After a somewhat focused Part 1, we can inject a little more diversity via the second half of July’s drinking at home. Champagne, Slovakia and Alto-Adige (or Südtirol if you insist), then Alsace and the Pays Nantais are followed by the Swiss Vaud (another wine from a producer featured in Part 1, as promised), winding down with Friuli and Burgundy. I’ve noticed a couple of sparkling wines in there. I’m quite shocked at how few I’ve drunk this “summer”. Whilst I’m one for drinking whatever I want whenever I want, I can’t help thinking that the weather has played a part.
RÉSONANCE 2014 EXTRA BRUT, CHAMPAGNE MARIE-COURTIN (Champagne, France)
Dominique Moreau makes this lovely Côte des Bar Champagne in the village of Polisot, with a 2.5-hectare contiguous parcel of vines not far from the River Seine. In fact, this part of the region is now known as the Barséquanais. Most of her vines are Pinot Noir, with a little Chardonnay. All are certified organic, but Dominique’s viticulture and winemaking go much further than that, into biodynamics and natural wine philosophy. She is undoubtedly one of the major emerging star Growers in a region which has become somewhat the centre of the so-called Grower Revolution in quality.
Résonance is made from old vine Pinot Noir grown on Kimmeridgean clays (like Chablis next door). It spends three years on lees with vinification in tank. No dosage is added on disgorgement. The result is certainly dry, but very characterful. There’s a lovely balanced blend of apple freshness and red fruit aromatics, seasoned with a little salinity on the finish. This is simply a glorious Champagne, I don’t care if it’s only Dominique’s “entry level”.
This came from The Good Wine Shop (Kew location). I would have been back a few weeks ago were it not for Covid. They have one of the best Grower Champagne selections in the UK. Les Caves de Pyrene imports Marie-Courtin and they are an alternative source for all of Dominique’s wines, depending on what they’ve shipped at any time.
ORANZOVY VLK 2019, VINO MAGULA (Slovakia)
I keep buying wine from this 10-hectare family estate at Suche Nad Parnou in Western Slovakia, northeast of Bratislava, and every wine seems to get a little more exciting. This is, as the name might possibly give away, an “orange”, “amber” or skin contact wine. The blend is Rizling Vlassky (Welschriesling), Veltlin (Grüner Veltliner) and Devin, the latter a variety indigenous to Slovakia’s western hills and deriving from a cross between Traminer and Roter Veltliner.
The vines are grown on the highly calcium-rich soils in two valleys close to the village. Farming is biodynamic. Skin contact gives the wine its orange hue, more akin to the colour of rust. It smells clearly of mandarin citrus and tastes like Seville Orange marmalade with its bitter orange finish. It starts out tasting a touch tannic but this softens as the wine warms and rounds out in the glass. The result, after the cold edge disappeared, was rather delicious and I recommend not serving this too cold. No sulphur was added and this gives the wine its bright, lively quality which I find always appears in the best amber wines.
Imported by Basket Press Wines. OV will set you back £29.50.
VINO ROSSO LEGGERO 2018, PRANZEGG (Alto-Adige/Südtirol, Italy)
I was going to purchase my annual dose of Foradori’s “Lezèr” but then I saw this, another light summer red. Pranzegg is a favourite producer from the region among people I know, but I’ve rarely drunk their wines. I wasn’t even aware that they were imported into England until I saw this. Martin Gojer took over his family’s tiny estate, just 3.5-ha of vines, in 2008. He is based at Bolzano (or Bozen for German speakers), about 50 km below the Brenner Pass into Austria.
Martin and his wife, Marion, farm biodynamically, and they see their farm as a holistic ecosystem which they aim to be self-sustaining. They are a shining beacon of ecological awareness in a region dominated by co-operative cellars, albeit some rather good ones. We have a blend of Schiava and Lagrein, two of Südtirol’s traditional varieties, so what’s not to like?
