Tag Archives: France

A new chapter at Ainé

It was some thirty years ago that I wandered through the legendary Chapelle vineyard in Hermitage. Little did I think at the time about the level of organic practice. Since then I have tasted an occasional wine, and to my taste many have been good, especially during the latest years.

And it was around ten years ago that the Frey family purchased the property, and Caroline Frey took over as the new oenologist. They started converting the estate vineyards to biodynamic principles.

This Côte du Rhône has its background from 40 years old vines of grenache 55%, syrah 35 and mourvèdre 10. The yields were low and it was finally raised in steel tanks.

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Biographie 2015 (P. Jaboulet Aîné)

Dark purple red. Fruits from garden and woods (raspberry, black cherries, blackberry), and an amount of typical spices. Quite fresh with decent acidity.

Price: Low

Food: A variety of produce, from meats to tasty salads, hard cheeses…

 

 

Crossing borders

This is a Côte de Roussillon Village from a tasting of Catalan wines from both sides of the border. The tasting featured mostly wines from carignan and grenache, both of Spanish origin, but some had small amounts of other varieties. This is a blend of carignan, grenache with syrah and mourvèdre.

Domaine Gauby is located 20 km north-west of Perpignan and extends over about 85 hectares of which 45 hectares of vines up to 125 years old, the rest meadows, oak forests and scrubland. Here we find varied terroirs composed of limestones, marls and slate.

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Old carignan (credit: Dom. Gauby)

Enologist Tom Lubbe has been a very important figure for this region, and under him Gauby was leading the way in the reviving of this old viticultural region. He had crossed many borders before he came here; born in New Zealand, worked in South Africa’s Swartland, then arrived here. He has been involved in the production of both Gauby and Majas, before he now is leading the neighbouring Matassa project (and married to Gérard Gauby’s sister).

This grapes for this wine was sourced from sedimentary limestone and slate, the carignan, 125 years. The vinification was traditional, 100% de-stemming, maceration 2 to 4 weeks, and use of native yeasts. Two years in barrel, obviously used (no taste of oak worth mentioning), no fining nor filtering.

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Gauby Vieilles Vignes Rouge 2011 (Domaine Gauby)

Dark red, some development. Aroma of cherries, thym, some earthy notes and pencil. Good fruit, soft tannins and bright acidity. Still slightly sparkling, but nothing “difficult”. Excellent timing: Drink now!

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, game, ragus, a variety of cheeses…

 

 

The Real Wine fair I: A lovely bubbly start

The Real Wine fair is a two days event with focus on naturally made wine, where many of the leading producers in the genre come from all corners of the world to gather in London, this year at the Tobacco Dock in the eastern part of the city. The activities are not restricted to these two days either, as the arrangers (most importantly importer/distributor Les Caves de Pyrène) have collaborators all over the UK with their own arrangements in the weeks and even months leading up to the fair itself.

This is a very nice place to be, with so many nice people (both producers and visitors) contributing to the atmosphere. And about the wines, I say ‘natural wines’ for short. But there are so many different interpretations of the theme, and add to this the variations in terroirs, grapes and producer personalities, so there are not two identical wines here.

There were maybe not that many sparkling wines on show, but it struck me that here were some of the leading producers of naturally made sparklers in many categories. So here are a few.

Let’s begin in Champagne. Pierre Gerbais is located in the Côte des Bars area in southern Champagne, and has been certified since 1996. Their vineyard consists mainly of the dark marl called kimmeridge. They use the most traditional grapes of the region, but they are also noted for making the first 100% pinot blanc called L’Originale.

