Claus Preisinger works 19 hectares and some sixty parcels biodynamically, between the vast Austrian Neusiedlersee and the Hungarian border. He makes a variety of beautiful wines. This is in a way a “glou-glou”, an easy drinking wine, but can also be used on the table. The wine is made from zweigelt and st. laurent in stainless steel, with spontaneous fermentation, and aged in large foudres.
The bottle and the label hints to the vintage lemonade bottles from a hundred years back. Puszta in Hungarian means “plains”, remembering that on the time of these bottles this was still part of Hungary. Libre is Cuban -sorry: Spanish- for “free”. Why not?
Enjoy the wine, life – feel free!
Puszta Libre! 2020(Claus Preisinger)
Dark cherry red. Aroma of blackberry, cranberry, flowers and a touch of lickorice. Luscious and juicy in the mouth, with smooth tannins.
Food: Excellent on its own, but can be used with light meat, white fish, salads, hard cheeses, and try also with not too pungent blue cheeses. Best drunk slightly chilled.
This is a wine that I have thought about a long time. I include it here, “for the records”, maybe. Because the last thing I did before the pandemia rules were introduced in my country, was visiting the Rawfair, that after all didn’t take place.
One of my favourite London wine bars is DuckSoup, of Soho, near two leading jazz clubs, Ronnie Scott’s and the Pizza Express. This week’s wine was enjoyed there, one day or two before entering a very surprising quarantine indeed.
Martin & Anna Arndorfer work very naturally, and stress the importance of the soil. They say they do not feel bound by tradition, but still they emphasize the influence of the vineyard as crucial to their philosophy. And there they maintain the natural ecosystem. Most wines are unfiltered, and sulphur and chemicals are avoided, though they have never certified anything.
This wine is from their Strasser vineyard of 1976, with sandy and clayey soil. Biodynamically farmed, only a total of 20 mg/L sulphur, short maturation in steel, unfiltered.
Handcrafted Grüner Veltliner 2018(Arndorfer)
Light yellow colour. Fresh, vibrant, with yellow fruits, herbs, almost spicy. Juicy, luscious and light in the mouth, with enough acidity, and finishes dry.
This was one of the wines that stood out in a private blindfold Alsace tasting, with unusually many wrong guesses about which ones were rieslings. However this one couldn’t go wrong, with its steely acidity and inspiring energy.
The name Brand, meaning land of fire, is a reminder that this part of the hill once was eroded by fire. The legend goes that the sun fought a dragon here. It hid in a dark cavern under the vineyard, thus being responsible for the characteristic “warmth” of this grand cru. Only riesling is planted, a total of 2.4 hectares, and now around 70 years of age.
The Brand is located just above the village of Turckheim, itself in the outskirts of the bigger town Colmar. Here we find several small granite hills. It is not far from the Munster valley, so which means that despite its south, south-east facing, it also sees the wind running down the valley. As indicated above, the granite warms up quickly (not necessarily because of that dragon, to be honest) and secures that heat from the sun go deep in the soil. The roots grow deep, and feed from the clay and minerals from the granite decomposition. Yields are naturally low here. Due to the ripeness of the grapes in 2019, the fermentation was particularly slow for this wine, but it went on and on, and eventually the wine was bone dry after a 12 months fermentation.
Some keywords: Biodynamically farmed, handpicked, spontaneous fermentation, 16 months on lees and a total of 18 months on big old barrels.
Brand Grand Cru 2019(Zind-Humbrecht)
Bright gold colour. The nose is discreet at first, but opens up with air. It shows citric notes (mature lime, towards clementine), but also a stony wet minerality associated with granite. has a granite wet stone aromas and begs for time. On the palate it is powerful and acidic, but also with some warmth behind there. It has a persistent aftertaste, already in balance and harmony, and a saline finish. This said, the wine is young and will reveal a lot more complexity over time. But it it’s now you must buy if you want to enjoy it in a few years.
Food: We had prepared rather down-to-earth, Alsatian inspired food like pig cutlets and bratwurst, and red cheese (like the local Munster), but it tackles a lot of tasty dishes, both light meat and tasty fish. At this point food is almost essential, as we have mentioned, it’s very young.
A Ponte comes from a crazily steep amphitheater-shaped vineyard, on top of the hill above the more famous Meixemán vineyard. We are in Ribeira Sacra of Galicia, Spain, and Guímaro is one of the best representatives of the new wave of producers. Pedro Manuel Rodríguez Pérez started the project in 1991, but relied on many generations of his family’s work.
The vineyard sits on granitic, slate and sandy soils. Pedro and his father planted in 2010 equal parts of mencía, caíño tinto, merenzao, brancellao and sousón, all indegenous from Ribeira Sacra and around (Galicia and northern Portugal). The wine is made similar to the other Guímaro reds: The grapes are handpicked, macerated for 35 days (here a bit shorter than normal), then alcoholic fermentation is carried out at a controlled temperature of 25ºC. After malolactic fermentation follows an ageing for 12 months in used French oak barrels, before a light clarification.
