We’ll slip straight into Part 2 with the final nine wines we drank at home last month. Part 1 immediately precedes this article. We will travel to Jura (twice), Alsace, Burgenland, Vienna, Eastern Hungary, Slovakia, Stellenbosch, and the Langhe.
PINOT NOIR 2015, DOMAINE DES BODINES (Jura, France)
Emilie and Alexis Porteret are a young couple who set up in 2010, and who have joined my very favourite Arbois producers in the past few years. When the wine is beautiful, the philosophy is right, and equally important, when the vibe is good, the soul of the wine seems to come through. In a wine world where hundreds of producers are crying for our attention I would assert that people do matter.
Whatever those who live by points and the so-called objective analysis of wine might say, when you like the people involved, it adds an edge. This can actually apply not merely to producers we are lucky enough to visit and form relationships with, but to importers and retailers too, where trust in a recommendation from them builds bonds.
The Porteret family farm on the edge of Arbois, on the road heading to Dôle (naturally named the Route de Dôle), and you will zip past their house on the left before you know it and have left the town. The regime is very low intervention and biodynamic in both vineyard and winery, and the bulk of their vineyard is right up the hill from their front door.
Pinot Noir does well around Arbois, and don’t overlook it as you stock up with your Trousseau and Poulsard. Alexis follows a kind of whole bunch method here, whereby he layers the whole berries in alternate layers, with then without stems. Ageing is in older oak. This unfiltered bottling from a warm vintage walks that fine line between glou (retaining great freshness and zip) and seriousness (at four-and-a-half years old it has depth and development). It does all this with restraint when it comes to alcohol (abv registers 13.5% but I reckon you’d guess 13%). It’s simply quite delicious.
Les Caves de Pyrene imports some wines from Domaine des Bodines. They currently list the 2018 Pinot. This wine was purchased in the region, but this bottle didn’t come from the domaine. I have since been lucky enough to find the odd bottle there, but they are usually sold out by Christmas (visits strictly by appointment).
PAS A PAS, JEAN-PIERRE RIETSCH (Alsace, France)
Talking of favourites…but I’m planning an article on the Mittelbergheim School, as Alsace blogger Back in Alsace (David Neilson) rightly calls it, so more on J-P to come, next week I hope.
Pas à Pas is an updated, and perhaps unusual, rendition of something that the older reader might remember when touring Alsace – Klevener de Heiligenstein. Klevener has nothing to do with the “Klevner” grape variety, but is a synonym for Savagnin Rose. It comes off Heiligenstein’s clay and limestone soils just to the north of J-P’s Mittelbergheim base, all organically farmed, of course.
When I said “unusual” I was referring to this being made in a cuvée perpetuelle, a little like a solera, but not similar enough to call it one as most French producers who use it are always keen to stress. This bottling is a blend of three vintages, 2011, 2013 and 2015, it being refreshed every two vintages and “re-fermented en cuve“. It was bottled in August 2016 after coarse filtration and light sulphuring (total sulphites 20 mg/l).
The wine is darkish in hue, almost cherry wood. The bouquet is extraordinary. Burnt orange, autumnal orchard fruits and a touch of hazelnut, with just a hint of Sherry-like oxidation, but not much. The wine is dry, fresh and slightly textured…and pretty amazing. This really was a sensational bottle.
This was purchased on my last visit to Domaine Rietsch in 2018, and I imagine that there is a new cuvée with 2017 fruit currently available. The wines are imported into the UK by Wines Under the Bonnet. They don’t currently list Pas à Pas but they do list four Rietsch wines, including his usually hard to source Pinot Noir.
ZWEIGELT RESERVE 2015, ALEXANDER KOPPITSCH (Burgenland, Austria)
I am sure I’ve mentioned before how I see a kind of connection between Alexander and Maria Koppitsch and Alexis and Emilie Porteret at Domaine des Bodines (see above). They are both young couples with young families, committed to low intervention and chemical free farming and winemaking, their beliefs focused by the legacy they would like us all to leave to the next generation.