To create this light touch red wine with a bit of texture the direct press juice of these two red varieties is fermented on the skins of already fermented white grapes. The result has a unique quality. Whilst the colour is pale for a red wine, almost like that of a darker-hued Rosé, there’s a bit of tannin and the kind of bite you get in a good Vinho Verde. Otherwise, it tastes like a white wine. The bouquet is all red fruits (pomegranate comes to mind), and with a touch of CO2 on the palate, it’s extraordinarily refreshing (just 11% abv here). As the wine warms slightly the fruit amplifies into lovely cherry juice, but in this case do serve chilled.
Imported by Newcomer Wines, purchased from Littlewine.
CRÉMANT D’ALSACE BRUT ROSÉ « MR PINK » 2018, LUCAS & ANDRÉ RIEFFEL (Alsace, France)
Lucas Rieffel is a member of the Mittelbergheim School, an extraordinary group of artisan winemakers producing wines among the most exciting in Alsace, and sharing ideas and wines to move the whole village forward. If we know Mittelbergheim as a centre for Natural winemaking in the Bas Rhin, it is down to this group. If we are speaking of excitement, as well as sheer quality, and about the feeling generated on tasting a new cuvée for the first time, my first bottle of his pink Crémant must be right up there. I hope it isn’t anywhere near my last.
Lucas and his father are best known for their steely biodynamic wines made from Riesling, and some rather good Pinot Noirs on the same level from different sites around the village. This Crémant Rosé is pure Pinot Noir. The vines are all thirty years old or more, initially aged in foudres before bottling. The wine sees ten months on lees, this being disgorged in May 2021. The idea, I think, is not to make a wine with a great deal of lees-age autolytic character, but rather what we have here. Pure raspberry fruit dominates, but it clings to a spine of mineral steeliness.
I would say that this is one of the best couple of bottle-fermented sparkling wines I’ve drunk through our eighteen month Covid ordeal. It combines a fruitiness rarely seen from a lees-aged sparkling wine with the house style, a firmness of purpose and real focus.
At £28 from Littlewine I say it compares well to anything I’ve drunk for the price, including some more expensive English fizz. A lesson in value and pleasure, sheer joy to drink.
“JE T’AIME MAIS J’AI SOIF” VIN DE France , VINCENT CAILLÉ (Loire, France)
This wine comes from the Muscadet/Pays Nantais part of France’s Loire Valley, Vincent Caillé being based at Monnières. He’s the fifth generation to farm here, in charge of the family estate since the mid-1990s. His major contribution has been a focus on quality coupled with the introduction of biodynamics in a region once considered too wet by many.
However, a few years ago a challenging vintage saw massive crop losses due to the double-whammy of hail and frost followed by some disease. This resulting wine has an element of innovation to it, being a blend of the traditional Muscadet grape, Melon de Bourgogne, with Colombard, Grenache Blanc, Macabeu, Roussanne and Marsanne.
If some of those varieties don’t look very “Muscadet”, then you might have an idea what happened here. Vincent is seen as a bit of a torch-bearer for biodynamics and low intervention practises in the region and plenty of growers, far and wide, rallied to his aid. The brilliant label, which seems to channel Ubu Roi, was specially created by a local artist. The wine was such a success that it has become a regular cuvée in the Caillé portfolio.
Like Muscadet, the wine is clean and fresh, but somewhat broader than the wines of that appellation (except for those aged in oak). Imagine the flavour of a juicy, ripe, Galia melon with a twist of lime on the finish, along with a tiny lick of pebbly texture. In other words, a simple wine giving great summer refreshment.
This was £22 from Bin Two in Padstow.
DORAL “EXPRESSION” 2019, CAVE DE LA CÔTE (Vaud, Switzerland)
I wrote about this forward-looking co-operative’s entry level Chasselas in Part 1 of July’s ”Recent Wines” (the article below this one if you wish to check it out). I suggested that it may not be as profound as some of the best Chasselas made biodynamically elsewhere in the country, but Chief Winemaker Rodrigo Banto has captured the essence of the variety as a clean and fresh, tasty aperitif wine. I purchased this particular bottle because I’ve never tried this grape variety before, but in the same way that I was slightly, but most pleasantly, surprised by the simple freshness of the Chasselas, I was surprised at how I liked this one even more.
