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The Fatalone name originated with Filippo Petrera (2nd generation), Nicola’s son, who was, in his time, nicknamed Il Fatalone. It quickly caught on becoming the family nickname. Fatalone translates literally into ‘Lady Killer’ or ‘one who can boast to be an irresistible seducer of women’, much like the legendary Don Juan. Filippo Petrera lived until the age of 98, metaphorically speaking between Bacchus and Venus, having breakfast every morning till his last day with half a litre of Primitivo and half a litre of fresh milk.
In 1987, Fatalone became the first winery to produce and bottle the Gioia del Colle D.O.C. Primitivo as a single varietal wine. In 2000, in the spirit of promoting and the land and its local product, they founded the Consortium for the Protection of the Wines of D.O.C Gioia del Colle.
The estate has always practiced organic farming and since 2000 has been Certified Organic by the Institute for Ecology and Ethics Certification (I.C.E.A). In 2003, a new state-of-the-art cellar, carved in the rocks next to the ancient Masseria, was built combining ancient tradition with modern techniques and technology. The cellar is solar-powered, part of the Fatalone philosophy to work in an entirely sustainable fashion.
Place and grape
The area in question is called Gioia del Colle. The Fatalone vineyards are located between two seas: the Adriatic (45 km to the east) and the Ionian (45km to the south). The terrain comprises typical Murgian hilly karstic soil: a mix of clay and limestone, rocky and rich in minerals. To be exact it is composed of thin layers of red earth mixed with limestone and silica on huge monolithic blocks rich in marine fossils. These limestone soils confer freshness by preserving the acidity in the grapes, and since elegance in the wines is the main goal, help the Primitivo to realise its maximum potential.
Primitivo grapes (Photo credit: Fatalone)
Primitivo, a thin-skinned grape, is unique in having a second budding or veraison that occurs at the same time as the main crop (racemi). Alongside very few other grape varieties, if Primitivo tips are pruned in spring the secondary shoots, known as ‘femminelle’, will develop an abundance of small rounded clusters. These ‘racemes’ ripen approximately 20-30 days after the main grapes are harvested. This means that in Primitivo vineyards it is possible to have two separate harvests: the first in August to mid-September and the second from the end of September to early October.
Although there has been debate about the variety’s geographical origins, there is little question that Primitivo’s modern-day home is in southern Italy, particularly Puglia. It probably arrived there from the coastal vineyards of Croatia, just across the Adriatic Sea, where it is still grown today under various tongue-twisting names including Tribidrag and Crljenak Kasteljanski.
The farming at Fatalone is organic and everything is done in the vineyard to ensure healthy grapes. After a manual harvest in small cases the grapes are destemmed into stainless tanks and undergo spontaneous fermentation, with pump overs to release carbonic gas. After several rackings the wine is transferred into Slavonian oak barrels (750 litres). No sulphur is added during the winemaking itself.
Music therapy is played to the barrels to assist the process of micro-oxygenation. This involves the diffusion of soft new age and classical music enriched with natural sounds (wind, rain, leaves movement, water flowing and chirping of birds), based on the idea that those soft vibrations improve the activity of the microflora present in the wine and support its breathing when in casks. After this careful maturation the wines are bottled without filtration and a very small addition of sulphites. All the wines are labelled 15% by volume (between 14.8% and 15.8%).
Music therapy is played to the barrels to assist the process…soft new age and classical music enriched with natural sounds, based on the idea that those soft vibrations improve the activity of the microflora present in the wine and support its breathing when in casks.
The classic Fatalone Primitivo in its youth is ruby red with slight burgundy hues. The aromas speak of very ripe fruits and slightly toasted wood and spices with some balsamic notes. Full bodied, rich in minerality and freshness, balanced smooth taste of black sour cherry and plum tending to velvety with ripe fruity notes of blackberry and mulberry, and spices like clove and cacao. The flavour that really distinguishes the authentic Primitivo from Gioia del Colle is the toasted almond aftertaste.
30 years of Fatalone – the wines
The tasting, hosted by Pasquale Petrera, featured a vertical of vintages from 2012 back to 1988 with two pre-Fatalone wines from 1981 and 1977.
The 2012 presented rich liquorice and clove aromatics over prune, but retained an almost cool, minty finish with back notes of rose petals and dried flowers.
2011 was a beautifully modulated wine, toned down concentration, pure, fragrant and elegant.
The chocolatey 2009 had a touch of botrytis, but the fine acidity kept the wine honest and long in the mouth.
2007 proved to be an exceptional and one of the stars of the show. Its youthfulness was apparent, rich, dried fruit aromas and flavours with a distinctive savoury notes.
2006 was a hot vintage and the Primitivo was holding a touch of residual sugar. The nose was sweet, but not confected, the finish had a bitter amaro/vermouth aspect.
2005 was evidently a difficult vintage; having rained in August, the ripening was uneven. The resulting wine was powerful but missing some of the elegance and precision of the more eloquent vintages.
2004 revealed some lovely maturity – aromas of roast coffee, caramelized orange and secondary notes of earth, mushroom and truffle.
2003 was very warm – lots of baking spice and raw fruit. Less charming than some.
2001 displayed an array of exotic spices – cinnamon, clove and star anise seasoning the dried fruit flavours.
2000 was terrific and arguably the wine of the line-up. Characterised by an initial bouquet of dried black olives, cured meat, it underpinned its rich chocolate-coated fruit with beautiful acidity. Really harmonious wine and still plenty to offer for the future.
Whereas the 1995 and 1991 were not showing so well, the 1988 was a revelation. Enticing bouquet of roasted pan juices, caramelized fruits and vegetables, dusted with herbs and a wonderful long finish with the acidity lingering on the tongue. A great wine.
The Ancestor’s Primitivo from 1981 was extremely turbid and viscous with a sweet rancio/muscat quality.
1977, conversely, a naturally-made wine, was thrillingly fresh and limpid. Zesty red fruits, like a liqueur made out of baby red plums, and flecks of almond in the background.
Susan Hulme MW commented on the elegance of the wines: ‘I think the wines are not typical of what we have come to expect of Primitivo in the sense that they are more structural and restrained. They are not fruit and oak bombs.
‘The acidity and minerality and savoury almost salty qualities gives these wines the potential to age and this seems to be a reflection of some of the qualities of the soil and particular terroir. I particularly liked the 1988, for example, which had great tenacity and liveliness as well as a gossamer fine texture. The 1977 was also so full of life.’
Darren Smith was also surprised: ‘I’ve only ever tried a handful of Primitivos and they’ve tended to be the fruit-bomb entry-level kind.
‘Apart from the alcohol level these were on the whole quite elegant wines, beautifully perfumed with a fine, silky texture. I’d certainly never tasted Primitivo like them and I had the sense that these were something of a one-off.’