Alex and Maria started out a year after the Porterets, in 2011, although Alex’s family had been farming the land at Neusiedl-am-See for 500 years before they took over 6.5 hectares of vines and set out to make natural wine using boidynamic methods. You may be used to seeing the new Koppitsch labels now, brightly coloured for fun wines. This Zweigelt is from the Reserve range, wines which are slightly more serious and which have the ability to age a bit longer should you wish.
This Zweigelt is vinified in 500-litre barrels, a mix of oak and acacia, for 23 months, the grapes harvested from sandy but also rocky sites, directly to the north of the Neusiedlersee, in the lee of the hills. The colour is a little darker than a lot of the Zweigelt we are used to seeing these days. The bouquet is bright and brambly, and there’s a kind of smokey depth that’s intriguing. The palate still has that lively zip you get in all of the Koppitsch wines, but whereas the lighter cuvées are made for glugging, this has a chewiness and a bit more intensity. It also has a touch of white pepper on the finish, Blaufränkisch-like (probably the terroir). It’s one to select for the table.
Koppitsch is imported by Fresh Wines, a small online-only agent based in Kinross (Scotland). They sell a limited number of Koppitsch cuvées, and I think coincidentally this is the only one they currently hold in stock.
EASTERN ACCENTS 2018, RÉKA-KONCZ (Eastern Hungary)
Annamária Réka farms three hectares of vines in Eastern Hungary, around the village of Barabas. When I say east, we are talking about right on the border with Ukraine, and in fact some of Annamária’s vines are technically inside Ukraine. This isn’t too far from Tokaj, and the climate is quite similar. The soils, however are very different, and quite unique. Effectively volcanic, where lava ash cooled down to form perlite, overlaid with loess. The loess gives a bit of weight and gras whilst the volcanic soils push an intense minerality which runs through all of the wines I’ve thus far tried.
Annamária has a range of varieties on her 3ha. We begin with a range of grapes you might expect: Furmint and Hárslevelú along with Yellow Muscat and Riesling. She also has Királyleánka, a rare autochthonous variety which many growers have pulled out. The different varieties are all mixed together in the vineyard, an insurance policy of old for poor ripening, uneven flowering or disease. This means that most of Annamária’s wines are field blends to varying degrees, and most also happen to use skin contact techniques.
Eastern Accents has the colour of peach juice, which immediately suggests that it has seen some skins. Indeed, the Háslevelú saw a gentle five days skin maceration, hand destemmed, and the Királyleánka saw two weeks semi-carbonic maceration. No wood was used, and neither was the wine fined nor filtered. The result is a juicy mix of stone fruit flavours and textures with a degree of complexity beside the freshness, from vines between 50-60 years old.
Annamária may be relatively new to the game but she really knows what she’s doing, something she confirmed over an Instagram session hosted by her UK importer a week ago, where she was confident and impressive (for a young woman who professed that she used to be impossibly shy). The wines have both a traditional and a modern natural wine feel. A bottle of this cuvée was the first of her wines I tasted just before our lockdown and I was completely smitten. They all have such energy. I immediately marked her as my find of the year, but any sense of smugness soon evaporated when I began to see that everyone who tasted the wines was coming to pretty much the same conclusion.
Réka-Koncz is imported by Basket Press Wines.
GLOCKENTURM “MUKENTHAL” GRINZINGER GEMISCHTER SATZ 2016, JUTTA AMBROSITSCH (Vienna, Austria)
Jutta Ambrositsch began life as a graphic artist, and retains a trained eye for design. She had no real background in wine, although her parents, foresters, did own a tiny vineyard. It was tending a vineyard in Eisenberg in 2004 that made her realise what she really wanted to do was to work outside, in nature. Jutta, who I’ve only met once, appears quite shy, but she loves her vineyards and I’ve read that she hates the harvest, the act of having to take the grapes off the vine that has produced them making her a little sad.