IMG_4219 Aurélien Gerbais

From the fresh Cuvée Réserve (24 months on lees) I tasted my way through the five champagnes they had on offer. Among the more special treats were the aforementioned L’Originale (officially NV, but from 2011 grapes): 100% pinot blanc, mostly from a vineyard planted in 1904, in white clay soils: A concentrated wine with aromas of yellow apples, some toast, salty minerals and it’s drying off. L’Osmose Extra Brut (also white clay, also from the 2011 harvest) made from chardonnay: Light colour, quite complex, with apple, some nuts, a nice acidity, and a dry aftertaste. In contrast, L’Audace (2011) is from pinot noir and from darker soil. Here is no dosage, no sulphur added. It’s darker yellow than the others, apples, strawberry, toast, and a mineral finish.

Finally the Grains de Celles Extra Brut, made from 50% pinot noir and the rest chardonnay and pinot blanc and with 36 months ageing on lees, is the most complex of lot. More toasted, aged notes, but some freshness too, yellow apples, mineral, with a slightly sweet fruit balanced by its concentration.

IMG_4218 Ton Mata

Antoni “Ton” Mata Casanovas now leads Recaredo together with his cousins Josep, Carles and Jordi. If there is one emblematic cava producer it is this one, second to no sparkling wine producer from anywhere. They practise dry farming with biodynamic principles, and only work their own vineyards high up in the Alt Penedès.

I have visited them in Sant Sadurní (Catalunya) and tasted through the whole range. Here most cavas were represented. All their wines have a great concentration of flavours, from low yields and prolonged ageing on lees. They don’t have any dosage, and all of them long exceeds the ageing requirements for a gran reserva. They have more focus on the xarel.lo grape than most cava producers. This is the grape that shines most brightly of the cava grapes given a few years of ageing.

Terrers Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2010 has slightly more macabeu than xarel.lo: Aroma of mature apples and a touch of apricot and peach, some balsamic notes and some toast too, and a fresh appearance in spite of the ageing. The Finca Serral del Vell Brut de Brut 2007 is made from approximately even shares of xarel.lo and macabeu. The colour is light, it’s complex, with fresh pineapples aromas along with some toast, some balsamic, and a surprising freshness after 8 years on the lees; the aftertaste shows a stony minerality. According to Ton this is because of the calcareous soil on top of the hill. Further down the same road is the Reserva Particular 2005 (also a gran reserva despite the name), that can be considered one of the purest expressions of Mediterranean sparkling terroir wine (even if Recaredo themselves makes another fantastic cava only in some years), with a xarel.lo 55%/ macabeu 45% blend: Dark straw colour, some lime, smoke, concentrated, rich, and remarkably fresh for its age (almost 10 years on yeast). Worth noting is also that their Brut Intens Rosat 2012 (garnacha/monastrell, a little pinot noir) har all the charms of a sparkling rosé, but is also clearly in the family of aged Recaredo wines.

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Then there is Franciacorta, in the hills near Brescia in the Italian region of Lombardia. The only producer presented here was 1701 Franciacorta, the first certified biodynamic producer in the area. They never use any dosage and sulphur only when absolutely necessary.

As an ouverture there is the low-pressure (3 atmospheres) Sullerba, that is outside the appellation. It’s a light and lovely, yeasty and appley, super easy-to-drink wine. Made from chardonnay in steel and amphora with 12 months on its lees. Their Rosé is lovely, from the 2012 vintage (these wines are also officially NV), fresh with raspberry notes, and a good balance between the fruit and the aged qualities. The Satèn from the 2013 vintage is a chardonnay with 30 months on lees; fresh, not too complicated, but delicious drinking. Maybe the most “serious” (among these wines, all of them obviously serious) is the Vintage 2011 Dosaggio Zero, a 90% chardonnay, the rest pinot noir (pinot nero in Italian), 42 months on the lees, 20% in barrels. Here is a perfect balance between ageing and fruit character, with some toast, mature apples, and a balsamic touch. Long curve. 1701 was a nice surprise and a producer that I didn’t know before.

IMG_4237 Rhona Cullinane and Federico Stefieni

Talking about fun: Prosecco is often marketed as such, but alas, like for many others the vast majority doesn’t give me much of that. But luckily Casa Belfi was in the house!

