Part 2 of May’s most interesting wines drunk at home begins with two stunning wines, from the Jura and Burgenland (the second of those a fellow blogger coincidentally chose as his wine of the month for May). From here we swing over to Portugal, then Franken in Germany, Savoie (just south of Lac Léman), and Burgundy, finishing with a familiar friend from Alsace.
LE ROI DES 8 CÉPAGES , DOMAINE L’OCTAVIN (Jura, France)
Alice Bouvot continues to make the most innovative wines in Arbois, and I’d even put her ever-growing negoce range a step up from ex-vigneron (?) Mr Ganevat. The innovation comes from using or blending grapes from different regions which Alice harvests herself, making the wines wholly “naturally”, including with no sulphur additions. It kind of figures that the labels are always equally innovative, but this one is next level too, a line drawing of her favoured gnome as “Roi” with a painting-by-numbers chart for us to colour it in, should we wish.
This cuvée is Riesling, grown by Philippe Brand at Ergersheim in the Bas Rhin (Alsace), directly east of Strasbourg. The grapes are transported back to Arbois and are give two weeks maceration on skins before ageing in tank. This was bottled in May 2018 and three years in bottle had not wearied it one bit.
The grape variety gives itself away on the nose with beautiful Riesling scents, quite evolved. The palate is very interesting. High-toned fruit acids are still evident but there’s a really nice depth to a wine you might assume would be lighter from the bouquet. But the flavours of chilli and ginger which mix with the lime citrus make for something quite different again. There’s finesse, but “Roi” definitely has a rebellious side too. I love this so much, but it might scare the unaware.
Imported by Tutto Wines.
GRAUBURGUNDER 2019, RENNERSISTAS (Burgenland, Austria)
Rennersistas, now “Renner und Rennersistas” since brother Georg joined the team, operate from their father’s original winery right on the western edge of Gols, as you approach from Neusiedl am See, at the top end of said lake. (I discovered that if you write GOLS in capitals it will be mistaken for the acronym for “Global Organic Latex Standard”, in case that comes in useful some time).
I do recall Stefanie telling me some time ago that they were going to move away from single varietal wines, once they had fully understood what vine stock they had and how the terroir affected it, towards producing more interesting blends. I pray, having discovered this wine for the first time, that they keep making varietal Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris). Fellow blogger Alan March declared it his Wine of the Month for May and were I so inclined, I cannot think of one to top it, though Alice Bouvot’s Riesling would be its equal.
The fruit comes from a new vineyard only planted in 2017 (this is the first vintage), and is fermented on skins for four days, and this was evidently enough to extract sufficient colour to make the wine a clear cherry red or magenta (though oddly described as “amber” on the retailer’s web site). The colour was a shock, but the wine divine. Ageing is in old wood, on lees.
The bouquet is of red fruits, but in the way that a Blanc de Noirs has the same kind of nose, the palate definitely cries “white wine”. Especially if you close your eyes. You will taste both redcurrant and cranberries, with the kind of edge you get in cranberry juice. The alcohol, at 12.5%, is just perfect. It’s a truly versatile wine. I’m shooting myself in the foot big time here because it will be my own fault if I can’t get some more.
Available from Littlewine and Newcomer Wines.
FITAPRETA TINTO 2019, ANTONIO MAÇANITA (Alentejo, Portugal)
I think you will see a sudden influx of Portuguese wines into these articles in the coming months. After getting behind Simon Woolf’s project, a new book on the Wines of Portugal, I thought I ought to make an effort to drink more of them. I have enjoyed many Portuguese wines in the past, and even visited the wine regions in the north, but sometimes a country drops off the radar for whatever reason.
I’ve actually met Antonio Maçanita a few times, a really nice guy, but it was always to taste the wines he makes on Pico Island with his Azores Wine Company. Those wines are hand crafted artisan gems, made from grapes grown on some of the most rugged and windswept volcanic terroir in Europe. The pair of Alentejo wines (this red and a white) are quite different, more commercial perhaps (on tasting the red). However, they are significantly cheaper. If you only drink natural wines, I don’t think this will be for you, but if you are seeking something fairly inexpensive (although £15.50 isn’t inexpensive for most consumers), this may provide an interesting experiment.
