I hope no one minds me splitting my “wines at home” piece into two parts at the moment. As all the wines we are drinking are being drunk at home, there are somewhat more to write about, made worse by the fact that I seem to be opening so many great bottles. When I strip out one or two already covered in previous articles, April presents me with eighteen wines I need to tell you about. As two short articles covering nine wines in each, it seems an easier format for you to skip through.
We have one Spanish wine, one German, one Californian, one from Czech Moravia, one from Switzerland, one from England and three Austrians (who’d have guessed). No Jura? Don’t worry, there will be a couple in Part 2.
JARAL 2012, PURULIO (Sierra Nevada, Spain)
Torcuato Huertas Tomás makes his wine at Marchal in the stunningly beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains near Granada. In summer there is still some snow to be seen on these high peaks in Southern Spain, although if you are there in August, as I was a few years ago, then you will be wilting in the white-walled villages below. Jaral is an ageable red wine which rarely gets the opportunity to do so.
The vineyard is just three hectares on the north-facing side of the mountains. Days may be hot but the nights are cold at between 900 to 1,500 metres altitude. I think the grape variety is Tempranillo in this cuvée, but it reminds me much more of a young Nebbiolo than Rioja. Pomegranate and blueberry fruits are dense, rich and smooth, with just a little grip and texture grounding the wine. You can tell it’s a mountain wine, yet it also has delicacy. It comes from the estate’s highest altitude sites.
Torcuato Huertas is farming his grandfathers old vine plots, which he took over after getting the wine bug whilst helping his somewhat famous uncle with some pruning work in the 1980s. That uncle is Manuel Valenzuela of Barranco Oscuro. A nice connection to have, but I think Torcuato matches BO in making fantastic wines. He’s also a very nice guy, worth supporting.
Purulio wines are imported by Otros Vinos (London).
BACCHUS TROCKEN 2017, 2NATURKINDER (Franken, Germany)
Melanie Drese and Michael Völker are 2Naturkinder, based at Kitzingen in Franken/Franconia, which is in Northern Bavaria. Franken is slowly becoming a hotbed for young people looking for a start in winemaking, but Michael’s family had been growing vines here since 1843. 2Naturkinder has become an exciting new label in the region, and in natural wine generally, and you can read an in-depth piece about them by New York writer Valerie Kathawala in Pipette Magazine (Issue 5), or via the link on Valerie’s own site here.
When Melanie and Michael returned to the family farm as Michael’s parents approached retirement they knew how they wanted to proceed, with low intervention winemaking. Michael eased into the project by making a range of wines with his father, called “Vater & Sohn. I think it is fair to say that the winery’s older customers really didn’t appreciate these new low sulphur wines. Previously a cellar master had been employed to make the wines conventionally.
In a classic mirror of what is happening all over the German speaking world, whilst rejected at home the wines have gained international recognition. Michael’s last vintage with his father was 2019 and now this young pair will forge ahead on their own, but with wines well established in export markets via success around Europe and America’s natural wine fairs. We won’t see any more of the Vater & Sohn labels, but 2Naturkinder’s solo labels do really stand out (the “Bat-Nat” and the “Head of Bacchus” especially).
This Vater & Sohn Bacchus has explosive fruit, and the fruit is pushed out with quite high acidity to match. What balances it all is the exotic side of that fruit. Traditional Bacchus grapefruit melds with more exotic aromas and flavours…of peach and pineapple. You only get a mere 10.5% alcohol here, but the wine is not weedy in the slightest. It’s quite steely, but its more exotic side gives a little unexpected breadth.
Perhaps this 2017 has benefited from a while in bottle, but it’s such a refreshing wine, both literally and in the sense that it is so refreshing to see more young ideas smashing the conservatism of German wine. That comes to mind specifically having just a night or two ago finished a bottle of Jan Matthias Klein’s Portu Geezer, a wine made from Arinto and Fernão Pires grapes in the Mosel Valley. You may not find this Bacchus easily, but anything from 2Naturkinder is worth grabbing.