Casa Belfi (or: Albino Armani) works according to biodynamic principles and there is no fining or filtering involved, nor any addition of SO2. 6 months on lees is typical. I have tried all the wines before, and they are truly joyful wines to drink. I think especially the normal Colfòndo Frizzante 2015 has a good value, with its expressive, pure fruit. It’s yellow/orange, cloudy with a super and fresh apple and citrus peel aroma, notes of bread, and a dry finish. The Colfòndo Anfora 2015 is darker after 7 days of skin contact and 4 months in clay. It’s still fruity, with mature apples, a spicy touch and a citric aftertaste. Talking about fun, the red Raboso Frizzante 2015, from the grape variety by that name, has all the playful expressiveness you can ask for. Red with a dark rim; red berries, earthy notes, and lovely fruit all the way.

IMG_4229 Nicola Zuliani

Casa Coste Piane was also there. This is an estate that dispose of many old vines, some pre-phylloxera, and like Casa Belfi the second fermentation takes place in the bottle, dégorgement is not carried out, so some cloudiness is inevitable. At this point it has not the same expressive qualities as its neighbour, but has more subtle citrus and minerality, and it’s definitely promising.

A couple of days before the fair I visited Will Davenport in his winery in Rotherfield, East Sussex (a short article will follow).

IMG_4200 Will Davenport

Davenport Vineyards, or Limney Farm, is the biggest organic producer in the UK. The winery is small and modest, but it’s fully equipped to make both still and sparkling wines. Therefore they give services to other producers in the area. I love their still white Horsmonden White, but as this piece is about sparkling wines we shall take a brief stop at the Davenport Pet Nat (you know that wine that everybody makes nowadays that can do it, a welcome trend, in my opinion), aged 3 months before disgorging: Light in colour, very aromatic, mature apples, some citrus. Then there is the Limney Auxerrois Sparkling 2014, from a vineyard near the farm, 18 months on lees: Rich yeasty character, stony minerality, and a fresh and delicate touch too. And lastly the Limney Sparkling Rosé 2014: salmon pink, some autolysis character on the nose, plenty of fruit, raspberries and a citric touch.

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Lisa Harvey and Ian Hardwick, volunteers for the Forty Hall project

I was about to say that Forty Hall Vineyard makes the wines with the shortest travel, from Enfield, North London. It’s not quite true that it’s the one with shortest travel, because it has travelled down to Davenport’s winery in East Sussex, and back again, because Forty Hall is among the producers that get some help from Will Davenport.

Forty Hall is a 4 hectar organic vineyard, the first commercial producer in London since the middle ages, led by volunteers as a non-profit organization to support the community.

The London Sparkling Brut 2014 was delicious, beautifully balanced with lightly yeasty character, rounded fruit (mature apples and a touch of citrus) and just enough acidity to match.

Apart from this there were some occational bubbles from producers that aren’t primarily makers of such, both fully and half sparkling wines from Loire, from Italy, and from elsewhere in the world.

 

Authentic Sauvignon at Brutus

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The Brutus Bar is located just beside the police headquarters in the Tøyen-Grønland district in Oslo, so it’s no use trying to make big trouble. Anyway, there are only nice, well-behaved people here even if the area historically has been high-immigrant, low-income with more than its fair share of problems. To be fair, right now this is a promising neighbourhood in many respects.

Brutus offers natural wine and a variety of bites to accompany them. From my experience, in a bar with such a careful selection of wines and the expertise to present them the food is often delicious too. Which proved to be true – again. Brutus are fabled for their vegetable based kitchen, and lately the traditional Nordic kitchen, rustic, with fermented vegetables as one of the main ideas, is focused. However, in our set 4 course menu the third one was lamb, and with lovely scents from the aromatic herbs.

