For Part Two of my catchup on July’s wines we have some stunning bottles from Italy’s Veneto, the north of Alsace, two came from around Austria’s Neusiedlersee, one from Zurich in the Deutschschweiz, and to start off, a wine made from grapes sourced from pretty much all over England (and some from Wales).
Lost in a Field “Frolic” 2021, Tim Wildman (Various vineyards, UK)
Tim Wildman has given much pleasure to many lovers of petnat, via his range made in Australia, all sporting wonderful arresting graphics on their labels (Astro Bunny, Piggy Pop). In 2021 he got together a team of helpers and trawled some of Britain’s lost vineyards for fruit to make an English and Welsh version of those very successful Aussie bottles.
Many vineyards were planted in the initial “boom” (not that it was a boom by today’s standards) of vineyard planting in the UK, much of it in the 1970s and 80s. Back then you were relatively unlikely to find any Pinot Noir, although some “Pinot Noir Precose” was planted (this grape variety is actually Frühburgunder and nice as it can be, especially when made by myself, it’s not PN). Chardonnay…forget it. Most plantings were a mix of German crossings developed to resist the diseases brought on by a cold, damp, climate. These vines have been terribly maligned in recent years, but their value to wine geeks has led to them being called “Heritage Varieties”.
Tim used 21 heritage varieties for this wine, sourced from 81 English and Welsh vineyards in seven counties. The main variety (70% of the blend) is British staple Madeleine Angevine, a distant relative of Chasselas it turns out. To this was added various proportions of Schönburger, Reichensteiner, Triomphe (a red variety made very successfully as a sparkling wine by Welsh producer Ancre Hill), Rondo (a ubiquitous hybrid red variety crossing Saint Laurent with vitis amurensis variety Zarya Severa, created in former Czechoslovakia in the 1960s) and others. Many grapes came from old plots Tim says were unloved for years.
The result is a wine which, whilst it will never wine big Parker points, is thoroughly interesting, and thankfully massively thirst quenching to boot. It’s a frothy petnat which mirrors Tim’s Aussie wines in tone and fun factor. It has that field blend flavour where no variety, despite the proportions outlined above, dominates. This is clearly because the main grape is white yet the wine is given a deep pink hue by the less dominant red varieties. It’s very much fruit driven, with a summer berries flavour which is unique. Perfect for summer, but I think equally worth taking to older relatives who have the heating up full blast (like my parents), where a thirst needs quenching. At just 10% abv it performs that task extremely well.
If there’s a downside to this wine, it’s the price tag of £32+, but it does come in a unique bottle with a lovely label, and for those tempted and not too impecunious, it came in magnums too. Despite the price (a good third more than Tim’s excellent Australian wines), this wine is worth supporting, especially to try something made from these old sources and heritage varieties. Plenty of producers around the country are finding new markets for some of these grape varieties as younger drinkers go in search of the glou, but there’s nothing quite like what Tim has put together. It was bottled by Daniel Ham (Offbeat Wines), to add further interest to those who know Daniel’s wines.
This wine has mostly been available at small independent wine shops in London and along the South Coast. I suspect that if you want to try this you may still be able to track down the odd bottle. Mine came from Seven Cellars in Brighton.
“Sassaia” 2020, IGT Veneto, La Biancara/Angiolino Maule (Veneto, Italy)
You might remember that I have been particularly impressed with this wine (and producer) whenever I’ve tasted their bottles at The Real Wine Fair. I’ve been remiss over the past few years in not buying any but I put this right earlier this year, though the shop owner kindly sold me a bottle from his tasting stash to enable me to do more than merely “taste” this.
Angiolino and his son, Alessandro, are based near Gambellara, a very old DOC in the Veneto province of Vicenza. Here the main white variety is Garganega, more commonly known from nearby Soave. Here, in the Sorio Hills, Garganega is grown on volcanic soils (as in Soave’s best vineyards), and this is a wholly natural wine with no manipulations nor other inputs, and that includes zero sulphur.
