amarchinthevines

Learning about wine, vines and vignerons whilst living in the Languedoc


2 Comments

2019 – my favourite wines

Three posts to celebrate the great wines I have enjoyed in 2019 which I would recommend without hesitation. Obviously I could include lots of Jeff Coutelou’s wines but I will restrict myself to just one, I shall keep that choice for the last of the posts.

I shall start with red wines and a classic region. Bordeaux and Burgundy are still the benchmarks for world wines, steeped in tradition. However, Chateau Le Puy is in the Cotes De Francs, east of Pomerol and Saint Emilion, not one of the higher regarded regions. Being right bank Merlot is the dominant grape and my choice of wine is an example of that. Barthélémy 2016 showed great fruit as well as classic Bordeaux weight and depth boosted by the 15% of Cabernet Sauvignon. Where this wine differs from classic Bordeaux is that this long established biodynamic domaine used no sulphites.

To Italy, more specifically Gambellara between Verona and Vicenza. Angiolino Maule was one of the pioneers of natural winemakers in Italy and his La Biancara domaine is now run by his three sons. I met Alessandro and his partner Emma Bentley in London and loved their wines but one stood out to me. This was what I wrote at the time, “Star of the show for me was So San 2016, made from Tocai Rosso grapes, the local name for Grenache. Aged in barrel for 15 months this was a big wine with lovely fruit up front backed by ripe tannins which will surely allow the wine to age for many years. It was perfectly balanced, a terrific wine from one of my favourite grapes.”. Congratulations to them too on their first child in 2019.

Around the world again, this time to South Africa whose wines are starting to make a big impact. Testalonga is the domaine of Craig Hawkins and I have had their wines before but the 2018s really were a breakthrough. Chin Up is a Cinsault wine and this example was full of lovely fruit with a nice fresh acidity and light tannins. Very pleasurable and very drinkable. On similar lines was Dynamite 2018 from Peira Levada the domaine of Alexandre Durand in Faugeres. Pure Cinsault too but this time grown in soils with an unusually high percentage of marble. I loved this, a wine to simply enjoy but also with a serious side. Definitely the year of Cinsault for me.

Staying in the Languedoc, Gregory White is based in Aspiran, one of a number of very good producers there. His White Is Rouge 2017 was my favourite red wine this year for sheer pleasure. A blend of Grenache and Syrah the wine is fruity with a lovely aroma of blueberries and strawberries too. There is a depth with hints of liquorice and more red fruits. Just lovely.

One more light red which carries more weight than might be expected. Gamay from Beaujolais is famous for its light, fruity juice. The region is a hotbed of natural winemaking and one such is Charly Thévenet, son of one of the original Gang Of Four producers Jean-Paul Thévenet. His Régnié Grain et Granit 2017 was classic Beaujolais, fun but with a serious side, good tannins and well structured.

I shall finish with a wine from the Adelaide Hills. I first encountered Gentle Folk’s 2018 Village Pinot Noir when I visited Gareth Bolton’s domaine in the Hills and this very wine was newly harvested and fermenting away. This Spring I tasted the wine in London and was hugely impressed. Pinot Noir is my favourite red grape and this showed that Aussie producers can rival any in making the most of it. You will have noticed that I like red wines with a serious, contemplative side but also with pleasing fruit to make the wine enjoyable. The best Pinots have red and black fruit flavours, lots of rich aroma but also have tannins and a minerality. Gareth’s wine is all that is good about Pinot Noir.

Next time, on to the white wines.


2 Comments

Buzzy Bs – Real Wine Fair #2

B

So many good wines at Real Wine Fair, I include a selection of wines worthy of anybody’s attention and money. How to order them for this blog was the difficult choice.

The buzzy, busy Bs? Binner, Bain, Ballorin were amongst more established natural producers whose wines showed up very well.

 

Gilles Ballorin is based in Morey St. Denis in the heart of the Côte De Nuits. I liked the freshness of his wines, plenty of characterful fruit flavours, supported by a cleansing finish of acidity in the Marsannay wines but especially the lovely Fixin “Les Chenevières”. Fixin was the first Burgundy village I visited, it has happy memories and this wine lived up to all hopes.

