Why off-topic? My “Recent Wines” articles are almost exclusively made up of wines drunk at home, and the ten wines here were drunk on two evenings last week whilst staying with friends in the New Forest. But perhaps “off-topic” also because some of the wines are a little outside what I’m normally known for drinking. In case you were wondering, as far as I know, no one out of the four of us felt even slightly the worse for wear. I’ll keep the notes for most of the wines short.
“LA BUBULLE À JEANNOT MOUSSEUX BRUT NATURE, ANNE & JEAN-FRANÇOIS GANEVAT (Jura, France)
This wine is something of an enigma. Our friend got it in a case of odd Jura wines from Les Caves de Pyrene and it has no vintage info, just a code (1705B). Vaguely pink in colour it tasted aged, even suggestive of hints of Vin Jaune in its hazelnut aromas. But it’s apparently an Ancestral Method sparkler made from a blend of Gamay and Poulsard, so bearing a little resemblance to a Bugey-Cerdon. The grapes apparently come from the Jura region, but this is by no means certain with the A&J-F negoce wines. Certainly delicious. I’ve seen a suggestion that this may cost around £32 if you can find it. If true, that would be well worth pursuing.
FRÜBURGUNDER 2019, DAVID CROSSLEY (Sussex, UK)
I’m rather proud of this. My Frühburgunder (aka Pinot Noir Précose) usually comes out somewhere in the pink spectrum but 2019 gave us a proper red wine. Unfiltered, but having stood up for a good while 80% of the bottle poured a beautiful luminous red. Scents of cherry and good fruit on the palate. I suspect it may not be a lot higher than 10% abv, though I might be wrong. I also think that it did need a couple of years for the acids to soften…but they have. Definitely the best wine I’ve made so far. 2020 was lost to bacterial spoilage. The 2021 went into bottle only a month ago. Not commercially available. Nothing added (and I promise I washed my feet in water before treading the grapes).
CASOT DES MAILLOLES ROSÉ DE ZAZA XX (Roussillon, France)
This was a case of once more trusting a recommendation from a retailer. I’d popped in to London’s Antidote Wine Bar to pick up some Gut Oggau, but their pink wine hadn’t yet arrived. This was in fact very highly recommended indeed as a replacement, so I thought I’d try one. It was definitely all it was cracked up to be and more.
It’s a Vin de France made from fruit grown somewhere near Banyuls, better known for its fortified wines and powerful AOC reds from next door Collioure, and I’m not aware that rosé wine can be made under the Banyuls, or even Collioure, appellations. The vintage is 2020 and the grape mix is mainly Syrah, with just a splash of Marsanne. It’s a beautiful, orange-tinged, darker-coloured rosé which in some ways brought to mind that much under rated appellation over in the southern Rhône, Tavel. The lasting impression was of vibrancy, yet with a well-disguised 13% abv, it was perfect with food, in this case roasted aubergine with a tomato-based marinade.
TROUSSEAU “LE GINGLET” 2016, Philippe Bornard (Jura, France)
Philippe’s son, Tony, has taken over winemaking at the domaine now, but this wine was made by Philippe, who is still based in Pupillin. I’ve had a number of bottles of Le Ginglet 2016, some bottled under the Vin de France designation and some under the Arbois-Pupillin Appellation. I’m not entirely sure why, but this is under the latter appellation.
Cherry red, fruity and edgy, with genuine verve. There’s still lots of fruit but I would probably judge this 2016 worth drinking soon. This came via Les Caves de Pyrene.
VIN JAUNE 2011, DOMAINE DES BODINES (Jura, France)
On my last visit to Domaine des Bodines in December 2018 I was able to taste Emilie and Alexis’s first Vin Jaune. I was able (allowed) to purchase one bottle, so that got tucked away safely in my cellar. Our friends are also Jura visitors and they managed to pick this up retail in Arbois some time later (2019?), and rather kindly if unexpectedly opened it.
When I tasted this first vintage of Bodines VJ I wrote at the time that this could be the wine to really establish their reputation, although I’m glad to say that reputation has flourished in the interim, based on their other wines. This registers 14.5% abv, yet is so fresh and lively for a VJ. It’s definitely one of those Vin Jaunes you can drink early, and it might cause me to change my mind about when to drink my bottle. There’s no hurry at all, of course, and having just one bottle, I can see I might be reticent to part with it just yet. Fantastic. As far as I know, not imported, though Les Caves have had a few Bodines wines from time to time.
PIGGY POP PETNAT 2021, TIM WILDMAN (Various Regions, South Australia)
Tim Wildman has literally just released his first petnat made from English vineyards, but along with Astro Bunny, Piggy Pop is part of his long-running offering made from grapes sourced in South Australia. Tim is both an English MW and a devotee and master of the Ancestral Method, having made wine using this technique for a decade now.
We drank this on a spit of land close to Hurst Castle, inaccessible on foot, after a trip out in a rib (rigid inflatable boat to land lubbers). On the way back to Keyhaven we saw the local resident seal. Not a late afternoon easy to better.
Piggy Pop is a multi-varietal, multi-region, blend of Nero d’Avola and Mataro from McLaren Vale, Zibibbo from Riverland (where Brad Hickey also sources Zibibbo for his superb Brash Higgins amphora version), plus Fiano and Arneis from the Adelaide Hills. The result is for my money one of the best Aussie petnats on the market. Tim states his aim to make frivolous wines from serious grape varieties which you can “quaff with impunity”. Both of the two Aussies mentioned fulfil that role, and “Piggy” is a gloriously fun-packed frothy pink fizz. I’ve also just grabbed a bottle of the English version, “Lost in a Field”, which I tasted with Tim at Real Wine back in May.