Nowadays we all read about the vineyards on the hills surrounding much of Vienna (not least from me), and indeed about their famous gemischter satz field blends. Back in the first decade of this century Vienna’s wines were far less well known outside the city, and vineyards were not too expensive to purchase. Thankfully Jutta was able to snap up around four hectares, some with old vines planted in the early 1950s, in the districts of Bisamberg, Sievering, Döbling, Riesenberg and Rosengartl. This wine comes from sites above Grinzing, an often tourist-infested major wine village. Grinzing itself, in the Döbling (19th) district of Vienna, is full of wine taverns (Heurigen), but the vine-clad slopes and tree-topped hills of the Wienerwald beyond the houses and taverns makes for surely one of the most beautiful landscapes on the edge of any capital city I know.
Every summer Jutta opens her pop-up Buschenschank in a different temporary, rented, location, serving her wines with simple food. She works in a similar way with her winemaking. Jutta was able to buy her vineyards with her partner Marco, but she couldn’t afford a winery, nor all the equipment required. She’s been blessed with help from another highly regarded Viennese winemaker, Rainer Christ, who looks after her wines, I am told with Peter Bernreiter.
Although Wiener Gemischter Satz is “DAC” now (AOC equivalent), this wine is a Landwein, like a table wine. Jutta prefers it that way. It’s still a traditional field blend, from ten different varieties, but in this particular case based around a high proportion of Sylvaner. It smells springlike (no, it wasn’t the blossom in the photo), with a palate dominated by vibrant grapefruit citrus. It also had a hint of Riesling about it, with apple-freshness (amazing that it’s still this fresh tasting considering the vintage). I think this is in good part down to the very well drained gravel soils on a cool site planted (not by Jutta, of course) in 1972.
If you want Parker points for this, I’m giving it “sensational”. I’ve been following Jutta for a number of years and I have never had a bottle, neither here nor in Vienna, that I haven’t truly enjoyed to bits. Jutta Ambrositsch is imported into the UK by Newcomer Wines.
REBELA ROSA 2018, SLOBODNÉ (Hlohovek, Slovakia)
We are certainly getting used to wines from Czech Moravia by now, but just to the southeast (northeast of Bratislava) we see an emerging post-communist era wine industry in Slovakia too. Slobodné is a fifth generation winery, but they had to take a bit of a break due to WW2 and the intervention of communism’s state control. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain two sisters from the original family owners, along with their partners, have rebuilt the neglected vineyards. This has included reinstating traditional winemaking methods, which have of course always been what we call “natural winemaking” in this part of Central Europe.
They make a wide range of delicious wines, but Rebela Rosa is perhaps the most unusual and the most left-field. The grape varieties blended here in equal proportion are Frankovka Modrá (Blaufränkisch) and Cabernet Sauvignon, which are fermented in Spanish tinajas (well, maybe that bit isn’t quite traditional). The wine is frothy/spritzy (sealed with a crown cap), but not fully sparkling.
The colour is strawberry (strawberry blond perhaps?) and the fruit is all bursting red berries on nose and palate, creamy strawberries dominating. I’m not talking bland poly-tunnel fruit but quite intense strawberry (if you saw Paul Hollywood tasting very expensive strawberries in Japan on TV recently, you will know what I mean). The overall texture is soft and gentle, which the frothiness helps to emphasise. The finish has a twist to it, not exactly “bite” but just something to stop it trailing off without you noticing. It’s a lovely wine, great fun, but pretty edgy too. The kind of bottle that might scare a few less hardy wine adventurers. It is recommended to drink this in one sitting, but it’s only 12% abv, so it’s no hardship to do so. Zero sulphur, I think.
Imported by Modal Wines.
“BREAK A LEG” 2019, LUKAS VAN LOGGERENBERG (Stellenbosch, South Africa)
Lukas is considered well established, four vintages in, as one of the exciting new wave of South African producers, making wines from parcels across the Cape. Up until now I only knew his “Breton” cuvée, remarkably like a Loire Cabernet Franc from a good vintage. This rosé is described as a Blanc de Noir, yet it looks indeed perfectly pink to me. The variety is Cinsaut (sic for SA), from dry farmed old bush vines, fermented and aged in old oak.