 

Christian Binner is based in Ammerschwihr in Alsace. Yet another village which was the centre for my early visits to that region. I have been trying Christian’s wines for many years and, to my taste, they get better and better. The whole range was excellent, a lovely rosé (Si Rose) made from Pinot Gris, the beautifully named Amour Schwihr, but above all, the tremendous Rieslings, the 2016 Grand Cru Schlossburg being as fine an example of place and grape as you could ever taste. Lovely guy, and give a listen to his fun interview on the Bring Your Own podcast.

Alexandre Bain from Pouilly in the Loire is another firm favourite. His Pouilly Fumé wines are brilliant proof of how Sauvignon Blanc is a noble grape. It is mad that the authorities there make life difficult for him to get the Pouilly Fumé label because he doesn’t meet strict guidelines. The wines are superior to virtually anything else in the area. 2017 Terre d’Obus from young vines gives a real taste of the region, sharp, flinty (yes I use that word deliberately). The Pierre Précieuse 17 from older vines has more concentration and elegance whilst keeping the freshness, precious indeed. Mademoiselle M 2015 has a hint of sweetness even, very ripe, very fruity and just lovely.

Bain

Sometimes the wine world rushes to the new and more established figures such as Christian and Alexandre can be overlooked. Do not make that mistake. These men are making wines with love and precision based on experience. Buy, buy, buy.

Other Bs were new to me but well worth sharing with you.

Social media and a mutual friend in the Languedoc, Guillaume Deschamps, meant that I have got to ‘know’ Emma Bentley without ever meeting her. It was a pleasure to finally do so along with her partner Alessandro. He now manages La Biancara after the retirement of his father Angiolino Maule, running it with his 3 brothers. The range of wines was excellent including the main Masieri white and red wines. The Garganega grape is to the fore in the whites, showing its quality in the 2017 Sassaia and Pico Bianco, the latter with oak age. Both fresh, fruity and lingering. Star of the show for me though was So San 2016, made from Tocai Rosso grapes, the local name for Grenache. Aged in barrel for 15 months this was a big wine with lovely fruit up front backed by ripe tannins which will surely allow the wine to age for many years. It was perfectly balanced, a terrific wine from one of my favourite grapes.

Gareth Belton (it begins with a B!!) and his wife Rainbo make Gentle Folk wines in the Adelaide Hills and I wrote about them last year after visiting with my friend James Madden of Little Things winery. Indeed, it was exciting to taste some of the wines because they were the very 2018s which I saw being made during my visit as harvest came to an end there. There is a terrific range of juicy, fruity and complex wines from classic Riesling (Clouds) to fresh Sauvignon Blanc (Schist), smashable rosé (Blossoms) and serious reds. Tiersman Syrah 18 from bought in fruit was one of my favourite wines tasted all weekend. Round, characterful, Rhone like rather than typical Aussie Shiraz. Lovely wine. Favourite of all though was the 2018 Village Pinot Noir with classic Pinot flavours, lovely freshness and deceivingly complex for such a joyful wine.

Bencze Birtok wines come from Hungary and left me eager to try more wines from there. Clean, fresh whites such as Riesling 17 (the 18 was even better), Kek 17 made from Bokator grapes. A lovely amphora raised wine called Keknyelu 18 with fresh stone fruit flavours. Round, enjoyable and lingering Pinot Noir 18, even better Pinot Atlas 18 from higher vineyards with more complexity, drier and purer. Best of all 2018 Rozsako (a local grape), an amber or orange wine with full, round apricot and stone fruit flavours. One of the best orange/amber wines I have tasted. This was a real discovery for me, great wines from a lovely couple.

Finally, Serbia (there’s a stressed b in the middle!). I had never tasted wines from there before but I am glad that was rectified at RWF. Oszkar Maurer is a 4th generation winemaker and I really took to his wines, highlighting 3 which was just about the highest number of any range at the Fair. The 2017 Furmint was cracking, balancing generous fruit with clean acidity, one of the best white wines of the tasting. Kadarka is one of the local grapes which Maurer specialises in tending and it provided 3 excellent wines. The oldest vines are 138 years in age, and the Kadorka 1880 was structured, fruity and generous. However, perversely enough the other two Kadarka wines were my favourites on this occasion. the 2017 Kadarka was fresh, fruity, round and just very drinkable, really good. Even better was 2017 Kadarka Nagy Krisztus, giving strawberry aromas and more fruit. There was a hint of medicinal tonic in there, it makes no sense but it’s true, which highlighted the fruit profile and added to a very successful wine.

So many great wines, believe me.