For around a mere £20 you get a genuinely striking, pure, expression of the variety. First you are struck by the lovely perfume given off, quite peachy aromas. The palate adds a citrus acidity and a textured, mineral, bite. A little weight on the palate balances it all wonderfully well. At just 12.5% abv, this is delicious, and equally a bargain.
The wines of Angelino Maule are imported by Les Caves de Pyrene.
Après L’Heure, Christophe Lindenlaub (Alsace, France)
This pink Pinot Noir petnat is made by Christophe at the estate he now runs with his father, Jacques, at Dorlisheim. It’s a relatively unknown village to outsiders, up in the north of the region around 20km west of Strasbourg, just below Mutzig and the slightly better known Molsheim (where the famous motor manufacturer Bugatti was founded).
This part of the Alsace vignoble is at the forefront of innovation, with a mix of new growers who find vines up here somewhat more affordable, coupled with older estates where a younger generation, schooled on natural wines, ecology and regenerative viticulture are staking their claim. To those who love the region’s wines, Bas Rhin is more exciting than the supposedly more famous, more “Grand Cru” endowed, Haut Rhin.
The family has a 200-year history in winemaking here, but there’s no doubt that Christophe has shaken things up and given the domaine a new lease of life. It’s fair to say that he is one of the young rising stars of the wider region. He has taken things further than his father’s interest in organics and creates zero-addition wines of increasing stature.
This petnat is in some ways a classic Alsace Pinot Noir, except that it has bubbles. It has that vibrant red cherry nose and flavour which sings “glug me” in a loud voice. The bouquet also brings in raspberry notes and the palate adds some wild herbs. In some ways it is very reflective of the clay and limestone soils up here, interesting because petnats are often more a mirror of winemaking than terroir. Interestingly I can’t see any indication of vintage, not even a Lot number, on the label. The vines are, I do know, 40 years old or more.
Christophe exports more than 40% of his output, quite typical of the Alsace new wave. Forward-looking countries like Japan and Sweden feature. The wines only became available in the slow to cotton on UK, and the USA, in 2020, and I suspect this wine is from that vintage.
I can’t recall where I found this bottle, certainly in a UK independent. However, I know my new discovery Cork and Cask in Edinburgh listed it and they ship to all UK destinations. They had it for the lower end of its UK retail range, £23.95. Although they sold out, hopefully they will restock the next release. If they do I promise I will buy it.
For all things Alsace natural wine new wave, check out David Neilson’s backinalsace.com, where you can read about the Lindenlaub estate, and many other up-and-coming Alsace natural wine producers. I’ve been quite successful over the years in cheerleading for Jura, Savoie, even Bugey and Moravia, but getting people to buy the amazing wines of what is to my mind the most exciting region in France for lovers of low intervention wine has been, in most cases, quite hard work. I will persist.
G’mischter Sotz 2020, Andert-Wein (Burgenland, Austria)
Erich and Michael Andert farm at Pamhagen, close to the Hungarian border on the bottom eastern side of the Neusiedlersee, where the better known Meinklang are also based. In Pamhagen there are a lot of people with the surname Andert but these brothers are pretty well known. It’s not for the size of their vineyards, tiny compared to the Meinklang estate, but for their uncompromising winemaking. Possibly the best illustration of this is that they will not even have electricity in the cellar. They believe that the waves given off by electricity will negatively affect their wine.
The wine, made from biodynamically farmed grapes, is completely unmanipulated. No electricity means no pumping, and although there are other ways to cool a fermenting vat, there is no temperature control of fermentations here. Everything is allowed to go its own way. Oddly enough, although these wines can be challenging for those who have not experienced them before, they are equally thrilling. There’s something to the argument that the less you do to a wine, the more expressive it is able to be.