He also felt that they had aged beautifully: ‘Looking at vintages like 2000 and 2007, for example, amazingly well. These vintages had great balance and were just meltingly delicious and complex. A fresh, almost zesty acidity was a common to most of them – even the oldest wines… I want to drink more of these wines. They are so distinctive – that amazing combo of stewed strawberries, cherry, clove, cocoa, bitter almond, hints of negroni. These are really remarkable wines – all the more so after a few years of bottle age.’
Many of the wines managed to retain a fine balance, showing warmth without sweetness, bitterness without astringency, fruit without jamminess and toastiness without oak. This is surely down to the organic approach and the intense focus on detail and precision.
Thanks to Pasquale for bringing these rare specimens of Primitivo to London and for celebrating Fatalone’s 30th anniversary with us. And to Enoteca Turi for hosting the tasting and the wine dinner afterwards.
Interested in finding out more about the wine of Fatalone? Buy online here or contact us directly…
Some growers seem to be born iconic, some have iconic status thrust upon them and some seem to avoid the limelight entirely, simply content to sell their wines.
François Rousset-Martin (Photo credit: Kermit Lynch)
It helps to protect your identity when you are located in Nevy-sur-Seille, a village tucked away in the Vallée des Reculées, where François Rousset-Martin makes his wine. Nevy-sur-Seille is located in the Seille Valley, a region of abundant rainfall, a temperate climate whereas the higher Jura altitudes have bitterly cold winters. The river Seille flows right through this commune: and its energy was formerly used to power the village flour mill and oil mill, as well as its saw mill.
This region can justifiably claim to be undiscovered Jura, characterised by imposing limestone and marl cliffs perched atop pedestals of sloping vineyards. Traditionally a mixed farming region, the Jura is witnessing a new generation focused exclusively on winemaking, and in the case of Rousset, redefining what we consider typical of the area with his topping vins ouillés.
François’ aim is to better understand the incredible terroirs in which he is invested. His current work is most focused on making previously inconceivable wines…
François first caught the wine-bug growing up in Burgundy where his father was a micro-biologist for the Hospices de Beaune. Childhood trips were spent in the Jura getting to know and falling in love with a parcel of family vines which he would later vinify with his father. After earning an oenology degree and continuing his journey in the southern Rhône and Languedoc regions, he returned to his Jurassian roots and in 2007 officially launched his winery. While his scientific background provides François with a literal understanding of the transformation from grape to wine, he’s most influenced by keen intuition, and winemaking lore passed down from his great grandfather, also a winemaker.
François’ aim is to better understand the incredible terroirs in which he is invested. His current work is most focused on making previously inconceivable wines within the Château Chalon appellation, labelled as Côtes du Jura since he makes them in a non-oxidative (ouillé or topped-up) style. Vinified by parcel (farming is organic-certified) with little to no sulphur and bottled unfined and unfiltered, the Rousset wines are complex and persistent, falling somewhere along the spectrum of floral and delicate, exotic and savoury. They are reminiscent of the Ganevat wines, but with perhaps even more laser-like acidity and tension – tears of limestone indeed.
All grapes are hand-harvested (yields are particularly low) and wines are vinified in barrels (228L pièces bourguignonne and demi-muids) all are 3 to 4 years old. The wines undergo malolactic fermentation, aged on fine lees, neither fined, nor filtered – some have no sulphur. He matures his wines in a cool yet humid cellar, ideal for achieving both the finesse and concentration he is looking for in his wines. Having identified the potential of the different terroirs (he farms seven hectares in total) he chose to specialise in ouillé wines and vinifies the parcels separately. Having said that François makes a bewildering range of wines – even the same cuvée will be markedly different depending on when it is bottled. Like so many Jura vignerons he can’t resist pushing the white wines (in particular) in different directions. The ouillé wines are more fruity and floral and tend to dried fruits redolent of orange and apricot, fine acidity then more vegetal notes of fennel and celery, citron and (lime)stone juice. The voile wines are slightly reductive, a touch of cheese and then the classic aromas of fenugreek, cumin, ginger, menthol and then amazing acidity.
Like so many Jura producers who desire to showcase their terroirs, Francois makes countless cuvees. The Mémée Marie from the village of Lavigny on grey and white marls combines Savagnin (aged sous-voile for 3 months) with 85% Chardonnay. The grapes are blended in stainless steel tank and aged for 11 months. There’s a savoury reduction but underneath the wine is springy and vivacious.
The Chardonnay Gravières is from the same village and comes from an organically-farmed 50 year old vineyard plot of 0.3 ha on hard limestone. Fermented and aged in barrel this spends 15 months on the fine lees. Beautiful tongue-arching acidity, a touch of the Puligny about it.
Chardonnay La Chaux is on limestone and various marls from 65 year old plot in the village of Chateau-Chalon itself. Also topped up and aged for fourteen months on lees this wine has a piercing citric attack and then broadens across the palate. Incredible length and focus.
Chardonnay Terres Blanches is on a mixture of grey and white marls in the village of Lavigny. Again, this is topped up and aged for 15 months on the fine lees. Aromas of dried spice, apricot stonefruit, energetic acidity.
Puits St-Pierre Savagnin is from vines on the best part of Château Chalon, it has a brilliant complexity conferred by six months under the voile, then topped up for the rest of the elevage. Pure and refined yet very powerful, a spectacular wine that benefits from the decanter and ageing.
Francois is off the grid geographically and critically speaking, but his wines have a seriousness and a depth that merits consideration. His articulation of the stunning terroir around Chateau-Chalon shows careful winemaking allied to sensitive farming.
Interested in finding out more about the wine of François Rousset-Martin? Buy online here or contact us directly…
What is your personal philosophy, Lucy asks Charlie Brown. He thinks for a moment: ‘Life is like an ice cream cone – you have to lick it one day at a time.’
Although I haven’t written about the topic of natural wine for ages I haven’t broken out in hives. Wine philosophy, after all, is surely for the cups; it is as a vaporous as the liquid itself. Sometimes, when we are overtly serious we make grandiloquent statements, sweeping judgements that do not withstand scrutiny. I do it all the time myself!
When asked what he thought of the French Revolution, the Chinese premier allegedly replied that it was too early to judge. The Chinese vision of their civilization covers thousands of years, whereas ours covers a few centuries. The story made me reflect on our society – the instant gratification demands plus demands for innovations and change to be evaluated even before they are adequately developed.
I like to think that the best natural wines are made with loads of patience, a wedge of intuition and a degree of acceptance.