This bottle came from the takeaway list at Plateau Brighton. Imported by Wines Under the Bonnet.
DAVID GIRARD VINEYARD COUNOISE 2018, KEEP WINES (California, USA)
Counoise is, of course, a relatively minor variety in France’s Southern Rhône, famous (if that’s the right word) as a mostly very minor constituent in the multi-varietal Châteaneuf-du-Pape blend. However, it is surprisingly successful in California, and in fact I can never decide which of two versions I prefer – this one or that made by Benevolent Neglect.
Keep Wines was founded by Jack Roberts and Johanna Jensen, a partnership which began romantically on the first day Jack arrived in the USA. He’s an Englishman, and the old Keep Wines label (of which I was quite a fan) was a photo of Beverstone Castle in Gloucestershire, where Jack’s father was born.
Jack ended up as Assistant Winemaker at Matthiasson Family Wines, a position he held until recently. He’s now gone full time with Keep, but they remain friends and Steve has been a major influence. Johanna, or JJ as she’s known, has worked with Abe Schoener on the Scholium Project and at Broc Cellars. So, some well loaded CVs.
Keep Wines does seem to major on slightly esoteric varieties, but I think these are the kind of wines Jack and JJ like to drink, especially for pairing with their lightness of touch. This cuvée comes in at just 12.25% abv, not bad for California and a Southern Rhône variety. I like the rather dusty but gentle tannins here, which are a good foil to the smooth red fruit. It’s just so drinkable, and just such a marvellous wine. Very seductive, and an exemplar of zero sulphur winemaking.
Imported by Nekter Wines whose Californians (they specialise in South Africa, Australia and California) are a revelation, really, including some spectacular bottles from the aforesaid Steve and Jill (Klein) Matthiasson.
PIROSKA 2018, JOISEPH (Burgenland, Austria)
Luka Zeichmann is the winemaking third of a partnership which produces some of the finest new wines in Burgenland, from a base near Jois on the northern edge of the Neusiedlersee. They began with less than a hectare, but have since grown their holding to five, yet some wines emanate from just two or three rows. Production like this is hard to get hold of and you have to be swift to land some.
Piroska is therefore currently out of stock with the importer, but when it comes to Joiseph grab what you can. This is a red blend of mostly Zweigelt and Pinot Noir, along with other varieties in the gemischter satz field blend tradition. It undergoes a wild fermentation and is bottled unfiltered with a reasonable sediment adding texture. The colour is that gorgeous cherry-red which natural wines seem to do so well, and which signal a light fruitiness usually accompanied by refreshing acidity.
That’s what you get here. The nose is high register strawberry and raspberry with the lift of a slight CO2 spritz on opening. It has a “bouquet” in the true sense, like a bunch of fruity flowers opening outwards from the bottle neck. The palate has lovely, zippy, cherry fruit concentration with slightly darker fruit on the finish, almost “Italianate”. It’s rather nice if served quite cool, and at 12% abv is perfect for lunch or a warm evening.
Imported by Modal Wines.
FRANKOVKA CLARET 2018, OTA ŠEVČIK (Moravia, Czechia)
One of Czechia’s finest producers, based in Bořetice, in Southern Moravia. This is a young-looking guy farming just two hectares, but he actually started making wine back in 1992, so he can’t be quite as young as he looks. He was also one of the founding members of the Czech “Autentiste” group of natural winemakers, whose influence has gone beyond the boundaries of Moravia.
The vineyards around Bořetice have a very high magnesium content, in soils of mostly sand or loess and this probably accounts for the precision in the wines locally. This is certainly apparent from Ota’s wines, red and white. Frankovka Claret is quite unique though. Frankovka is, of course, Blaufränkisch, which I’m sure you know by now. “Claret” has nowt to do with Bordeaux, but is a style of lighter red which is really becoming popular once more all across Europe (cf Clarete styles in Spain coming to the fore right now, and indeed one from the Canary Islands that I opened last night and which you may have spotted on Instagram).
