We stick with the two-part format again for July’s wines. I’ve selected sixteen once more, which represent a mix of the best and the most interesting bottles drunk at home during July. It remained a month of minimal socialising, although we have been emerging from our deep, dark, burrow a little in August to remain in light as long as possible before they throw something else our way. In Part 1, I’m giving you two Germans, one wine from Hungary, a mega-Jura, a South Australian “beaut”, plus bottles from Austria, Switzerland and Czechia. Dive in.
SPÄTBURGUNDER WEIßHERBST FEINHERB ROSÉ 2018, RITA & RUDOLPH TROSSEN (Mosel, Germany)
The village of Kinheim, on the stretch of the river between Erden and Kröv, is mirrored on the opposite bank by Kindel, which boasts a couple who are definitely among the Mosel producers I admire most of all. They have gone their own singular way, which is of course biodynamic and natural. Not all artisan winemakers work from the same philosophy but Rudolph (I have never met Rita…yet) seems always to have lived as one with the nature surrounding him, and my own romantic nature sees this reflected in the wines.
At the Trossen estate we have some wines of, shall we say, a certain stature, such as the Purus cuvées, but there are also some “glouglou” gems. This is actually the first bottle of Trossen Rosé I have drunk. I get the impression I was quite lucky to get a bottle pretty much just as it had been shipped because although it’s not expensive there’s certainly very little around.
This is a delicate pale pink with almost creamy red fruits and really it deserves just the very short tasting note written after a couple of sips…”stuns with its purity and elegant simplicity”. I have a few Trossens here, but if the summer lasts, I shall be craving more of this.
Imported into the UK by Newcomer Wines of Dalston (London).
(IN) RETURN 2018, RÉKA-KONCZ (Eastern Hungary)
I’m not going to say too much about the origins of this wine because you will have noticed that I purchased a good selection of bottles from Annamária Réka and have been trying to restrict myself to one a month to make them last. Consequently they appear in every month’s recent wines articles. Although not too far from Tokaji, the vineyards are close to the border with Ukraine around the village of Barabas, with, as I understand, some vines actually crossing the border.
This wine is a skin contact blend of a local variety Annamária is keen to keep going, Kiralyleanyka (aka Feteasca Regala), alongside Riesling. It is one of her longer-macerated cuvées and it has depth and texture to complement its floral bouquet and ripe lemon citrus (like preserved lemons, with more depth). There’s even a touch of nutmeg spice on a lingering finish. That you can buy this wine for less than £23 in the UK is frankly astonishing…damn, maybe I shouldn’t have said that.
Réka-Koncz wines are available via Basket Press Wines.
MAYGA-GAMAY VIN DE FRANCE, DOMAINE DE L’OCTAVIN (Jura, France)
Alice Bouvot’s wonderfully labelled mega-cuvées are deliciously fruity wines at the more affordable end of her increasingly large and eclectic range. L’Octavin began bottling wines from Alice and Charles’ vineyards surrounding their Arbois base, Alice originally working out of a small garage winery not far from Place Faramand. Although the domaine consisted around three-to-four hectares, the lean vintages of the past decade forced Alice to buy grapes from further afield, and I think she soon overtook Jean-François Ganevat in kilometres driven to source grapes.
From these long drives a range of negoce wines were born. They are usually the ones with a gnome on the label (though some domaine wines like the Trousseau from Les Corvées, and the Vin de France VJ lookalike, show gnome-love too). Every one I try is a triumph of ingenuity and creativity. Here, however, we have closer-to-home Jura Gamay off a 2-hectare site on clay and limestone, with vines averaging around 60-years old. The grapes were taken to Arbois and fermented in tank naturally. No sulphur was added, as with all the wines Alice makes now.
In the glass it is dark in colour but seems to glow. It has a great zippy mouthfeel and it seems impossible that it really has the 13.5% alcohol declared on the label. It’s so fruity and light and it slips down so easily. But it is very concentrated…and long. Pretty much tear-inducingly good. Drink it cool.