Wine has been made for 8,000 years give or take. I don’t suppose in ye early days the good folk of the Caucasus were going around and saying: “This stuff sure is natural”. (Why do I imagine that Georgians have broad southern American accents?) Natural wine was never a short-term quick-fix philosophical trend but a simple artisan way of making wine with zero or limited tools. Or, in another sense it is about making do with you have got. Throughout the history of humanity progress has been always associated with doing more and more, making things easier (theoretically), defining, refining and technically improving. I like to think that the best natural wines are made with loads of patience, a wedge of intuition and a degree of acceptance.
Despite that there are still vignerons who make a wine for the kitchen, as it were – a super-fresh, bubbling liquid that is alive – in a jug, the spirited beaker of the warm south. This wine is for the grower, family and friends, for pleasure; the thought of some distant tasting panel analysing it chemically and passing judgement is so removed from the spirit of natural enterprise. These are the wines we want to enjoy everyday, living, breathing, oh-so-fresh, nourishing and digestible.
To protect against fraud and to ensure a certain quality, wine became subject to analysis and evaluation. Labelling became as important as the liquid inside the bottle; appellation laws had to be adhered to, certain denominator standards upheld. This may have originally been done with the best of intentions but as a result wines started to be made to appeal to taste of consumer panels and be easily recognisable. At some point the idea of wine became a more-or-less homogenous product, and therefore had to be deemed “product-worthy”.
With this in mind winemakers began to view wine in terms of the means of production and see grapes not as the juice of the vintage or as transmitters of terroir, but rather as the building blocks (I use the term advisedly) of something specific, a wine profile.
This wine is for the grower, family and friends, for pleasure; the thought of some distant tasting panel analysing it chemically and passing judgement is so removed from the spirit of natural enterprise.
In the world of wine which is always the best of all possible worlds (!), technical improvements are always being proudly trumpeted, but the common denominator of wine qua wine has barely shifted. Mediocre wine is a reality, the result of mass production to quench an ever-expanding demand, and all the oenological tropes such as adding acid, tannins, yeasts that guarantee a consistent product, come rain come shine, assist in manufacturing a commercial proposition. One could say that the technology has improved (or at least has become flashier) and the process of winemaking is now understood at a molecular level. That is progress of a kind. But understanding how your vocal chords work doesn’t make you a great singer, and though the science that we learn may make us into slick wine scientists, that is a long way from being farmers and vignerons, who live and breathe wine, have an intimate relationship with their vines and instinctively understand the nature of ferments. For real wine is more than cold science and chemical and microbiological sequencing; it refers to a place and a property, to people, to the randomness of nature and the wildness of yeasts, and all the transformations, and all the edges and flaws blend together imbue this liquid with its unique signature.
Genuine ignorance is…profitable because it is likely to be accompanied by humility, curiosity, and open mindedness; whereas ability to repeat catch-phrases, cant terms, familiar propositions, gives the conceit of learning and coats the mind with varnish waterproof to new ideas. —John Dewey
I like to think that natural wine appeals to a kind of genuine ignorance or humbleness, it tests the simple proposition that wine was, and can still be, a naturally-pleasurable drink free of dozens of allowable additives. It attracts the open-minded; those who give these wines a go are wine explorers.
Though the science that we learn may make us into slick wine scientists, that is a long way from being farmers and vignerons, who live and breathe wine, have an intimate relationship with their vines and instinctively understand the nature of ferments.
Pierre Jancou (Racines) says that he opened a wine bar so that he could drink the wines that he enjoyed. Natural wines, simple food, well-sourced and well cooked, attracts like-minded people. It is not a movement in the structured sense, it is word of mouth, word of blog, exchange of experience. The only philosophy I’ve read (other than poetical musings by certain enthusiastic growers and proponents) have been from an embryonic counter-cultural movement of individuals whose sole purpose in life might be to scoff at anything that finds favour. What we are saying that natural wine is a good, healthy and generous phenomenon and “it embiggens the soul” to borrow from the Simpsons – and whilst we heartily acknowledge not that all wines vinified in the name of natural wine are good, that is not really the point. I am equally dubious about conferring an aesthetic to natural wine – you might as well say “Pinot Noir is a great grape”. Yes, in the hands of the right person. Natural wine means different things to different people, but ultimately it is what is in the glass on a given day and the feeling that it elicits from the drinker.
Racines, Paris (Photo credit: Racines)
Natural wine should contain a drink warning. People interested in this subject should drink more (and better) and think less.
Natural Wine: Ideology vs Practice
Recently I came across a very interesting blog post on natural wines. I can’t remember where I read it, alas. The writer makes some extensive observations, but cutting to the chase:
Man makes the wines
Natural wines are small scale and individual
The ethical/idealist dimension of natural wines is a distraction
Good natural wines show that the grower has understood the inextricable relationship between man and his environment
There are good natural wines and bad natural wines. You can assess these wines analytically and personally just like any other. The best naturalists don’t just want to make ethical wines, they also want to make good wines. For the best naturalists, making a good wine also means making wine that distinctly expresses aspects of both the grapes and their environment that we otherwise cannot experience. Hence enters the idea of symbiosis – naturalists are trying to create a symbiotic relationship between themselves and the environment in which their grapes are grown and then fermented into wine. It is not a question of dominance – either of man over nature or of nature over man. Rather, it is a question of learning from that which elides our desires to categorize and to essentialize. To me, the best natural wines capture the elusive mystery of the natural world in a way that other wines don’t. They do this by dialling back all of the modern wine making techniques that have proliferated across the world and come to dominate agriculture and wine making and by, in a sense, starting from scratch.
There are good natural wines and bad natural wines…The best naturalists don’t just want to make ethical wines, they also want to make good wines.
If we do very little to the grapes, then we can see their potential more clearly. It is for this reason, I believe, that most of the best naturalists are actually incredibly empirical. They test and experiment and take risks in order to discover potentials in their grapes that no one else has discovered. It is for this reason I believe that naturalists could end up being the most important forward thinkers in wine: they believe in their subject and they want it to teach them rather than for them to dominate and control it. This is a radical shift away from current wine making practices. Are the results perfect? Not at all. But they are almost always interesting and the best are constantly progressing and learning with each vintage. This is why we can’t define natural wines: they have not yet defined themselves.
Natural wine empiricism? (You gotta be kiddin’ me – Ed)
Are you curious to know if there a disjunction between London and the rest of the UK in terms of wine taste? Although I am mainly interested in regional attitudes towards natural wines, one may broaden the terms of reference to include all interesting, authentic, terroir-driven wines, unusual styles, and offbeat grape varieties.
Terroirs Wine Bar, London
We have to begin with the c-word. A character in Hans Johst’s play, Schlageter, opined: ‘Whenever I hear the word culture I reach for my gun’, although I prefer to recall the adaptation of this quote pronounced by a producer in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 film Le Mépris, who says: ‘Whenever I hear the word culture I take out my chequebook.’* A wine culture should never be pretentious or elitist or revolve around money; rather it should be endemic, reflecting a society that is relaxed and curious about wine. Whilst more people than ever are drinking wine in the UK, we still seem to be unduly exercised by perceived trends and how others regard our wine choices.
