It wasn’t exactly a resolution but I had thought at the start of the year that I would make more effort to update the blog more regularly than the last couple of years. However, the events in Ukraine made it seem trivial and irrelevant. Did we really think that 2022 would be worse than the last two tainted years? However, time to press on.
I have read a couple of good wine books in the last month and pass on recommendations. A thread on Twitter about wine books brought up the suggestion of Terry Theise and his book ‘Reading Between The Wines’. Theise imports German, Austrian and Champagne wines into the USA but his book describes his relationship with wines and its making. I found it hard to get into at first but its style and philosophy gradually won me over and I found myself nodding along rather than nodding off. I will re-read it soon as there were some sections which raised thoughts I would like to consider more. The other was a new book by Rachel Signer, You Had Me At PetNat. Signer is also American and the book tells of her journey from New York to living and making wine in the Adelaide Hills, a journey aided by her love of natural wine. It is a very confessional and personal book, as an older white male it was different to my background but like my love of natural wine it pays to be open minded and the book repaid my time with insight and warmth.
To wines. I decided to select my three favourite wines of the month. Orange wine has quickly established itself as a style I love and there were two excellent examples last month. Firstly a familiar wine, Ariana Occhipinti’s SP68 Bianco 2020. Made in Sicily from Muscat D’Alexandrie (familiar to we Coutelou devotees) and Albanello grapes. The latter has been in decline, just 125 hectares remaining. It is a grape which ripens late and usually used to make sweet wine. Here Occhipinti makes a dry wine with 15 days of maceration on skins producing a light orange wine but with enough texture to satisfy. The Muscat comes through in flavour but the wine avoids a surfeit of aromatics and is simply delicious.
The second orange wine to make my favourites list was Hopera by Slobodne, the Slovakian producer whose Vronski I chose as my wine of the year for 2021. Hopera is a 50/50 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Gruner Veltliner fermented with hops. The seven days of skin contact produce more distinct colour than the SP68 surprisingly but the results are fresh, fruity and flipping lovely. As it happens I had a bottle of Slobodne’s rosé, La Rose et La Vampire 2020, when we went for my birthday meal. It was pleasing, fresh, light and red fruit flavours galore, a very good match with the excellent Mexican food of Barrio Comida in Durham. So, three Slobodne wines tasted, all three were winners.
My third wine of the month was a very pleasant surprise despite being a Coutleou wine (no surprise there of course). When I bought some bottles of Jeff’s 2001 Sud and Ouest from an auction house in the UK there were also some bottles of 7, Rue De La Pompe 2010. This blend of (mostly) Syrah and Grenache is a regular cuvée from Jeff but usually consumed within a couple of years. I was concerned that a simple bottle such as this would have tired and be past its best. I am delighted to report that it was bright, vibrant and delicious. The fruitiness was intact, the acidity was balanced and the flavours lingered. It was genuinely excellent, I know I am biased but this was top class. I doubt this wine has ever tasted better, another example of how natural wine ages well when it is made by a skilled producer.
There were more very good wines, I have put up a gallery of photos and if you would like more thoughts on them then please contact me and I shall pass them on directly.
This is the week of La Dive in the Loire and its satellite tastings, one of the benchmark tastings of the natural wine calendar with a history of significant discoveries. I wish all there a successful and happy time. My friend Aaron Ayscough, author of the website Not Drinking Poison and a forthcoming book, has published a list of tastings to look forward to.
This was my 400th blog post, I had thought to create something special but, as I said in the opening paragraph, it just doesn’t seem the right moment. Thank you for reading the blog as always and for keeping up such high numbers. I shall get back to posting more regularly.