Part 1 of the wines supped in and around home in May contains bottles which might, even by my own standards, be called eclectic. We begin in Georgia, drink a remarkably good, if secretive, cheap wine, a Freisa from Tortona, a Californian Petnat, an old favourite from Vienna and a stellar wine of real stature from Puerto de Santa Maria.
ALADASTURI 2020, GVANTSA’S WINE (Imereti, Georgia)
Gvantsa Abuladze is the sister of Giorgi and the increasingly well-known Baia (of Baia’s Wine). They make wine in the Imeretian village of Obche, in Western Georgia. The sisters came to fame perhaps when a major article appeared in EU4Business in 2018. Baia founded the company in 2015 when she was in her early twenties, with exports, first to Austria, starting in 2017. Gvantsa joined later, having worked on a EU Voluntary Programme in Sweden.
The vines for this pale red wine come from reasonably young Aladasturi vines (15/16-y-o). The grapes are picked quite late, in November, and placed into qvevri. The wine ferments easily to dryness because this is a grape with high acidity and low sugars (hence the late harvest). Maceration on the skins lasts two months, using wild indigenous yeasts.
The result is a light red with a garnet colour and a bouquet of sweetly ripe red fruits (raspberry, redcurrant and a hint of darker blackcurrant). The palate is dry with notable acids balanced by the zing of concentrated fruit, which also add a smoothness in the mouth. Bear this in mind when I say it’s quite tart, but in a mouth-watering way. You could quite easily glug this, especially with its 11.5% abv, nicely chilled down a little on a hot day. Equally, you could pair it with a spicy stew, which we did. Either way, the merchant selling this calls it “unique” and they are not wrong.
Just £22 from Oxford Wine Company.
UVA NON GRATA VIN DE FRANCE 2020, BOUTINOT (Lyonnais, France)
This wine is something of an enigma, at least from looking at the bottle. It contains almost zero information, so we go to the agent Boutinot’s web site. There’s a bit about Gamay being outlawed in Bourgogne, and a note that the variety loves the granite and silica soils northwest of Lyon, from where the fruit presumably comes. We are also told, though we can tell, that it is made by carbonic maceration. That’s near enough all we get.
What we do get in the glass is lovely Gamay fruit, pure and simple. Crunchy cherries fill the nose with soft red fruits assisting what is simple but tasty fruit on the palate. A friend called this the best cheap Gamay he’s drunk for ages, and I can’t disagree. Within the context of an £8.99 wine, this is very good. There’s little to entice a serious wine lover from the bottle, although the text-free front label is nice, as you can see. But you could do a hell of a lot worse than grab some of this primary-fruited little grenade of Gamay.
Worthy of its Decanter Silver Medal, available from a range of indies including Solent Cellar (Lymington) and Butlers (Brighton).
BRAGHÉ DA UVE FREISA 2018, CLAUDIO MARIOTTO (Tortona, Italy)
DOC Colli Tortonesi is in the southeast of Piemonte, so far east that it is often forgotten, or would be were it not for its increasing profile thanks to producers such as Walter Massa. Mariotto, like Massa, specialises in the local white speciality, Timorasso, but for red wines he favours Freisa. It’s a variety that is more widespread in Piemonte than Timorasso, but it usually falls beneath the radar, in a region where there are many other varieties, from Nebbiolo down, competing for the limelight.
Not a natural wine as such, it is made with minimal intervention and bottled with very little sulphur. It’s a dark-hued red with a deep purple rim. The bouquet shows intense and vibrant bramble fruit (especially blackberry). There are bags of fruit on the palate, but you also get earthy, truffle, flavours and a little tannic bite. It has more body than some Freisa, possibly assisted by its 14% alcohol, which I initially thought high but which didn’t bother me as I drank it. Very tasty, and different.
This was £15.99 from The Solent Cellar.
PÉTULANT NATUREL CINSAUT 2020, BIRICHINO (California, USA)
No, the name isn’t a typo. This Cinsaut is from the Bechtold Vineyard on the Mokelumne River in Lodi. Birichino is a label founded by Alex Krause and John Locke, both formerly at Bonny Doon. They have a focus on unusual (for California) varieties and their labels match their slightly off-centre view of winemaking.
The Bechtold vineyard was planted with Cinsaut as long ago as 1886, by Joseph Spenker (Jon Bonné, The New California Wine, Ten Speed Press (2013)). They are said to be the oldest living Cinsau(l)t vines on earth. Still tended by Spenker’s family to this day, they are dry-farmed, and also have been farmed organically since planting. The grapes are wont to head to Bonny Doon, Abe Schoener and, of course, Turley, so this is a famous site and Birichino might be considered a little cheeky making a petnat from these grapes.
The inspiration with this wine is Provençal Vin Gris, but with bubbles. The Ancestral method of bottle-fermentation is employed and there is no disgorgement. We have nice red fruits, quite exotic (is that guava in there as well?), rounded out by the 13% alcohol (quite high for a petnat). The floral bouquet floats above a good frothy mousse. The wine is dry…and rather delicious. Just as well because it will set you back £31.50, but it’s definitely worth it. Think sunshine Vin Gris with bubbles, what not to like.
Sourced from Butlers Wine Cellar, Brighton. This is one of four fascinating Birichino wines they currently stock.
SATELLIT 2018, JUTTA AMBROSITSCH (Vienna, Austria)
I was almost sad to drink this as I am now right out of Jutta’s wines for the first time since I discovered them, though I think its time had come. She’s a producer who I would always aim to keep a bottle or two to hand. Satellit is a Gemischter Satz field blend from Vienna’s 21st District (centred on Florisdorf), above the bank of the Danube. I guess the name comes from the fact that it is an outlier from Jutta’s main sites, closer to Grinzing.
The soils here are loess. The vinification includes a little skin contact before co-fermentation of grapes all picked together. The overall impression is of apples, but the loess adds a certain richness too. The blend is largely comprised of three varieties: Riesling, Chardonnay and Grüner Veltliner, but a little Sauvignon Blanc, rare in Vienna, helps add a touch of freshness. That said, this is less crisp than it tasted a year ago. Still a lovely wine, though. I’d find it hard to fault any of the soulful wines Jutta makes.
This was £24 from Littlewine. Their online shop is sadly no longer open at present, so I would suggest heading over to Newcomer Wines for supplies.
LAS CEPAS DE PACO « EL REFLEJO » 2018, VINOS OCÉANICOS (Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain)
This is another rather splendid example of the new wave of unfortified wines coming out of the Sherry Triangle. Made by Raul Moreno for Bodegas Herederos de Argüeso, the Vinos Océanicos label has become synonymous with these experimental new-style wines, brought to prominence by Equipo Navazos with their Florpower, just over a decade ago.
The source is an old Palomino clone, given skin contact, and made and aged in old Sherry casks. The colour is bright bronze, with mineral texture. The palette of flavours encompasses stone fruits, nuts, citrus, curry spice, honey, and even faint hints of Cognac. Some appear on both nose and palate. Complex doesn’t even begin to describe it, and it has such length it only finishes when you sip or eat something else. A quite remarkable wine.
Imported by Les Caves de Pyrene, my bottle came from Solent Cellar (£34), but it is out of stock there.