Following on from Part 1 (the previous article on the site so I won’t provide a link), Part 2 of July’s wines at home has a definite Austrian texture to it. There are three Austrian wines here, plus one Czech, two Australians, a Tuscan and another Swiss wine from my “Alpine Wines” Lockdown case.
“ORANGE ON LEAVES” PETNAT 2019, PETR KORÁB (Moravia, Czechia)
Petr makes wines that are getting quite a lot of attention now, from the village of Boleradice in Moravia’s Velkopavlovická region (also famous for its apricots). The Koráb brothers own or rent four hectares of old vineyards, some with vines up to 75 years old (one vineyard was even planted in 1934, making it 86 years old). Petr’s mission, in fact, is to rescue the old vineyards and the old Czech clones.
The blend in this rather special petnat is Grüner Veltliner and Welschriesling. It’s from the new 2019 vintage (bottled late September last year) and it tastes so fresh. It’s an orange wine, as the name suggests, but it is fairly unique in that before it goes into bottle for its second fermentation it undergoes its first not in oak but in Robinia. Robinia is usually found as a native in North America, where it is often called, somewhat oddly, “black locust”. It did spread to Europe and here it is sometimes called “false acacia”.
The colour is orange with a hint of lychee pink, cloudy, and showing definite skin contact texture, which adds a savoury note. It opened up very fizzy, frothy and lively with initial aromas of mandarin and green tea. The palate is dominated by pure freshness and it goes on and on. The fruit element here errs towards peach. Certainly a wine for the adventurous in terms of the complex blend of elements, but it’s not all that funky, just unique. Impressively different.
Imported by Basket Press Wines, although the Koráb petnats do sell out very quickly.
RÉT , WEINGUT KOPPITSCH (Burgenland, Austria)
Alex and Maria Koppitsch are based in Neusiedl-am-See on the northern shore of the lake. They are fully committed to making natural wines which fall, broadly, into two ranges. The “Perspektive” wines are reserves, natural wines capable of ageing. This bottle here is one of what they call their “fun” cuvées, wines with glouglou appeal. They are named in Hungarian in order to reflect the Hungarian influence in the region. Burgenland and the Neusiedlersee are so close to Vienna that it is easy to forget that during the early days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and indeed before, the dominant influence here was Hungary. It was, after all, the Hungarian Monarchy which granted Free City status to Rust in 1681.
Rét means grassland in Hungarian and this wine comes off a gravelly site once used to graze livestock. The vineyard is just 50 metres asl on the alluvial rubble which surrounds this shallowest of lakes. The blend is 80% Zweigelt with 20% Saint-Laurent. Grapes ripen early here on this site, and after harvest they macerate on skins for ten days. This is followed by fourteen months on lees in stainless steel tanks, before bottling with just 5 mg/litre of added sulphur.
This is a completely uncomplicated, fun, red. One to serve cool or even chilled. The red and dark fruit is vivacious, friendly and indeed at just 11% abv, it slips down oh so easily. Just lovely.
Weingut Koppitsch are intermittently imported by Jascots (London) and Fresh Wines (Scotland).
“THE BEAST” FULL SKIN CONTACT VERDELHO 2019, FROM SUNDAY WINES (Hunter Valley, Australia)
The Beast is definitely not named for the wine itself, which it may be as well to point out before you think this is a 15.5% abv monster and move swiftly on. From Sundays is a project between three university friends. Although they source fruit from sites across the country these are most definitely all low intervention wines. As they say, they want to take as little out and put as little in as possible.
The single site for this Verdelho is in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney. The Hunter was one of the first wine regions to gain a name in the UK back in the early 1980s, and it was the first Aussie wine region I visited. Rather like the wines from this region, I lost interest until returning there last year, realising that behind my back the historic Hunter Valley has taken another leap forward, has fully rejuvenated itself, and is now producing wines as exciting as any other wine region in this vast country.
The Verdelho grapes were fermented in tank for ten days on skins and then passed, skins and all, into two concrete eggs for three months ageing. Bottling, with no added sulphur, was directly from the eggs (using a forklift somehow…don’t ask).
What you get is very cloudy, very low alcohol (10.1% abv, but in the Hunter tradition for white wines), and definitely on the wild side (that, I suppose, is the beast here). Linear fruit is drawn through the wine in glass by its spine. That fruit is definitely reproduced as a hint of yuzu, accompanied by complex aromas and palate of green tea leaf and herbs, plus bergamot or juniper.
It’s a complex wine for not all that much money and also something which would intrigue a natural wine lover if served blind. Almost impossible to guess grape variety and source, I reckon. But don’t over chill it, tempting as that might be. That would mask its subtleties.
Imported by Nekter Wines.