Antonio has partnered with Sandra Sárria to make a cuvée from forty-year-old Aragonez (aka Tinta Roriz, aka Tempranillo) (40%), blended with Alicante Bouschet (30%), Trincadeira (20%) and Castelão (10%). The vines are all grown on schist and granite.
Fermentation is in small vats with 15-20 days post-fermentation maceration. It’s quite different to the wines I normally drink. Alcohol is up at 14.5% and the wine is suitably dense and dark to match, and has thick violet legs running down the glass. The nose is of dark, spiced, fruit whilst the palate is equally dense, and earthy. It’s viscous and I can’t help thinking a degree less alcohol would have suited my taste, but that’s my purely subjective assessment. I think age will assist in balancing it. You get liquorice and eucalyptus.
In sum – it’s a very well-made wine at the top end of what I’d call commercial. Commercial or not, I do think if I’d aged it I’d have found more nuance. I do know a couple of people who have loved this, and although it’s not my thing it’s good to leave the comfort zone.
Purchased from Butlers Wine Cellar.
“LE ROUGE NU” 2018, MAX SEIN WEIN (Franken, Germany)
This is my third bottle, but first red, from this relatively unknown 3.5-hectare estate at Wertheim-Dertingen, in Franken (Franconia). It has already furnished me with some very good old vine Silvaner…or should that be “Sylvaner”. You can see from the name of the wine that Max has decided to go Français, and he carries this through to the grape varieties. Instead of using its common German name, Schwarzriesling, he uses its more common French synonym, Pinot Meunier, for the main grape variety, and there’s also just a touch of Pinot Noir (I’m told), not Spätburgunder.
I’d suggest that the red here is equal to the whites. If you enjoy good Meunier. The simplest way to describe this is plum coloured raspberry juice with strong notes of strawberry on the nose. However, it’s not one-dimensional. There’s also a nice hint of “forest floor” coming through in the 2018. It’s another bottle of total glouglou for quenching that thirst. Fresh, zippy acidity and mouth-filling fruit. Joyous…you get the idea.
As well as this 2018 there is also the 2019 vintage available right now, which will certainly feature in my next order.
Discovered and imported by Basket Press Wines.
“1515” 2016, LES VIGNES DE PARADIS, VdP des ALLOBROGES (Savoie, France)
Dominique Lucas, based at Ballaison, made this 100% Chasselas cuvée from one of the least known regions for the variety, which has been grown for centuries south of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) as well as on the northern (Swiss) shore of the lake. There are various AOP designations in the short stretch between Geneva and Evian-les-Bains, including Crépy, Marin, Marignan and Ripaille.
In this case, Dominique uses the regional Vin de Pays (now IGP) designation, Allobroges. However, in this part of Savoie there is no one making wine quite like Dominique’s. I’m not the first to suggest his Chasselas stands with the best wines of France. Having finally given up his family vines in Burgundy, he can now concentrate on his special project here in Savoie.
“1515” comes from the appellation of Marignan, a tiny sub-region near Sciez, almost on the lake, just east of the promontory on which sits the beautiful and much visited medieval village of Yvoire (you can take a lovely boat trip across the water to Yvoire from Geneva). The grapes come off slopes at between 350 to 400 masl, all gravel with clay.
Ageing is in a mix of large old wood and concrete eggs, vinification following meticulous sorting. Dominique not only uses biodynamics but also several other more mystical measures. You probably know his “Kheops” (sic) Chardonnay is made in a concrete and oak pyramid aligned to the points of the compass. He also plays classical music to the wines (he’s by no means alone in trying this), believing sound waves calm the wine. But then it’s nice to have some music in the winery and perhaps Napalm Death might scare the juice?
