% abv, but the fruity style of the wine overcomes this. I already own a bottle of this from the subsequent 2014 vintage and I really must organise a Swiss lunch and see what people make of it. It can often be my favourite Beudon red wine, but Burgundy it isn’t.
Diolinoir 2014 Diolinoir is one of Switzerland’s many crossings, in this case between Rouge de Diolly (aka Robin Noir) and Pinot Noir, made apparently in order to get a deeper colour. Why bother, you might say, but the variety is quite popular. It has a kind of Dôle-ish quality, in that it’s not very complex but it is a satisfying red wine. The Beudon version is well made and has that biodynamic vivacity.
As an aside, there are so many Swiss crosses, plenty of them planted around Geneva’s up-and-coming vignoble. But a few are very rare. Completer is rare and expensive, but usually a little less expensive is Plant Robert. Finding bottles of this is surely a must for any Led Zeppelin fans?
Constellation 2007 This is a blend, I believe, of Gamay, Pinot Noir and Diolinoir. Notice again the vintage date. It is also an old vine cuvée. It’s lovely, everything in its place, harmonious, floral on the bouquet (roses?) with mostly light red fruits on the palate. It’s basically fruity but has a little structure and texture. Very much a wine of these mountains, where the result is usually freshness from the altitude and a surprising (to outsiders) ripeness from exceptional sunshine.
Do try out the Beudon wines. They make more than was on show here, including a nice version of the often derided (and often deservedly so) Dôle (Pinot Noir/Gamay), and an interesting orange wine if you ever find it (and if they continue to make it…I hope so), called Cuvée Antique. This is made from Fendant (Chasselas) fermented on skins, and goes well with game. If I recall correctly, it’s one of the less expensive wines from the domaine, too. Please drink more Swiss Wine.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to taste any of the wines from fellow Valais producer, Marie-Thérèse Chappaz. They were open on the “public” day (Sunday) but none were available for trade and press on Monday. Allocations were tiny, and it will pretty much all go to restaurants. But I thought I’d be nice and flag the fact that Dynamic Vines has a foot in the door at this iconic domaine. If Dynamic sells out, try Alpine Wines (online only).