This wine was bought at Les Jardins Saint Vincent in Arbois. Tutto Wines imports a range of Alice Bouvot’s wines into the UK. They don’t currently list this one, but they have a very good selection, both negoce and domaine. Definitely check them out. In the USA Zev Rovine Selections has a particularly impressive, er, selection, and I mention them because, somewhat jealously, they have a couple of Alice’s negociant cuvées I’ve never seen before.
MONTEPULCIANO 2017, FREDERICK STEVENSON (South Australia)
Frederick Stevenson is the alter-ego nom-de-bouteille of Steve Crawford, operating out of a small facility in Adelaide. The grapes for this 100% Montepulciano come from up in the Eden Valley. Cooler than nearby Barossa, Eden is perhaps better known for Riesling. So when you taste this beaut of a wine you might have an idea what it’s going to taste like.
The grapes come off limestone terrain at around 350 masl. Steve goes for a low intervention approach and always says his main focus is on the grape farming, more than the winery. He’s trying to get away from the semi-industrial, trophy-yielding, wines he had been drinking in Australia before he set off on his travels around Europe’s viticulture.
Around 40% of the grapes were whole bunch fermented, everything doing its thing in concrete before removal to old oak for 12 months ageing on lees. A tiny bit of sulphur is added prior to bottling. The result is almost an enigma. It’s another wine with striking alcoholic content when you read the label (14.3%), yet which tastes so gluggably light, well certainly vibrant, and zippy. The dark fruits are concentrated and they truly explode in the mouth. There’s that little bit of texture from the concrete and lees ageing, but overall it’s fairly smooth. You really can’t put it down, it’s that good.
Available via Indigo Wines. Frankly everything under Steve Crawford’s Frederick Stevenson label is worth grabbing.
VELTLÍNSKÉ ZELENÉ 2016, ZDENEK VYKOUKAL (Moravia, Czechia)
Zdenek has been, since 1996, a part-time wine grower, who famously works as a railway station master as his day job, but who has been making wine professionally since 2008. He only farms two hectares of vines in Moravia, but they are among a group of famous sites, even back in the communist era, and most of the vines were planted in the 1950s. The soils are on pure limestone ancient sea cliffs full of marine fossils. The terroir definitely has a massive impact on these completely low-intervention wines.
The variety here, you probably guessed, is Grüner Veltliner. There is a touch of the trademark Grüner white pepper spice on the finish, but it is mineral salinity which you really notice with this bottling. It has that amazing refreshing quality the variety can bring when it isn’t too fat, or perhaps opulent in the Wachau Smaragd style. It does still show 13% abv but the alcohol doesn’t seem overt. Dry, chalky, mellow quince and pear coming through subtly. Definitely a distinctive wine and a great alternative take on this “Austrian” (so-called) variety.
If you notice “Vin d’Austerlitz” on the label, it’s because that famous Napoleonic battle was fought in these hills, near Hosteradky-Resov. Around 240,000 men fought here in Napoleon’s most famous victory (1805), and more than 100,000 died. A ridiculous event, but don’t let that put you off the wine. It really is very good indeed, and the little extra bottle age has definitely worked some magic and subtlety.
It costs around £24 from Basket Press Wines.
ROSÉ DE GAMAY CLASSIQUE 2017, DOMAINE DES MUSES (Valais, Switzerland)
Domaine des Muses is one of the best known and perhaps one of the finest estates at Sierre, up the Rhône Valley in Southern Switzerland. Originally founded by Louis and Nicole Taramarcaz in 1996, their son Robert now runs things following his viticulture studies at Dijon. Their vineyards are in one of Switzerland’s most beautiful locations which all wine lovers should try to discover (perhaps next time you are driving to Piemonte and fancy something of a detour).
This is in some ways an unusual wine in that you will note the vintage. The vendor of this wine told me a wine journalist really liked this but felt they couldn’t write about a three year old pink. The same vendor says, on her web site, that this wine is just beginning to give of its best and I agree. Drunk younger I am sure it would have been full of youthful vigour, but when you are paying £30 for a rosé wine perhaps you want something extra.
The colour is a classic pale orange-salmon pink. You can recognise the variety from the bouquet, very fruity. The palate is fairly plump (though it’s a very balanced 12.5% abv), exhibiting that Gamay juiciness. I would not say this has overt complexity, but it combines a host of gourmet possibilities with definite interest. It’s not in your face but you will dwell on its subtleties beneath that fruit (I hope).