ZWEIGELT 2016, RENNERSISTAS (Burgenland, Austria)
Weingut Renner is in Gols, just on the right as you approach the village, and not all that far to the east from the Koppitsch winery at Neusiedl. Now the Rennersistas wines always seem to feature fairly regularly on my site and I make no secret of the love I have for their output, which I have known from their very first vintage. This isn’t the first time I have written about one I’ve aged either, but I think that I can always rely on them to act as great examples of how natural wines do keep. I reckon Susanne thinks I’m a little odd for keeping bottles back this long?
Do they get better? That’s a difficult question, but I do think that it is fulfilling to have a relationship with a wine you like where you experience it at different stages in its development. To a degree, many (not all) wines are never too young to try and (within reason) never too old.
How about this one, has it kept? Yes, and seriously, it’s gorgeous. Intense, concentrated, yet light (12% abv) on its feet and still full of zest. Zweigelt is such an under-rated variety, capable of giving the purest fruit which in this case coats the palate. There aren’t really any tertiary notes getting in the way of that blackcurrant freshness. We drank it with a creamy mushroom and sauteed onion dish, a blend of fresh chestnut mushrooms and mixed dried wild mushrooms, using their stock, some red wine and non-dairy cream, along with added depth from our current addiction, padron peppers…oh, and loads of garlic. Just the bottle we needed.
The UK importer for Rennersistas is Newcomer Wines.
MISCHKULTUR GEMISCHTER SATZ 2018, JOISEPH (Burgenland, Austria)
Joiseph is the exciting new name in Burgenland. Their base is to the west of Neusiedl this time, at Jois, after which the label is named. From miniscule beginnings the three partners cultivate six hectares now, at the base of the Leithaberg range of hills, overlooking the lake. Luka Zeichmann makes the wines.
Gemischter Satz does not only come from Vienna, from where its current fame has spread, and “Mischkultur” literally means “companion planting” or mixed cultivation. For this cuvée we have Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling, Neuburger, Traminer, Gelber Muskateller and others co-planted on two small sites, called Ried Auflangen and Obersatz. Some of the vines are relatively young, interspersed with really old plants, up to 100 years of age, which are still sufficiently fruitful to keep. The diversity of vine age helps make this a true Gemischter Satz, with vines ripening at different rates and with grapes showing different levels of concentration.
The result has a soft, almost chalky, mineral character and is quite saline on the finish. At first you think wow! This is a great glugger. But then a certain finesse creeps up on you, opening another dimension as the wine evolves in the glass (a Zalto Universal in my case). I’d say this isn’t a complicated wine but it is very pure, a quality found in all of Luka’s wines.
Modal Wines is the UK importer for Joiseph.
CHIANTI CLASSICO 2005, CASTELLO DI AMA (Tuscany, Italy)
Ama is a small hamlet close to Gaiole, in Sienna Province in the heart of Tuscany. This has been my favourite Chianti producer for almost as long as I can remember, and I was once lucky enough to stay within sight of the vineyards, across a wooded valley where the wild boar snuffled and grunted loudly at night as we sat in the hot tub (very unusual for us) enjoying the very slight breeze of a very hot Tuscan summer.
Marco Pallanti has changed the range quite a bit now, especially after the introduction of the Gran Selezione tier into the Chianti Classico DOCG. The wine we are tasting here is now just called “Ama” but back in the day this normale was generally credited to be of Riserva standard. This part of the Chianti region is hilly and dry, terroir filled with Tuscan macchia, with vines planted as high as 500 masl. The Classico is largely Sangiovese but it does here contain a touch of Canaiolo, Malvasia Nero and Merlot, all four varieties aged in barrique.
Now I found this bottle and wondering whether it might be past its peak I pulled it out for a Monday evening. It’s one of the wines I bought with some frequency in my more “classical” period but I’ve not bought any since this vintage. It was only after pulling the cork that I did a bit of research on my phone and found out two rather startling facts.
The first was that in 2005 Pallanti only made this wine. All the grapes which otherwise would have gone into the single vineyards went here. 2005 was a rain affected vintage but it did often have the acidity to age, and good selection of fruit was the key. Regarding the points givers, the vintage was not lauded but this particular wine managed around 90-93 points from a range of gurus, clearly a success. I then noticed that this wine can still be purchased, but at a price. Several sources want £160-plus for a bottle.
The wine itself is still darkish brick, not faded. The bouquet is pure Sangiovese with oak influence, but the oak is gentle and ethereal, and this is mirrored on the palate where it is not at all prominent, not even in a dried out way. The palate melds Sangiovese fruit, still very much in evidence, with tertiary elements. It’s a soulful wine which, although I read a drink by date of 2017 somewhere, I would argue is actually right at its peak now. Wow! On a Monday too. I guess if I’d saved it for a big occasion it might have been over the hill, so I’m just thankful for the rather unexpected joy this bottle brought.
I’m not wholly sure where this came from as it was bought on release. I used to buy Ama from Fortnums in London, but I have just a nagging suspicion this may have come from Butlers Wine Cellar in Brighton.
