Les Vins Pirouettes is an open Alsace project consisting of independent wine producers, always growing in number, and led by the respected Christian Binner. Their vineyards are organic or biodynamic certified, and cover many different soils and expositions in 13 different villages. Other than that then have their own personality and style.
Annual production is around 80,000 bottles. There is always spontaneous fermentation, no fining, no filtration, and no sulphur added.
The name Pirouette symbolizes the playfulness and fun they’re all having with this movement, but also the mastery needed to achieve a good result in this type of winemaking.
Each cuvée is vinified at the winemaker’s own place, with the gentle helping hand of the project’s enologists Xavier Couturier and Pierre Sanchez. So the individuality should always be intact.
The wine in question is a sylvaner from Ammerschwihr, from a vineyard planted in 1978-1983 on limestone, clay and pebbles. The grapes were picked and selected by hand, and the yield turned out to be 20 hl/ha. Spontaneously fermented, matured in large, old oak vessels. Unfined and unfiltered. Certified oganic, with biodynamic principles.
Le Sylvaner d’Olivier 2016(Les Vins Pirouettes)
Light golden. Aromatic with white flowers and elderberry, and some herbs. Medium weight, and very refreshing acidity.
Here is another “house wine”, when I want a little more power, or “skin”, than a normal white. Swartland, Blackland in the Afrikaans language, because the predominant rhinoceros bush turns dark after the rains. But it’s not only the landscape that is special here; the spirit of the winegrowers is a veritable force.
Mother Rock Wines was established in 2014 by Johan Meyer. I have written about the project before (like here), and I still predict that the producer will rise in fame and his wines accordingly rise. The news are that Johan and his partner Anri moved into their new property Plattenklip (northwestern Swartland) in 2019, and produced their first vintage in 2020 in their own winery. They have now planted new vineyards on exciting sites, so we know that there will be new interesting wines from them.
This wine comes from a single vineyard in Paardeberg planted in 1980, on granite-rich soil. Only chenin blanc, pure chenin. Whole bunches were pressed into steel tanks where the fermention starts naturally. It’s mostly aged in steel, but has seen a small amount of old oak. Unfiltered and without added sulphuur.
Force Celeste 2020(Mother Rock)
Light yellow. Aromas of citrus, yellow apples, peach, a light touch of peel. Good weight in the mouth, creamy lees-character, but with a very fine acidity that cuts elegantly through, and contributes to a long, salty finish.
Food: Tapas and charcuterie, red fish, fried white fish, light meat…
Biokult is a small group of organic certified vineyards in Burgenland, Austria. The members share a special dedication and commitment to promote biodiversity and important forms of sustainability. They grow their own grapes, while it is Angela Michlits from producer Meinklang nearby, who is responsible for the vinification. Meinklang may be more famous for the big audience, but in bars for artisan wines Biokult is rapidly building a …yes, cult is maybe an appropriate word, for their biologic wines.
This wine is made from equal parts zweigelt, pinot noir, blaufrãnkisch and st. laurent. The soil here is sandy clay in a vineyard planted plot by plot between 1990 and 2010. The grapes were hand-picked and underwent spontaneous fermention and saw 12 hours maceration on skins. It’s a low-sulphur wine (maximum 40 mg total SO2).
Pét Nat 2020(Biokult)
Light pink, slightly pétillant. Fresh and simple wine, with aromas of strawberry and rhubarb. Juicy, berry-flavoured in the mouth, with a fresh acidity. Glou-glou.
Stefan Vetter is one of the rising stars no the German wine scene. He is classically trained at Geisenheim and has worked for Austrian producer Nittnauer, and has experience from several places in the world. His own adventure started in 2010, when he read in the newspaper that an old parcel was for sale.
Most of his vineyards are terraced and located in Gambach and Iphofen (where the winery is, i.e. his grandparents’ house) on the banks of the Main river, Franken. The wines have the appellation Deutsche Wein though, that gives more freedom. The soil here is limestone and red sandstone, and farming is biodynamic. The main goal is to reflect the small scaled terroir trough their main grape variety sylvaner. (Besides this they also grow some müller-thurgau, riesling and pinot noir.)
This wine is spontaneously fermented, matured in both steel and old oak. It’s unfined, unfiltered, and has very low sulphur (around 10 mg/L total).
Like last week’s wine this was served at Lapin, the new wine bar in eastern Stavanger, Norway.