*The character in Schlageter actually says: “Whenever I hear the word culture I release the safety catch on my Browning.”
Some people like to believe that an adventurous wine culture is synonymous with the easy availability of wines from the non-classic regions and countries. The origin of wine, however, means a lot more than simply the place where it is manufactured. After all, about thirty years ago, Bulgarian and Romanian wines positively (negatively) populated the shelves of supermarkets, hitting certain key price points (the result of cheap labour and industrial farming practices). Of course, in those days, a Bulgarian £3.99 Vatted Merlot was hardly representing a specific eastern Europe wine heritage. And nowadays, you may well be able to find wines from Brazil, China, Croatia and Georgia and other seemingly far-flung and exotic places, but in the majority of cases these are bland facsimile varietal wines made by oenologists as “products for a purpose”.
To all intents this is simply repackaging the same wine-taste (cold-fermented, filtered whites, for example, or reds manufactured with added tannins and chemical flavourings). It is not about the nuances of grape varieties either. Not only are international grapes made to a formula (by adding yeasts) so that they might derive from any country or region with a suitable wine facility, but indigenous varieties are also neutralised, so they neither reflect terroir nor vintage, but are a construct that may be always easily replicated to be instantly recognisable to the so-called average consumer.
This commercialism is not so much a gateway to more interesting things, as a revolving door to the same taste profile.
The common denominator approach to winemaking exists to create brands. Austria is associated with a single grape, Grüner Veltliner (brand Grüner), much as Italy used to associated with Pinot Grigio, and Argentina with Malbec. Yet so many commercial Grüners are heavily filtered, and are thoroughly anodyne as a result. This results in a vicious circle: people will buy Grüner because they believe that it is the great Austrian specialism, meanwhile producers in Austria will continue to make the style that they believe consumers can relate to. This commercialism is not so much a gateway to more interesting things, as a revolving door to the same taste profile. A commercial Fiano that tastes like a Cotes de Gascogne, or a white Verdejo, is offering three different countries and three different grape varieties in name only. The name of the wine, the country or region, the variety, is so much less important than the nature of the wine itself in terms of gauging how tastes are changing or developing.
P. Franco, East London
My perception of a so-called wine trend is really a gut feeling based on the sales of wine companies, what I’ve seen on the wine lists of mover-and-shaker-bars-and-restos, glimpsed on the shelves of interesting independent retailers, and by regular trawling through social media. It is not a scientific approach, but statistics shed less illumination on the aesthetic responses to wines than on quantitative measurements of buying and consumption.
From what I gather anecdotally you’re less likely to find natural wines, skin contact orange wines, organic wines from small artisan producers (say) outside London because consumers are inherently more conservative outside the Metropolis. Does this perception hold water, or is it simplistic? Individuals do move from place to place for work, others visit interesting wine regions, and attend major artisan wine fairs like Real Wine, RAW, La Dive, Les Anonymes, Villa Favorita etc. in order to broaden their wine horizons. More than happy to engage and educate rather than kowtow to perceived taste, these people will always try to find an audience for their love of unique artisan wines even if it means swimming against the tide at first. The flipside is the restaurateur or sommelier who says: ‘My customers would not like this/these wines.’ (How often have we heard that?) Claiming knowledge of a customer and his or her taste is presumptuous. Certainly, if you are unwilling to engage, and will only give people what you think they want, they will, of course, default to the tried-and-trusted. We should never talk about “archetypal consumers” as that reduces individuals to the status of cyphers. I have done enough wine events to know by opening people to new tastes, you can help to change their attitudes towards wine.
Wine culture throughout the world may be concentrated in large cities (critical mass etc), but there are always demographics within demographics. You may have the opportunity to drink exciting, unusual authentic wines in London, but only in certain parts of town. East London, Central and SE London have become de facto wine destinations, whereas in other parts of London there is a comparative dearth of places to drink interesting wines. The reasons for this may be to do with the profile of the local inhabitants (age range, disposable income, nature of businesses in the area).
Outside London, cities like Bristol, Brighton, Manchester and Leeds may have the demographic ingredients to support a progressive wine culture, but for all that, it is down to individuals to make the leap of faith, and open a wine bar not as a local oddity, thereby excluding certain people, but ensure that any gastronomic enterprise is vibrant and inclusive, and that the service of wine is friendly and informative. It is not so much if you build it they will come, but that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Wine trends are here today, gone tomorrow; wine culture has roots.
Claiming knowledge of a customer and his or her taste is presumptuous. Certainly, if you are unwilling to engage, and will only give people what you think they want, they will, of course, default to the tried-and-trusted.
A few years ago, Hammersmith, Chiswick and Shepherd’s Bush had a number of wonderful gastropubs and restaurants run by individuals who assembled interesting wine lists featuring things that they enjoyed drinking. These areas have changed; many of those establishments have been sold and purchased by high street chains since then. Now those wine lists feature brands and bland commercial wines. In East London, meanwhile, wider “craft culture” has exploded with myriad bakeries, micro-breweries and distilleries fuelling a young artistic/bohemian community. There is an energy and excitement about food and booze around here; it is not simply, as the social caricaturists would have it “a hipster phenomenon” – although there is an element of certain people wanting to advertise themselves through their food and wine choices – it is that there is a community of people who love to explore new tastes, care about the provenance of ingredients (and wines), and enjoy talking about food and wine.
Wherever there is a healthy debate about food, you will probably find the stirrings of an informed wine culture. We must always return to this: wine is so much more than the label, or the perception of the product, or the adherence to a trend. It is the story inside the bottle. The more opportunity that people have to drink (and enjoy) real artisan wines, the more they will be creating a wine culture of their own.
Wine lists are organised by price, by country/region, by grape variety and in the broadest sense, by style or flavour profile. But when one thinks that wines come from particular places, then categorisation in terms of soil and climate seems to be both the most salient and intuitive means of classifying wine.
For us a wine of the sea is one where the prevailing wind blows moist salt-laden air into the vineyards. Summers are normally mild rather than hot; the growing season is usually lengthy. And the wines? Brisk, fresh, light on their feet, and, for want of a better descriptor, saline.
Atlantic Ocean PotionsDomaine St Nicolas – Stop Fief!
Fiefs-Vendee, the most proximate wine region to the Atlantic in France and one where vines have been cultivated for decades by the Michon family.
