Part 2 of my “Recent Wines” for December 2021 covers the more interesting wines we drank at home over the latter part of the month. This includes Christmas and New Year’s Eve, although you wouldn’t know…a dearth of posh wines with maybe one exception. You just get the usual eclectic bunch. Three Germans (all different regions), two English wines (one sparkling, one still), and one each from the Jura, Burgundy and Czechia.
SYLVANER “ZÖLD” 2018, BIANKA & DANIEL SCHMITT (Rheinhessen, Germany)
This dynamic couple from Florsheim-Dalsheim make their “Sylvaner” using the variety’s French name, and the Landwein designation, despite their famous location. The wine is made with minimal intervention, the fruit grown biodynamically, the only input really being the decision to macerate for four weeks. Sylvaner does enjoy a bit of skin contact if the fruit is ripe and clean.
The wine starts out in the glass with a touch of froth, and a colour almost resembling cloudy apple juice. The apple colour is mirrored very much on the nose, with a striking fresh apple bouquet. The palate runs the spectrum of green and yellow fruits with some noticeable texture coming from the skins. However, with all that fruit balanced by the textural element, the finish is more savoury than sweet.
B&D call this a “green, filigree, fruit bomb” and it certainly is. At just 11.5% abv you can imagine how easily it goes down, but at the same time it’s maybe one for those seeking joy rather than seriousness. Truly fun.
From The Solent Cellar. Imported by Les Caves de Pyrene.
PINOT NOIR “TSCHUPPEN” 2015, ZIEREISEN (Baden, Germany)
Located in a sheltered spot close to the Swiss border in the far south of Baden (at Efringen-Kirchen), Hanspeter Ziereisen produces several of Germany’s finest wines, at least in my opinion. People often comment that the conditions here are similar to Burgundy, but that’s a bit of a red herring. Ziereisen has moved away from Burgundy clones and small oak in recent years and these wines can be a kind of German/Swiss hybrid in terms of their taste profile.
This cuvée is very far from being expensive, released as a Bädischer Landwein and described, in actual fact, as a Blauer Spätburgunder. It comes from young vine fruit grown in a pretty cool terroir (Tschuppen is a single site), yet protected from the winds that whip down from the northeast.
The soils are a mix of jurakalk mit löss and when the grapes came in around 70% were destemmed in 2015. A spontaneous fermentation took place in stainless steel, the wine seeing six weeks on skins, then ageing took place in large oak füder for 24 months. The wine was bottled unfiltered and sulphur limited to just 0.7g/l.
The bouquet is gorgeous cherry fruit, balanced on the palate by the remains of the wine’s tannic structure, now much softened after six years post-harvest (but still evident). The fruit on the palate is in the dark cherry spectrum, and the wine overall has a nice velvet texture. This really is a bargain at around £20, though of course availability in the UK is reasonably limited.
This bottle came via Butlers Wine Cellar, but Ziereisen is imported by Howard Ripley.
CÔTES DU JURA « POINT BARRE » PLOUSSARD 2016, PHILIPPE BORNARD (Jura, France)
One of the star names in the village of Pupillin, just outside of Arbois, the domaine is now being run by Philippe’s son, Tony, who last time I looked was building a new winery, the domaine having outgrown the family home now. Tony’s father was something of a legend back in the day though, but all the stories which echo around his presence shout joyous fun. Of course he’s still very much there in the background.
Point Barre is made from vines over sixty years old, the fruit being destemmed but fermented as whole berries. It starts out quite feral in the glass (same as the previous two bottles I’ve drunk of this) and one wonders how it passed the Côtes du Jura appellation panel. Perhaps they are more open-minded in the Jura? You would probably guess this was a “no added sulphur” wine.