“ZBO” ZIBIBBO 2018, BRASH HIGGINS (South Australia)
Brad Hickey is a Chicago native who headed out to Oz for a complete career change, which has led him to making exciting wines in McLaren Vale. But he’s also a big fan of Italian amphora wines, so he began what he calls his “Amphora Project” to bring this style to Australia. I’m a fan of all of his wines but it’s fair to say that the amphora cuvées are, of those easily available, my favourites. The beeswax-lined terracotta pots are built in Australia by Adelaide potter John Bennett, and Brad now has twenty-four of them. Along with this Zibibbo they also house two red wines, a Nero d’Avola and a Merlot.
Zibibbo is the Sicilian/Calabrian name for Muscat of Alexandria, perhaps best known for the remarkable dried grape dessert wines from the island of Pantelleria, closer to Africa than Sicily. Brad hasn’t gone down that path but what he’s done here is genuinely interesting. The Muscat grapes come from up in Riverland, Terra Rica Farms to be precise. This region is generally known for large scale, irrigation viticulture, but this wine is as far from that as is possible to conceive. The vines, off red loam and limestone, are dry farmed for starters and are 70 years old.
Brad says the fruit is massive, berries the size of golf balls. I’ve long contended that the aromatic varieties like Muscat and Gewürztraminer are ideal for skin contact winemaking. This fruit is destemmed directly into the amphora in the McLaren Vale winery after protected transportation, where it commences fermentation spontaneously with twice-daily plunging of the cap. There it remains for six months with a thin layer of flor forming over the cap (this happened to Ben Walgate with his Tillingham amphoras).
Bottling takes place in spring with no fining nor filtration. The wine has a dusty Muscat bouquet. On the palate it is bone dry, and textured, but fruity at the same time. Think confit lemon citrus, apricots, ginger and faint honey. It has a chalky initial palate but then the textured amphora grip comes in, but this balances so well with all the other elements I’ve mentioned.
This is a gorgeous wine. It’s spectacularly good for a wine no one seems to have heard of. Brad makes the singular “Bloom”, a Chardonnay made like a Vin Jaune, and that is truly my favourite Brash Higgins wine. But it is so rare it’s always on one bottle allocation. Only 220 cases were made of ZBO in 2018, but at least that means some comes over to the UK.
I bought this, as I did previous bottles, from Vagabond Wines, but Emma Dawson MW of Berkmann Wine Cellars told me she has started to import Brad’s wines too. I’m not sure what they have as I think the first tranche came in during Covid, but as well as ZBO I particularly like the Amphora Nero d’Avola and the excellent (non-amphora) Cabernet Franc. A producer who really should be very well known. Even the labels are great, especially the ZBO!
AIGLE “LES MURAILLES” 2017, HENRI BADOUX (Vaud, Switzerland)
When we think of Vaud wines we think of those stunning UNESCO-listed Lavaux terraces west of Montreux…don’t we? Well the Canton of Vaud actually slinks down the eastern side of Lake Geneva as well. Aigle is an attractive village with an old castle about half way between Montreux and Martigny, just off the Autoroute. The castle commands the route of the River Rhône as it shoots towards the lake, and the vines for this cuvée are grown on the terraces which head up the lower slopes behind it. Here, we are not in “Lavaux” but in the appellation called Chablais (sic).
“Les Murailles” is not a low intervention, low production, wine. It might be the most recognisable wine in Switzerland, but this doesn’t mean by any means that it isn’t good. Badoux Vins farms a large estate, with around 50 hectares of vines under their control. Founded in 1908 it has established its name through periods when mass production was more common with other producers in Switzerland, and equally through the quality focus of recent years. So although the label would be recognisable to most Swiss wine drinkers, the wine is very good. At just over £33 in the UK perhaps it needs to be.
This is a good way into Swiss Chasselas. You can buy cheaper but you would not necessarily want to. This wine has a reputation that is deserved, and it is a step towards the Chasselas wines of perhaps some of the country’s smaller artisan winemakers. Off a mix of gravel and shale, there is a softness of texture after three years ageing. That softness melds with the characteristic prickliness of Vaud Chasselas, with the tiniest CO2 bubbles floating upwards in the glass on pouring. This blend of gentle, relatively low, acidity with texture is appealing.
The bouquet is mostly restrained lemon verbena with hints of herbs and stones. It comes in at 13% abv, the general ripeness of the fruit a result of a famous wind called the foehn (aka föhn). It’s a wind which comes down the slope in mountain regions (mostly Switzerland, Austria and Southern Germany) and which has a pronounced warming effect on the Alpine climate.
This is a famous label, and indeed Badoux has capitalised by, in recent years, producing a red “Murailles”, made I believe from Pinot Noir but which has come into contact with lees from Garanoir, Gamaret and Gamay grapes. I tasted it last year and it’s a really interesting cuvée, but perhaps not yet the classic in people’s minds that is the blanc.
Both of those Badoux bottles are imported by Alpine Wines.