June saw a very interesting bunch of wines drunk at home, but equally, it saw us drinking a lot of repeats, wines I’ve already written about. So, we have just five wines in this first selection of wines drunk at home in June, with six to follow in Part 2. We begin with a simple but tasty Pigato from Liguria and a Wiener Gemischter Satz of some stature. Next there are two German Spätburgunders, one from the Pfalz and one from Baden. The solitary sparkling wine is yet another stunning cuvée from Peter Hall at Breaky Bottom in Sussex.
You might like the fact that I’m not writing about too many wines in these two articles. I’m saving the quantity for another piece…we drank, between four of us, ten wines and one whisky over Monday and Tuesday evenings, and I want to tell you about every one of them in due course.
PIGATO 2019 RIVIERA LIGURE DI PONENTE, TERRE BLANCHE (Liguria, Italy)
Back in September last year I drank a bottle of this producer’s Rossese di Dolceacqua (Recent Wines, Sept 2021, Pt 1, 30/09/2021). I managed to get a bottle of their Pigato from the same retailer. Pigato is a Ligurian clone of Vermentino, although some producers like to bottle wines labelled with both names to emphasise their difference.
Filippo Rondinelli and Nicola Laconi are the couple behind Terre Blanche, based on the beautiful rocky coast close to the French border. This isn’t a natural wine as such, but as I said in reviewing their tasty and great value red, they follow a low-intervention regime for their extremely old vines (some more than a hundred years old).
A few readers will know that back in the 1990s and 2000s I was a fairly frequent visitor to Piemonte, and if we were there for a week, we’d always manage a day in Liguria, either a seafood lunch on the coast or an exploration of the mountains which separate Liguria and Piemonte. It’s a region of great beauty which we never quite managed to get to for a holiday in its own right. As I was first near Dolceacqua in 1989 I have no excuses.
What I’m coming slowly to say is that back in the day Pigato was often pretty acidic and thin, but this wine isn’t. It has more body than many Pigatos I’ve drunk, and at 13% abv, more alcohol. It has peach and honey tones, very smooth, but it doesn’t lack Pigato’s natural freshness. The finish has a pronounced savoury element. The whole package makes it very attractive and ideal for a seafood lunch in the sunshine, when you decide you don’t want a thin and weedy pink. It’s not Meursault, but it’s only £22.50, same as last year if I recall correctly. Don’t look for “stunning” but do look for something nicely different.
I found this at Butlers Wine Cellar (Brighton). They are still listing it.
SPÄTBURGUNDER 2014, WEINGUT FRIEDRICH BECKER, SCHWEIGEN (Pfalz, Germany)
If you have noticed I have begun to drink a few more of Fritz Becker’s wines, I should explain something about the mess that is my cellar. I retrieved a mixed case purchased on a visit there, from the bottom of a pile of boxes, some of the contents of which I’m far from sure of. I knew I had the Becker wines but I wasn’t too worried about their ageing potential. This cuvée may be Becker’s entry level Pinot Noir, but a few years ago I had a 2010 vintage of the same wine and it was glorious. I’m not sure even Fritz had kept one of these that long, because his upmarket cuvées are so good.
It bears repeating that Fritz Becker (that’s the son of Fritz Becker Senior, known as Kleiner Fritz, who has been in charge of winemaking since 2005) now farms close to 25-ha at Schweigen, at the very southern extent of the Pfalz. In fact, most of the Becker vines are actually in Alsace, but subject to German wine law. Being Germany, the 1971 Wine Law made everything between the magnificent French abbey of Wissembourg and Schweigen itself into one amorphous Grösslage, the Schweigener Sonnenberg. And it being 1971, Sonnenberg was the name of the once most famous of the region’s Einzellagen. This means that for all his single site wines, Fritz has to tread a very fine tightrope when labelling them, between telling us which of the original historic sites the wine comes from and upsetting the bureaucrats.
Most of the soils here are a mix of limestone and marl, and some used to say these wines were some of the most “Burgundian” Pinots in Germany. That said, recent years have seen changes, in clones and viticulture. Here, especially, there has been a dialling back of new oak (purchasing one-year barrels from DRC gives them top quality wood without the new oak effect) and the introduction of more wooden vats for fermentation.
This entry-level red is a good introduction to the Becker stable. It doesn’t have the majesty and wow factor of the top wines, many of which are so sought after and highly awarded in Germany that one wonders why so few Brits know them. There’s still a little tannic structure in a wine which has largely smoothed out nicely. Both bouquet and palate are fruity but the texture gives enough grip to make sure it goes well with food. At 13.5% abv that is what it is built for. Is it just me, but this wine never fails to be so much better than by rights it should be?
Purchased at the domaine, but the UK importer is German specialist, Wine Barn. I think the current vintage of this cuvée may be a little under £30. The Grand Crus start from £80 upwards.
WIENER GEMISCHTER SATZ DAC BISAMBERG 2016, WIENINGER (Vienna, Austria)
Of course, you know that the vineyards of Vienna are one of my happy places. The views from up in the vines back over the city have, for some unfathomable reason, a real resonance with me. If you asked me to name my favourite half-dozen places to walk, of course I would include a couple of walks in the Himalayas, certainly one from the Alps and the Pyrenees, but I would also select a walk through the woods to the vines on the Nussberg, with lunch and a glass or two at Fritz Wieninger’s popup Buschenschank (summer season only) on the way down.