Pink wines are increasingly being taken seriously, not because they are necessarily serious of themselves when compared to posh reds and whites, but because the style just gets better and better. I’m convinced this is because we are increasingly rejecting the mass produced pinks from the same old places and looking further afield. Switzerland produces a surprising number of excellent Rosé wines from most of her winemaking Cantons, some of which are warmer and sunnier than you might think. Many of which are well worth seeking out.
Imported by Alpine Wines.
PINOT NOIR 2018, WEINGUT ROTERFADEN (Swabia, Germany)
Olympia Samara and Hannes Hoffmann are typical of the exciting new wave of winemakers in modern Germany, young people who are truly revolutionising German wine for younger drinkers who can approach the country’s wines without prejudice. Their former careers in wine were quite different, with Olympia working with Claus Preisinger in Burgenland and Hannes with Dirk Niepoort in Portugal.
Talking of prejudice, not many people will have actively sought out wines from villages in this part of Germany, their Rosswag base being something like 30km from Stuttgart. This is that famous German wine region called Swabia, and this Pinot Noir is a “mere” Swäbischer Landwein, removed from any appellation. Actually, these vineyards are those of old Württemberg, and Roterfaden/Rosswag is really not all that far from the north of the Baden wine region.
Nevertheless, the vineyards here are perhaps more populated with Lemberger (you know that’s German German for Blaufränkisch, of course) which Olympia and Hannes still cultivate quite seriously, alongside Riesling and Pinot Noir (they use the French name for the variety). Vines are staked on old terraces which form a steep arc above the River Enz. Perfect for a young couple to begin their winemaking journey, except that they are pretty unique here. As an importer into another country wrote, 99% of the wine from this region goes to the co-operative and Roterfaden is the other 1%.
This Pinot is a “to die for” wine, and out of all the genuinely soul-wrenchingly good wines I’ve written about today, I absolutely wish I had more of this wine in my cellar. It also helps that they are such an amazingly nice couple, whom I met back in 2019 in London. Winemaking is very simple, de-stemmed fruit being just gently pushed down during fermentation to ensure the cap doesn’t dry out. The juice then goes into old wood for ten months. Everything follows biodynamic principles and a philosophy of minimal intervention. Sulphur is added in tiny quantity.
The result is simple, but in the best sense. The fruit sings like a choir of angels, it’s so juicy, so outright gorgeous. If you think that natural wine can have a life affirming quality, this will only confirm your belief. It did with me. I said it back in April 2019 and I’ll say it again, these wines are special.
Imported by Newcomer Wines.
WIENER GEMISCHTER SATZ 2017, WEINGUT CHRIST (Vienna, Austria)
Rainer Christ heads up an estate which has 400 years of history in the Vienna wine region. He’s based at Bisamberg, which is over on the left bank of the Danube, one of the city’s most famous wine villages. Wiener Gemischter Satz needs little introduction to regular readers, nor do Vienna’s beautiful vineyards, but I’ve not drunk this entry level wine from Christ for some time. I note that the previous vintage had been listed by one major UK weekend newspaper in their list of fifty wines for summer, but that was the 2016, listed in 2017.
We do have a bit of bottle age here, and though Gemischter Satz blends can age well (surprisingly so), we shall have to see with this one. Although it is Rainer Christ’s bottom rung white, it is from a single site. I’m not wholly sure of the exact varieties in the field blend here, but yields are kept low and everything is picked together and co-fermented. It starts out fresh with the faint spritz (almost) of carbon dioxide so prevalent in this style of wine. Even at three years old it is still nice and zesty. It’s also mineral, dry and faintly textured.
We drank it with a noodle dish spiced with padron peppers and it worked well, its balanced 12% alcohol and zip lifting it above the depth of the spice. It had been a 24-degree day (remember those as we bask in a sweltering 30-plus) and we’d had a lovely walk in the woods. It just seemed the perfect wine to follow with a quickly assembled supper. I have his skin contact version to try soon.
Rainer Christ is imported by Alpine Wines.