If I haven’t lost you there, then you would certainly enjoy this great example of natural Ploussard. The bouquet shows ethereal red fruits, with a definite strawberry note, for me. If that suggests a greater softness than some more cranberry-inflected Ploussard, you’d certainly notice that softness on the palate. The texture is faint but dusty, and therein you do taste a bit of cranberry and redcurrant in the zippy acidity. If I were to sum up this wine in a couple of words, I’d use soulful and pensive, which is how the best Poulsard/Ploussard ought to taste.
Another purchase from Solent Cellar, imported by Les Caves de Pyrene.
DORSET CHARDONNAY 2018, LANGHAM (Dorset, England)
This is Langham’s first still 100% Chardonnay and they did choose a rather fine vintage from which to release it. The vines grow on south-facing chalk in their Crawthorne vineyard, off the A354 between Dorchester and Blandford Forum (not far from Puddletown and Milton Abbas). The approach here is fairly low intervention with spontaneous fermentations, no fining/filtration and no animal-derived additives (so the wine may not be a “natural wine” in some people’s book but it is vegan).
The style is deliberately “fresh” and remains so even after three years ageing. The lemon freshness is enhanced by some more exotic fruits creeping in. This fruit is bright but also creamy and the texture is dry with a little bit of extract.
It’s a wine that’s not aiming for Burgundian complexity or weight but is perhaps, with its summer freshness, something uniquely English and all the better for it. A wine with its own unique personality. I’m impressed with this, really enjoyable on its own terms. I’m a fan of the estate’s sparkling wines and I shall certainly try to buy the next vintage.
Another wine from The Solent Cellar, also available from other independents including Lea & Sandeman in London.
“CUVÉE DAVID PEARSON” 2015, BREAKY BOTTOM (Sussex, England)
I would challenge anyone to name a more perfectly situated English wine estate, sitting as it does, enfolded within a hollow (“bottom”) of beautiful Sussex Downland just south of Rodmell, and a longish pebble’s throw from the sea. Peter Hall has turned his small start-up estate, which he planted in the mid-1970s, into one of a handful of the finest wine producers in the country.
You will most likely have seen me post reviews of other Breaky Bottom wines, including cuvées containing Seyval Blanc, a variety which the Hall family has elevated above any other English example I can think of. “David Pearson” doesn’t contain any Seyval Blanc, instead being a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Peter generally makes two different cuvées per year and the names are a nod to family friends. David Pearson was a long-time member of the BB team who sadly passed away in 2019.
This is a very pure example of a wine which, despite extended lees ageing of around four years, has a purity and freshness off the scale, a trait of this producer, which is why I love the wines so much. The blend is 70% Chardonnay, the Pinot varieties adding 15% each to the whole. Of course, along with the freshness you do also get that creamy brioche of aged traditional method sparkling wines. I’d go so far as describing this as magical now, but you can certainly see the path to further ageing.
This came from Butlers Wine Cellar, straight from Breaky Bottom itself.
CORTON GRAND CRU LES MARÉCHAUDES 2006, DOMAINE CHANDON DE BRIAILLES (Burgundy, France)
The de Nicolay family estate has grown in stature over the years. Always providing stunning value, with some hidden gems (like the tiny “ Île des Vergelesses” vineyard), this century the quality has progressed even further, as have the domaine’s green credentials. This is good news for one of the most maligned sections of the Côte d’Or’s Grand Cru terroirs, Corton. They are one of the few producers which have made genuine terroir wines from the hill.
Their progress has been a result of increasingly low intervention viticulture and winemaking. This is a wine fermented with whole clusters in wooden vat, undergoing gentle pressing and ageing in mostly older oak (maybe 20% new oak at Grand Cru level).
Maréchaudes is situated just below Bressandes on red soils with limestone. It tends to drink a little sooner than the other GCs here, but this shouldn’t make it of lesser quality. My take on this bottle is that, rather nicely, it combines, or perhaps juxtaposes, the velvet smoothness of some Beaune wines (thinking more the Premiers) with the texture of Côte de Nuits limestone. This makes for a delicious and interesting bottle, although there’s that niggle with me that, as with a lot of 2006 wines I’ve drunk, they are not quite able to give as much as I fervently hope the 2005s will…at some point in their evolution. And guess what folks, this is a “natural wine” (well, they add a tiny bit of sulphur but nowt else). Don’t tell your conservative drinking friends, because they will never guess.