20170409_193633-1-1-1 We had the sauvignon with “Carrot and Haddock”

John Sonnichsen and Jens Føien lead import company VinJohn, one of the main players behind the bar. Together they have experience from such places as The Fat Duck, Maaemo and Noma. VinJohn is obviously one of the suppliers, but by no means not the only one.

This week’s wine though, is brought to the country by the people behind the bar. It’s not widely available, another reason to come here.

Alexandre Bain is a small vigneron from Tracy-sur-Loire, in the Poully-Fumé. He started his own project in 2007 and employs biodynamic techniques.

There are two types of limestone in the vineyards, vines from the so-called Portlandian (as opposed to the older Kimmeridgian), with sand and clay, are used for this wine, as he thinks this soil is more suitable for wines meant to be drunk young. These vines were planted in 1977.

No additives are used, except for sometimes a tiny amount of SO2 before bottling (10 mg in this particular wine), and only native yeasts. The harvest is late because Bain believes that sauvignon blanc is at its most expressive with complete ripeness. When picked too early, there will never be enough aromatic character, he believes, and many producers must then compensate by using commercial yeast. These are thoughts that he shares with his friend Sébastien Riffault in neighbouring Sancerre.

The grapes were pressed in whole clusters, and the must raised in big old vats.

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Pierre Précieuse 2015 (Alexandre Bain)

Dark yellow, somewhat cloudy. Fruity style, aromas of lemon, elderberry and a touch of acacia honey. Quite full, a mid-palate dominated by grapefruit, and a lingering finish with a touch of bitterness.

Price: Medium

Food: Salads, goat cheese, light meat, grilled fish, and try with sushi and sashimi

 

Soft, slightly spicy white

Aiméstentz is based in Wettolsheim, central Alsace. This is a winery with a strong belief in their soils, and they encourage biodiversity in and around their vineyards.

Generally they keep their wines 6 months or more on fine lees. This particular wine underwent a 4-6 weeks fermentation at 16-20°C and 10 months ageing in big old oak vats.

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Pinot Blanc Réserve 2015 (Aiméstentz)

Straw-coloured. Aroma of yellow apples, slightly nutty and a touch of spices. Quite vinous, soften, clean and long taste with good balance acidity-residual sugar (around 5 g/L).

Price: Low

Food: Tasty shellfish, salads, white meat

Anjou orange

The Vaillant family started vinegrowing in La Roche Aubry (Anjou, Loire Valley) in the 17th century. Today they dispose over 55 hectars, and the farming is organic and biodynamic, only chenin blanc for white wines.

The soils vary greatly, schists, quartz, sands… They use composts from animal manure, and only a few treatments like copper, sulphur and some made of infusions of plants.

This wine was, as indicated, made from 100% chenin blanc, spontaneously fermented in big barrels, and it was bottled unfiltered.

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La Varenne du Poirier 2014 (Dom. Les Grandes Vignes – Vaillant)

Cloudy orange with a greenish hue. Mature apples (cidery), white flowers, yellow tomatoes, nuts and a touch of honey. Good concentration and high acidity wrapped in super fruit, and just a slight touch of tannin. Quaffable indeed.

Price: Medium

Food: Grilled fish, salads, chicken and other light meat, white goat cheeses

 

A good (value) table wine from Southern Rhône

This week’s suggestion is from the Châteauneuf-du-Pape country in Southern Rhône, between Orange, Avignon and Carpentras (Vaucluse) to be more precise. Here we find Julien Mus, who studied in Beaune, returned to his native village Bédarrides where he joined the cooperative, and then in 2005 founded his own Domaine de la Graveirette, biodynamically certified since 2015.

Harvesting is done by hand, he uses no additives, except for minimal doses of sulfur. In his wines there is always a harmony of body, fruit and acidity, be it bigger Châteauneuf wines or bottlings with more “humble” designations.

This particular wine is made from grenache 35%, merlot 30%, cabernet sauvignon 25% and mourvèdre 10%. The fermentation was spontaneous and carried out in concrete. Aged in steel and concrete.

