How the year flies by! That’s rather a cliché, but this year does seem to have passed very quickly for us with our move to Scotland taking up rather a lot of the time. But I do look forward to this time of year, not only because it will be Christmas soon, but because it’s a time when I can begin to reflect on the past year’s drinking, reading and other wine-related activities. In the coming weeks I shall write about my wines of the year, always in my case the most interesting wines I’ve drunk, not the poshest or most expensive. It’s also pleasurable to reflect on what you readers have found most interesting on this site over the past twelve months (my chance to delve into the stats).
First, however, we have a few wines from November to write about. It’s a short drinking month in some ways, but with twelve wines selected I shall still divide it into two parts, six bottles in each. It makes it far easier for you to skim through. Part 1 covers the first half of the month with wines from The Jura, Burgundy, Mosel, Bugey, Burgenland and England. The last of these is a very old friend which I may well have mentioned in other articles but haven’t managed to drink for a year or two.
Corvée de Trou-Trou 2018, Domaine L’Octavin (Jura, France)
This cuvée was many years ago now my first taste of a wine from Alice Bouvot and formed the start of a genuine passion for her wines. We were staying in Arbois, in the tiny little house we used to rent there (sadly now sold…we were given an option to buy it and only Brexit put us off). We were cooking a meal for friends visiting from Geneva and I remember it was the time of the Fête de la Biou, when an enormous bunch of grapes is hung in the church to celebrate the harvest. Hirsinger, Arbois’ famous pâtissier, makes an enormous “tarte de la biou” and we bought one (more than 40€ for a dessert is a lot, but this was worth it). Not sure what we ate otherwise, but this wine from L’Octavin is what we drank.
Although a Vin de France, as are all of Alice’s wines, you can guess that this is a Trousseau, originating in her plot of 40-y-o vines in the Arbois lieu-dit of Les Corvées, one of the town’s best-known sites which sits on the slope between the main N83 north and the D107 route to Montigny-les-Arsures. This is, of course, a natural wine, or as Alice puts it on the back label, a wine made from “pur jus de raisin”. Brick red with darker cherry glints in the sunlight, the bouquet is high-toned cherry essence and the palate adds in some plum. There’s certainly a touch of volatility but when the nutmeg and cloves kick in you soon forget about all that. Challenging but, dare I say, magnificent too. Two months on skins, bottled in spring 2019.
Domaine L’Octavin is imported by Tutto Wines in the UK. The current vintage is 2020.
Saint-Aubin 1er Cru « En Remilly » 2011, Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey (Burgundy, France)
Before we discovered Arbois we used to stay in Burgundy every year, though this really is going back into the mists of time. Initially we stayed in a very basic chambre d’hôte at La Rochepôt and Saint-Aubin was just a walk or a short drive over the hill. Its wines fascinated me, but back in the 1980s the village wasn’t really considered in the slightest bit posh. This was, after all, a good seventeen years before “PYCM” became a well-known secret to Burgundy lovers. Now his bottles can command very fancy prices.
Pierre-Yves, the son of Marc Colin, set up a negoce operation with his wife, Caroline Morey in the mid-1990s, and by 2005 he finally broke from his family domaine and set up on his own. Six hectares grew to fifteen, with vines in Chassagne, Meursault and Saint-Aubin. Although based in Chassagne, it is their St-Aubin wines I know best.
This 2011 Premier Cru tastes fresher than I could possibly have imagined. It was made with careful fruit selection, grapes being picked if anything on the early side (we have a very satisfying 12.8% abv here). New oak is around 25% for this particular wine and Pierre-Yves tends to favour a larger barrel than many (350-litres being his norm). This leads to less overt oak, especially over time.
This bottle smells as fresh as it tastes, and one isn’t surprised by the green-gold colour suggestive of a much younger wine. There is not one hint of premox here. There is still a buttery note, although the oak is very well integrated. This buttery texture sees a lovely counterpoint in soaring jasmine aromas. The palate is almost unctuously smooth, as fine Chardonnay can be with the weight of wood behind it, but there’s enough lemon-fresh acidity to balance it. Very long, very fine.
This came from Uncorked near London’s Liverpool Street, in the days when you could walk into the shop and grab a bottle of PYCM. I’ve seen later vintages at eye-watering prices, but I can see why. This may be the oldest I’ve had from Pierre-Yves, cellared since release, and it was everything White Burgundy so rarely is at 1er Cru level. And from Saint-Aubin!
“Mad Dog Warwick” 2019, Madame Flöck (Mosel, Germany)
I last drank a bottle of this vintage of Rob and Derek’s “Mad Dog Warwick” (named after the mate who brought this winemaking partnership together) back in December last year. It’s mighty hard to track down, coming from just a couple of terraces above Winningen, but I wanted to see whether this could age a bit, and the answer, as the guys might have said when they were originally working together in Australia’s Barossa, “obvo”.
The key to this wine, as with many made by young winemakers buying vines on steep slopes few people want to farm (Rudolf Trossen once told me you couldn’t give them away at one time), is that the vines are often old. In this case certainly over 40-years. In addition, these vines are in a side valley, once neglected, but windy enough to keep them disease free, and also botrytis free. Climate change means it’s a touch warmer than when this land first became marginal. This is all very much assisted by very particular canopy management to ensure the retention of acidity.
“Warwick” is a lovely dry Riesling, and in fact it is almost more like a Clare Valley version, albeit with German terroir. Grapefruit with quince and a hint of lime, 12% abv. This was from Butlers Wine Cellar (Brighton) from where I’ve sourced all my Madame Flöck, but quantities are small and this is currently out of stock. Well worth keeping your eyes open for the next vintage.