Sylvaner 2019 (S. Vetter)
Light yellow with greenish hints. The aroma was a bit reductive and changed with air, yellow fruits, yet stone, slightly volatile. Quite soft in the mouth, but concentrated and long, with good acidity and stony minerality.
The domaine No Control is based in Volvic, a small town in the Puy-de-Dôme département of Auvergne. Winemaker Vincent Marie is committed to natural wine, and with great passion he tries to get the best out of each of their single plots.
Gamay is perfect to express these volcanic soils, in Vincent’s opinion. And completely without artificial help to change flavour the wines show a great diversity. (Other than the gamay cuvées some pinot noir, syrah and chardonnay is also used.
The cuvées are named after music pieces. As for this one it is taken from rock band Bad Religion’s Delirium of disorder. No Control is by the way another song from the same band, and the same period (late 80’s). The wine is made with partly carbonic maceration, some matured in fiberglass, some in big, old oak vats. No additions.
We tasted it during the opening weekend of the new Stavanger wine bar. Lapin is run by the people behind restaurant Söl (see several places around this blog, f.ex. here or here, from their takeover in London). It’s located in am old eastern working class district that now bustles with energy. The bar has wooden benches and some chairs. At this point it looked somewhat temporary. But it has a knowledgeable staff and all the potential to become a great place for sipping natural wine.
Délire du Désordre 2019(No Control)
Dark cherry red. Aroma of red berries (cherry), a bit earthy. In the mouth, high intensity in fruit flavours, juicy, a bit tannin and natural acidity. It’s a simple and fun wine.
Food: We had it with charcuterie, with which it was perfect, but should go with many types of light meat, young and hard cheese…
During the CoVid pandemia a lot has changed. As we all know, there is much less travel, and even wine presentations and interviews are done digitally. This is the first time I had the chance to attend the programs of Norwegian importer Vinarius through their partner Vinestor in the program series Vinosus. The programs are presented via their YouTube channel. It’s interactive, in that the audience can post commentaries and questions to the producer. The importer is hosting the program, but it’s the producer that gives the information about the estate, its philosophy and the wines.
Filipa Pato & WIlliam Wouters are found in Óis do Bairro, Bairrada, Portugal. Filipa is daughter of the well-known producer Luís Pato (who lives nearby in this small settlement). Her husband William Wouters from Belgium is a profiled sommelier. I have met them several times, also once during the pandemic. Here is a short write-up from an annual fair that will be held again this summer. I have met Filipa and her father several times. These pictures are from a visit to hers and William’s home and winery 2017.
Filipa was recently appointed winemaker of the year 2020 by the leading wine magazine Revista de Vinhos, so it was maybe natural that she was chosen as the first Portuguese profile in this wine program series.
Wine is running in Filipa’s veins, as her grandparents were vinegrowers and bottled wine already in the 1950’s. Her father started in the 80’s, when the country was more open, so that export was also possible. Her own studies began in the nearby Coimbra university (the oldest in the country), and she had the opportunity to study wine as different places as Argentina, Australia – and Bordeaux – before coming back to her native village in Portugal. She tells that having travelled som much it was easy to realize the potential for Portugal. As the country had been isolated for such a long time, much of the identity was still kept. This advantage was important for her when she came back in 2001 and started to work with her father. But at the same time they agreed that she should have a small project of her own, starting with some wonderful vineyards that otherwise would have been abandoned. In 2006 she met her husband William in Belgium, who is in a family of restaurateurs, and soon they developed their own winery. They decided to convert to biodynamics ten years ago.
Now 17 hectares, very divided, some very small, and in several municipalities, each with their own characteristics. So both the Atlantic climate and the logistics give challenges. There are no sheltering mountains, nor high altitudes, but the winds from the ocean secure a low temperature. The river Cértima that runs from north to south through the area and the mountains and Buçaco further inland help in their ways to maintain the influence of the Atlantic (foggy mornings). It helps to keep the humidity untill summer, so that they also practise dry farming (no irrigation), and natural growth of humus.
Standing by their house in Óis do Bairro, which is a bit higher in the landscape, gives a nice overview over the plains and lakes and all the way to the inland mountain ranges, as Filipa states in the program. Much of Bairradas vineyard is concentrated where the limestone is found. Limestone is fantastic, says Filipa, because it gives you a lot of mineral character, and at the same time it retains the water.