Normally Pedro has worked with almost exclusively mencía grapes for his reds. But we have seen that the climate is changing, and to meet the future he decided to plant the five varieties in almost equal parts. Mencía is there, but the other varieties are known for retaining the acidity even with more ripeness.
A Ponte 2017(Guímaro)
Dark cherry colour. Dark and red berries on the nose (blackberry, morello, plums), and some herbs. Medium-bodied and well-structured, good acidity for a warm year, long. An expressive and individual wine without oakiness, and a good candidate for medium-term ageing (+/- 5 years). With good airing it can also be enjoyed now, and why not in company with a good roast.
The Winery of Good Hope is found in Stellenbosch, in South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. They claim to avoid “the flashy stuff” of industry and make quality wine with a conscience. They are located on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain, and make wines using traditional, natural viticultural and winemaking methods. They are alto certificated for environmental, ethical, and social-conscious practices.
For the Full Berry Fermentation Pinotage they work with two vineyards, one in Northern Stellenbosch and the other in southeastern Swartland. The former is sandy with decomposed quartz and granite soils, and contributes to a certain texture. The latter sits on weathered, granite derived soils, that is mostly responsible for the fruitiness.
Some keywords: Handpicked grapes, whole berries in vat, spontaneous fermentation in steel, unfiltered.
Full Berry Fermentation Pinotage 2019(The Winery of Good Hope)
Dark cherry. Fruity, with blueberry and red berries cherry, plum), herbs, some licorice. Young and juicy, a charming wine at a very good price.
The Thymiopoulos family has a long history in agriculture and grape-growing in Trilofos, under the Vermio mountain south of Thessaloniki. Apostolos Thymiopoulos was however the first to vinify the family vineyards, and he produced his first wine in 2005.
Thymiopoulos practises organic viticulture and believes in minimum intervention during the whole process. Various biodynamic practices are also used, thus being able to preserve biodiversity. The wild flowers stimulates both over- and underground fauna, thus strenghtening the soils and with it, the vines.
He concentrates exclusively on xinomavro, the emblematic variety of the Naoussa region. From this variety he makes at the moment ten different wines, from sparkling via rosé to reds. I have tasted five, and can recommend all of them. They are excellent value, such as the Young Vines2019. Xinomavro gives naturally acid and tannic wines, well-suited for ageing. And Apostolos would also say it gives an ethereal quality.
Our selected wine, the Xinomavro Nature, has no additions of sulphur. It comes from a single vineyard planted 53 years ago, 200 meters high on a slope, at the edge of the village. The soil here is pure limestone. The climate is tempered by the winds from the Mediterranean and downhill from the mountain. So despite the low altitude the temperatures are also relatevely low. The 2019 vintage had 50% destemmed grapes, fermented with indigenous yeasts and was macerated for 30 days. It was matured for 6 months in 500-litre French oak barrels of second use.
Xinomavro Nature 2019(Thymiopoulos)
Ruby red. At first quite discrete aroma of red berries and a touch of spices (cardemom, pepper), sightly warm. Much more open after three hours in the glass, and more aromatic herbs like thyme appear. Evident tannins, good acidity and long, mineral aftertaste.
This wine was part of the wine menu at the vegan restaurant Bellies of Stavanger, Norway. (Read a little more about this unique restaurant here, if you like.)
Une Tranche Sudiste could translate a southern slice, or something like that, and a good slice it is. Philippe Jambon makes the wine in collaboration with producer Denis Tardieu, by using his grapes, from vineyards located in Vaison-la-Romaine (Rhône, south of France). The grapes are 85% syrah and 15% grenache, not uncommon in that area, spontaneously fermentated in steel with semi-carbonic maceration, with some whole-cluster and stems.The ageing is carried out in concrete tanks for a year and bottled with a tiny amount of sulphites.
Philippe and Catherine Jambon started their domaine in Chasselas, northern Beaujolais, in 1997. Their focus has always been eco-friendly activity, and as little additions as possible, with only the exact time in barrel that’s needed.
Their vineyards were hit by terrible hailstorms in two consecutive years, resulting in a great loss. But it also give birth to the idea of working with other vignerons to make wind in his preferred style.
Une Tranche Sudiste 2018 (Ph. Jambon)
Dark young red. Red fruit (cherries, plums), but also some darker (blackberries), with a touch of leather and spice. Evident but rounded tannins in a long aftertaste where also fruit and spice comes through.
Food: At the vegan restaurant we had it with fried cauliflower with shitake mushrooms, hazelnuts and a truffle sauce, but it will tackle many meat dishes too.