Most “Claret” (and Clarete) would be a darkish pink colour, perhaps similar to cranberry or pomegranate juice. This has more of a peachy tone with indeed scents of stone fruit, along with red fruits which creep in later. It’s smooth, superficially “glou-glou”, but in actual fact it has real depth as well. It’s just very subtle. You need to allow it to unfurl slowly and gently. It expresses a lot, but just don’t expect it to blurt everything out in one go. On a warm day it ends up tasting remarkably like strawberries and cream. I really liked it…a lot.
Imported by Basket Press Wines.
FENDANT “PRESIDENT TROILLET” 2017, MARIE-THÉRÈSE CHAPPAZ (Valais, Switzerland)
Marie-Thérèse is one of my two favourite Swiss producers, and it always pains me that I rarely have more than two or three Chappaz wines in the cellar. This is half down to lack of easy availability, and half down to price (especially on export markets where it hurts). The Chappaz winery is set below magnificent mountain scenery at Fully, which is just before the point at which the Rhône (and the A9 Autoroute which follows it here) turns abruptly from its southwesterly route northwards, at Martigny, towards Lac Léman. Marie-Thérèse’s vines are planted above the village, between 550 and 650 metres asl on south-facing granite with a little loess. Everything done in the vines and winery follows the priciples of biodynamics.
Fendant is the Valais name for Chasselas, Switzerland’s most planted variety. I hesitate to say “signature” variety because it is so maligned, especially by outsiders. It may, as I’ve said before, be capable of producing watery dross, but it is also capable of wonderful expression (I’m tempted to write an article about all of the best Chasselas but I’m not totally convinced it would be read).
Marie-Thérèse makes four cuvées and I own two. President Troillet is perhaps the one capable of most complexity, and ageing (and if I were able to recall just which cuvée is which I might have kept this a little longer). It has a nutty complexity already, and smells almost of the granite from which it comes. It is very mineral, especially at less than three years old, and is also savoury. I’ve seen umami as a note, which fits well. This is just the wine for the naysayers, although perhaps a few more years will make it more open. Troillet has a reputation of being able to go twenty years, although I’ve never had one remotely close to that age. It’s still a beautiful example of what a truly great producer can do with an unloved variety though.
This is a producer a few of those people disappointed at not sourcing Overnoy and Miroirs should be looking at. As with your typical Jura or Alsace producer Marie-Thérèse makes at least twenty-five different bottlings each year. The sweet wines are genuinely world class without argument, and I will argue with anyone about the dry wines as well.
Marie-Thérèse Chappaz has two principal UK importers, Alpine Wines and Dynamic Vines. Most of the Dynamic allocation goes into very keen restaurants, but if they have any left now could be a good time to ask. I’ve bought Chappaz Fendant from both sources in the past year, but I think this cuvée came from Alpine Wines. At around £40 it’s probably more than many would pay for Chasselas without the knowledge of the few.
PINK 2018, WESTWELL WINES (Kent, UK)
Westwell Wines, founded by former Record Company owner Adrian Pike, sits on the south flank of the North Downs in Kent, looking down on the M20 Motorway as it takes people like me (as often as possible) towards Folkestone and the Channel Tunnel. Historically it sits on the Pilgrim’s Way to Canterbury, on chalkland evocative of Chaucer and the vineyards of Champagne, which occupy the same strata on the other side of “La Manche”.
The Westwell vineyard is around nine acres (a little over three-and-a-half hectares). Five of these acres are dedicated to the usual Champagne varieties, used principally for the sparkling wines, and four acres are planted with Ortega. The exception to the former, the use of the two Pinots for sparkling wine, is this low production (circa 1,000 bottles) “Pink”, which blends Pinot Noir and Meunier.