Piggy Pop and Astro Bunny cost £26.80 from anyone who Indigo Wines distributes to, and also The Sourcing Table (online or from their new shop in Peckham). Lost in a Field, with its bright label and statement glass bottle, is a little more expensive, into the thirties, but the nature of the project, resurrecting very old English patches of vines mostly planted more than forty years ago with “Germanic” varieties, has a high-cost base.
CHAMPAGNE MICHEL GONET BLANC DE BLANCS GRAND CRU 2012 (Champagne, France)
Gonet is based on the Côte des Blancs at Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. As a Blanc de Blancs this 2012 vintage wine is made from Chardonnay. Dosed as Extra Brut (2g/l) it was mis en cave in April 2013 and disgorged in April 2021, so it has also seen an extra year of post-disgorgement ageing. Rounded, lemony, bready with some autolytic character balancing the freshness, it is still very much on its fruit. But this costs only £45 (The Solent Cellar, Lymington), and I have to say at that price it is something of a bargain. Long lees ageing, a vintage wine, a prime location for the fruit…all for the price of a non-vintage wine from many of the larger Champagne Houses. It will age further, and it is very good.
BOURGOGNE ALIGOTÉ 2019, BALLOT-MILLOT (Bourgogne, France)
This wine comes from a long-standing producer based in Meursault, where they are better known as producers of that village’s wine. Charles Ballot runs the domaine today, the domaine name coming from the unification of both his parents’ vine holdings when they got married.
Charles’s Aligoté comes from 50-year-old vines, grown under a strict (but uncertified) organic regime which includes the use of no herbicides and minimal other approved treatments. The wine is aged in oak and even after a relatively short period of bottle age has softened way more than you’d expect from Aligoté, even perhaps if you have been assiduously following this grape’s renaissance in the region. It’s almost chalky in its soft minerality. Imported by Thorman Hunt, this again came from The Solent Cellar in Lymington. £18.99. I quite fancy trying the domaine’s Meursault now (around £50, I think).
CHÂTEAU HAUT-BAILLY 1999, PESSAC-LÉOGNAN (Bordeaux, France)
I’m no fundamentalist, and whilst these days I prefer to drink more natural wines, I still have classic wines in my cellar. Everyone outside the rarefied collector clique has been more than happy to slag off Bordeaux for the past decade. High alcohol, Parkerisation, pricing for oligarchs, snooty owners and many other sins have been heaped on the Bordelais, some criticisms quite justified. Yet…yet…when you drink a classic.
Haut-Bailly is what we used to call old school Graves. A wine of lowish alcohol, fruit for sure, but a savoury wine in its essence, built for the job of accompanying food (for most people, let’s face it, for accompanying a large slab of dead cow).
What we have here is a wine grown on a classic terroir consisting of sandy gravels just to the south of the city of Bordeaux. The blend is probably around 60-65% Cabernet Sauvignon with around a quarter Merlot and a small but significant 10% of Petit Verdot. Current wines see around 50% new oak, but I suspect this was less back in the late 1990s.
This is one of my very favourite Bordeaux Châteaux, one I’ve drunk from many different vintages. It was also, sadly, the last bottle of Haut-Bailly I owned. It has a seemingly infinite ability to age when stored in a cool, dark, place. The result is always savoury, though I won’t deny there is blackcurrant fruit here still. It has an earthy side, which I find so much more attractive than the more modern fruit bombs from the wider region I’m less enamoured with. The alcohol is listed as 12.5%, which, whilst not putting it among the cohorts of old 11% Graves, certainly makes it fit for purpose: the dinner table rather than the tasting bench.
You might be able to source some even today, but it will be pushing £100/bottle. I suspect I bought this in the early days of The Sampler in London, so not on release, but I’ve had it quite a long time. I think if it has been safely stored, even for £80-100 you’ll be getting a lot of pleasure if you like wines like this.
CAREMA 2016 (Black Label), FERRANDO (Piemonte, Italy)
Carema is a small appellation in Northern Piemonte. It’s so far north in fact that the next stop for vineyards is Aosta’s Donnaz DOC. It has always had a reputation, largely kept alive by one private producer, Luigi Ferrando, whose sons are keeping the flame very much going (as well as an excellent co-operative in the region whose wines are quite easy to find in the UK). Now the Ferrando wines are starting to garner interest among aficionados of Barolo and Barbaresco, and these wines ain’t cheap.
This is old vine Nebbiolo (sometimes called Picutener up here). Grown at altitude, the wines are perhaps lighter than their southern cousins, but they major on scent (cherry and rose petal) and a nice minerality. I think “ethereal” may be a better adjective than “lighter”. If you expect less ripeness, think again. The 2016 vintage was near perfect, with a long, slow, ripening season without too much heat and little by way of rain. The resulting wine is certainly stately, but not constrained. This means that it will keep like any other great Nebbilo, but it has the kind of delicacy, and lack of big tannins, which make it drinkable now. £80 (ouch!), but it is a very fine Nebbiolo, again from The Solent Cellar.
Ooh, and we drank this as well…!