Rheingau isn’t a wine region that we have focussed too much on here. With its some 3000 ha. of vineyard it’s one of the smallest in Germany, but by no means uninteresting. Rather the contrary, and several great producers are found there. In central Germany, not far from Frankfurt, there are south facing steep slopes that protect the area from the cold northerly winds by the Taunus mountains, giving ideal ripening conditions.
Today Theresa Breuer is the one that runs this family estate. (See a brief mention of her at a visit in Stavanger here.) She disposes of 40 hectares own vineyards and have contract with several other suppliers. The soils are shallow to deep gravel clay, with patches of quartzite and slate.
The vineyards are farmed according to organic methods and they always search for ripeness so as to give a strong aromatic flavour to the wines. This wine is made from 50% own grapes, the rest bought in from local growers. Local yeast and spontaneous fermentation. No oak. 11,5 alcohol. With 5 and a half grams sugar and more 9 of total acidity it’s both fresh and fleshy.
Riesling Sauvage 2019(Georg Breuer)
Bright light yellow with hints of green. Aromas of green apple, apricot and lime. Luscious, refreshing, and long – with a youthful acidity. Delicious today, but also one to lay down.
This could have been a review of the relatively new vegan restaurant Bellies of Stavanger, Norway. They deserve a really good one, no doubt. As a 100% vegan restaurant they have few competitors. But Bellies is good in every sense; in the kitchen they know how to handle the knives, and the wine list is extensive and good. Bellies is hereby recommended, for vegans and all others.
We ordered “Full belly”, a 7 course meal, with wine recommendations. Among these were Krásná Hora Riesling 2019 (Moravia, Czech Rep.), aromatic with integrated acidity, with a carrot salad, Enderle & Moll Müller-Thurgau 2018 (Baden, Germany), a light skin-contact wine with jerusalem artichoke and celery, and Un Petit Coin de Paradis 2018, a gamay at 6,5%. This is light red, sweetish wine, perfect to accompany our meringue dessert.
[A minor point of advice could be that it is not always clear what wines should go with what dishes. To be precise: The first dessert came without wine, and we wondered why. It’s ok, only a matter of communication.]
The wine I chose here is another. Some natural wine fairs I follow closely, and during the Vella Terra of Barcelona I have met Dido and Jurriaan, a young couple from Amsterdam that have chosen to make wine in Alt-Empordà, Catalunya. Here they farm own vineyards and some others, at least organically, and gradually implementing biodynamic principles. From these grapes, and inspired by collegue Joan Ramón Escoda, they make natural wines without added sulphites.
They are new in the wine business, and the fact that they are already represented here at Bellies was a coincidence that I felt I had to follow up. (Here is another encounter of their wines in Norway. And here is a report from the Barcelona fair, where you can read about other producers on Bellies’ list.)
Doolittle has nothing to do with the play My fair Lady (where it’s the name of the protagonists). No, the wines have taken their names from music album titles, and Doolittle is an album by the Pixies. When remembering that Dido told me that for her thesis in cultural anthropology she spent some time with the Swartland Independent Producers. Among these Craig Hawkins took the name Monkey gone to Heaven (his mourvèdre) from the same album.
Doolittle is also part of the ideology of Dido and Jur, to intervene as little as possible. The 2018 is made from 60% garnacha, with whole bunch maceration for one week, and the rest barbera, elevated in amphora under a veil of flor.
Cherry red. Aroma of blackberry and cherry, and a lactic note. Dry, but with a sweetish garnacha sensation. Slightly tannic, with a very refreshing natural acidity, and a bit salty finish.
Food: We tried it with several dishes and ingredients, like creamy almond potato, buckwheat chips, black truffle, betroot and quinoa chervil. It is really a versatile wine, should be perfect with varied tapas and charcutérie.
Adelaide Hills is a quite cool region northeast of Adelaide in South Australia. It’s varied in terms of soils and expositions, and many of the best vineyards are scattered over large distances.
Ochota is the young couple Amber and Taras Ochota, who started their natural wine project in 2008.
They have a long list of wineries around the globe where they have worked and learned; the Hitching Post winery from the movie Sideways not least. By now they have half a hectare of vineyards of their own, high altitude on quartz and ferrous soil. They also tend an old grenache vineyard in lower McLaren Vale.
The wines are made according to natural methods, some whites with extended skin-contact. This one is more “normal” in that respect, a varietal gewürztraminer bottled with low sulfur values.
Weird Berries in the Woods Gewürztraminer 2019 (Ochota Barrels)
Light brilliant yellow with green tones. Aroma of white flowers, hay and herbs. Quite full but dry, good acidity with a trace of yellow tomatoes and also some stoney minerality. A stylish wine that strays from the often boring cliché of the grape.
Food: Fish (both white and red, grilled and cooked), shellfish (crab, prawns), squid, salads, cheese (both creamy and hard, like parmesan), pizzas (especially good with white sauce (two of them pictured, in the making…)