A trip to New York at the beginning of this month meant that I decided to combine April and May notes on favourite wines. The list should include the Foillard Morgon 2018 which I wrote about last time but there have been plenty of other really good wines opened so here are my choices.
Another Beaujolais wine kicks us off, Chateau Cambon 2020. This typified good Beaujolais for me, plenty of juicy red fruits in aroma and taste with enough structure to make it more serious and full. Cambon is the work of the Chanudet family from 13ha of land in the Morgon / Brouilly areas. It isn’t in the Foillard 18 class but still very good.
To the North East of Beaujolais is the Jura region which I first visited thirty years ago when its wine industry was struggling and fairly unknown. These days things have changed and the region is extremely trendy with the wines sought all over the world and not enough available especially with recent vintages suffering from mildew and frosts. Savagnin is one of the Jura’s white grapes, late ripening and used to make the well known vin jaunes of the region. Admiration for this grape is such that it is being planted around the world, for example in Australia where my good friend James Madden of Scintilla wines makes excellent wines. Traditionally, wines were left in barrel and not topped up when wine evaporated so that they develop a flor, a covering of yeast in the style of sherry. Ouillé means the wine is topped up leading to a fresher, more traditional white wine. The 2017 Savagnin Ouillé from Marie-Pierre Chevassu was delicious, lots of white fruits but with a salty, citric freshness, golden in colour from old wood large barrels called foudres. Let’s hope the Jura has a kinder year to produce more excellent wines.
Whilst in New York we enjoyed a lovely meal at Ernesto’s in the Lower East side and enjoyed a lovely Vouvray wine, Les Enfers Tranquilles 2017 from up and coming producer Michel Autran. Having studied under Loire stars such as Saumon, Careme and Delecheneau, Autran has just 3.5ha of vines and his wines are in great demand which, like the case of the Jura, is impossible to meet. I have been with Jeff Coutelou when people around the world ring and ask for wines which can’t be supplied because there just aren’t enough and it frustrates everyone. Good producers create demand, Autran is one and, having been unable to find any of his wines to buy myself, it was a good opportunity to find out whether the wine matched the hype. It did. Classic Vouvray with a clean freshness and yellow fruit profile but the slightest suggestion of sweetness too. My first wine visits were in Vouvray and I have been a loyal fan and purchaser ever since and this was one of the best examples. Well done too to Ernesto’s for ageing the wine and allowing it to develop. Now, where can I find some?
I am not usually a huge fan of Chianti wines, I have been disappointed many times over the years therefore I am happy to praise this 2018 Querciabella Chianti Classico. A biodynamic producer, the wine was fermented in steel, raised in barrels (just 10% new) and had lovely notes of red fruits and black cherry with a clean acidity lifting the fruits whilst the tannins were soft and balanced. This is the work of a very good winemaker, a South African called Manfred Ing in this case. Very good, certainly one of the best Chiantis I have had for a long time. A more familiar Italian wine is the orange Catarratto 2020 from Baglio Antico from high hills on Sicily. Organic and no sulphur added, this is a cracking introduction to skin contact wines, the three days of maceration on skins bringing colour and texture whilst allowing the white fruits of Catarratto to shine, my house orange wine and in good form.
Whilst on the subject of orange wines I must add one of the best examples I have had, indeed this week. The Hermit Ram Sauvignon Blanc 2020 Skin Contact was exceptional. Golden colour, very aromatic (my wife even thought it might be grapey Muscat) and with singing white and yellow fruits as well as a lovely mouthfeel from the skin contact. This is New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc like no other and a joyful bottle. Theo Coles is the producer from vineyards in North Canterbury on the south island. Seek it out!
To Spain for three lovely wines. Veronica Ortega, rather like Autran in Vouvray, is gaining a reputation as one of the best producers of her region, in this case Galicia, North West Spain. Quite 2019 is made from Mencia, the local red variety. Most Mencia reds can be quite light and sometimes a little too acidic (I am sure that is not why people used to think it was related to my bete noir, Cabernet Franc!). This was light in colour and structure but there was plenty of red fruit flavour which filled the mouth and lingered nicely.
Comando G is the joint project of Dani Landi and Fernando Garcia in the Sierra de Gredos mountains near Madrid. They work biodynamically without being certified though added 67mg of sulphites, more than most wines I try, nevertheless it would be classed as natural by RAW. They are fans of Garnacha (the G in their name) from old vines. La Bruja de Rozas 2019 has 60 year old vines and the wine showed real depth and character from, I guess, lowish yields. Spice, red fruit and a good structure made this a wine for food but perfectly drinkable on its own. Very good.
Sherry is so shamefully overlooked. I love sherry. A few years ago I attended a wine tasting in Edinburgh where Gonzalez Byass presented a new range of fino wines under the Palmas label, finer examples of Tio Pepe in effect. A palm branch is traditionally chalked onto barrels of sherry deemed to be of high quality, one for younger sherry, two for older etc. I had a Una Palma a couple of months ago and enjoyed it, made from 6 year old fino. This Dos Palmas is made from two casks of eight year old fino and had much more character then the one palm. The initial aroma was slightly medicinal but it opened to traditional salty, pear like flavours, refreshing but fuller than most finos. As the wine is in cask over such a long time the flor begins to thin out on top of the wine and so there is more exchange with air and evaporation from cask so the wine becomes more concentrated and this was noticeable. I really liked this and need to find the Tres Palmas too. (I understand they have added a 45 year old amontillado as Cuatro Palmas, my Christmas list begins!).
I could easily have added another Spanish wine from the Jerez region as Bodegas Cota 45 Ube Paganilla 2019 was another delight from this excellent producer. I first tasted Ramiro Ibanez’s wines at The Real Wine Fair a few years ago and was bowled over. It was good to see that RWF took place recently after a gap for the pandemic, shame it was too clashing for me with the New York visit soon to be followed by a return to my beloved Languedoc. So, next time a Coutelou update!