In the beginning the neighbours were very sceptical about organic growing and biodynamic practises, as there was very little tradition for this in the wetlands of Bairrada. But now that the vineyards (and wines) are showing so well, they come to learn. So the very open and sharing attitude that Filipa and William has showed all the time are in fact starting to create a new tradition, or movement, in the area.
Only indegenious grape varieties are used, especially the red baga. One of the advantages with biodynamic farmin here is a more even maturation of the compact buncehs of the baga grape. You don’s see some green or dry berries within a bunch any more, says Filipa. The result of this is that it is not as tannic as that old stereotypic wine from the area. The fact that their baga is found in several municipalities also makes it easier to manage the harvest, as it matures at different levels. Bical is the dominating white because it is a historic speciality of Óis do Bairro, that was “almost like a grand cru” for bical.
The so-called 500 (the biodynamic preparation) and composts make the soil healthier, with more humus and biodiversity of plants. We see that it reactivates local plants that were growing in the times of her grandparents, like oregano and fennel. She speaks about which plants they use in infusions, and for what: Plants that are normally found near the water, like aloe vera, confrei and horsetail, protect more against humidity and fungus. And plants that are found near the sand, aloe vera again, chamomile, these plants protect the vine leaves against the sun. Strawberry and other bushes act as a natural fence, because they attract insects. Olive trees were planted at the same time as the vines, and also attract insects.
Wines without makeup is one of Filipa’s slogans: The vinification is quite simple, no barrique, only barrels from 500 to 2.500 liters, some amphora. -For us the oak is just a frame, the art comes from the vineyards, says Filipa. Amphora tends to ferment at a lower temperature, so we don’t need a cooling system. We work only with indegenous yeast, as it reflects the terroir and brings a greater complexity to the wine. There is a great tradition of ceramics in Bairrada, but Filipa hasn’t been able to convince them to make any for this purpose here. But after a visit to Stéphane Tissot in Jura she was impressed by the quality, as it had the right thickness and porousity. Some Italian amphoras are used for baga. This year a Georgian friend brought some tinajas from Padilla in Albacete, Spain (you can read about him here), and next year there are also plans for some Georgian clay vessels. They are not coated, like in Alentejo “talhas” in the south of Portugal.
They also get bio-certified corks from a farmer that controls the forests. This is important, as a Bairrada can be in contact with the cork for several decades.
All their wines are recommended. Here are a selection currently on offer:
Sparkling wine made with traditional method, from varieties baga (80%) and bical. The third B stands for Bairrada. 9 months lees ageing. No dosage, unfined and unfiltered.
Salmon coloured, fine bubbles. Fresh aroma with raspberries, a hint of … Good acidity, but a slight residual sugar that balances well.
Price: Low. Food: Fish, shellfish, vegetables, leitão de Mealhada (suckling pig), and much more…
Nossa Calcário 2019
This is the white version, a varietal bical from a vineyard near their home, limestone with clay. For this wine they use only free-run juice, without batonnage. It’s aged 8 months in big, used barrels. The wine is young and will improve, but if you wish to experience that, the best way is to buy it now.
Yellow. A bit closed at first, better with air, aromas of citrus (lime), fennel, a bit nutty, hint of honey. Concentrated, creamy, with good acidity, salt, good lenght, and with a lot of potential.
Price: Medium. Food: Tasty fish dishes, light meat, cheeses…
Post Quercus Baga 2018
There is also a white version of this one, and it’s good. But the red, I have not tasted anything like it. It’s a varietal baga from old vines, partly destemmed and aged in amphora for 6 months, buried underground (inspired by the Georgian tradition). Careful extraction, no fining nor filtration.
Quite dark cherry red. Aroma of red berries (raspberry, plums), some pepper. Moderate tannin, but a dry mouthfeel (dare I say “bricky”?), fresh acidity, long.
Price: Medium. Food: Most kinds of meat, even some tasty fish, cheeses…
Nossa Calcário Baga 2018
This is the red Cálcario. Only baga, from limestone with clay. Hand-harvested from vineyards in several municipalities. Partly destemmed, fermented in open lagares, with a careful extraction and aged 18 months in big, used barrels.
Cherry red. Fresh fruits (blackberry, blueberry), flowers, with hints of spice. Young tannins, fresh, good acidity, mineral, long.
Food: Many kinds of meat, excellent with game and beef, hard cheeses, and much more…
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.