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Ju de Vie 2015 (Dom. de la Graveirette)

Dark, quite deep red. Young aroma, red and dark berries, with a slight earthyness. Quite full in the mouth, with a nice touch of acidity and some tannins. Good length. It’s good now, but I imagine it will evolve positively over the next couple of years.

Price: Low

Chinon, oui!

Here is a terrific cabernet franc from Chinon in the Loire valley, maybe the most famous place for that grape.

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The winery is located in Cravant-les-Côteaux, near the village of Chinon. Fabrice Gasnier is 4th generation. Together with his wife Sandrine he disposes of mostly old-vine cabernet franc planted on plots with chalk, gravel, sand and clay soils. For almost ten years it has been certified for both organic and biodynamic growing.

For this wine there was manual harvest from the more than 80 year old vines. The must was spontaneously fermented and aged 6 months in big oak vats.

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Vieille Vignes 2014 (Dom. Fabrice Gasnier)

Dark, young colour. Needs air, but opens and reveals dark berries, green peppers and aromatic herbs. Lovely, luscious taste, and can be appreciated alone, but with an astringency that makes it go well with food too. Concentrated with good length.

Price: Medium

 

A lovely dry Alsace riesling

This wine stood out in a wine club tasting of “rieslings of the world”.

The winery is located in the small village of Andlau, Alsace, between Strasbourg and Colmar – and the vineyards are also found in three neighbouring villages. Antoine Kreydenweiss is now both manager and oenologist. He inherited the biodynamic principles of his father, and is working the land together with his wife, his family – and his horse.

The climate could be described as continental, and there is a variety of terroirs in the area. The domaine covers today 13.5 hectares, among these four grand crus. Most of it is found on slopes and small hills with a south-southeast orientation. The soil is a veritable mosaic, including pink sandstone, granite, both grey and blue schist, sediment, and limestone, that -according to the producer- brings “finesse, minerality and freshness” to the wines.

The wines are typically fermented in big oak barrels (foudres), and ageing on the lees is carried out in all wines. The grapes for this Andlau wine was grown in sandy soil, pink sandstone from the Vosgue mountains, in a place perfect for riesling, according to Antoine Kreydenweiss.

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Andlau Riesling 2015 (Marc Kreydenweiss)

Light golden. Aroma of mature apples, citrus, minerals and a touch of honey. Fresh and fruity in the mouth, a good level of acidity and a nice and dry finish.

Price: Low

Food: White fish, shellfish, rindwashed cheeses like Munster or goat cheeses, salads or light meat.

 

Yesterday’s news (the best from Nouveau Thursday)

Yesterday was the third Thursday of November, also known as the day of the Beaujolais Nouveau release. Our readers will know that we (journalistic pluralis) love this style. And among the various nouveau wines we often prefer wines like Lapierre/Cambon (featured last November), Foillard (reported on a few times) were again among the best. Brun is also one of my favourite producers of the area, but has so far not been highlighted. This year I think he may have made the best of all nouveaux.

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Jean-Paul Brun’s winery is located in Charnay in the southern part of Beaujolais, a beautiful landscape with the golden stones that give the name to his estate.

Today he owns 45 hectares, mostly around the winery, but some in other crus and communes.
His winemaking philosophy can be summed up in a few words: natural yeasts, spontaneous fermentation, low SO2, traditional Beaujolais maceration.

Terres Dorées L’Ancien Beaujolais Nouveau 2016 (J.-P. Brun)

Ruby red. Berry-driven aroma, raspberry, and behind that, more mature morello, a hint of animal too. It has the full, luscious appeal that we expect of a nouveau, but it’s more structured than normal, with tannins and acidity in balance. Allow it to breathe in glass or carafe. Will keep well for a couple of years.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat, cod with bacon, hors d’oeuvre, pasta…

 

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