Bugey-Cerdon 2019, Renardat-Fàche (Bugey, France)
I was introduced to Bugey some decades ago by friends nearby. Back then, the wines were generally not much to shout about, but there were some interesting oddities, one being the ancestral method light sparkling wine, Bugey-Cerdon. In the intervening period Bugey has become home to some gifted young winemakers, many with a preference for very low intervention viticulture and winemaking,
I have long asserted that Bugey’s time will come, but more in hope than expectation. Despite a healthy fifty pages being devoted to Bugey in Wink Lorch’s seminal “Wines of the French Alps”, one has to admit that the region is neither large enough, nor are there enough wine producers, for it to take off in the way that the nearby Jura has.
Alain Renardat-Fàche established this 12.5-ha domaine at Mérignat by turning his own father’s mixed farm (with Gamay-based sparkling wine) into a fully-fledged wine estate following wine studies in Beaune. It is now run by his daughter Christelle and his son, Elie. It is he who makes the wine whilst his sister deals with marketing, pretty successfully judging by the dozen or more export markets where you can find their wines.
There is a negoce Cérdon (grey label) and this black-labelled estate bottling. The former is 100% Gamay, but the family are keen to include the traditional Poulsard in their estate cuvée, a variety which has almost died out in Bugey, but of which they still have around three hectares themselves. The usual 30% Poulsard was increased to over 40% in the 2019.
As I said, this is a méthode ancestrale wine, bottle-fermented but by using refrigeration technology first developed in the Diois, a lightly sparkling wine could be made with an arrested fermentation, leaving between 50-60g/l of residual sugar in the wine. The result is a light and frothy pale pink wine with the sweetness disguised by deliciously brisk but restrained fruit acids. Yes, I know this is yet another 2019 I’ve written about before (April this year), but this is a very high-quality version of a unique gem, and now available in the UK via Raeburn Fine Wine. My bottles came, of course, from The Solent Cellar (Lymington). It’s still up on their web site so presumably they have at least one. If you haven’t bought it by Christmas, it’s mine.
“Superglitzer” 2018. Renner und Rennersistas (Burgenland, Austria)
You know, I think Superglitzer might just be the best name for an individual cuvée I’ve seen in many years, and its label is just perfect. No matter that when I first saw it, I thought it would be a white, possibly sparkling, wine. It’s made by my favourite people in Gols (which is saying something as it’s probably the village with the highest concentration of natural wine mega-stars on the shores of the Neusiedlersee).
We have here a blend of the three super red varieties of the region, Blaufränkisch, Saint-Laurent and Zweigelt, allegedly with a splash of Roesler, a complex 1970s crossing of Zweigelt with, if you really need to know, Klosterneuburg 1189-9-77 (= Seyve Villard 18-402 x Blaufränkisch). More useful is to visualise it as a ruby red with a darker, purple, core. The scent of red fruits is joined by spice on the nose, with the palate still showing brisk acidity. We drank this with a spiced North African dish and it wasn’t too fruit-driven for the spice level. The zesty freshness complemented the mild spice, and 12% abv is just spot on.
As I think I said on IG at the time I drank this, it’s hard to think of another producer whose wines put quite as big a smile on my face (Bouvot, Oggau, Spielmann?). The massive fun factor perhaps reflects the personalities of its makers.
This bottle came from Littlewine back when they had their online shop, but Newcomer Wines is the importer for the UK, from whom you can buy direct.
Cuvée Noir Brut NV, Bolney Estate (Sussex, UK)
As English Sparkling Wine goes, this must be one of the more unusual. Bolney is an interesting wine estate sited not far from the A23, around fifteen minutes by car north of Brighton, so when I lived down that way it was one of my most local producers. They make good quality white and pink sparkling wines and a range of still wines at various price points, and I believe they also do some contract winemaking. It’s effectively a quality producer who, for some reason, can fly a little under the radar, at least in the circles I move in. Then again, I’m pretty sure they’ve no idea who I am either. The heritage is certainly there. Current owner Sam Lintner’s parents planted vines here fifty years ago.
Cuvée Noir is perhaps not what you’d expect, though. First, this traditional method sparkling wine is red. It’s made from the Dornfelder variety, more commonly used in parts of Germany for everyday still wines. They don’t really shout about this on their web site, but they shouldn’t be shy. I think there are many people like me, like “us” in fact, who might seek this out if we knew about it.
The concentration of red and dark fruits is amazing, very aromatic with cherries and deeper blueberry aromas. The palate is made creamy by the purple mousse, with, like the Renner wine above, a mix of concentrated fruit with a spicy twist of black pepper. You drink it chilled, but frankly it’s versatile, good for summer picnics or bbq, or with a cheese platter on a November evening. It’s a good deal lighter than say an Australian Sparkling Shiraz. It reminds me more of the old fashioned “sparkling red burgundy” I occasionally drank in the first flush of my twenties, but that might be before most people’s time, and as a bottle-fermented wine, this is way better quality.
Cuvée Noir is great fun and I reckon a lot of readers would find it really interesting as well. Now where did I buy it? I wish I could remember. Certainly you can buy from Bolney Estate direct.
En Remilly is a vineyard I follow closely- both the St A. & adjoining Chassagne. PYCM can still be obtained from a certain UK merchant on release at sensible prices (I even secured a minuscule allocation of Remilly ‘21).
If you are ever passing through La Rochepôt venture over the hill & see if we’re in town.
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Would love to, Mark.