Red fruits dominate what I think is a wine made in a very interesting style. It does have fruit, for sure, and a lovely floral note accompanying it on the bouquet. These are matched by nice acids, but then we come to the texture. This comes through the spine of the wine, quite firm but not sharp. It adds quite a lot of depth. That spine also holds the wine together tightly. It’s refreshing, with only 12.5% alcohol.
I’ve read that “Break a Leg” was possibly less impressive than some of Lukas’ other wines in the previous vintages, though I also understand it achieved commercial success, and perhaps the critic in question meant more commercial? I wouldn’t know. This is my first bottle of this cuvée and I think it’s fair to say that it is pretty impressive, with much more to it than your average summer pink.
This bottle came from Solent Cellar. Lukas van Loggerenberg is reasonably widely imported, though I suspect that this came via Dreyfus Ashby.
“LE VIN DE PLOUSSARD OEUVRE L’ESPRIT” , TONY BORNARD (Jura, France)
Tony is Philippe Bornard’s son, who you probably know by now has gone back and taken over the family vines at the estate his somewhat famous father, Philippe, created at Pupillin, just outside Arbois. This is a Vin de France, made from the 2016 vintage (though therefore not labelled as such) from different parcels (Philippe’s Ploussard is usually from Point-Barre).
We have a vivacious and easy going but clearly “natural” rendition of the Ploussard (Poulsard) variety here. It’s firmly philosophically in the zero:zero school (nothing added, nothing removed) and the ripe and glowing light “tomato”-red juice is bottled on its fermentation gasses, which helps preserve the wine in lieu of added sulphur.
On opening there’s a clear hint of reductive winemaking which the usual generous swirling motion alleviates, allowing any off odours to blow off and the wine to open up. I’d serve this ever so slightly chilled, so that it warms in the glass as it becomes less reductive. In this way you get to taste the fresh explosion of fruit in a purer form. There is a slight spritz, but this is pleasurable, enlivening the wine. There’s also, as a result of the “nowt taken out” part of the equation, a fair bit of sediment. Altogether very nice, introducing a more youthful facet of the Bornard oeuvre.
This was purchased from Les Jardins Saint-Vincent, Arbois’ natural wine shop. Domaine Philippe Bornard is imported into the UK by Les Caves de Pyrene. As far as I know, Tony’s own label doesn’t have a UK importer.
DOLCETTO D’ALBA “ROUSSOT” 2018, FRANCESCO RINALDI (Piemonte, Italy)
I seem to be still drinking the Langhe occasionally, despite it being May now (we drank a Barbaresco two nights ago), no doubt because it went back to being bl**** freezing here in Southern England a couple of weeks ago. April was a bit warmer than the first half of May, but then Dolcetto is a bit lighter than Nebbiolo.
Francesco Rinaldi e Figli is one of the great Barolo producers, founded in the village of Barolo itself, in 1870. It is now run by two Rinaldi sisters, Paola and Piera. The family farms vineyards in some of the great crus of that DOCG, but here we have their version of one of the varieties too often overlooked among the wines of these famous houses. The Roussot vineyard is within the Barolo DOCG, at around 800 metres asl, on chalky clay, with traditional Guyot vine training.
The wine itself really is rather old school Dolcetto. It has medium weight (which means more weight than a lot of Dolcetto), and has a depth of colour. If that colour is dark cherry, then the bouquet is of red cherries, as is the predominant fruit on the palate. The nose also has some tobacco leaf notes typical of classy Dolcetto. It’s classic, slightly dusty, but vibrant and a lot more wholesome than you usually find with the variety. It has a slightly savoury, food-friendly, quality. Winemaking is in stainless steel followed with a ten month stay in similar tanks. It sees no wood. 13% abv is perfectly judged.
It’s probably one of the best Dolcettos from the Langhe you will find, with the added advantage that it is reasonably easy to find at the moment. It does seem like several people I know have been popping this Rinaldi during our lockdown. This bottle came in a mixed case from Solent Cellar, but checking their web site for the price, I can’t see it. I wonder whether the last of it went in a care package I got them to send out this week? I think it is imported by Astrum and by AG Wines.