I’ve had this a fair while in the cellar but I’m pretty sure I purchased it from Berry Bros & Rudd.
“MAD DOG WARWICK” 2019, MADAME FLÖCK (Mosel, Germany)
Madame Flöck is the creation of two guys, Rob and Derek, who come from the US and Canada respectively. They met in the Barossa when making wine there in 2016…so the Terrassenmosel at Lehmen and Winningen was the obvious place to set up a partnership together, right? Well, the guys do look a little crazy in their photos, but I think as one married a Mosel fräulein from the winemaking Schmitt family (Materne Schmitt, Winningen, I think?), at least reading between the lines, such a move wasn’t so crazy.
What really matters is that these guys really know how to do exciting stuff with Riesling. Mad Dog comes from just a couple of terraces at Winningen. This is how they tend to measure their vineyards, not in hectares. The cuvée is named not after someone like the infamous Aussie Bushman, Mad Dog Morgan, but “after the bloke who introduced us”. The vines, aged between thirty and eighty years old, are at the top of a hill in a small side valley, facing west. The westerly winds keep the vines disease free, and minimise botrytis, at the same time ensuring a longer, cool, ripening. The guys have repositioned the shoots and retrained them to assist in retaining acids, very much what they are after.
Limpid green-gold, the nose is almost as limey as a Clare, a really deep-rooted lime bouquet. There’s more lime on the palate but before you hit lime overload some nice grapefruit pops its head up. Ooh, and is that quince as it tails off? That’s mingled into the textured, mineral finish, long and dry with a lick of acidity to balance a hint of richness which shows up late in the day but adds an extra dimension.
Like another young winemaker with talent, Jas Swan of Katla Wines, Rob Kane and Derek-Paul Labelle are making good use of the opportunities to create truly exciting wines in the Mosel. I remember Rudolf Trossen telling me a few years ago that the Mosel is ideal for young winemakers because no one wants to farm the steep sites anymore and they can be had “almost for free”. It seems that a few intrepid souls have taken up the challenge and boy is the wine world better for it. I cannot wait to try more Madame Flöck.
This bottle came from Butlers Wine Cellar. They’ve sold out, I think, but may have some of the Schmetterling bottling, which I am yet to try, a blend of Müller-Thurgau, Riesling and Kerner.
“IT’S ALIVE” 2020, PETR KORÁB (Moravia, Czechia)
I imagine a few people might raise an eyebrow at me drinking Czech pétnat on New Year’s Eve, rather than some fancy Champagne, but to be fair this was with dinner, not to toast the New Year. I’m far too old now to be bothered to stay up past midnight…most years. In any case, the Champagne rack is getting increasingly empty and most of the stuff is too expensive to replace, but that’s not the reason we drank this. Koráb makes some of the best wine with bubbles in Central Europe, especially if you are a fan of natural wine.
This particular bottle is made from a field blend of a number of varieties, including Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Neuburger and Grüner Veltliner, situated on Petr’s four-hectares near the family winery at Boleradice. Winemaking is simple (if biodynamic methods can ever be called simple) and non-intervention in every respect where possible, especially in keeping this pétnat’s sediment in the bottle. Pre-bottle ageing is in robinia casks.
The fizz here is gentle, more akin to a frizzante than a fully sparkling wine. We have a simple wine in some respects, but take that as a compliment. There’s no autolysis or any of that. The sediment provides texture in the glass, unless you stand the bottle up for a few days and pour it carefully, but I like a bit of gunk in the glass. It adds to the fun. And it is fun, a juicy, fresh, reasonably acidic wine but tempered by a softness on the finish. I certainly enjoyed my last wine of 2021.
Koráb’s UK importer is Basket Press Wines.