This is perhaps the weightiest of the five Chasselas cuvées here, and it’s perhaps less mineral than some. But it is built around a filigree lacework of acids which wraps around gorgeous pear flavours, with maybe a hint of pineapple. It does have a classic mineral texture on the dry finish though. More than anything else, I think this particular Chasselas proves that the variety is capable of ageing, something few give it a chance to do. It’s clearly the attention to detail at every stage which creates the possibilities. It’s up there with Ziereisen’s top Gutedel and a lot cheaper (under £30 for this vintage when purchased, pre-Brexit). Try it before you dismiss Chasselas.
Imported by Les Caves de Pyrene, but quantities are fairly small (3,400 bottles of this in 2016).
BOURGOGNE ALIGOTÉ « LA CHARME aux PRÊTRES » 2017, SYLVAIN PATAILLE (Burgundy, France)
Sylvain Pataille, like many a traditional Burgundian winemaker who remains glued to their patrimoine, was born in Marsannay from where he now farms from a base near the church. This is another biodynamic farmer whose red wines have proved both increasingly excellent, and equally remained excellent value, for twenty years, getting better all the time.
Also a specialist with Aligoté, in which he has a remarkable belief, Sylvain is finally seeing that variety get some of the credit it deserves. Whether or not this has been precipitated by the shocking price of Côte d’Or Chardonnay at almost any level now, the very best Aligoté is now getting decent prices, and one or two have become genuine unicorn wines, highly sought after (says a man who just bought some De Moor Plantation 1902).
The winemaking here is natural, no additions except sulphur, added only if necessary at bottling and in tiny amounts. Several different Aligoté are made and this one comes from the “Aligoté Doré” clone. Most of the acidic Aligoté readers will have drunk, perhaps mixed in a Kir, is made from Aligoté Vert, the most common clone in Burgundy. Aligoté Doré was made famous by Aubert de Villaine in his exceptional Bouzeron Aligoté. It’s a different beast.
Significantly lower yields, a tendency of the clone, improves both aromatics and concentration. That Pataille’s vines for this cuvée were planted in 1949 on a gentle east-facing slope rising to 300 metres, in red soils over classic Burgundian limestone, gives this wine the best possible start. Twenty-four months in old oak rounds it out and some bottle age mellows it further.
This wine has a remarkable affinity to Chardonnay, for a moment, then it flits back to Aligoté, and seems to make this pendulum switch gently, on the palate, down to the end of the bottle. There is no piercing acidity, just a sensual smooth mouthfeel, but the wine is steeped in the fresh mineral texture of limestone. There are now a good number of fine Aligoté, but this is up there with the very best.
From The Solent Cellar.
PINOT NOIR “NATURE” 2018, LUCAS & ANDRÉ RIEFFEL (Alsace, France)
The Rieffels make this Pinot from a number of parcels scattered around below their home village of Mittelbergheim, where their winery/tasting room sits on the main street, almost opposite Jean-Pierre Rietsch. They are one of a group of winemakers which David Nielson (“Back in Alsace” blog) has dubbed the Mittelbergheim School…with good reason because the winemakers involved share experiences, taste together and have a very similar outlook, whether that be on natural winemaking or the graphic design of their labels.
“Nature” is one of three Pinots under the Rieffel label, and is the most glouglou of the three. Fermented for around two weeks in stainless steel, as whole bunches, the wine then gets just eight months in older oak before bottling the following spring. With no additions, including zero sulphur, the wine is protected by an injection of CO2 (which, don’t worry, the wine absorbs, leaving just a mouth-tingling freshness). Pure as it’s possible to get, this is like fruit juice, albeit with a very surprising 13% alcohol. The wine is quite light though, lifted, zesty. What kind of juice? Strawberry and cherry for me. Wine should be fun and this is!
This cuvée came from Littlewine (littlewine.co). Just £26. I plugged this very same wine when I drank a bottle last year, but it’s well worth a repeat recommendation. As they say, if it’s worth Tweeting, Tweet it twice.