Due to its proximity to the ocean, Domaine Saint-Nicolas benefits from a micro-climate: sea, woodland and the marshes of the Ile d’Olonne. The vines are planted facing south-west for the Pinot Noir, Gamay and Cabernet and south-east for the Chardonnay and Chenin on clay and schist soils. The domaine extends to some thirty-seven hectares and each one of them farmed biodynamically! It is a major undertaking to keep the soil, and hence the vines, healthy. Thierry’s job is also made more difficult due to the range of different grapes he tends here. Whilst the vignoble is planted with the standards such as Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir and Gamay, there is also Cabernet Franc, the obscure Négrette and the slightly less obscure Grolleau Gris. The Négrette ends up in his baby red called Reflets Rouge which normally sees 40% of Pinot Noir blended with 20% each of Gamay, Négrette and Cabernet Franc. Grolleau or Groslot Gris adds a touch of spiciness and excitement to the salty, white wine called Les Clous which is a blend of Chardonnay, and Chenin Blanc.
For Thierry Michon, the gregarious force behind one of the Loire’s best-kept secrets, it’s all about the soil. Working on schist and silex a flint stone’s throw away from the Atlantic, Thierry is the prophet of biodynamics in this tiny viticultural area. His vineyards never see a non-organic product. He raises his own cows simply for the manure they produce which he religiously spreads between the vines. He has slowly purchased buffer zones all around his property to prevent chemical products from other winemakers from seeping into his parcels. For him, biodynamics isn’t just a pragmatic consideration, it’s a religion.
Whether it is the schist soil or the micro-climate, his single vineyards Pinot Noirs are some of the Loire’s best, exhibiting strong hits of raspberry allied to vibrant saltiness, alluding to their maritime origins. It may be that this is the only littoral Pinot Noir planted on schist in the world, but if you know different – – answers on the back of a tweet.
Muscadet – Lies, Sur Lies and Luneau-sea (sic)
Pierre Luneau keeps a variety of thoroughbred Muscadets in his stable and on his table, terroir differentiation being the name of the game. The vines may be grown on sands and gravel, on granite and gneiss mica, schist or volcanic gabbro, but the mineral, salty nuances are always present and the capacity to age built into the steely structure of the wines. Le Verger, from the schists of Landreau (20km south east of Nantes) reminds one of Petit Chablis: white flowers, stones and water. Wonderful bready/yeasty nose and a smooth buttery palate with good concentration. Even on this commercial wine the production is largely organic (organic manures, lutte raisonnée, controlled yields). A far cry from la lavasse served up in many bars.
Possessor already of superb single and cru locations, the Luneaus recently brought a spectacular new vineyard on stream. La Butte de la Roche is planted on the exposed slopes of a hill that rises steeply out of the marshes, the vines on a fascinating mix of iron-rich serpentite and magnetite soils created by gradual metamorphic transformations. This terroir imparts terrific complexity to the wine which is initially taut with cool oyster-shell notes before unveiling more complex aromas of salt butter, gorse blossom and river stone and a palate bound together by soothing acidity. Truly the DRC of Melon de Bourgogne, the 1er Mousquetaire of Muscadet.
There is something about Muscadet that’s like licking an oyster shell.
The versions from Jo Landron, Domaine de la Pepière and Marc Pesnot are subtle variations on a maritime theme. Manual harvest (not the norm in Muscadet), native yeast ferments, ageing on the lees, and light or zero filtration, combine to amplify the terroir nuances in the respective wines.
Terras Gauda – Zing and tang
The Galician vineyards of Rías Baixas are dominated by the influence of the Atlantic. This is a green, cloudy, damp region of pine, chestnut and oak clad hills with a coastline punctuated by rias (coastal inlets). The region has actually produced wines for many centuries, and by the middle of the 19th century, Galicia boasted 55,000 hectares of vines, although phylloxera and other diseases greatly reduced this amount. The wine scene remained moribund until the 1980s when Albariño, the region’s great white grape was “rediscovered” and found to yield excellent quality wines. Allied to this was investment in the technology of cold fermentation and stainless steel that exalted the flavours and aromas of the grape. Rías Baixas – low rivers – is named after the abovementioned fjord-like inlets. It has a markedly Atlantic climate with mild winters, coolish summers, high humidity and elevated rainfall. The wines of Terras Gauda are located in the subzone of O Rosal on the terraces that rise steeply above the river Miño which divides Spain from Portugal. The Abadia de San Campio (100% Albariño) is very attractive with citrus, grapefruit, pineapple and mandarin flavours. The O Rosal, a selective blend of the best Albariño grapes in the O Rosal subzone is mixed with the indigenous Loureira and Caiño Blanco (harvested in October), is greenish-yellow, evoking white flowers and green plums on the nose and filling out on the palate with fresh grape and apple compote flavours as well as peach kernel. Edged with superb acidity and a bristling minerality this reminds one of a really good Riesling. Both the wines have delicacy and persistence in equal measure. When in this corner of Spain drink with the harvest of the Atlantic and indulge in a Galician mariscada (seafood feast). Starting with pulpo a feira (Octopus fair-style), second course mussels, chocos (cuttlefish), clams, prawns, scallops, crabs and, of course, lobsters.
Terras Gauda is notable for owning around 85% of its own vineyards; the remainder of the grapes are provided under strict quality control agreements with local growers. Having this control allows the estate to pick later and more selectively (and over a greater period of time) than most others ensuring greater maturity and higher sugar levels in the grapes. The sheltered aspect of the vineyards surrounded by forest, the proximity to the Mino and to the sea, also promotes ripening. The result is that Terras Gauda is one of the few wineries that do not need to do a malolactic on any of their wines, which is why they taste so exceptionally fresh and bright
And so to La Mar the latest project from Bodegas Terras Gauda, a blend of Caiño Blanco (85%) and Albariño (15%). A word from our sponsors about Caiño. It is a native variety from the O Rosal sub-zone, now virtually extinct. Terras Gauda produces 90% of the Caiño throughout the region. A low-yielding grape, the least productive of Galician white grape varieties, with small clusters and grapes Caiño provides very good structure and body resulting in wine with definition and depth. Naturally high acidity provides freshness and ensures perfect ageing. The grapes are harvested in the first week of October with excellent ripeness levels, good malic and tartaric acidity and a wide aromatic profile. After fermentation the wine remained on lees in tank for three months with batonnage.
Vale da Capucha – Lisbon lines
Pedro Marques specialises in indigenous grapes grown a mere 8km from the Atlantic Ocean. Maximum human work in the vineyard and minimum intervention in the winery are the keywords. Terroir-driven wines are made from Arinto; Fernão Pires; Alvarinho; Gouveio; Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz. The Lisboa region of Torres Vedra is avowedly Atlantic with misty mornings and windy afternoons, mild temperatures and marine influence deriving from the salt-laden air. The soils are clay-limestone, rich with fossils. Pedro and his family have been farming organically since plantation, promoting biodiversity in the soil by using natural products to treat the vineyard.