Doral is a cross between Chasselas and Chardonnay. The intention was to create a wine with the fresh herbs and citrus qualities of Chasselas along with the breadth and class of Chardonnay. I don’t think this wine has any pretentions towards Burgundy, but it does indeed manage to give a nice rounded amplitude to the typical qualities of Vaudois Chasselas (which you may or may not appreciate).
The colour is an attractive green-gold, the bouquet is of crisp apples, lemon and perhaps even kiwi fruit. The palate is where, perhaps, the Chardonnay comes in. The added breadth encompasses peach and maybe a little apricot, but you get the idea. I think you might in fact guess that this was not a crossing, but a blend of the two varieties. I’d be interested to know what anyone else thinks?
This can be had from Alpine Wines online for £22, or from a few independent retailers who, as I said in Part 1, are beginning to see the value of listing a few Swiss wines. My bottle came from The Solent Cellar.
CHARDONNAY 2019 « I VINI DI JACOPO », NEC-OTIUM (Friuli, Italy)
Here we are more precisely in Friuli di Colli Orientali with what at first appears to be an unassuming negoce Chardonnay. It’s made by Christian Patat, who might be familiar to a few afficionados. The wine is made from any surplus of grapes from Ronco del Gnemiz, and there is also a tenuous connection with the very high end Miani cuvée, which is now rather expensive – some grapes come from this source on occasion as well.
The fruit comes, geographically speaking, from Buttrio, Rosazzo and San Zuan, so close to the Roche Manzoni near the Slovenian border. Different wines appear under this label each vintage depending on what grapes become available. The Chardonnay cuvée has no pretentions to seriousness. In fact, it’s quite light on its feet, despite a 13% tag on the label. However, it does combine a mountain freshness (which it fairly oozes with), alongside a salinity which could fool you into believing an influence from the Adriatic. The overriding impressions are of sweet lemon citrus and honeysuckle. For around the £18 mark it certainly delivers real value for money. The Ronco del Gnemiz estate Chardonnay can be had, by the way, from a retailer near me, for £62.50.
Imported by Astrum, purchased at (in fact, recommended by) The Solent Cellar.
BEAUNE 1ER CRU « LES BOUCHEROTTES » 2012, LE GRAPPIN (Burgundy, France)
I sadly have to admit that the Côte d’Or’s Premier Cru wines are now almost beyond the pocket of someone who now devotes all his time to writing about wine rather than earning a proper living, and I’ve rather cut off the “freebie” route in my desire to only write about wines I truly like a lot. I have to rely on that thing we call “the cellar” – thank goodness I have one. There are still some bottles left of older vintages, but they are diminishing. Mind you, Andrew Neilsen did say it was a while since he’d drunk a ’12 when he saw my post on Instagram, so maybe he’s not so well endowed with his older vintages too?
Boucherottes is what I call one of those classic Beaune Premiers. Back when I drank Burgundy with greater frequency Beaune was considered largely downmarket by the connoisseurs, with a few notable exceptions. Certainly, compared to the famous villages of the Côte-de-Nuits, and even compared to the red wine 1er Crus of neighbouring Volnay and Pommard. But I always loved the smooth sensuality yet unprepossessing restraint of some good Beaunes from decent vintages, exemplified in my purchases of Jadot’s “Les Ursulles”.
I guess I’d never tried a Beaune Boucherottes until I bought a six-pack of Andrew’s 2011 vintage but this following year has always seemed, at least to my palate, a little more open for business. This is why it might surprise some that it’s still going strong.
You get silky-smooth Pinot fruit with hints of sous-bois development. One might call it suave, intended as a compliment. Nice length yet not a shouty wine at all. Modern winemaking but with an old-fashioned sensibility, perhaps. It shows how good a winemaker Andrew was even way back then. It was also affordable for mere mortals in multiple-bottle quantities. I don’t begrudge Andrew what he charges today, taking account of costs, and I still think this cuvée is very good value indeed. We can only feel lucky he still has access to the fruit.
Purchased direct from Le Grappin on release.