The 2018 was picked on 13 October, undergoing a 24-hour cold maceration for colour before gentle pressing. Fermented in stainless steel with natural wild yeasts at low temperature, it was bottled early in late April last year, with a tiny addition of sulphur.
The colour is beautiful to behold. Adrian calls it “rose quartz” and it does take me straight into one of those crystal shops in Glastonbury. Red fruits explode from the bottle, riding on a cavalcade of apple-fresh acidity. It’s not trying to be an intellectual, merely the life and soul of the party. In this respect the winemaking is sheer brilliance and the wine is sheer joy. It was my choice for “English Wine Friday” last month. A difficult choice for such a significant day, with Tillingham and Dermot Sugrue strong contenders, but this was a recent purchase and fully deserved the slot.
Importer: Uncharted Wines.
(The cd in the photo is for Adrian…he’ll know)
BRUTAL CUVÉE 2016, GUT OGGAU (Burgenland, Austria)
You won’t need me to tell you much about this producer, will you. Based at Oggau, just a few kilometers north of Rust on Neusiedlersee’s western shore, I fell in love with their wines on first sip quite a long time ago. It’s almost painful for me to actually open one (do you get that?), but always a moment of profound joy when I do. I think there are perhaps a dozen producers who remind me why I adore wine for drinking, not wine for “collecting”, and Gut Oggau is one.
The “Brutal” Cuvée was instigated by the famous Bar Brutal in Barcelona and its founder, Joan Valencia. Although it states that it comes from the “Brutal Wine Corporation”, there is no company involved. The famous black, red and yellow label can be used by any producer, provided it is what they call “zero-zero”, a natural wine with nothing added and nothing removed. No chemicals whatsoever, no filtration, and so on. Favourite producers who have also made “Brutal” bottlings include Christian Tschida (also Burgenland), Christian Binner (Alsace) and Domaine L’Octavin (Jura) among more than twenty I have seen or read of.
This is one of the older bottlings, which as you can see I have hung on to, but remember that natural wines do age. I was actually astonished by this. Is it a pale red or a dark rosé? The variety is the perfectly chosen Roesler, a crossing from the 1970s which fans of GO will know well, and one that is resistant to frost and fungal diseases.
The wine has juicy red fruits, but also a stony lick of texture and a touch of Blaufränkisch-like pepperiness on the finish. A little bite, in other words. It’s effectively crisp but fruity, with the crispness perhaps a little less dominant than it might have been twelve months ago. It’s really beguiling stuff at this age, not at all brutal.
Gutt Oggau is imported by Dynamic Vines.
SUPERGLITZER 2018, RENNERSISTAS (Burgenland, Austria)
Heading back to the north of the lake, the Renner vineyards comprise a healthy 12 hectares, surround Gols. I wonder whether they will keep the name “Rennersistas” now that their younger brother, Georg, has joined the team? I do hope they keep their iconic labels (with the tractor), which I think are among the very best, perhaps in fact the most effective in Austrian wein.
Superglitzer is a blend of Blaufränkisch, St-Laurent and Zweigelt, though one insider (Simon Woolf) suggests there’s also a bit of Roesler in there too. Superglitzer’s a great name. Although initially the name of the cuvée conjured up a sparkling wine for me, it aptly describes (as does the modified glitzy label) a lively red wine brimming with vibrant red fruits and the kind of abundant zest which few, even natural, winemakers produce in quite this way.
The predominantly limestone soils here probably add some of that zip and the varieties chosen for the blend add a little spice. It’s a gorgeous wine to drink with joy, and preferably with friends (for whom I am saving my other bottle, for when such an occasion eventually becomes possible). Glorious stuff. Little compensation for the fact that I was supposed to be in Vienna in April, with the natural hope that we could make a return to visit the somewhat joyfully enlarged now Renner family (more congratulations due to Susanne). But compensation nevertheless.
Imported by Newcomer Wines.