Arinto is the purest expression of the coast of Lisbon limestone, as if someone had squirted fresh lemon juice on a seashell! The acidity is electrifying. The Atlantic influence comes through in the other grapes: Gouveio, Alvarinho and Fernão Pires, but whether the wines are more textural or fruity and aromatic, you sense they come from the same place.
Cota 45 – Not sherry
Many sherry warehouses are situated adjacent to the Guadalquivir River or the Atlantic Ocean, but the vineyards in Sanlucar and Chipiona are influenced by the sea. Meanwhile, the humidity in the cellars encourages the proliferation of micro-flora (the flor) which forms on the surface of the wine and allows for a slow oxidation.
Many sherries, particularly the Manzanilla Finos have a simple saline character. More developed examples acquire a nuttier timbre. Whilst the process of sherry-making contributes much to the character of wine, the proximity of the sea serves to soften and enrich.
But there are wines that are not fortified where the process is less important than the character of the vineyard and the subtle intonations that climatic variations bring.
UBE Miraflores from Bodega Cota 45 uses old clones of Palomino and is mix of three different albarizas (chalky soil with high fossil content): lentejuelas (grainy); tosca cerrada (lower chalk content, harder) and lustrillo (chalky with iron).
The grapes derive from five different vineyards of the Pago Miraflores area in Sanlúcar – the largest and most heterogeneous vineyard area of Sanlúcar. This blend of different albariza soils and vineyard gives the equivalent of a “village” Sanlúcar wine.
Carrascal is from the Las Vegas vineyard, the highest in the Pago de Carrasacal, and the closest area to the Atlantic. The vines are original rootstock Palomino and the terroir is lentejuelas, a grainy type of Albariza soil. The wine is fermented in 500 litre sherry butts with indigenous yeasts, aged in very old barrels and bottled after a light filtration and minimal sulphites added.
What is also delightful is the uplift of beautiful chalky acidity and the wines weigh in at an eminently drinkable 12-12.5% abv. Los Angeles (thirst)slakers!
Txakoli – fermented sea spray
From Bilbao to San Sebastian Basque Txakoli (or Chacoli) made from the native Hondarrabi Zuri, is served in the pinxtos bars poured with great panache from a great height into small tumblers. The green-tinted liquid turns chalky-white, foams and eventually settles, retaining a lively spritz. The best wines are produced around the fishing village of Getaria where the vineyards are cut into incredibly steep terraced slopes overlooking the Bay of Biscay. Here you have a polyculture: apples, pears and tomatoes are planted, the vineyards are not weeded and no chemical sprays are used. The taste of Txakoli, well, to quote Dick Swiveller in the Old Curiosity Shop, it can’t be tasted in a sip. It should be a back of the throat job, waiting for that jolting appley sourness to kick in. Gird your loins with some Cantabrian anchovies, stuffed pimentos or smoked fish and let the Txak attack! Recommended by one writer as the perfect accompaniment to wild rabbit because it is the only wine wherein the acidity can dissolve lead shot. Now Txak comes fetchingly in rose-tinted pink, fragrantly floral (violets and irises) and typically effervescent, vivacious and aerial.
Interested in finding out more about the above mentioned wines? Buy online here or contact us directly…
The Beck winery is a family estate in Gols, in northern Burgenland near lake Neusiedl. Traditionally, there were small mixed farms in the area, but they always grew vines as part of the agricultural diversity. In 1975 Matthias Beck took over from his father and started to focus on wine only, they started with 5 ha. Today the Beck estate has 15 ha of vines. In 2001 Judith took over responsibility for the cellar after gaining experience in France, Italy and Chile. In 2007 the conversion to biodynamic viticulture was started.
If someone like Judith Beck lives not just according to a postal address, but actually amidst the vines, then you can be sure that she’s developed a deep relationship to her own vineyards. The most beautiful of these vines – she prefers the traditional varieties Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent, Weissburgunder and Chardonnay – lie on the slopes and the hills of the Wagram. This is the name of the area of slopes which are, for the most part, sun-exposed and rise from the lowlands east of the Neusiedler See to the so-called Parndorfer Platte.
The soils here are extremely diverse. In fact, a single vineyard alone can comprise humus, gravel, loam, limestone and minerals – the ideal basis for complex, multi-faceted wines that reflect their origin. Naturalness and identity are the features that Judith wants to see and to show in her wines. This approach is also a reason that she has been inspired by the ideas of Rudolf Steiner since 2007. That means she uses holistic methods in her biologically-managed vineyards in order to keep the vines naturally healthy. This includes greening, care for biodiversity, fertilizing with biological humus. Working by hand, consideration of the moon cycles and more. Consequently, Judith does not add cultured yeasts, but instead “risks” allowing her wines to ferment spontaneously – in other words, truly naturally.
Her wines are in the best sense natural, genuine and, above all, authentic. Always more discreet than loud. Always worth a “second look”. In her own words: “International style can be produced by everyone, everywhere. My wines are my own. They are here and now. And that is, for me, the most beautiful thing. Like my life in the vineyards”.
The Welschriesling comes from Schafleiten vineyard which consists of red gravel soils over limestone. Welschriesling is nothing to do with the Rhine Riesling of Germany, but is often called Riesling Italico, Laški Rizling (Slovenia), Olasz Riesling (Hungary) and Graševina (Croatia). It is not aromatic but with some vine age and low yields, it can develop very interesting textural notes.
The vineyard is in conversion to biodynamic status and yields in this particular vintage were very low. The grapes were harvested by hand, destemmed but not crushed, and the wine started a semi-carbonic maceration on skins for 10 days in wooden barrels, was then pressed off. Fermentation finished in used barriques, spending eight months on the lees, was then bottled without fining filtration or sulphur added.
The wine is just delicious, reminiscent of mountain herbs, green apple and hay with subtle structuring tannins on the palate and fresh acidity to cleanse the tongue. It is a tonic wine, with a lively lingering purity. Bambule! as well as referring to the range of wines made without filtration or added sulphur, is an expression of freedom, a desire to push boundaries and discover something new and vital in wine and through winemaking.
Interested in finding out more about Judith Beck wines? Buy online here or contact us directly…
Ovum’s Off The Grid Riesling has just rejoined our supply to power your electrifying Riesling needs. Since I Fell For You Gewurz is the latest Traminer to fall off the Nina Simone album. Bow & Arrow dictates the rule of Loire – back is the deeply crunchable Melon, the sappy Rhinestones, the gulpable Gamay Noir and some of the excellent Hughes Hollow Pinot Noir. When it comes the Pinot with original vineyard personality from Oregon then hail the return of Kelley Fox’s Mirabai Pinot Noir and Momtazi Pinot Noir sing eloquently (and yet shyly) of their respective volcanic terroirs.
