As another year ends I wanted to add a few final observations to summarise it. This time last year we all were hoping that the horrendous events of 2020 would not be repeated and that we had something to look forward to. Well, 2021 was not as bad as that year but far from the renewal for which we had hoped, variants complicating the resumption of travel and ‘normal’ life. However, all was not lost.
September saw our return to France, the opportunity to renew friendships and, for the purposes of this blog, the chance to work with Jeff Coutelou once again for my seventh vendanges with him. Though the harvest was small because of the horrendous frost of April, I enjoyed the chance to work in the vines. How good it was to work alongside a lovely team and to share our work with you. I know from my statistics that vendanges brings more readers eager to find out about Jeff and what wines he will be producing as well as discovering the realities of grape harvest and winemaking.
If that was my personal highlight and the last blog post described my favourite wines of the year there were other good things wine related to enjoy too.
I was delighted to be one of those who helped to crowdfund Simon Woolf’s latest book, Foot Trodden, which he co-authored with Ryan Opaz, about Portuguese wine. I am happy to say that it is an excellent read, like his previous book Amber Revolution. It led me to seek out a range of wines from Portugal using their advice and some were very good indeed. It was also good to meet Aaron Ayscough whilst I was in France. His blog/journal Not Drinking Poison has provided me with fascinating insights about the natural wine scene across France and other countries as well as his personal story in studying wine. I would highly recommend a subscription at just $30 or £22 a year, a bargain. More good reading came on stream during 2021 with Trink reporting on German language wines and The Drop. However, please continue to read my blog too!
As we were planting all kinds of varieties of grape in St Chinian in September and began to enjoy wines from even more varieties which Jeff has planted it was pleasing to discover that across the world there is a drive to rediscover old grapes and revive their planting and use for wines. This follows on nicely of course from the topic of Portugal, a country rich in native grapes unfamiliar to most including myself. Field blends and grapes such as these are a continuation of the search to go back to old ways of winemaking and a desire for authenticity for regions.
In recent weeks I have had wines from grapes such as Aligoté Doré, Roter Veltliner and Savignon Gris. For those who enjoy ampelography like me it is the beginning of research into the varieties. It turns out for example that Roter Veltliner is not related to Gruner Veltliner, whereas Aligoté Doré is a clone of Aligoté just as Savignon Gris is a mutated clone of Sauvignon Blanc. So, a wine label can be the beginning of an enjoyable and fascinating journey, confusing at times too.
Christmas brought a more conventional line up of wines than I am used to these days. I bought a mixed case of bin end Burgundy wines a few years ago from The Wine Society. One of those was La Vougeraie’ Clos De Vougeot Grand Cru 2000, a wine I coould not really afford to buy these days. It was maybe just past its prime but still a real treat to enjoy a Pinot Noir from its real home in the heart of the Cotes De Nuits, the fruit dimmed a little but still showing dark and plummy backed by a depth of tertiary flavours. We had started with a champagne called Latitiude from biodynamic producer Larmandier-Bernier, pure Chardonnay and a refreshing, fruit led joy. Albarino D’ Fefinane from Palacios in northern Spain was the other Christmas Day treat, a fine example from a top producer
Most amusing discovery of the year was coming across a book from the 1960s called ‘Making Wines Like Those You Buy’. It was aimed at the home winemaking public, I do recall it being very popular in my youth and I know that there are still specialist shops now. Amongst the recipes were some for various classic wines such as Chianti, Madeira and the ones below. Not exactly the natural wine movement.
My favourite quote of the year came from US winemaker and pioneer of good vineyard practice Randall Grahm, famous for his Bonny Doon wines. “The absence of defect in wine does not necessarily equate to the presence of quality.” My experience of retrying some conventional wines this year showed the wisdom of those words.
Let us hope that 2022 brings us further towards a resumption of pre COVID times. I am sure I had similar wishes last year. Fortunately wine provided some highlights and I trust that the same was true for you too and that 2022 will be an even better one for you. Thank you once again for giving some of your time to my writing, I am truly grateful.