This cuvée, the name only suggestive of Gemischter Satz because it is bottled as a mere table wine, is a co-planted, co-fermented field blend of Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling, Müller-Thurgau, Gelber Muskateller, Frühroter Veltliner and Muscat Ottonel. It’s sappy, saline, cloudy, certainly bracing. As a skin-contact wine it has a savoury, textured palate and a pale amber colour. If you are up for the challenge, you will find zingy peach too, with fresh citrus acidity, herbs (fennel I think), and a surprisingly long finish, all at a mere 10% abv. Certainly not a crowd pleaser, but I know both consumers and people in the trade who worship these mysterious and almost voodoo wines.
They come with a plain white label which states “Andert-Wein” and “Österreich”, and nothing more on the front. Nothing beats a bold statement, perhaps. The back label is slightly more informative, suggesting (inter alia) a possible bottling date of July 2021 and Demeter certification.
Your UK source for Andert is Les Caves de Pyrene.
Federweiss 2018, Bechtel Weine (Zurich, Switzerland)
These wines are labelled Zurich AOC, though I think I recall that they were previously labelled for their village source, Eglisau, close to the Rhine in that Canton. There is only 15-ha under vine here and whilst in the past the big name in winemaking here was the soon to retire Urs Pichler, Mathias Bechtel is the rising star. He comes from the background of the Junge Schweiz-Neue Winzer grouping which has transformed the vineyards of German-speaking Switzerland, what is known in the regions here as Deutschschweiz.
Mathias made his name with transcendent Pinot Noir, by which I mean transcending anything previously made in the Canton, and justly garlanded with awards nationally. It is Pinot Noir which makes this “Federweiss”. Those few who have come across the style may know it as a traditional blanc de noirs, Pinot Noir lightly pressed without macerating the grapes to give winemakers who only possess red grapes the opportunity to make a white wine.
Though Bechtel makes a wine for easy drinking, his version is a light rosé, the colour being more of an orange tinge that real pink. This is down to a light maceration of meticulously tended and sorted grapes from vineyards that reach up to 470 masl above the river, where a cool climate but the reflecting water provide for both ripeness and acid tension. Far from the peasant style of old, this is fruity and mineral, a Federweiss which stands completely apart.
Alpine Wines imports this, but I purchased it not directly this time, but from The Solent Cellar. It retailed for £36, which makes it, like all Swiss wine, hardly a bargain. Yet I would suggest that to try an unusual wine style, from a country all too few retailers will look at, it’s worth it. Because I’m guessing that if you read this Blog, you are a fairly adventurous drinker. Solent currently suggest they have one bottle left. Alpine Wines currently lists half-a-dozen Bechtel cuvées.
Winifred 2021, Gut Oggau (Burgenland, Austria)
This producer, based in the village of Oggau, north of Rust, on the western shore of the Neusiedlersee, has long been one of my very favourite producers. As with Jaroslav Osička in Part 1, I visited Stephanie and Eduard recently, back in August, and wrote about that visit in an article of 19 September. This means that I won’t give any background here. If you are not too familiar with Gut Oggau, check out that article which you may find in the popular articles to the right of this text, or by searching Gut Oggau in the search box.
Summer would not be the same without a bottle of Winifred. I think I’ve mentioned before that one bottle of any cuvée per year is about my lot because of the popularity and justifiable price of most of these wines now. Winifred is a vivacious rosé off a terroir of sand and clay. The vines, most around thirty-five years old, are a mix of Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt.
The colour is towards the darker end of pink, but in contrast the wine is quite light and fragrant. For me the dominant fruit is strawberries in this youthful 2021. It is vibrancy personified, and this is a clear trait of all the Gut Oggau wines which seem to have an extra level of life force in them. I must add though, that in all of the several vintages I’ve drunk of this wine this might be the best I remember. 2021 was a remarkable vintage in many ways, and back on 31 July this year it was absolutely drinking perfectly.
Dynamic Vines imports Gut Oggau, but looking at their list I can only see this cuvée available now in 12-litre format, £960 if anyone is interested, and I presume someone will be. My bottle came from Antidote Wine Bar (who do takeaway sales). Their Central London location, a stone’s throw from Regents Street (12A Newburgh St, off Carnaby St) makes it very convenient for bottle sales.