Pick Up a Piquentum – Drinking Cro-atia
If you don’t know your Teran from your Refosk – cue unseemly scrabbling between the Istrian Croatians and Slovenians, then tasting Dimitri Brecvic’s versions (Dimtri is Croatian on one side, Pyrenean on the other and making vino in a village called Buzet – say, what?!) of these side by side, will prove that they are more chalk and cheese than Ant & Dec. Cracking natural wines here, including a pair of bracing skin-contact Malvazijas which are of course the same as Malvasia.
Be Faré new Marlborough wines!
Te Whare Ra (TWR) pronounced Te Faré Rha, (practice this pronuncation by spitting a mouthful of feathers) is the oldest little winery and vineyard in Marlborough and was first established in 1979. Both the winery and vineyard are certified organic. Since 2003 it has been owned and operated by two winemakers: Anna and Jason Flowerday. She’s an Aussie from South Australia and he’s kiwi from Marlborough. Both have wine in their veins literally and metaphorically, and after years of working for other people they made the leap to doing their own thing. The TWR wines are truly hand-made. Everything is hand-picked, hand-sorted and the attention to detail is meticulous. Anna and Jason are dedicated to making delicious authentic wines that showcase the very best of Marlborough, and not the mass-produced version. They’re wines made with cowsh#t not bullsh#t.
In the P-Ink – Beck-style
The Beck-and call of Burgenland wines continues. (Check out the whys and wherefores of Judith’s Welschriesling Bambule! coming soon to the blog.) There’s also a dinky little blink-and-you-will-miss-it Zweigelt rosé called… ahem…Pink! Delish and a bit for the modest price. Back for the ’16 vintage is the Neuburger Bambule!, a skin contact version of this grape that takes it to another level. The St Laurent Bambule! is a walk on the wilder side, juicy Beaujolais-style red fruit-freighted wine with a naughty streak.
Interested in finding out more about the above mentioned wines? Buy online here or contact us directly…
There is no substitute for standing in a vineyard and shaking the clay from the soles of your shoes. To share the same space as the vines, to feel the heat or the breeze or maybe the heat of the breeze, to rub the dirt between your fingers and smell it, this is what animates the wine for you and gives the wherewithal for the story. Having one’s senses ravished and lavished by nature’s blandishments and communicating your love for a place and its wine is not always enough to melt the heart of the stonier-than-thou wine buyer. We live in an age of maximal information, where knowledge is power even if that knowledge is essentially meaningless. But information is also a kind of bulwark, the armour against being stumped by a difficult question, for example, and if you believe that wine is a puzzle to be unpicked, a kind of mosaic of causes and effects, then the information provided by a fairly detailed fiche technique will give you part of the picture.
As there is no one fiche template that rules them all, it is necessary to devise one that fits various requirements and winnows out the irrelevant material. Fundamentally, it should contain factual information, leavened with a bit of local history and a touch of credo, and include an all-purpose tasting note that can be freely cannibalised for a wine list. It should be preferably no more than a page to a view with information divided between viticulture/farming practice and vinification. One should start with location, location, location. One can’t talk about wine confidently until one has a clear idea where it fits into its country and region of origin before one gets to the niceties such as the exact location of the winery and vineyards.
Having one’s senses ravished and lavished by nature’s blandishments and communicating your love for a place and its wine is not always enough to melt the heart of the stonier-than-thou wine buyer.
After the general, the specifics. It is necessary to have a brief description of the topography and the macro-and-mesoclimate as they are the precursors for the local wine styles. Then we look even more closely at matters such as terroir, soil type, microclimate, altitude and exposition as these will impress themselves on the fabric of the wines themselves. The age of vines, the management of the vineyard (training, canopy work) and the nature of the farming. Organic and biodynamic viticulture is important to us; vignerons have so many different approaches and the vagaries of each vintage present so many new challenges that it is useful to have an idea of their methods in the vines.
Vinification sounds tedious, but the questions we are asked most often by our customers relate to technical aspects of winemaking. Information should include hand-versus-machine harvesting, size of yields, and selection of grapes, as these will combine to determine the final quality of the material that the winemaker will be working with. Thereafter the dozens of winemaking choices and interventions: stems/no stems, preferment maceration, settling/decantation, open/closed tanks, the nature of the yeasts (wild versus cultured), temperature control (versus ambient), the substance and shape of the vessel for fermentation, malo/non malo and all the numerous additions/subtractions through to the bottling. Wood ageing intrigues and exercises sommeliers greatly: the proportion of new to used oak, the length of maturation, the use of lees…
Then there are the numbers: abv, residual sugar (more significant in whites, sweet and sparkling wines), total acidity, ph, SO2 (free and total). Retailers increasingly will want to know about fining regimes and additions on behalf of vegetarian and vegan customers. Natural wine aficionados would prefer to be assured that the SO2 totals are lower than the limits set by organic and biodynamic regulatory bodies.
[Some Vignerons] feel that the process of information-gathering does not do justice to the more profound alchemical (dare one say) transformations between vine and bottle.
The final information would be a tasting note to indicate the style of the wine. These can be so generic as to be meaningless, or so specific as to be ridiculously personal. The note should be a precis of what the drinker might want to ask you – dry or off dry, light, medium, full, fresh, aromatic or mouthfilling and most important of all – an interesting and imaginative food recommendation (or a classic one).
For all this many vignerons do not care for being interrogated about their practices and motives. They feel that the process of information-gathering does not do justice to the more profound alchemical (dare one say) transformations between vine and bottle. For them it is never a numbers game, nor do they studiously – if ever – tick the winemakers’ boxes. Instead they work through intuition, responding to the needs of the wine. To have it reduced to a process on a fact-sheet is like saying the wine is a product that can be summarised in a pat formula. So when we read a fiche technique we should always understand that this is merely the thin outer shell of truth. And occasionally a vigneron might have made some of this up just to get us off his/her back!
Just as each wine grower is a unique individual, so too are their vineyards. Franz Weninger insists on expressing the different soil types found throughout Burgenland and uses Blaufrankisch as the vehicle with which to achieve this. To do this most effectively it is vitally important to encourage biodiversity, and to work organically and also biodynamically, so that the vineyards can realise their maximum potential.
Franz’s vines are planted on a mixture of loam, slate, mica and limestone in different parts of the Mittelburgenland. He views the soil as the origin, the fermentation the birth, and the ageing in the cellar as the “education” of the wines.
The Pannonian climate determines the nature of the growing season. The Neusiedlersee to the east brings warmth; the Bucklige Welt to the west brings cool temperatures. The Illyrian climate sometimes sends in storms from the south. The Sopron Mountains in the north and the K?szeg Mountains in the south provide protection. But this is generally a warm region, propitious for red grape varieties. But Franz is looking for balance rather than extraction – which brings us back to the farming.