This Viennese cru comes from vines on Bisamberg, which is on the opposite side of the Danube to Nussberg, and so closer to the Wieninger winery at Stammersdorf, a long tram ride from the city centre. Wieninger has 70% (35-ha) of their vine holdings here. Gemischter Satz is a field blend where the grapes are picked together and fermented together. It is not a unique way of farming, with the insurance the style brings against under-, or over-ripeness, and disease, being common elsewhere in Austria and certainly beyond. The style is, however, firmly part of the cultural heritage of the city of Vienna, hence it having been granted its own DAC (Districtus Austriae Controllatus, the Austrian AOP equivalent).
Many gemischter satz wines are simple, fruity, zippy, no more than summer refreshment. There are, however, serious wines which are the city’s Grands Crus, made to age. It is this style that Fritz Wieninger has pioneered, and he’s still the top dog. The contents of this Bisamberg Cru are Weissburgunder, Grauburgunder and Chardonnay, all vines over forty years old, all farmed biodynamically, off sandy loess and limestone soils. The result here is a more complex wine than you might expect, with genuine depth. There is still freshness and fruit, but the acids are softened into a stony, mineral, dry texture. The wine has a certain stature, but not one denoted by weight. That said, it still packs 13.5% abv, more than many lighter examples.
Expect the main theme to be exotic fruits, perhaps mango to the fore, but with apple acidity and a touch of honey. The grapes only see a three-hour maceration, but there is nevertheless a little texture and dry extract. Personally, I love these wines, though they may appear slightly different if you’ve never tried them and don’t know what to expect. That’s including their glass vinolok closure (don’t try a corkscrew).
This bottle was purchased from The Solent Cellar, but the UK importer is Liberty Wines. The former may be out of this right now, but they do have some gems in their small Austrian offering.
CUVÉE DAVID PEARSON 2015, BREAKY BOTTOM VINEYARD (Sussex, England)
Another month, another Breaky Bottom Cuvée. I’m getting through them. Normally I’d not write about a wine I included in my Recent Wines articles only back in December last year, but I continue to be astonished by the quality, and shocking value for money, of Peter Hall’s wines and I make zero apology for continuing to plug them.
Peter Hall’s tiny Sussex vineyard sits in an achingly beautiful Bottom (hollow) in the chalk folds of the South Downs, between Rodmell and the sea. It is accessed by a route which at best can be called a muddy track, which I know has proved difficult for vehicles lower slung than my XC. I wrote about my 2022 visit there (15/03/2022).
David Pearson was a long-time friend and employee of the Halls, who sadly passed away in 2019. The cuvée named after him comprises 70% Chardonnay, with Pinots Noir and Meunier adding 15% each. Peter makes two cuvées each year, one generally being a blend of the three traditional “Champagne” varieties. There were only 6,004 bottles of this one produced.
This is classic Breaky Bottom, in that it has a filigree spine of brittle acidity, like a frosted spider’s web, running through it. Delicate, yet the fruit intensity adds substance. The balance here is of the best kind – precarious. Some might call it “nervosité” in another language, we might call it tension. When I drank a bottle last year, I said it had potential to age. It has progressed, even in six months. It is in a quite magical place (though no hurry to drink) where youth is still very much evident, but maturity is beginning to show itself. It scored 95 points at the IWSC 2020. I’m sure it would merit a higher score today, not that I’m a points man.
£35 from Butlers Wine Cellar. This cuvée has also been spotted in Sussex branches of Waitrose.
BLAUER SPÄTBURGUNDER 2017, ZIEREISEN (Baden, Germany)
Another German Pinot Noir. They may come from miles apart, but there are some similarities between the pair I’ve written about today. They are both grown close to the border of another country, one which has influenced the wine. In this case it’s Switzerland. They are also both entry level cuvées made by supremely talented winemakers whose top red wines are rightly regarded as among the best in Germany. Both Becker and Ziereisen have dialled back the oak, power and structure over the past decades, to initial disappointment from some critics, but generally a route praised by the majority of their clientele.
Hanspeter Ziereisen farms a little over 15-ha of vines near Efringen-Kirchen, the vines grouped on Baden’s Öhlberg, just a matter of a few kilometres from the Swiss border at Basel. The winery address, Markgräfenstrasse 17, places us in that southern part of Baden known as the Markgräferland. The soils here are resolutely Jurassic limestone, so once again, Burgundian comparisons are rife. The terroir though is quite different, even if there are close climatic similarities. The vines, most over 50-years old for the crus, are planted in individual parcels at between 300-400 metres on quite steep terrain and they need protection from the wild winds which can sweep through the Belfort Gap.
This, like the Becker Wine above, is one of Hanspeter’s entry level wines. Whilst it does not come close in quality to the top wines, starting perhaps with the Ziereisen “Jaspis” barrel selections, it does provide a lot more bang for the buck than almost any similarly priced German red wines I can think of (£16.99 for this, half the price of the albeit extremely good Becker wine reviewed earlier). It saw a six-week maceration in stainless steel followed by ageing in large, used, oak. You may only be getting intense cherry fruit on nose and palate, plus a bit of grip and texture, but this is all for under seventeen quid. If some think it is a simple wine, I think it is a great glug…though a 13% glug so be careful.
The Solent Cellar for once appears still to be listing this, and for the same price quoted above. More generally for Ziereisen, contact Howard Ripley Wines.