Holistic growth and vines in harmony with nature are the goals; organic-biodynamic cultivation is the method. The biological activity of the soil (micro- and macro-organisms) brings the wine’s provenance to the glass. The need for cellar work is minimised because everything is already in balance.
All vineyard work is adapted to the plant with respect to the rhythm of the seasons and the moon. Protecting the natural balance in the vineyard, with the aid of biodynamic preparations and the use of homeopathic teas, enables the Weninger to harvest healthy and vibrant grapes. (The horsetail and nettle are collected in the immediate surroundings of the vineyards).
The south-facing vineyard for the Vom Kalk is in Ritzing, Mittelburgenland, a field blend comprising Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sankt Laurent. As the name suggests this is all about the signature of the chalk/limestone soils on the wine.
After a manual harvest the grapes are destemmed and fermented with ambient yeasts in cement tanks. The wine is then aged in a mixture of cement tanks and 500 litre wooden barrels and bottled without filtration or fining with just a minimum of sulphur. The natural vegetation of this limestone-inflected vineyard is rich and varied. So is the wine: the nose is playful, both fruity and floral, whilst the palate is stony, fine-grained, always elegant. 15 was a warm vintage, but behind the explosive purple fruit there is a bright chalkiness which brings a beautiful definition to the wine. As Franz says: ‘Thinking about our wines, it is always the soil that is visible in front of our inner eye. If we feel the texture of stone, lime and clay with our hands, the content in the bottle becomes real.’
Interested in finding out more about Franz Weninger’s wines? Buy online here or contact us directly…
The reverse convict boat from Australia docked recently with some convincing grog from our alternative and alliterative artisans.
Pat Sullivan has sent us one of his indeterminate gluggers: Jumpin Juice, a reddish wine that says chill it and chill out. Blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, or so we believe. Many varied fermentation vessels and techniques have been used to create this wine so that the varietals drop their personalities in order to action primary drinkability.
We also received some 2017 Windy Cottage Pinot Noir which has Pat’s trademark stemmy crunchability. Medicinal cherry scents, a snifter of tobacco, fennel mulberry fruitiness and vivid violets. Crisp-edged red berry fruit flavours, a bit juicy but also with the edge of bright acidity. A nice companion to his Amazon Pinot Noir which we have in the 16 vintage.
Gareth Belton from Gentle Folk is making a bigger and bigger noise with every new vintage of his wines. Most of the grapes come from vineyards at 600 metres in the Basket Range hills and the resultant wines, made with minimal intervention, have a cool precision and a delicate minerality. Vin de Sofa and Rainbow Juice have already acquired a noisy UK fanbase, and the Pinots are also admired.
Blossoms is the usual mixed bag of Merlot, Pinot Noir, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay and Riesling from Basket Range. Huh? Yes! All whole bunch for the reds and direct press for the whites. Light, soft with some serious bunchy backbone. It smells of cranberry, redcurrant, plum and bonfire, with a twist of squeezed orange peel. It’s so slurpable, set to a soft and juicy medium bodied style. Joyful ‘red’ wine. Vin de Sofa (see what he did there) is Pinot Noir made by co-fermenting whole bunch Pinot Noir with Cabernet Franc and Gewurztraminer in a sealed vat for ten days. The wine is then aged in 10 year old barriques. Lots of aromatic fruit here and nice cinnamon spice. Rainbow Juice is a merry medley of 23 or so grapes (don’t ask), red, white and all the colours in the spectrum. After a four-day maceration the juice goes into used barrique. The wine does what it says on the label; it’s an exhilarating nouveau-style mash-up. To call them red wines is not strictly accurate – they are part of the popular new wave of juicy Aussie wines where grapes of all creeds and colours are co-fermented and the result are reds that are roses by any other name. Grape to gullet – do not pass go! The white (Come Down The) Mountain is pure Chardonnay and to coin a cliché has a Chablis-esque quality – altitude and exposition give this wine its pristine purity.
Xavier Wines is the brainchild of Xavier Goodridge who worked with Pat Sullivan. These are surely amongst the most natural tasting wines you will find in Australia.
Halfway to Heaven is a blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from Anakie, in the Geelong region. The soils are basalt over clay with sustainable farming, currently in conversion to full organic farming. Native yeast, ambient ferment. Both varieties are fermented separately with the Chardonnay direct pressed to old wood, and the Sauvignon is about 1/3 direct press to tank. The remaining 2/3 are whole bunches that receive some skin contact, with foot trending every day before being pressed to tank. Both varieties stay in their separate vessels on lees for 4 months before blending, with minimal sulphur (25ppm) at bottling.
Pa Pa is a Pinot with bright fruit and spice – definitely at the cooler end of the spectrum (and we’re not talking hipster here)..
Jauma Wines is super-genial James Erskine, former sommelier and previous member of wine supergroup Natural Selection Theory, who established himself in the McLaren Vale, making wines come from old vines in McLaren Vale, predominantly single vineyard expressions of Grenache. There’s a racy Cabernet Franc called Birdseye Seaview, which sounds like the name of two bungalows in Torquay that have been knocked together. Sand on Schist Chenin is old (bush) vines grown in sandy soil. James loves the acid in this grape and it is a bright linear expression. Back to the G-force. Pure Grenache comes in the form of the delightfully upbeat Like Raindrops (whole bunch freshness) and Genovese which is also in the smashable idiom. Ralph’s Clarendon has ironstone in the soil. The grapes are destemmed and the wine is darker and more concentrated. There’s Shiraz too, with the drinkability the watchword. Audrey Clarendon is a whole bunch version with refreshing stemmy dark cherry fruit. All James’s wines are fermented naturally in plastic tubs and puncheons and bottled without filtering or fining and, in most cases, no sulphur.
New Zealander Dane Johns (who once worked for Bill Downie) worked many years as a barista in Melbourne. He was also a musician, making electronic music and then moving towards the analogue version (much like his winemaking). Dane works closely with the Chalmers Family to help them achieve the quality of fruit they require each year. They are meticulous in the vineyard, using organic viticulture practices and have decades of knowledge growing alternative varieties in Australia. Momento Mori (the name of his label) Staring at the Sun is an equal parts Vermentino, Fiano and Malvasia which undergoes three months on skins in tank in small batch co-ferments. It not only ticks all your natural wine boxes (ambient ferment, wild yeasts, no filtration, fining or added sulphur) but is a truly delicious iteration of a skin-contact wine. The Malvasia hits the nose with its floral property (honeysuckle, lychee) whereas the Vermentino provides a lilting citrus drive and the Fiano comes in with yellow fruit, minerals and acidity.
Interested in finding out more about the wines mentioned? Buy online here or contact us directly…